To All the Single Ladies

Will I ever be loved? Like, Pride & Prejudice-Mr. Darcy loved?

 

A few months ago a friend of mine who is a pastor approached me and asked if I'd share some words of encouragement for a girl he knew. He and his wife have been blessed with the opportunity to pour into the lives of young people, and with that comes the need to counsel and guide people through navigating the many questions that come with adulthood. This particular young lady was worried about whether or not she'd ever get married. My guess is that she's seeing a lot of her friends date, get engaged, get married, and maybe even starting a family.

Here's the funny thing - almost a decade ago, I was that girl. I've always been an extreme romantic, but I never dated much. Oh, but I loved. I pined. It was SO bad. I have to laugh when I think back on it, but I'll never apologize for the way God wired me to be passionate and deeply feeling. If anything, I've always been true to who I am and true to what I feel. And my friend, the pastor, remembers meeting me at this point in my life when all I wanted was to get married. I'm thankful that he reached out to me recently, and my hope is that the words I penned will not only help that one girl, but help anyone else who may choose to read this. So, for all the girls who are wondering if it will ever be their turn . . . 

Advice to girls who want to get married some day but feel like it will N E V E R happen . . . 

There’s a John Mark McMillan song I love called “Heart Won’t Stop” and it’s all about how God is going to keep coming after us no matter what. I think as girls, we crave a heart connection at that deep Iamgoingtochaseyoutotheendsoftheearth level. I don’t know about you, but I’m an extreme romantic. It’s seriously bad. I love every love story ever. I’ll rewatch the movie twenty times (I might even cry, but crying is almost like sweating for me it’s so normal, so I tell people not to worry about it. Freakin Publix commercials, amIright?) I’ll re-read the book. I’ll listen to that song on repeat 100 times as if I’ve never heard it before. I’m a deep feeler, so if that’s you, too, I get you, girl.

I’m also an incredibly independent person. I’m strong willed. I can move the heavy furniture by myself, thank you. And yet. After attending a Christian college where I felt sometimes like engagement spread around campus like a disease, I really started to wonder at 22 if it would ever be my turn. Don’t get me wrong - I was totally happy for my friends who were entering their own universe of wedded bliss, but when you go through college for four years and you don’t have a S I N G L E date, you really doubt if this marriage thing is ever going to happen for you.

When I was in high school, I was told to make a list of things I was looking for in a future partner. I don’t know why, but I was a big believer that having a clear idea of what I was looking for would help me avoid the guys who didn’t measure up the guy I wanted to marry someday. To a certain degree, I was right. If you’ve made one of these lists, that is awesome. I would encourage anyone have a clear vision for where she wants to go in life, and this includes the type of people she’s going to spend time with. In some ways, this list protected me. In other ways, I think it hindered me. Looking back, I wish I’d been a little more open to talking to that guy friend who - in my eyes - was nice enough, but didn’t measure up. In reality, he probably did measure up, but I was closed off. Don’t get me wrong - I love my husband (more on him later) - but I think I confused being open with compromising my standards. Those two things are not the same. So, don’t be afraid to be friends with a guy just because you’ve decided he’s not “marriage material” for you. Remember those four years of college I mentioned that were completely dateless? I learned a few years later that two guys I had crushes on actually liked me. They just never asked me out. Not my fault as far as I’m concerned, but my point is that I don’t want you to buy into the lie that no one is noticing you or that you’re not good enough. The guys are trying to figure all this stuff out just like you are. Sometimes (I know, it’s frustrating, but hang in there!), they just don’t know what to do when they’re interested.

You know the love story where they both instantly knew they were in love with each other? The one where she K N E W he was the one? Yeah. That's not my story. I borderline hated my husband when I met him. Legit. In retrospect, I married a man who measures up to that list from high school in many ways, however, he does not fit that list to a tee. I was blinded by all the things I thought disqualified him in the beginning. I almost missed him. If you’re a planner like me, negotiating your expectations can be difficult. I’ll give you a superficial example. One of the things on my list was that the guy I married needed to be taller than I am. I am 5’8’’ (on a good day). My husband is 5’8’’ (he would totally argue he’s 5’9’’. whatevs). This meant wearing flats on my wedding day, but I’m a casual girl, so that didn’t really bother me. Is height really the reason to pass on someone? Absolutely not. Is the guy you're interested in a bit of a jerk and not very kind to the people around him? Hmm. You might want to think on that a bit longer than, say, whether or not he likes your favorite hobby as much as you do.

This might be a good time to mention I made a radical decision when I was 14 related to dating. In my head, I had this thought process that if God intended for me to marry one person then why would I ever be physically intimate with someone I wasn’t married to? I decided that I didn’t want to kiss anyone I wasn’t married to. At 14, this sounded like a great idea. At 25, I felt like a freak of nature and was embarrassed to admit that I’d never been kissed. Also, one brief dating relationship I had in high school ended when he realized there was legit going to be no making out, etc. He disappeared and my heart was crushed. Did I mention he was tall and handsome (tall? check. handsome? check. same values? um . . . but did I mention he was tall??)

Back to my overwhelmingly-romantic love story. Where was I? Oh, right. I hated him. We were so incredibly different. I thought God had lost his mind. I thought, “There is NO way I’m going to date this guy.” Well, we’ve all learned an important lesson thanks to the contemporary singer-songwriter, Beiber. Never say never. Because if you do, God will lovingly laugh and say, “Oh, yeah? Watch this.”

It’s good to be protective of your values and standards. It’s unfair to ask a guy to measure up to every single one of your expectations. No guy you meet with ever be Jesus. Guess what? I want to throw heavy things at my husband sometimes (no, I’m not violent, and I’ve never thrown anything at him (except a pillow or two), but marriage is not all roses and unicorns). Every guy you meet - no matter how wonderful he is - is going to be a sinner just like you. My husband is the only guy I’ve ever kissed. I treasure that. So does he. I married a guy who on our very first date said that he hoped that when he got to heaven that God would know who he was. Talk about being in two completely different places! In the months to come, I challenged Adam. I asked him to read faith-based books with me and to listen to sermons I really loved. He rose to the challenge. He recognized that he wasn't going to get to me without going through the Father first. Oh, and he was Catholic and I was Protestant. S O M A N Y T H I N G S not on my list.

I’m sure at some point you’ve read this and thought, cute story and all but . . . I’m still V E R Y single over here and this isn’t really helping me. Maybe not. I keep thinking back to the majority of my twenties (I started dating my husband-to-be when I was 27) and remembering the the days, months, and Y E A R S of wondering if it was ever going to happen for me. What’s wrong with me? Where’s my dream guy? Am I pretty enough? What if I never get married? You’re engaged? Cool. I need to buy A N O T H E R bridesmaids dress? I’m happy for you, but do I have to?? Who are all these guys I am not interested in and why are they in front of me? Ha. I know exactly how it feels to be told by someone who I S married that I shouldn’t worry about it and it will happen when it happens and blah blah blah. I get it.

Here’s the truth of it. For the rest of your life, you’re going to have something that you’re waiting on. You’re going to have something you’re looking for. Something that you and God have talked about a billion times and you’re still waiting on an answer. A husband. A child. A job. A house. Healing. Provision. The list goes on and on. Some days are easier than others. And then there are the moments where you’re in the deep. There are tears. Maybe there’s anger. You try to negotiate with God (That’s not how He works, by the way. He’s far more generous than I think we'll ever fully understand). You cry out to Him. Maybe you feel forgotten. The truth? His heart will not stop coming after you. That perfect love you’re longing for and wanting to feel the reality of? It exists. It is real. It is in front of you. The hard part? It’s often not tangible, and that’s what we often crave. I get it. It can be so hard. You want to feel the warm, strong arms wrap around you and know that you’re loved. Girl, you’re already being chased after. Don’t you know it? He’s after you every day. He's so real. I’ve been both miserably single and happily married. I've also been happily single and miserably married. I will tell you right now that while my husband makes me happy most days, he’s not the source of my happiness. There are days he makes me furious. The only true relationship I have with a man in my life is with Jesus. He is the O N L Y one who has never let me down. He’s the only one I lean on to take care of me.

Maybe you will get married some day. Maybe you won’t. I sincerely hope the Lord gives you what you desire, but you have to T R U S T him when he doesn’t give you what you’re asking for. He’s such a loving Father. If there’s a guy out there for you, God knows exactly where he is and He’s watching over him for you. My husband and I would never have worked out if we’d met earlier in life (we kind of did - we went to the same elementary school, but that’s another story for another day). I’m begging you to put your trust in God’s timing. He knows the longing in your heart. He knows what you’re hoping for, and he wants not only to give you those things, but to give you what’s even better. There are qualities about my husband I would have never thought to have written down on my list in high school, but I’m so thankful God graciously didn’t limit his gift to me based on what I wrote on that list all those years ago.

My advice (that you didn’t ask for) is to be honest about what you’re looking for. Talk to God about this guy you’re looking for. Ask the Holy Spirit for discernment if you date someone and you’re not sure if it’s a good idea. And, finally, if you’re on that #foreversingle grind, trust that God has not forgotten you. He’s written a love story just for you. You’re already part of it. If He has a guy that is good enough for you, He’ll put him in your path to join the story. Just don’t miss out on the incredible Iamgoingtochaseyoutotheendsoftheearth love that is already in front of you. It’s real. He’s there. He’s perfect. H E is the adventure you need to chase after. In the waiting,  C H A S E the adventure that is this beautiful life that is already in front of you. You're breathing. Go live.

Love,

Laura Sue

On Healing & Hope

Have you ever been blind to something, and then once it's brought to your attention, you feel like you see it everywhere? We tend to block out or ignore things that don't seem relevant to us, but sometimes that type of selective hearing can prove to be harmful.

About six months ago I began to have some health concerns. I confess that I tried to ignore them at first. I was hoping it was temporary - you know - a fluke. I also tried not to WebMD my situation and assume the worst by self-diagnosing. I couldn't help but do a little research though, and by the time I went to the doctor a second time (the first time I went, she already determined I had cervical polyps, but I knew there was more to it than that), I had a theory on what the problem might be.

Just before Christmas, I went in to see the doctor and I was armed with a list of questions. I didn't get a chance to ask them though. The doctor took one look at the screen and said, "Oh. Yeah. You have endometriosis." I've had what I thought was random pain throughout the years that I chalked up to be "normal" girl pain. This past fall, however, my pain escalated. Nothing helped. No medicine. No heat. And the pain was so intense that I couldn't do anything beyond laying in the fetal position for a few hours. It was so intense it ran through my entire body and made me feel like I would either throw up or pass out. She explained that without surgery, the pain I'd been experiencing was not going to end, and medically speaking I would not be able to have any more children.

I'd like to take a side-step for a moment and talk about babies. Adam and I have always wanted more children. We went through almost two years after Imogen arrived of a roller-coaster of emotions that particularly took its toll on me. We didn't know why we couldn't get pregnant again, and there were times it was so defeating. I have so many friends who have two, three, and four children in their families. While I've sincerely been happy to rejoice along with them in the miracle of their pregnancies and births of all of their children, each time someone announced another pregnancy, I got this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and wondered if I'd ever be able to say those words again.

The past few months have made me increasingly aware of how much of a miracle Imogen is. The doctor was very surprised I'd managed to already have a child considering the severity of my case. If God deems it so that Imogen is our only biological child on this earth, I will go to my grave with gratefulness. I admit, though, that I've struggled with feeling guilty and greedy wanting another child. I have so many friends who've struggled with fertility issues and who want to be parents so badly, but those prayers go unanswered. And then here I am, already a mother, but wanting more. Often, what seems like harmless, casual conversation, can be so heart-wrenching for people. People always want to know what's next in life, so every time people would ask if we wanted more children, I had to decide how much information I was willing to give. Yes, but we're waiting on the Lord. Yes, we'll just have to see when. We hope so, but it hasn't happened yet. While I know people always mean well, sometimes these questions can be so painful. 

Well, two week ago I had surgery. The purpose of the surgery was to help minimize my pain and also hopefully create the best case scenario for us to have another baby. I'm happy to say that the surgery went well (according to the doctor). Recovery has proven to be a slow process, but I'm feeling more myself each day that goes by. I'm so grateful to have an incredible husband, family, and friends who helped take care of me, take care of my family, and send their well-wishes while I've recovered. And now, we wait. I'm praying for little to no pain moving forward, and of course, I'm hoping that someday I'll be able to say that we're expecting another baby. If I ever happen to randomly cross your mind, will you please say a prayer for me?

Best care-takers ever. Not pictured: my mom who so graciously took care of all of us and our tummies behind the scenes!

Best care-takers ever. Not pictured: my mom who so graciously took care of all of us and our tummies behind the scenes!

Finally, a word on taking care of yourself. I've always been stubborn about doctor visits, checkups, etc. It's not until recent years that I've gotten better about taking care of myself and being an advocate for my health, however, I clearly have a ways to go. I will say that I think a lot of women tend to push their wellness aside or ignore warning signs. We tend to take care of the people around us before we ever raise our hands and admit that perhaps we need help as well. We tend to think - and I mean this in complete seriousness - that suffering silently is part of what it means to be a woman. While the symptoms of my endometriosis escalated this past fall and revealed themselves quite clearly, the warning signs were actually there for years. Sadly, I didn't know that's what they were. I thought the pain I had was normal and IT WASN'T. I didn't know that. I'm certainly not the first woman to go through this, but I'm hoping that I can encourage others who might wonder if they, too, could be suffering from something more than just pms to do some research and talk with their doctors. 

When my surgery was over, the doctor told Adam that she didn't know how I didn't go through life screaming in pain everyday. My scar tissue is extensive. If we didn't want to try to have another child, I would have had a hysterectomy, and I will have one within the next few years so that I don't walk through life with unnecessary pain. The good news is that the polyps were benign, the doctor was able to drain the cysts on my ovaries, and my uterus and tubes look good.

Recovery looked a lot like this. Chai & Jane Austen are all it takes, really.

Recovery looked a lot like this. Chai & Jane Austen are all it takes, really.

When I think about what Jesus went through because of His love for me, it does not compare to anything I will ever experience. Any woman who has been lucky enough to become a mother knows the pain and suffering that comes along with that process. I'm amazed at what a gift it is that I was chosen to bring a life - Imogen - into this world. I pray that she is a blessing to God's kingdom. It's funny that any woman wanting to birth a child knows that she's simultaneously signing up for pain and beauty. She knows the child is worth it. I'm so thankful God thinks I'm worth it, too. 

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Thank you to everyone who sent cards, flowers, and messages of encouragement. Your Love was felt deeply.

Happy Birthday, Romeo the Wunderpup

So, I launched this blog, and then I went silent. 

Sometimes things happen and you need to give yourself time to process them without worrying about the expectations of others. I've wanted to write so many times over the past few months, but I also needed to mourn a loss, and I couldn't do both. Not honestly.

Today would have been Romeo's 13th birthday. In his honor, I'd like to take a few minutes to celebrate the life of this beloved Wonderpup.

I mean . . . what a face!

I mean . . . what a face!

My mom with Romeo, June 2004

My mom with Romeo, June 2004

If you know me, you know I'm a planner. When I graduated from high school, I knew that I wanted to attend Milligan College in beautiful east Tennessee. I knew that I wanted to major in English and earn my teaching certificate. I also knew that I wanted to move back to my hometown, Savannah, Georgia, and teach 9th grade English at my old high school (go Knights!). Finally, I knew that when I got that first teaching job, I wanted to live downtown and have a golden retriever. I knew all of that when I was 18. And, you know what? That's exactly what I did. There was one detail, however, I ended up compromising on, and that was Romeo.

I found Romeo on Petfinder.com after searching for golden retrievers and he, along with his brothers and sisters, were being cared for by the Humane Society in Claxton, Georgia. They knew that his mom was a border collie, but didn't know for sure what breed his dad would have been. They were guessing his dad was a golden, and I thought he was so cute, so I adopted him. For the record, my mother thought he was ugly. I only mention this because she was horribly wrong and it's just fun to pick on her for it.

During Spring Break of my first year teaching, I finally moved into my very first apartment. It was a beautiful Victorian home in downtown Savannah that had been renovated into four apartments. I had my dream job, my dream apartment, and now it was time for my dream dog. I arranged to finish out the school year before picking up Romeo so that I could give him my full attention. The last day of post-planning, my mom and I hopped in the car and made the hour-long drive to Claxton to pick up my 12-week-old puppy. He was out in the yard when we arrived, and I'll never forget this fluffy ball of golden fur hopping in the grass making his way over to the fence to greet me. This was the moment, by the way, Mom admitted she was wrong and that he was adorable.

On the ride home, I decided on a name for him. His original name was Shiloh, but that did not fit him at all. Now, it wasn't until after I named him that it occurred to me that I was an ENGLISH teacher with a dog named Romeo. Good grief. For the record, my puppy (not that this is any better, but it's true) was named after Lil Romeo, the rapper (you know, Master P's son??). Forgive me.

This was the day I brought Romeo home to my apartment in downtown Savannah. We lived on the same block as the Gingerbread House and took daily walks to Forsyth Park.

This was the day I brought Romeo home to my apartment in downtown Savannah. We lived on the same block as the Gingerbread House and took daily walks to Forsyth Park.

Romeo, 6 months old - on the back porch of my apartment

Romeo, 6 months old - on the back porch of my apartment

Romeo, 6 months old

Romeo, 6 months old

If you ever met Romeo, you knew he wasn't the most perfect dog, but he really tried. He was my protector, my friend, a cuddler, my confidant, a shoulder, a goofball, and a total sweetheart. Oh, what I wouldn't give to hug that fur ball right now!

Hiking at Raven Cliff Falls, 2013

Hiking at Raven Cliff Falls, 2013

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Oh, THE frog! I bought Romeo a few toys over the years, but there remained one constant: a squeaky frog! I'm pretty sure we owned close to 10 throughout the years. I wash one until it split open in one spot or another and then I'd give him a new one. The store that sold them discontinued the toy a few years ago, so I bought the last three the store had and rationed them out over the last few years.

Oh, THE frog! I bought Romeo a few toys over the years, but there remained one constant: a squeaky frog! I'm pretty sure we owned close to 10 throughout the years. I wash one until it split open in one spot or another and then I'd give him a new one. The store that sold them discontinued the toy a few years ago, so I bought the last three the store had and rationed them out over the last few years.

Romeo was with me almost every day for 12 1/2 years. He was a friend. The best kind. Romeo and I grew up together in a lot of ways. He knew me when I was 22, you guys. TWENTY TWO. That feels like so long ago in so many ways. He watched me (attempt, at least) to become an adult building her career. Romeo kept me company through about a gazillion grading sessions over the years. He watched me cry over dumb boys. He followed me through 10 moves all around Savannah and eventually to north Georgia. He lived with roommates. He lived with other dogs. He lived with me when it was just the two of us. He tolerated Adam in the beginning and eventually stopped barking at us when we'd hug. He watched me become a wife and then a mother.  He was nothing but good to little baby Imogen when we brought her home to our family. And he was patient and loving through it all. 

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He stuck by my side on good days and on bad ones. You may not know this, but five years ago I was suffering from depression, and he was the only one who knew it. For over a year, he was the only one who saw me cry almost every day. He was the only one who knew I was trying to sleep the pain away. And he never left my side. 

Looking fly with his summer haircut 

Looking fly with his summer haircut 

The summer before Imogen was born we found a tumor on Romeo. It was growing slowly, so it wasn't until the following summer that we had it removed. I was incredibly grateful that we were able to do the surgery and keep him with us. At the time, I wondered how much longer we might have with him. While I hoped for years, you just never know with things like that.

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Last fall, I found another tumor. Unfortunately, this tumor was on a spot on his leg that would have made it incredibly difficult to successfully remove. Odds were good that we would have to amputate his leg. At his age, and knowing he was already having hip issues, amputation was not an ideal solution. 

In November, I thought we were looking at another 6-12 months with him. On December 15th, it became clear that this tumor was much more aggressive than the first one. It was growing at a very fast rate and causing problems that I won't go into, but I took him to the vet. It was then that we realized we only had a matter of days left with him. On December 21st, we said goodbye to this precious pup.

I know now more than ever that I will never have a dog like Romeo again. He was such a gift from the Lord. My heavenly Father knew all of the things I would experience - the good and the bad - throughout the last 13 years, and He knew that Romeo would be such a gift.

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I miss hugging him. I miss playing with him and taking him on walks. I miss the drive-by lickings (if you ever met him, you know what I'm talking about!). I miss rubbing his belly. I miss watching him play with Imogen. I miss throwing the frog (his favorite toy) for him. I miss him greeting us when we'd come home. I miss when he'd lay on top of my feet. I miss him.

Looking after baby Imogen

Looking after baby Imogen

Romeo always let Imogen cuddle with him.

Romeo always let Imogen cuddle with him.

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Imogen's 2nd birthday

Imogen's 2nd birthday

Blue Ridge Mountains, 2016

Blue Ridge Mountains, 2016

One last hug

One last hug

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Romeo, I'm celebrating your birthday today, buddy. You were so loved and you are so missed. Thank you for always loving me. Thank you for always looking after me.

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye

To Flush, My Dog by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Yet, my pretty sportive friend,
Little is't to such an end
That I praise thy rareness!
Other dogs may be thy peers
Haply in these drooping ears,
And this glossy fairness.

But of thee it shall be said,
This dog watched beside a bed
Day and night unweary— 
Watched within a curtained room,
Where no sunbeam brake the gloom
Round the sick and dreary.

Roses, gathered for a vase,
In that chamber died apace,
Beam and breeze resigning.
This dog only, waited on,
Knowing that when light is gone
Love remains for shining.

Other dogs in thymy dew
Tracked the hares, and followed through
Sunny moor or meadow.
This dog only, crept and crept
Next a languid cheek that slept,
Sharing in the shadow.

Other dogs of loyal cheer
Bounded at the whistle clear,
Up the woodside hieing.
This dog only, watched in reach
Of a faintly uttered speech,
Or a louder sighing.

And if one or two quick tears
Dropped upon his glossy ears,
Or a sigh came double— 
Up he sprang in eager haste,
Fawning, fondling, breathing fast,
In a tender trouble.

And this dog was satisfied
If a pale thin hand would glide
Down his dewlaps sloping— 
Which he pushed his nose within,
After—platforming his chin
On the palm left open.

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A New Beginning

My first blog post was written when I was 22 years old. It was 2003, and no one I knew was blogging, but it was appealing and I liked the opportunity the internet afforded me in hopefully connecting with people I loved who lived far away. MySpace existed, but I was new to the platform, and while Facebook was in its early stages, I did not have access because I no longer had a college email address.

I am so happy to say that the blogs - and I went on to have a few different ones - that I've written in the past remain in the past. In fact, those very first thoughts I posted for the world to see are no longer accessible because I posted them on GeoCities. Yes. Let that sink in. My blogging is that old.

It has been years since I've put any of my writing online for others to see. I'm not afraid of it, but like everything else in my life, I want to do it well. I want it to be not only worth my time, but worth the reader's time. I hope if you join me in this space that you leave feeling uplifted and understood. 

If you've kept tabs on me recently you might think I've undergone a bit of a transformation over the last year. In some ways I have, but the past year hasn't so much changed me as much as it's allowed me to be more of myself. Some of the decisions I've made have confused others who know me well, and I get that. I don't feel the need to defend myself and I don't owe anyone any explanations, but I do hope that in sharing some of my story moving forward I am able to clarify a few things and encourage others who may need to make similar changes in their lives.

I'll post more soon and go into further detail, but until then, thanks for stopping by. Say hello, and feel free to shoot me an email if you ever have questions. Let's be friends. 

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