Traveling Solo Part 2

It was completely quiet except for the wind. It was just me, alone in this wild, remote place. And I loved it. I didn’t feel lonely or sad. I felt alive.

As I sat there, I realized I didn’t want to be anywhere else, with anyone else.

I was at peace.

Last week I wrote about my experience traveling solo through South Dakota. I’ve never done anything like that before; I’ve always had a travel buddy with me. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to relax and enjoy myself, or if the unrelenting solitude would drum a chorus of constant reminders into my head…

You have to travel alone because you don’t have a husband or family

You’re alone

You’re alone

You’re alone

Surprisingly though, the chorus NEVER popped up. Sadness, discontentment, and feelings of loneliness never surfaced, either.

I was good. More than good, actually.

It turned out that I enjoyed every aspect of my solo trip. I loved traveling on my own and would jump at the chance to do it again.

Since I’ve been back I’ve had a lot of people say things like, “I could never do that.” “I don’t think I’m brave enough.” “Weren’t you lonely?”

If I was sitting across from you at the coffee shop and you said those things to me, here’s what I would want to tell you:

  • It’s okay to be alone

I was really worried about this. I honestly thought I might hate it. I’m not sure why, though. I do a lot of life alone. I like my own company. But traveling just seemed different.

I think the biggest question for single women traveling alone is always-

What will other people think of me?

It turned out that it didn’t matter at all. Honestly, most people were so busy corralling children and watching out for poisonous snakes (thanks, Badlands) that they never noticed me. I doubt I even registered in their minds.

Nobody cared that I was alone. Some people even seemed envious.

And, the freedom to come and go as I please was amazing.

Hold your head up high and revel in that.

  • It’s easy to miss out on opportunities because you’re afraid

If only one thing sinks into your heart, let it be this:

Don’t let the fact that you’re single stop you from doing anything. Whether it’s solo travel, trying a new hobby, visiting a restaurant, going to a party, or anything else, don’t let fear become a deciding factor.

I almost didn’t go on my trip because I was so caught up in my own head. I was afraid. I was anxious. I was embarrassed to be seen on my own. I was worried about flat tires, creepy truck drivers, scary hotel rooms, wild animal attacks, and being forced to survive in the wilderness (have I mentioned that I have a very over-active imagination?).

But I knew that if I didn’t go, I would regret that even more.

Take more chances. Live with fewer regrets.

  • Solitude is a beautiful thing

Our world shrieks at us- Television, social media, podcasts, audiobooks, music, conversation. There’s always so much noise.

It makes it hard to hear what we really need to hear.

I teach kindergarten, so I’m constantly surrounded by noise. I like to joke that I’m immune to it. I know it affects me, though. The clamor of social media does, too.

Being totally, absolutely alone in a remote area wasn’t frightening. It was life-giving. The chance to sit, breathe, and just “be” was refreshing.

I felt filled up rather than depleted.

  • God is always with you

I was never truly alone! God promises that He is always with me, wherever I go. He knew where I was, even when I was in the middle of Black Hills National Forest and there wasn’t another car on the road.

One of the best aspects of my solo trip was the opportunity for long, quiet times of prayer, meditation, and Bible reading. There was no need to hurry and rush things. The solitude (and crazy driving) (and the possibility of meeting rattlesnakes) gave me ample opportunities to draw closer to God.

  • You can choose your traveling companions

Even if you’re traveling alone, you can still choose the “companions” you take with you. Those companions might be fear, self-doubts, uncertainty, shame, or discontentment

Or they could be excitement, wonder, joy, peace, and contentment

The choice is up to you, but your point of view will color your whole experience.

I’m so glad I took a chanced and traveled solo!

Take a chance!

I love to travel. There are so many amazing things to see in the world. Don’t let the fact that you’re single prevent you from seeing any of them. If you get opportunities- take them and run!

You’ll be better for it.

This week, I’m so thankful for the blessing of trips that take me out of my comfort zone. I need them. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Traveling Solo- Part 1

A solo trip is something I’ve thought about for a long time, but I wasn’t sure if I was brave enough to actually try it.  I felt like there was so much stigma around solo travel- 

What are people going to think of me?

Can I stay in a hotel room by myself?

What if something goes wrong?

And how awkward am I going to feel being around couples, families, and groups all the time?

I wouldn’t know unless I tried, right?

My experience

I planned to visit my sister for Easter weekend, see her new baby, and then go from there. Her location in Wisconsin would be the perfect jumping-off point for a western road trip.

The visit to my sister was also what prompted the idea of solo travel. I thought it might be awkward to invite someone to travel with me and then tell them they had to first spend three days staring admiringly at my seven-week-old niece. I just didn’t see all the pieces fitting together. 

So, I hit the open road, leaving my sister’s house and my tiny new niece for the unknown. South Dakota has always been on my bucket list, I had lots of miles on my soon-to-be-ending lease, and a week off school.

The time had come to try a trip on my own.

The first hurdle- driving. There was A LOT of driving.

Eight hours of farm country lay ahead of me, but the weather was brilliant and sunny, with crazy-high temperatures. I sweated my way through the drive, forgetting to take my sweatshirt off at every rest stop. And there were a lot of those! I don’t know if it was the coffee or nerves, but I had to stop A LOT.

At least I was able to get out and stretch my legs.

In between stops, there was hardly any traffic, so I set the cruise and… went. Best of all- there was Caribou Coffee in Minnesota! Seven hundred calories, but so worth it. My trip was off to a great start.

Interstate 90 is the main highway across South Dakota, and the roadside attractions make a major effort towards keeping drivers entertained. I stopped first at the roadside Sculpture Garden, which was closed but provided me with an exciting detour down a dirt road, where I almost got stuck in a dirt pile. Next was Mitchell and the Corn Palace. It is a true testament to the remoteness of South Dakota that the Corn Palace is so well-marketed. Mitchell was a seedy town with a tiny main street decorated in an Old West theme. If I ever need leather goods or tomahawks, I know where to go.

The Corn Palace is really just a corn façade. The rest is a regular building, complete with a full-size basketball court. No idea why…

My visit was tempered by the rumbles of thunder coming with more and more frequency.

I dashed back to the car just as the rain started. My sunny day was gone, and so was my smile. It became three hours of rain, hail, thunder, lightning, and wind. At one point there was even sleet and I seriously considered just stopping.

I pushed on and made it to the highly advertised Wall Drug just in time for the snow to come. Somehow, the snow seemed to even put a damper on my buffalo burger. Snow was not in my plans.

But when I hit the Black Hills the next day, snow blanketed the landscape, providing me with some hair-raising driving. The speed limit dropped, and dropped, and dropped again as the road rose and fell, twisting around. At times it seemed to disappear completely, causing me to shriek and hit the brakes. Thank goodness there were no cars around me.

I skidded my way to the Crazy Horse monument and then to Mount Rushmore. Both have long been on my bucket list. I love bucket list days! There’s something so surreal about experiencing things for yourself when you’ve only ever viewed them in pictures.

 Everything was covered in snow.

Not my ideal, but beautiful in its way.

After a brief stay in a one-stoplight town that left me thanking God I lived in Ohio, I was ready to visit Custer State Park. Again, the roads were completely empty. It was just me, my music, and my terror, alone on the crazy, twisty highway.

Not going to lie, the driving was tough. My heart was in my throat the whole time. I was dry-mouthed and chilly; my legs were shaky when I finally flung myself gratefully out of the car.

The roads were narrow and full of multiple hairpin turns, with frequent drop-offs. At times I had to almost stop, but then I was nervous about making it up the hills. They just kept winding up, up, up. I couldn’t believe how high I was at times- with the earth falling away and spreading out right next to me. Beautiful, intimidating, and invigorating.

The driving was a challenge, but it was exhilarating, too. I must be crazy.

Custer is famous for its scenery, but I didn’t get to see a lot of it. Everything was (surprise, surprise) covered in snow and the temperatures were still low, so I wasn’t motivated to explore much. When I tried to stop at one of the lookouts, I almost got stuck in the snow.

I did see a lot of wildlife, which was amazing, though seeing all the buffalo made me feel guilty about eating one of their number the day before.

And then- Badlands National Park. This was my favorite part of the trip. Almost as soon as you get in, you’re greeted with the Pinnacles Overlook. Jaw-dropping.

Amazing. Breathtaking. It was so wonderful it almost moved me to tears.

I couldn’t believe I was the one looking at it. At the second overlook, I sat down and ate a pizza (I only travel with the essentials). It was completely quiet except for the wind. It was just me, alone in this wild, remote place. And I loved it. I didn’t feel lonely or sad. I felt alive.

As I sat there, I realized I didn’t want to be anywhere else, with anyone else.

I was at peace.

Views like this one are the reason I travel!

I’m so incredibly thankful for what I was able to experience and so glad I didn’t let fear hold me back. The whole trip was great, and I would definitely travel solo again.

I’ll talk more about traveling alone in my next post. This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of an adventure. My ideal trip might look different than yours, but I loved it. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

The Rich Young Ruler: What do You Love the Most?

I sighed and stretched lazily as I buried my feet in the sand. This, right here, was my definition of a perfect moment- warm sunshine, blue skies, crashing waves, a good book, and an open afternoon.

Free time. Unlimited free time.

I admit I can be jealous of my time. As a single woman I often view time as currency- it’s mine to spend as I wish.  I’m accustomed to setting my own schedule and I tend to resent people or circumstances that intrude upon it. Too many demands on my time frustrate me.

However, the Bible tells me a different story- my life isn’t my own. I was created to glorify God. I also believe that’s why God calls some people (me among them) to be single. So they will have more time for service.

 Knowing what’s right and living it out are two different things, though.

In Matthew 19 we read the story of the rich young ruler. He approached Jesus, wanting to know what he needed to do to gain eternal life in heaven. Jesus told the young man to keep the commandments- don’t lie, steal, or murder. He needed to honor his parents and love his neighbor as himself.

The young man told Jesus he kept all of those commandments. But he felt like he was still lacking something. There was conviction in his heart; Jesus’ response, however, turned him away. “Go, sell what you possess, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; come, follow me.” The Bible tells us that this seeking young man went away sad because he was wealthy. Despite his concern for his soul, he wasn’t ready to give up his things.

He was unable to live out what was right. The cost of following Jesus was too high.

Even though this is a story I’ve heard many times, it hit me in a fresh way recently. In the past, I always felt like I couldn’t relate to the rich young ruler because I didn’t have much personal wealth. However, I’ve realized that money is only one obstacle that can stand between us and knowing Jesus.

Giving my free time to others can feel like a high price to pay. When I’m selfish with my life it can keep me from serving God fully, though. When I hoard all my time I’m failing to obey God’s command to love my neighbor as myself.

What’s keeping you from seeking Jesus more fully?

What desires are taking His place in your heart?

Marriage?

Children?

Adventure?

Financial prosperity?

Career?

Friends and family?

Comfort?

All of these are fine in their place, but Satan can use them to turn our hearts away from Jesus. Like my love of free time, anything that takes precedence over knowing and obeying God becomes an idol and will prevent us from growing as Christians.

Examine your heart and ask yourself, “What feels too costly to give up?” How is that affecting your relationship with God today?

Jesus offered the rich young ruler something greater than money- Himself. He offers us the same thing. Every desire in our hearts should pale beside that truth.

Knowing God and being able to serve Him fully is worth everything.

This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of free time! I love it, but I know it’s not all mine to spend. I’m praying that God will show me how to best use it to serve Him. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Birthdays, Single-Style

Birthdays are not my favorite thing.

To me, they are a tangible reminder of two facts:

  1. I’m steadily moving towards middle age (kicking and screaming).
  2. Another year has gone by and… wait for it… Nothing’s changed!

I’m in exactly the same place I was a year ago.

Still single

Still promising myself I’ll lose the extra weight around my hips

Still dreaming of…more

So, I’ve struggled with feeling like there’s not much worth celebrating in my life.

But this past year has changed my outlook, both on birthdays and life. Surprisingly, the tumult of 2020 has brought a lot of clarity. It’s shown me that even a single girl sliding toward middle age can find things to celebrate on her birthday.

God’s plan is worth celebrating

I keep coming back to this point because I need to keep reminding myself of it. My life is in God’s hands. Every aspect of it is in His control. That means my single status is the plan God deems best for me.

Celebrating my birthday as a single woman can feel lonely, but that doesn’t give me the right to lament against it. I have to remember: True satisfaction with my life will never stem from a husband and children.

A woman who rests in God’s will is a woman who fully trusts His plan. She understands that He alone is the source of our satisfaction. I want to be that woman.

God’s plan is always worth celebrating.

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does H withhold from those walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

Freedom is worth celebrating

The world is a frightening, uncertain place. I suppose that’s always been true, but it’s never touched so closely into my life before. Here in the U.S., we’ve seen disease, political turmoil, and tension on a level most of us haven’t experienced before.

Things have changed so much, and I think some things, good things, are gone forever. It’s caused me to be thankful for the freedoms I’ve enjoyed for the last thirty-nine years. Today, I am thankful for freedom, family, and my ability to live life the way I want to live it.

Freedom is always worth celebrating.

Growth is worth celebrating.

I have a very weird cactus. I seem to specialize in ugly plants. This one started small and cute but has grown exponentially. At some point, it also grew itself a “friend”- a second cactus out the side. Last summer roots began to come out the top.

Yes, out the top.

It’s not attractive, but I’ve become attached to it because of its oddness. It’s also a great reminder- growth often looks ugly, but that doesn’t make it bad.

Life’s ugly moments? Those are the ones where God can work the most.

For instance, as I look back over this year, I can see major areas where I’ve grown:

My relationship with God

My perspectives on life

The value I place on Scripture reading, memorization, and meditation

The way I view my job

And so much more. Because of what I’ve gone through, I am not the same woman I was a year ago, but that is not a bad thing.

Growth is always worth celebrating.

Life is worth celebrating.

Okay, this might be a little cheesy. Bear with me, though.

God has given us so, so, so many things that make life good. When I pull myself out of my “I’ll be celebrating birthdays as a single woman for the rest of my life” pity-party and start to look around, I’m amazed at what’s in front of me.

I mean, hello? Can we just start with cheesecake?

And then we can go from there: laughter; bonfires with friends; sunrises stretching golden fingers across the promise of a new day; driving with the windows down and the music up; family game nights; inside jokes; a warm baby nestled under your chin; pizza parties; soft blankets; the first sip of coffee; art, music, museums; getting lost in a good book; warm summer rain; sunny afternoons at the beach

I could go on and on. We have so much. How often do we even think about it?  

Life, in all its messiness, is a gift from God, and it is always worth celebrating.  

Happy Birthday to Me!

Thankful for thirty-nine years!

That’s where I stand on birthdays right now. Doing birthdays single-style?

It’s okay. I haven’t always been able to say that, But for right now, it’s okay. More than okay, actually.

Birthdays mean God isn’t done with me, yet. Another year=another opportunity. And I’m looking forward to seeing what thirty-nine will bring.

This week, I’m thankful for God’s good gifts in our lives. He is the One who makes everything worthwhile. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Phoebe- A Life of Service

When I hear the word servant, I usually think of Downton Abbey.  You know- the black dress and starched white apron, all the bobbing and curtseying and saying, “Very good, mum.” Scraping out fireplace ashes, getting up early, and doing every lousy job you’re told to do.

No, thank you.

Fortunately, we live in the twenty-first century and we’re provided with more job options.

But that doesn’t mean we’re excused from being servants.

Christians are called to be imitators of Jesus and He was the ultimate example of a servant- “…Though He was in the form  of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:6,7)

How does that apply to us?

If we move back in Philippians 2, we read these verses: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (verses 3,4)

You don’t have to don the black dress and the starched apron, but the Christian life is meant to be characterized by service.

A Life of Service

Phoebe was a woman who lived out this truth. I recently came across a reference to her in my Bible reading and was immediately intrigued. There are only about fifty words pertaining to her, but they are powerful:

“Í commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” Romans 16:1, 2

That’s it- the only mention of her in the entire Bible! However, these fifty words speak volumes.

She was a Fellow Believer

Phoebe was part of the early Christian church. Paul, the writer of the book of Romans, named her as a sister in Christ. Many Bible scholars believe that she was the bearer of Paul’s letter to the Romans. This was why he was commending her to the church in Rome. Phoebe’s life stood out enough to draw Paul’s attention and admiration.  

We also know that she was heavily involved in her church. The Greek word Paul used to describe her work is diakonos, which translates as a deacon or a servant. It tells us she wasn’t a woman who sat back and did nothing. At this time, the Christian church would have been a brand-new concept and the needs would have been great. Phoebe clearly dove into church life and set to work serving the people around her.

She was a Benefactor

Not only was she a servant, but Phoebe was also named as a patron to Paul and others. The word patron can also be translated as a helper or a benefactor.  So she was a woman of independent financial means, and she used those means to benefit others. Paul himself received help at her hands.

In one translation, the word “succourer” is used in place of patron. This is a weird word that means “one who stands by in case of need.” This word was typically used to describe a trainer who stood by an athlete and made sure he didn’t over-train.

“One who stands by in case of need.” Phoebe stood by others, ready to help. What a beautiful picture of her life.

She was a Traveler

Phoebe was far from home if she was meeting up with the church in Rome. Scholars tell us it was a 700-mile trip, an enormous distance for the time. To me, this says that she was brave and willing to take a risk. Since we know she was well-to-do, she was possibly even traveling for her own business ventures.

And… since no husband is mentioned in connection with her, people also assume she was single.

I like this woman!

Phoebe is the only woman in the Bible referred to as a servant and a patron. She’s just a brief mention, but her life had a big impact. Her name means “pure, bright, or radiant as the moon.” In her culture, it was also a name for the moon goddess. She may have had a pagan name, but this Phoebe shone brightly for Christ.

What does she mean to us?

A single life doesn’t have to be a quiet life! It also doesn’t have to be self-centered life.  

As we work on living intentionally this year, it’s easy to become focused on our own goals and miss the opportunities around us. But I absolutely believe the single life is intended for service.

 Our churches, our families, our coworkers, our neighbors- there are so many people who need us to step up and…serve.

Like Phoebe, I want to use my single life to be a person who stands by in case of need.

And just a thought that’s been running around my head this week-

If someone was asked to describe you in fifty words, what would they say?

What characterizes your life?

This week, I’m so thankful for the blessing of biblical women and what they can teach us. We have a lot to learn! Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

I’m thankful for the following resources:

https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/all-women-bible/Phebe-Phoebe

https://www.christiantoday.com/article/sister-servant-and-leader-who-was-phoebe-in-the-bible/89442.htm