The Do’s and Don’ts of Dating and Singleness

Six practical tips on how to honor God and run an excellent race during your single days.

Introduction

If there’s one Bible verse that Christian singles hear referenced more than any other, it’s Hebrews 12.

“Sad about being single?” says your well-intended married friend. “Don’t worry. Just run after God, and fix your eyes on Jesus!”

Now, it’s possible, the last time someone recommended taking a run after God as a panacea for your painful and unwanted season of singleness, the insight provided new clarity, and you said, “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?” But maybe, if you’re like me, you nodded politely and thought “Sounds nice. What does that mean, exactly?”

I used to think “fixing my eyes on Jesus” meant staring at my Bible Gateway app screen to the point of clinical eye strain. And likewise, that “running after God” looked like a more frenetic church schedule, with unblemished attendance to the kind of Bible studies that discussed the meaning of meek in Greek. After seeking more understanding, however, I discovered the Bible’s references to running and relationships, are far richer with wisdom.

Looking again at Hebrews in more detail, the verse says: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Regardless of relationship status, we are all running the race at this very moment. In the rest of the article, I’ll offer some thoughts specifically to those who are single or dating, on ways to run the race well.

Starting with what not to do.

# 1 DON’T MAKE MARRIAGE YOUR STARTING LINE

During college, I ran track and specialized in the 5k and 10k races. In the traditional order of events, the distance races don’t start until the end of the day, which makes each track meet a long day of waiting, and also begs the question: “What does a runner do with all that lead-up time?” And the honest answer is,

Absolutely nothing.

First of all, other than skip around the warmup meadow, you can’t really do anything physical, because you’re supposed to save your body for the race. But it turns out, you can’t do much mentally either since just thinking about the race messes with your brain and makes you lightheaded. So instead, you fill the hours with distracting time killers and participate in the following 8 activities.

  1. Sip coffee
  2. Do easy homework, just to make yourself busy.
  3. Apply waterproof mascara, and re-braid your hair 3 times.
  4. Analyze the competition and conclude that their new microfiber red spandex uniforms might help them win.
  5. Visualize the ideal race.
  6. Worry about injury, especially if you’ve been hurt on the track before.
  7. Eat a series of small snacks, like grapes and granola, which taste fine, but aren’t really satisfying, and just whet your appetite more.
  8. Cheer for friends in their earlier events and try not to feel jealous or annoyed as they saunter around taking pictures of their finisher’s medals.

Basically, the entire day is a big lead up to the moment when you march to the starting line, cast off your sweatpants, and gallop into the twilight.

  • A foolish runner expends so much anxious energy anticipating the race, that they have little reserves left over to put up a good fight during the race itself.
  • A wise runner accepts waiting is just a part of the sport.

The Problem with the Starting Line

As singles, if we make marriage the starting line, and believe the “real race” has not yet begun, then we grant ourselves permission to delay important work God has for us. We are already running, and there is too large of a gap between earth and heaven to disqualify ourselves from meeting the needs of the world.

That said, if God calls your name on the loudspeaker (or the still small voice speaker) and tells you to use your gifts and talents in a specific area—be it school systems, sustainable city gardens, or startup companies—it can’t wait on your event calendar, and you must go.

# 2 DON’T MAKE MARRIAGE YOUR FINISH LINE 

One of the lesser-known truths about runners is that they are a bimodal species of people, who oscillate between strenuous training, and shameless laziness. Take a cross country championship race day, for instance. At the smoke of the gun, you run relentlessly, over steep hills and through freezing rain, in a valiant pursuit of one goal: get to the finish line as fast as possible. Alas, you cross the line, and what happens next?

Well not much. You feel pretty useless, although you will manage to do the following 8 activities.

  1. Mingle around the finishing corral reception area
  2. Give celebration hugs
  3. Line up for team photos
  4. Eat a feast
  5. Go back to the hotel and take a nap
  6. Soak in the hot tub
  7. Feel relieved and satisfied that your most important work for the day is done
  8. Let yourself off the hook from all the usual disciplinary routines

Singles and Finish Lines

Finish lines are important for our vision. If runners were instructed to run as fast as possible, for an undefined distance, with no end in sight, they would get discouraged, and easily tire.

Likewise, if the not-yet-in-sight wedding day event is your finish line, the race is dangerously unsustainable. Your hope, in that case, lives only at the mercy of external factors like personal preferences, or variable life timelines. If your hope gets deferred for too long, an insidious weariness can creep into your soul and sicken your heart. On the contrary, when your hope flows from God, the only renewable energy source, you will soar on wings like eagles through all the ups, downs, and inevitable uncertainties of relationships.

Couples and Finish Lines

The second problem with making marriage a finish line is that when the wedding day finally does come to pass, all that motivation and sense of purpose driving you forward during the chase, evaporates at the altar.

How would you feel, if the first time you walked into your newlywed couple’s cottage, your spouse called out to the Amazon echo dot and said, “Alexa. Check “wedding” off the list. And block off our calendars for the next 60 years. Just AM brunch, and PM naps from here in out.” As dreamy as this might sound, that relationship rides a fast track train to implosion. To thrive both relationally, and spiritually, we need to be about something bigger than ourselves by sowing seeds in a field beyond our own backyard.

As singles, we get to choose whether we date people who work the field, or people who play the field. In the interest keeping your heart intact as you run the good race, pursue the former and flee from the latter.

# 3 DON’T SETTLE FOR ANYTHING LESS THAN THE HONEST PACE

There are many ways to run a race, but the simplest and purest strategy of them all is to run the “honest pace,” giving it everything you have, from start to finish. When the whole field runs honest, it’s beautiful performance, that makes records fall, and stadiums rise. But sometimes, even the most talented runners hold back from running their best. Front-running, you see, means wind resistance, a target on your back, and no guarantees as to who will go with you.

If nobody is willing to lead, then you just jog along, jostling elbows, stumbling on each other’s feet, and scanning the scene with your peripheral vision in case someone makes a move forward. The pace is laggard enough to snapchat selfies to the crowd — that is now upset, at watching their favorite athletes sell themselves short in mediocre efforts. Later, when the results are posted, and the times downright pedestrian, you tell your coach it was all the group’s fault.

What does it mean to “run honest?”

The way we carry ourselves in the various facets of our lives — the company we keep, the commitments we hold, the way we steward our time, money and attention — all come together to create the cadence of the pace we run. Our pace is “honest” to the degree that we are true to ourselves and obedient to who God has called us to be. But make no mistake, the honest pace, is neither nor common, nor easy, especially when single.

There’s an unspoken assumption, you see, that if you were to take off full speed ahead, at the pace of your true capability, that others will no longer be romantically interested in you.  As singles, if we believe this collectively, then we act like a coed jogging club of bobbleheads, looking around at what everyone is doing, and holding back from going anywhere forward, lest we miss out.

Here are a few examples I have witnessed

  • I know women who have been advised against diving into ideas that excited them, such as starting a small group at church, because it might “intimidate the single men.”
  • I know men who have resigned themselves doomed to dealing with relationship drama full time because, apparently, “that’s just how it is.”
  • As for myself, I’m not immune either. In fact, I once mentioned my friend, Mike that if I really wanted to get serious about dating, I should probably start by reinventing myself — maybe become more extroverted and edgy, and less innocent and whimsical. In slightly kinder terms, Mike said this was the worst idea he had ever heard because then I would betray myself, and nobody wins.

Now, it can be tempting to make compromises in hopes of winning the approval and affection of the common pack, but you don’t have to.

Instead, run at the pace, at which you wish to be caught. The lead pack always sets the precedent for the chase pack.  If you set yourself on fire for God, and whatever makes you come alive, you will not cease to be romantically attractive. In fact, front-running while on fire makes you certifiably organic, drama free, hard to get.

The right person will not be intimidated by your pace. Rather, if you are equally yoked, they will keep you even more honest. Dating discernment can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be a 50 step algorithm. Start by asking some simple questions. Such as, do we help each other run a more excellent race? Or are we signing up for a lifetime of a 3 legged race hobble?

Now, after 3 Don’ts in a row, you may be wondering “How then, shall I run?”  I have three suggestions.

# 1 DO RUN UNENCUMBERED BY SIN

The 1980’s film “Chariots of Fire,” has a classic opening scene, where a parade of Scottish young men, dressed in white jogging suits, trot barefoot on the shores of West Sands, St Andrews to the sound of triumphant orchestral music.  Even in slow motion, their light and free strides, capture the epitome of unencumbered running. Other runners, however, get a bit more tied up.

In basic running jargon, “speed goggles” refer to the rosy, and often deceptive, lenses that cause you to see the speediest runners of the opposite sex as significantly and more attractive and trustworthy.

In relationships, sexual intimacy gives you “oxytocin” goggles. The trust enhancement, heart bonding factors are ideal for a lifelong marriage commitment, although problematic if trying to see another person’s character clearly. The Bible says to flee from sexual immorality, but unfortunately, the world has no interest in protecting your purity or bolstering your sin fleeing energy. Sometimes, “playing dead” to sin is the more effective option. My personal recommendation is this:

Learn to be unimpressed, to the point of borderline apathy, by anyone or anything that slows you down from running an excellent race. For example, if I am in the middle of something meaningful—like writing this blog post, for instance — Enrique Iglesias could knock on my door, accompanied a team of well-built boy band backup dancers, ready to personally serenade me with the 2011 hit song, “Tonight I’m Lovin’ You,” and I would call out to my roommate with a sigh of annoyance and say “Aimee! Can you deal with that ruckus outside? It’s Enrique the encumbrance, and I have important work to do for the Kingdom of God.”

# 2 DO RUN FOR THE PRIZE

“Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).

In April of 2017, Jordan Hasay, a 25-year-old from San Luis Obispo, CA blazed through the streets Boston, clocking the fastest Marathon debut time ever by an American woman.  Now, close your eyes for a moment and zoom back east to Boston.

Its mile 22. The fans line the streets of New England in a roaring tunnel of noise, as the lead pack comes barreling around the corner to the hydration station: their parched throats yearning for Gatorade. And all sudden Arie Luyendyk Jr, of the most recent Bachelor TV season, struts onto the course holding a rose in one and hand a bottle of wine in the other. “Jordan, will you accept this rose?” he asks. “You look tired. Why don’t you come take a break at my place? You can always jump back in the race later and get serious then.”

Hmm. There is a $50 prize purse waiting to be divvied up among the top finishers at the line. Not for a single second, would Jordan consider accepting a single petal. She has trained too hard to even entertain any compromises. Jordan wants to win. Her eyes are on the finish, and she will stay the course marked out for her–which most certainly, does not include a stopover at Arie Luyendyk Jr’s.

It’s easy enough for us to understand delayed gratification when its framed in the context of an earthly prize. And yet the Bible tells us, we store up riches in heaven, according to how we live on earth. “Goof off now, and get serious later” is a commonly accepted, but severely misguided belief among many singles. How we live now, and who we are becoming, matters not only for our marriage on earth, but also for our rewards in heaven. So just like Jordan, stay the course, and run for the prize.

# 3 DO RUN AGAINST THE CLOCK

Few people understand the value of a second as well an Olympic sprinter. In a 100 meter race, the difference between a crown of laurels and a last-place finish can be decided in one-tenth of a second. A sprinter knows that time is not on their side, and the race will over in a blink.

If you are single and desire to be married one day, the chances are, that you will eventually get there. But what you will not get back, are moments abandoned, or days wished away before marriage. Time is a precious God-given gift, equally valuable before and after your wedding day. Thus we need to grasp the unconditional urgency with which we are called to live our days.

Sometimes I have to remind myself, that death is not a question of if, but a matter of when. How many heartbeats, breaths, or laps are left?  I’m not sure. But I am sure, that when I lean into the heavenly finish line, I’ll be running honest.

The Bell Lap

Now, the next time you feel discouraged about your singleness and someone tells you to “run after God,” you can look them in the eye with sincerity and say, “Thanks! I know just what to do!”

So go, and run the race set before you.

  • Run with perseverance and an unshakeable hope
  • Run away from darkness, and sprint towards light
  • Run after truth, and stay the course.
  • Run past evil with doppler effect of a Ferrari
  • Run the honest pace and give it everything you have.
  • Run powered by the fire of the Holy Spirit and let your life leave a legacy like a streak of light in a dark night sky

Legalism at the Table

4 signs you might be bringing a legalistic spirit to the table. Thoughts on food, faith, unity, angst, and guilt-free guacamole. 

11 Minute Audio

 

The Whole30

Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday. Which means, depending on the endurance of your New Year’s resolutions, you either watched the game cradling a bowl of fresh fruit salad or a bowl of chips con queso. If you’re the average American, healthy habits began backsliding in the fall as you traded protein shakes for peppermint patties and kale chips for candy canes. But on January 1 you kicked off a blitz bodily detox, and resolved to reset.

One of the most popular January resets, endorsed by both crossfitters and average and Joe’s alike, is the WHOLE30: The elimination diet where you strip your plate of sugars, grains, dairy, legumes, and alcohol for 30 consecutive days. If you sign up and adhere to the program protocol perfectly, then an official completion certificate will arrive in your inbox for your personal satisfaction or public social media posting purposes.

For some people, the Whole30 brings freedom from food addictions, relief from undiscovered allergies, and an increase in energy. Plus, it can even be fun with all the kitchen creativity and camaraderie. On the other hand, if a diet is approached poorly, and the spirit of the program is lost in the technicality of the rules, the result is something called “food legalism.” Interestingly, there are several similarities between legalism in food and legalism in faith.

Legalism and Definitions

In the health realm, I define a “food legalist” as someone who follows their diet perfectly, but not for the motive of things like proper nourishment, or sharing meals with good company. Following the food rules has become an end in itself.  

In Christianity, Steve Cole defines legalism as “an attempt to gain favor with God or to impress our fellow man by doing certain things (or avoiding other things), without regard to the condition of our hearts before God.” Having dabbled in both types of legalism at some point or another, I’ve made a few observations about the connection. 

 Below, are 4 signs of a legalistic spirit at the table. 

#1  Your vocabulary is sin centric

Look around any grocery store, and notice that foods, today are often described with words of moral judgment rather than flavor. If I peruse the aisles of Sprouts market, on one side, devil’s food cake tempts my taste buds with the seductive tag-line, “sinfully delicious” and hovering just over my other shoulder, the angel food cake and sinless whipped cream make a plea to my health righteousness ego. By the time I reach the chips and dips section, I face a moral dilemma of whether I prefer my bowl game guacamole guilt-free or guilt reduced. I never felt particularly guilty about guacamole before, but apparently, some foods must undergo a guilt reduction process prior to our consumption.

Food Faith Connection

Both legalists of faith and food have passion about what they’re against, although sometimes at the expense of what they’re for. Imagine asking a friend about her budding new love interest, and hearing a response like, “Oh Benjamin? He’s great! Our relationship is even cheating-free. It’s manipulation-less, and reduced-deception. Lots of work, of course, but totally worth it.”  Most likely, you were more interested in what they loved and treasured about each other, not about what they had agreed to avoid together.

A sin centric nutritional vocabulary can have a negative impact on our relationship with food, and even lead to behavioral backfiring. Operating with a legalistic spirit, you reason that if you already sinned one cookie, you might as well go all the way and sin the whole box.  Along similar lines, a sin-centric faith vocabulary, as commonly seen in legalism, can affect the way we view and approach God in relationship with him. Our behavior becomes motivated more by fear and avoidance, than love and abundance. But God is not just after us for our sin-free report cards. He’s after our hearts, and for our joy. He came to give us life and life abundantly. (John 10:10).

#2 You’re confused. A lot.

The big picture of the whole 30 is truly easy enough for a child to understand. In a nutshell, eat food you could hunt, gather, or catch. Drink black coffee instead of orange mocha frappuccino’s, and avoid processed stuff. Yet despite the inherent simplicity of the Whole30, some people approach meal planning like its Calculus BC.  

They ask questions like this:

  • Have you checked the Greek translation of the Whole30 rules? I’m pretty sure the outlaw of honey was culturally specific to the ancient Greeks and doesn’t apply to me.
  • If I get drunk with good people is my debauchery deleted?
  • What time, exactly, do I have to stop eating, at night? Am I allowed to eat bananas after 10 pm?
  • Since quinoa is technically a seed, not a grain, if I sacrifice the first of every 10 quinoa seeds to the garbage disposal does that make it a legal?
  • Do I have to come to the table every Sunday for family dinner? Or could I just go through the drive-through, alone if I still get fed?

Food Faith Connection

A healthy dosage of curiosity can be a very good thing. In honesty, I throw questions at my nutrition science friends, and church leader friends all the time! When asking these questions, though, we must also check in with our motives behind the inquiries. For example:

  • Am I listening to my body, and aiming to thrive? Or am I trying to get away with satisfying my sweet tooth cravings, while still staying skinny and impressing my friends with my whole30 compliance?
  • Am listening to the Holy Spirit and seeking more understanding about God? Or am I rallying on behalf of the flesh, to prevent my conscience from feeling uncomfortable?

With skewed food motives, we can weave ourselves into webs of confusion about what’s permissible, beneficial, or Paleo approved. But the body will not be mocked. At the end of the day, a box of donuts made of organic sugar and locally sifted rice flour will spike your blood sugar off the charts. Spiritually speaking, when motives go awry, or when stop listening to God, we make tangled mysteries out of the simplest of matters.

 Thankfully, we worship a God of clarity and order, not confusion. When lacking wisdom, we don’t have to resign ourselves to setting up camp in the dense fog of spiritual wilderness. Instead, we can ask for understanding.   (2 Timothy 2:7)

# 3 You believe your specific diet is the only way to health

A food legalist, by default, ascribes to a very specific nutritional school of thought.  Identifying yourself “paleo,” for instance, is not specific enough. Instead, you must specify whether you call yourself primal-paleo, veggie-paleo, or whole30 compliant-paleo. Not surprisingly, then, dietary division often lead to quarreling. Gather a group of firmly opinionated health nuts at a super bowl party, and the discussion might sound something like this:

  • Vegan Veronica: So, are you going on that primal-con retreat this year with your Paleo carnivore crew?
  • Ketosis-Kurt: No, my wife and I actually switched over to the keto diet a couple months ago. They’re a lot more scientifically sound. You should come check out our BBQ.
  • Vegan Veronica: But there’s no fruit in the keto diet. Literally. Ever since I went vegan all the cells in my body came alive. Why don’t you guys come over to watch Forks Over Knives, sometime? I’ll serve up some activated sprouted popcorn.
  • Ketosis-Kurt: Nah I just wouldn’t feel fed on that kind of diet. You guys cherry pick your snacks and water down your juice. My muscles need meat roasted by fire, not blueberries sprinkled in water. It’s a core value.
  • Average Party Paige: Uhh, I’m not a diet person. I’m just nutritional, so I do what feels right for my body. I believe in love and everything in moderation.

Food Faith Connection

Realistically, hundreds of different dietary regimens have led people down a path towards health, fitness, and even community garden potlucks. The food legalist, however, believes their dietary denomination is the one and only way to be healthy. Likewise,  in the Christian faith while doctrinal differences do exist, and matter,  many different denominations have led people to Christ and community. The Holy Spirit is alive and does multi-denominational heart transformation. Seek truth, but don’t forget to seek unity as well.  (1 Corinthians 1:10)

# 4 You’re in Constant Angst

One time, a friend of mine confessed that he struggled when grocery shopping for eggs. Somewhere between the cage-free chicken option, the Canadian ducks, and the omega 3 supplemented ostriches, he would get stressed out and opt not to buy any eggs at all.  See, for the food legalist, it’s imperative not just to make a good choice, but to make the right choice. After all, that program completion certificate is on the line,  just one corn kernel away from costing you the entire diet season.

Food Faith Connection

In the kitchen, even when we try our very best to eat right,  we will still miss the mark, on occasion. For example, it’s possible a Canadian duck suffered a bout of hypothermic malnourishment, throwing off your micro-nutrient count for a whole day. Sorry about that. But opting for starvation, because you can’t decide what to eat, does more harm than good. In this case, you’re better off making a choice to the best of your knowledge and savoring the omelet during a Wednesday breakfast with your spouse.

Also, just as a food legalist worries about stepping out of line, and losing their program certificate, a Christian legalist constantly questions their own salvation. They tiptoe through life as though God’s will is a tightrope, and one wrong move could result in irreparable soul damage.  In reality, we will all make mistakes, here but we don’t have to live in angst about it; redemption and the restoration of the broken are central parts of the gospel. Jesus promises us a peace beyond our understanding, and beyond our earning. (Phil 4:7)

So alas, come to the table just as you are.  Let your cup overflow, and be salt and light.

Cheers,

Chrissa

 

The 2017 Book List

Books and other information sources read (or listened to) in 2017. Find the 2016 book list here.

Non-Fiction

  1. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown
  2. Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. by Brene Brown
  3. The Friendship Factor: How to Get Closer to the People you Care for by Alan Loy McGinnis
  4. Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships Sue Johnson
  5. Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott
  6. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Al Switzler, Joseph Grenny, and Ron McMillan
  7. Love-ology: Love. Marriage. Sex. And the Never-Ending Story of Male and Female by John Mark Comer
  8. Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People by Vanessa Van Edwards
  9. Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud
  10. Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality by Dr. Henry Cloud
  11. Never Go Back by Dr. Henry Cloud
  12. Building a Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
  13. The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler
  14. The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow your Passion by Elle Luna
  15. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
  16. The Gift in You: Discovering New Life Through Gifts Hidden in Your Mind by Dr. Caroline Leaf
  17. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
  18. Do The Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own way by Steven Pressfield
  19. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
  20. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry
  21. Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff

Theology

  1. What is the Bible? How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything by Rob Bell
  2. God Secrets: A Life Filled with Words of Knowledge by Shawn Bolz
  3. Fasting: Opening the Door to a Deeper, More Intimate, More Powerful Relationship with God by Jentezen Franklin
  4. Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind by Joyce Meyer
  5. Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God’s Voice Above All Others by Steven Furtick

Also, teachings in sermon or blog format by Eric Knopf, Bill Johnson, and Gabe Lyons.

Fiction/ Memoir

  1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  2. Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
  3. Chemistry by Weike Wang
  4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  5. How to Live on 24 hours a Day (1910 essay)by Arnold Benett

Other influential blogs and authors: Chase JarvisSeth Godin, Marie Forleo, Austin Kleon, Brain Pickings Magazine, Elizabeth Gilbert, Lara Casey.

Thanks to all book recommenders and lenders! Now, onto next year: what’s on your 2018 book list?

In the First Decade of Adulthood

28 things I learned about life in the first decade of adulthood. Written on my 28th birthday as advice to my 18-year-old self.

9-minute audio

 

  1. Life is not a multiple-choice test with a secret answer key; it’s a chapter book of choose your own adventure essays. Write often, and edit as you go.
  2. Living in Truth is always better than living in desired perception. But truth seekers, take note. When you pray for God to “wake you up,” buckle up for a wild ride, because reality is truly a thrill.
  3. Good things come to those who ask. Ask God for wisdom. Ask for the sale, the scholarship, the secret recipe, the side story, and for sermon clarification. Do live curiously. But don’t ask Google your most haunting questions at 2 am.
  4. Remember the big picture always wins the fight, after all, it is bigger. That said, the best way to steward the big picture is by showing up—consistently, and often awkwardly—to the small picture, also known as, the present.
  5. Learn to enjoy the paradox of living fully content where you are, while simultaneously longing, and pushing forward to where you want to go.
  6. Coed companions can create a fun and healthy balance to your social life, but when in doubt, define the relationship. Instead of complaining about being led on, take responsibility for your heart, and ask where the ship—friend, relation, or otherwise—is headed.
  7. Satisfying relationship closure is an inside job. Don’t put your well-being on hold as you wait for a grand Olympic style closing ceremony: those only happen every two to 4 years, anyway. Instead, redirect your energy to repairing, recuperating, and returning to the field when ready.
  8. Willpower is important, but annoyingly, and scientifically, finite. Sometimes the best thing to do is muster up just enough internal motivation to reach out to the right external structure. Tackle fitness challenges with friends. See a therapist to get unstuck. Or do as I am with this very post, and set a deadline with monetary consequences.
  9. If you feel lost, follow your stomach. Start by devouring some curiosity crunch for breakfast, and next, pay attention to your upset stomach. Which injustice makes you want to puke? What testimony makes you slightly queasy to share? Who is the person that gives you butterflies? Walk boldly in the direction of your nausea, although try not to literally hurl.
  10. Asking for what you need is not dramatic. On the contrary, ignoring your needs, or holding others accountable to unspoken expectations, can lead to a full-fledged dramatic emergency down the road.
  11. Learn to differentiate between physical, social, and spiritual needs. For example, if you suddenly feel like you have no friends and need to attend a raging party, check to verify that you’re not suffering from a bout of hangry thoughts–completely curable by bowl of cereal. Or, if you devour large bowls of rice whenever you feel empty inside, try filling yourself with scripture and prayer first. Finally, if you instinctively head to the prayer team after every tough week, consider that sometimes you need friends more than prayer, and go play at the sand volleyball courts instead.
  12. Friends and family are more important than chores. But since everyone has to cover their survival basics, bond over mundane activities whenever possible. Crank up the beach boys while washing dishes with siblings, wheel around the grocery with your classmates on a study break, or discuss difficult debacles while folding laundry adjacent to a roommate.
  13. Once you leave home, try to separate love and logistics when you go back to visit. For example, set aside some time to talk about your health insurance, and then put the paperwork away and enjoy a leisurely Sunday breakfast together.
  14. Abandon the search for permission. It turns out, you already have it.
  15. Failure, heartbreak, and disappointment are undeniably painful experiences. However, when weathered well, these storms serve as rocket fuel for growth. Keep your heart tender, and trust that you will come out on the other side with more compassion and wisdom than you imagined.
  16. Regard attention and focus as precious forms of love and generosity. Pay the highest dividends to who and what matter most. It helps to turn off notifications every once in a while.
  17. Whether homework, or professional projects, the majority of multistep wiki-how productivity hacks are accurately summarized by the titles alone of Steven Pressfield’s, and Jon Acuff’s respective books, “Do the Work” and “Finish.”
  18. Quality coffee is good for the mind, body, and soul. It also has a point of diminishing returns. Manage your energy by drinking responsibly, and sleeping when you’re alive.
  19. Don’t allow jealousy and comparison to distract you from your own hero’s journey. Harry Potter conquered evil at age 17, but Frodo Baggins didn’t defeat evil until he was 33. In other words, everyone has a unique timeline.
  20. Scrolling—through everyone else’s Facebook posts and Instagram stories—is not a legitimate evening past time.
  21. Feedback from trusted sources can take you a long way.  To be powerful later, you must be willing to expose weakness, today.
  22. The parking police are real, not merciful towards small town folk. Unless you want to allocate a budget for parking tickets each year, ask Siri for regular reminders.
  23. Fashion fouls. a) It’s illegal to wear socks with sandals. b) Leggings are, supposedly, not pants. c) Despite the advertisements, Lash Boss mascara does not actually result in triple voluminous self-esteem levels. However, crying with a friend while dressed in leggings and fuzzy socks, can be quite healing. In which case, a good waterproof mascara can help you feel better about looking more human than racoon.
  24. You are good enough, and pretty enough. Case closed. These are not interesting ongoing mental debates.  Now, go spend your energy on more important life questions.
  25. While revelation might feel like a bright beam of knowledge and euphoria shining straight to your heart, the actual breakthrough part, is not nearly as glamorous. Typically, a breakthrough happens when you face a familiar fork in the road, and make a simple connection with God. Aha! you realize, the last 4 times I turned left here, and it wasn’t good. So today, even though everything in me still feels like turning left, I’ll choose right. In that moment, an old pattern breaks and a new one begins.
  26. Between ideation and creation, there is a gap of hesitation. Shorten it. Perfectionism never delivers on its promises. Better to drive one idea all the way home to the imperfect finish line, than ponder in paralysis about 99 others.
  27. Stay playful. Not every aspect of your life has to function in service of saving the world, or meeting a personal development goal. Go ahead, and race across the swimming pool, sing, stargaze, bike through crunchy leaves, and take a taco Tuesday.
  28. Don’t chase after comfort and happiness. Instead eat a main course of connection, truth, beauty, courage, healing, humor, metaphors, and understanding. And then, quite often, happiness comes as a delicious side dish.

Thanksgiving 2017 Pregame

The Trudelle Thanksgiving pregame email, and meal sign-up roster.

Dearest Family,

Congratulations! On behalf of the Trudelle holiday coordination committee, I would like to formally offer you a spot on the roster for TEAM-T-GIVI-2017! Are you ready for it? Autumn leaves are dropping like Taylor Swift songs; the ground is crimson and crunchy underfoot, and the daylight is ever dwindling.  Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, toddlers and babies… We are now just one week away from the Thanksgiving tip-off and you are in for a treat!

Our team captains, Mama and Papa T, have spent their offseason acquiring comfy home-style accommodations in the Portola Valley Olympic village, for all attendees. From the recruiting end, Laura Newton and Joanna Trudelle gave birth just in time to bring our team’s newest additions, Caleb and Austin, to their first Thanksgiving’s outside of the womb.

For the pre-game national anthem, and inevitable spontaneous sing-along, we no longer have to flounder in search of the right note, because this year we’re bringing in the up and coming Piedmont choir vocalist, Kiera Gray, to cue us in!

As far as the press goes, unfortunately, even the iphone X won’t be able to capture all of our prime time memories, but don’t worry. Rumor has it, Orion Gray is a walking Wikipedia well of knowledge about drones. That said, if a flying video camera catches you in the middle of a midnight snack, simply wave politely, and get your head back in the game.

Training Updates

Regularly lifting heavy weights, and an even heavier Purduian class load, our very own,  Johnny Trudelle, is traveling coast to coast, in hopes of going coast to coast, at the family festivities.  Please give him a warm and hearty California hug.

Throughout the summer, our former defensive MVP, Erika Gray, increased her multitasking skills to such a degree, that she can now guard multiple stove burners simultaneously, in a wicked 2-3 zone. Personally, I prefer to guard the Nantucket style cranberry sauce in a  man defense, but to each their own. Whatever your defensive preference is, though, be sure to watch for reverse layups to the upper shelf dark chocolate stash. Foul if you must.

As for my other siblings, Peter and Marie Trudelle have been spotted before dawn at 24-hour fitness, 5k training in secret by climbing the Stairmaster to heaven. Speaking of, for those of you racing the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, the family track will be available at your convenience for strides or intervals.

If you don’t plan on running anything—perhaps you just gave birth, or maybe you prefer to run after the ladies—no problem. Stroll the Olympic village with the 1001 questions book, join Kristi Koltavary and Shane Curran for a quatro canine adventure, or walk hand in hand with Lily Newton at 1/5 of your normal stride length.

Substitutions and Rest

In the Olympic village, we also take rest and recovery very seriously. If you happen to grow weary with all the physical activity, we got you covered. Jump-shot-Jesse-Newton can reboot your energy with a cup of full-bodied, full court, french press coffee. In the case that you feel faint,  however, please see Gyongyi Koltavary on the sidelines for a blood sugar test or a tasty snack.

For all the new parents of the group: if chasing your baby ever leaves you winded, just make the universal sub signal—pull on your jersey—and one of the aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents will let you catch a breath on the bench.

Manners Matters and Fowl Territory

Simply put: manners, matter. In 1995, Peter’s sweater caught fire on Christmas Eve as he reached over a dinner candle for another helping of cold cuts. This year our appointed referee, Richard Zucker, won’t hesitate to blow a shrill whistle for the red cabbage reach.  In the case of a jump ball on the bubbly water, possession goes to the emptier glass. Also, texting during the feast is considered an automatic technical foul.

Offensive Fouls

Despite my long-standing efforts to keep our table conversations pleasant and philosophical, I’ve come to accept that many of you actually revel in controversy and heated debates. I’m sure it’s all in good fun. However, in the event that you knock another player off their feet in offense, Richard will call a charge. Take a 30-second timeout to cool off if you need it. And, if you’re trying to draw the charge, plant your feet and stand your ground, but don’t fake injury. After all, this isn’t soccer.

Dinner Defense

Even though Erika has earned two-time defensive MVP of the stove, a zone defense, quite frankly, has proven ineffective for our kitchen. See what happens is, we end up triple teaming the pumpkin loaf and letting gravy take the back door. Guys, that’s weak sauce.

This year, in the latest locker room meeting, Coach Papa T called us back to a traditional man to man defense. “How does man defense work in the kitchen?” You ask. Well, it’s like ABA basketball, of course! You get on the court—aka the google doc—and CALL the food you plan to guard. Let’s shoot for clean communication here. It should sound something like this… “I got the pecan pie!! Johnny, who do you have? Marie, the rice was on fire last quarter, stick on it!”

Give and Go Team Work

If you feel uncomfortable cooking alone, find a partner and try the give and go technique. For example, if you’re unsure of how to pick a quality sharp cheese, take Andris Koltavary to Draeger’s and he’ll give you a complete history of Humboldt Fog.  Struggling to lift the turkey by yourself? Biceps Brian Gray will happily help you get the bird out of the car and into the kitchen.

To end with a quote: “Everyone is special in their own way. We make each other strong. We’re not the same. We’re different in a good way…We’re all in this together.” Yes, you guessed correctly. That’s Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez from High School Musical.

**What would you like to bring to the team table this year? Take your pick from one of the options on the google doc attached.**

Until tip-off… hugs and high fives. 

Love,  Chrissa

Thought Leashes

4 mind training tips for thinkers, dreamers, innovators, and intellectuals, to stay focused and use their thoughts well. 

The Border Collie Connection

Border collies are a Scottish, English breed of herding dogs, renowned for their intelligence, energy, curiosity, and stamina. Their love of challenge makes them some of the world’s best sheepdogs, and most loyal sporting companions. They do not, however, make for easy, docile household pets. Without a direction or task, border collies grow dangerously restless, and take out their energy by digging holes, barking at neighbors, or chasing cars.  While perhaps not obvious at first site, the personality of a border collie has a striking similarity to that of an active-minded human. In her book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” Elizabeth Gilbert illuminates the connection. As she sees it,

“possessing a creative mind is like having a border collie for a pet; if you don’t give it a job to do, it will find a job to do—and you may not like the job it invents.”

Indeed, for many deep thinkers and innovators, simply existing with one’s own company can be an experience, both as fun, and as challenging, as living with a border collie in a small house. Despite the inevitable difficulties, never resort to locking your imagination in a kennel for a lifetime of mental repression. Instead, use the tips below to train your mind like a border collie, and play to your strengths!

Tip #1 Feed the Beast
Why? Your mind is hungry

Border collies have big appetites, and sharp teeth eager to devour the food onsite. Without proper nourishment, they either wither into a state of depressed starvation or chew up the couch. As such, if you have a ravenous intellectual appetite, and a mind constantly hunting for something to tear apart, then you must feed the beast. Otherwise, you might start chasing your own tail, chewing on your own problems, or gobbling up trashy TV.

Be intentional about feasting your mind on good things. Devour books, discuss podcasts, study languages, learn skills, listen to clever song lyrics, observe art, or simply follow a curiosity trail as far as it will take you. Also, keep a bone in the back of your mind to gnaw on, for times of extended boredom. I find interesting quotes and new words a great way to prevent myself from getting “mentally hangry.”

Tip #2 Give it Something to Chase
Why? Your mind is active

For hundreds of years, border collies have been bred to chase. When focused, they will charge non-stop in a valiant effort to herd sheep and catch far-flung frisbees. Much to the dismay of many modern owners, however, the chase instinct cannot be trained out of their DNA. Lacking an outlet, they may attempt to herd cyclists, squirrels, cars, or even small children.

When it comes to chasing, most innovative, project driven people, have a similar instinct. That is, when we want something, we really want something, and we will work like a dog to get it. The catch, however, is that not all pursuits are positive. Sure, it’s possible you spend all your energy pursuing dental degrees, personal weightlifting records, and solutions to global health problems. But given your nature, it’s also quite possible, that you expend your energy chasing uber-EATS ice-cream trucks and troublesome members of the opposite sex. Or maybe you even chase the former with the latter.

Regardless, you will end up chasing something. To channel your instinct to charge, find a captivating project that stretches your limits, and then get after it. Build a treehouse, write a book, compose a song, train for a 10k, or launch a website. Whatever it is, once you set your mind to it, the options are endless.

Tip # 3 Get a Leash
Why? Your mind wanders 

Some dogs are tame enough to roam anywhere off leash and return whenever their owner calls. But border collies, even the friendliest ones, are curious creatures and notorious escape artists. Off leash, their curiosity can lead them to explore poison oak patches or water from impure sources. While they do need space to run free, at times they just need a short leash. And so do our own thoughts.

See, if left unchecked, the same imagination that allows you to create companies from scratch can also become self-destructive. Watch for the gradual slippery slope space out. Maybe your mind wanders back to the embarrassing work meeting, last week. Or maybe you start wondering why Tyler Tinder failed to show up for your second date. Then, before you realize, you sit captive as an audience member to a self-made mental movie with the tagline, “Unemployed and Unloveable”—the vivid motion picture autobiography coming to theaters in 2020.  These are dangerous rabbit holes to travel down, but thankfully, you don’t have to give up daydreaming and curiosity altogether in order to stay sane. Instead, identify your trigger territories and keep a thought leash at the ready. That way, you can let your imagination explore, and simply reign it back to the focus path whenever necessary.

Tip #4 Breed Responsibly
Why? Your mind is fertile

Responsible breeding is an important aspect of both dog ownership and creative mind ownership—especially for those prone to absorbing surrounding stimuli like a sponge.
The words and suggestions you internalize now will most likely give birth later, whether in the form of art, or a manifested reality. That said, if you have a particularly fertile mind, then be intentional about who you think with. Now, this does not mean we should all live in microcosms among those who share the exact same viewpoints. Actually, the ability to respectfully disagree and juggle opposing ideas can widen our perspective and sharpen our character. However, considering the law of averages, you will become the company you keep. The ideas, advice, criticisms, or comments, that others speak into your life, act like tiny seeds which bear fruit for good or for bad.

Choose your close pack wisely.

Alas, now that you have these training tips on hand, it’s time for your border collie get some exercise. Your mind is powerful, so use it well!

Transformed and Thankful

Over the last 2 years, God has blessed my community with the most excellent leaders. Here’s a personal letter of thanks, and a story transformation, to one of them.

Dear Eric Knopf,

I remember on the first day of our preach and teach class, you explained to us that the ultimate purpose of teaching, is to bring transformation. Immediately, that statement stirred a question inside of me: When does a preacher ever get to witness the accomplishments of their goal purpose?  Sure, you might hear about revelations after a sermon, or job promotional breakthroughs in a facebook post.

But transformation? That’s less glamorous, harder to articulate, and consequently, far less broadcasted. In my own experience, transformation occurs first internally, far before the seeds of teaching take root and bear fruit into a larger external reality. It happens behind the scenes, inside the heart and mind—almost on a cellular level of the soul—before then affecting the hundreds of tiny decisions and actions which influence the course of our lives, and those around us.

Then, right in the middle of our class, it dawned on me. In the context of your intended purpose, the majority of the fruits of your labor, are invisible! Most occupational endeavors, or passion projects, don’t work this way.  For example, when a veterinarian neuters a cat, they can see tangible proof that the “proper pruning” has taken place, and rest assured knowing the cat will never do something stupid like run away to find a mate. But a preacher just doesn’t receive that same type of immediate gratification or rest assurance.  So Merry Christmas, here’s a story about behind the scenes transformation….

Memory Lane Moments

Every year in December, I take some time to look back and reflect on the last 12 months. Shuffling through journal memories like a card deck, I reminisce over event highlights and ponder over any potential character changes. This year something unusual happened. When I looked back at the journal entries of last year, I could hardly recognize myself inside the lines of my archaic thought process. Indeed, sometimes I get so caught up in racing ever forward, that I forget to acknowledge the distance already covered, and more importantly—those who walked with me on the journey.  

Quarter Life Back Story

To offer some background, in the months leading up to my discovery of the Epic Life community (spring 2015), I rode a train headed straight for a land of deception and disaster. Of course, I didn’t recognize it at the time, but now, looking back almost makes me cringe. Without the right environment and mentorship throughout those critical quarter-life years—my natural personality trait combination of intellect, innocence, and curiosity, could have easily led me down a harmful, (and much less than epic) of a life path. In fact, it was already starting to. See at one point…

  • I was intellectual enough to read Tim Keller or CS Lewis for fun, but too doctrinally insecure to face questions without riding an emotional roller coaster of “crisis Christianity.”  Some people told me to stop thinking so much. Others suggested that God had me in a “natural spiritual wilderness.:
  • I was naive enough to stay rather oblivious to the existence of evil in the world, yet sensitive enough to feel bogged down by its weight. Thus I often lived as a victim, unequipped and frequently blindsided by life. Also, I had a habit of picking myself up with songs containing very theologically debatable lyrics.
  • Lastly, I was curious enough to gravitate towards controversy, although not always discerning enough to know when to flee. For example, if a guy were to tell me that the whole of waiting until marriage concept was actually a common Biblical mistranslation of the phrase sexual immorality, my response would be something like “really? So tell me more about your theory.” I know your eyes just rolled back into their sockets while reading that, but no worries, cross references before conspiracy theories!

Who are These People?

Thankfully, I immersed myself in the Epic Life community at the perfect time, and the potential spiritual wilderness train wreck never occurred.  The cool thing is, I didn’t have to undergo some huge personality makeover, I just became really curious about better things. Such as:  

  • The undeniable fruit in the lives of the people on leadership.
  • The authentic and fun friendships, which seemed to defy all existing stereotypes of post -collegiate social life death.
  • And of course, God’s truth—which was now being unveiled more clearly than ever before in your sermons.

Gratitude Induced Insomnia

It was actually a slight problem at one point because so many light bulbs of revelation came on at once that I had trouble sleeping. I didn’t mind, though. The occasional onset of gratitude induced insomnia seemed a small price to pay for more truth and freedom.  I no longer lived terrified of making “salvation deal breaking” mistakes, or googling my way to confirmation bias and confusion. When I didn’t understand something, I simply told siri “remind me to ask Eric Knopf about x,y,z, later” You have a unique ability to explain complex concepts in simple understandable ways, while still conveying the depth and context of scripture. It’s informative and instructive without being cliche or condescending.  As my doctrinal haze began to clear up I found myself tolerating, and then even welcoming, discussions with people of many different denominations and other walks of faith.

Identity Discovery

Unsurprisingly, the more I learned the truth about God’s character, the more I learned about my own identity as well.  Long before I started coming to Epic Life, I knew God was calling me to share my writing with other people. However,  I had no plans of actually doing anything about it in the near future. Paralyzed with lies about incompetence, I refused to share a word. For a short time, I really did think I could get away with ignoring that one calling—maybe try listening to God in some other areas—and continue along as a slightly disengaged observer of life. But as it turned out, that wasn’t an option.

First of all, the prayer team kept bringing up “having a voice,” or “writing for others,”at what I considered to be very irrelevant times. Since I didn’t have much previous exposure to the prophetic, I used to respond by saying things like, “hey nice prayer. But just wondering, have you been talking to other people? Like about my secrets?” I know. I can’t believe I blamed the prayer team for gossip either. Gradually my heart softened, and my mind opened. Finally, last December 2015, when you challenged us to reach 1000 acts of kindness, I reached a tipping point and thought,  why not join in? I mean, everyone’s doing it, and I’ve always wanted to start a blog anyway.  By the time the kindness challenge officially ended, I no longer required permission to walk in obedience and keep going.  

“Vulnerability Hangovers” and Holding Back

Later, in April, when I stepped on stage for the first time to share a testimony with the community, an internal barrier shattered.  It’s been a year of much blogging, breakthrough, and discovery, ever since. I will admit, it has not always been easy. In honesty, sometimes the new concept of vulnerability felt so terrifying that I thought I might throw up on multiple occasions. However, when my “alive meter” kept skyrocketing, and my inbox flooded with responses from encouraged listeners and blog readers, I realized that holding back would always be the scarier life choice.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like right now had I continued along the same trek of seeking out quaint churches and trying not to be too curious. It’s not like I was in danger of joining a gang or selling drugs, but there are other kinds of character tragedies. Most likely, I’d just be a “pretty nice” person with a couple of secrets and a lot of unused potential. While that’s not even close to the will of God, at most other churches, I could have easily gotten away with that lifestyle. But of course, I am so glad I didn’t!

Full Circle Unfoldings

Last year when I sent you and Camille that long Christmas card letter, I remember ending with a line like this: “I have a feeling, or perhaps it’s a Holy Spirit intuition, that this is just the beginning.”  Oddly, I wrote that note before joining leadership, and before the spontaneous post service Q and A, and before ever taking part in princess stories and park strolls with Scarlett and Maverick. And yet, it must be a (mind of) God thing, because I just knew there was, and still is, much more to come.  That being said, I had no idea how the unfolding would play out so delightfully in reality.

I never could have imagined that 6 months later I’d be swinging from jungle vines at the Green Papaya in Costa Rica while discussing the gospel of Mark among friends and fish tacos. Or, that I would spend the early mornings of my family vacation devouring the pre-published edition of “The Will of God,” while discussing Theology (without stress) across from my brother as he worked on his own Theology essays.  Also, I definitely never thought I’d end up in a living room full of people eager to learn how to teach, during the rainy Monday nights of October.

Speaking of, it was during that class, that I gained an even greater awareness and respect for the work you put in, in order to deliver quality sermons week in and week out. Even though you deem your message content as mere leftover “bread crumbs,” giving away good crumb’s requires a diligent kneading of one’s own daily bread. It’s a privilege to take part in a community where the leaders freely dust everyone with such high nutrient density breadcrumbs. Seriously, thank you so much for all that you do to positively influence so many of our lives.  I am forever grateful to have been a part of this ministry.

2016 was quite a year, but now I am even more excited for what’s to come!

Love, blessings, and declarations of favor.

Chrissa