Author, Speaker, Coach, Holy Yogi

God at work wednesday: Jill’s Story

You guys get to meet my big sister today!! She’s the coolest, smartest, prettiest big sissy I know and I am so delighted to have her as a guest on the blog.

 

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Jill and Annabelle on our Anniversary Date in the Windy City 2013

 

“At the age of 20, I had my life mapped out. I would get married right after college, have my first kid when I was 24, and probably be a stay-at-home mom to 3 little ones by the age of 30, living in a small town or sleepy suburb.

As most of us have probably experienced, often life doesn’t go according to our plans.  I’m currently 30, single, about to move into a new studio apartment in a bustling urban suburb of Chicago, and have a teaching career that I love.  The path I’m on is not the path I planned, and it hasn’t always been a smooth path, but I have experienced more joy from the good gifts I’ve found along the way than I could ever have imagined at the age of 20.

The biggest bumps in my path happened in 2008–and there were a lot of them.  My 3-year relationship with my college boyfriend, who I thought I was going to marry, ended when he decided he wanted a “break” so he could date one of our best friends instead.  At the same time, the “perfect” family I grew up in disintegrated as my parents’ divorce was finalized.  And in that same summer, I finished grad school, got my first teaching job, and moved to a town where I only knew one person.

Looking back, I can say that was the hardest season of my life so far.  I felt intense loneliness, anger, and sometimes despair, as I questioned myself and my faith.  The things I’d been using to define my identity had been stripped away.  

But, ironically or not, it was also the season where I grew the most.

I had always considered myself a Christian, but suspected that there was more I could and should be doing if I was going to earn God’s approval.  I kept myself somewhat distant from God and from others to prevent them from seeing how far I fell short of what I should be.

I was experiencing what many people who call themselves Christians do. Even though trying to do everything right, my life still devolved into turmoil.  So I stopped pretending with God.

It was a pattern I saw modeled in the Psalms:

“How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?…Look on me and answer, Lord my God….But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” –Psalm 13

As I started to share my anger, loneliness and questions with Him, I was surprised to find that he responded to my raw honesty with love, comfort and amazing answers to my prayers.  

I prayed for friends, and God led me to a church and a 20-somethings small group there. I found friendships that were based not on our accomplishments, but instead on our brokenness, our need for a savior, and our identity in Christ.  Those grace-filled friendships were incredibly healing.  And many of those people are still close friends to this day, and I know they will continue to be my friends for a lifetime.

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Through those friendships, I learned what Jesus meant when he said “greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  And I found myself learning to do the same: in friendships, as a leader in that small group, as a Sunday School class teacher, and as a volunteer Young Life leader at the High school where I teach.  As I pour myself out into these relationships, I am learning how to trust God and find my identity and strength in him.

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Even though I don’t have the marriage and family I planned on having by this point, my life is incredibly full and meaningful.  Thanks to Olivia and Kevin, I get to be an auntie to the two (and soon to be three!) cutest kids I know.  I have a challenging and rewarding career as a teacher through which I am able to make a difference in others’ lives.  I’ve gotten to travel to places (like Hawaii!) and experience things (like skydiving!) that I never thought I’d get to.  I’ve developed close friendships, both with other singles and with married couples, where I’ve learned firsthand what it means to be in community.  Through it all, I’m continually learning that my identity is not found in my accomplishments, my relationships or my career: it’s only found in God.

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That’s not to say that these years of extended singleness have been easy.  I’ve had my share of heartbreak, countless awkward first dates, and relationships that started strong but eventually faded or crashed and burned.  There are still days with lots of tears and frustration about still being single as I see yet another friend get married or become a parent.  There are times of almost crippling loneliness, and times of questioning if there’s something else I should be doing or saying or praying for to make things happen in my life the way I think they should.

But as I’ve shared that pain and struggle with my friends, I’ve learned that almost everyone has a taste of that battle to find contentment at some points in their life.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re married or single, a parent or not, have a lucrative job that you love or struggle to make ends meet.  We all have unfulfilled desires and circumstances that we hope will change.  And when God doesn’t make those things happen the way we want in the timing we want, it can be hard to feel hopeful.  

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But as a Christian, I know that placing my trust in God, rather than my current circumstances, is the path to true joy.  As David said in Psalm 27:

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage. Wait upon the Lord.”

I do hope and pray that “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” will include marriage and kids for me.  But I also see His goodness in so many ways exactly where I am right now.  And I am confident that I will continue to see it, as I trust in God and his timing, following wherever He leads me on this path.  ”
Here are some awesome resources Jill shared that I wanted to pass on:

Resources Specifically for/about Singles:

  • Fast. Pray. blog (a group of people who fast & pray each Monday “for God to do a work in our generation to raise up men, sanctify women, and give the gift of marriage to those who desire it”)
  • I’m Single. Is Jesus Enough? (from the Boundless Blog, which has lots of great articles for single adults)

Other Articles (about waiting, loneliness, etc. that have been helpful to me recently)

 

2 thoughts on “God at work wednesday: Jill’s Story

  1. Jill, Thank-you for sharing your story! I spent many wonderful hours with your mom and the other MOM”s in Touch group, praying for you and the other children represented in our group. Your story is a testimony to God’s faithfulness in all the complexities and imperfections of this life. We have had intense difficulty too in our family and there have been times of despair, but God has brought us through and proved His faithfulness even during those times when we have been floundering.
    I think there will always be reminders in this life that He is our only stability and hope. Paradoxically it is the times that I am most aware of my dependence on God that I am most secure.
    I am happy to know that God is working in your life and through you in the place that He has put you. My heart is smiling and praising God for the beautiful woman He has made you, inside and outside. May He bless you richly with peace, joy and grace.
    Karen Prather

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