Friday, July 7, 2017

Virginia

If Will and I have a baby girl, her name will be Virginia. I've been wanting for sometime to articulate why, and like so many things in my life, writing is the easiest way to do this.

Oddly, using the name Virginia comes from another name...one from the Bible.  Many of us have grown up singing the second verse of the popular hymn "Come Thou Fount" without ever knowing what in the world an "Ebenezer" is. In 1 Samuel 7:12  we are told that after God had delivered his people from the Philistines, "Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, 'Till now the Lord has helped us'" (ESV). Samuel was drawing a line in the sand. Creating an altar. Reminding himself and his people of God's faithfulness to that point and thus pointing them to the fact that they could trust His faithfulness moving forward.  Once I learned the meaning behind this word, it changed the way I sang the hymn and caused me to ponder what the "Ebenezers" in my life might be.

I've said for years that (until Will) the greatest proof and reminder to me of God's faithfulness and sovereignty in my life is my journey to and through Virginia--both the state and the school. When I was 15 I decided that I would attend the University of Virginia for college. This became my goal--it's what motivated me to study, to participate in extra-curriculars, to attempt to play volleyball well. I didn't get in...twice. Early Admission: deferred. Regular Admission: Wait Listed. I never came off that wait list. It was the first time in my life I'd been truly disappointed. That I'd wanted something so badly and had failed. And it humbled me at a time in my life when I very much needed to be humbled.

So, this child will be named for humility.

That failure to get into UVA led me to Auburn where I had the best four years of college anyone has ever had. Ever. Come at me if you'd like to argue.  I majored in History--specializing in American History which, in case you've forgotten, involved studying a good bit about Virginia. I met amazing people, had incredible experiences, and made best friends that will be with me for the rest of my life. It provided me an opportunity to share an experience with my parents and sister that has become something treasured we share together.

So, this child will be named, although indirectly, for my undergraduate alma mater and my family--for those life-changing friendships and experiences at Auburn and the gift the is a shared experience among family members.

After college I moved to Falls Church, Virginia to participate in a Fellows Program. While I was craving the content of the program, I was pretty sure that I was full to the brim on friends and needed no more. I was wrong. I met more amazing people, specifically six women who have enriched my life in ways I cannot fully express. In addition the program itself, as well as the subsequent two years I spent in Northern Virginia, opened my eyes and shaped me significantly. My time there allowed a part of myself to grow and blossom that, I firmly believe, could not have done so in another setting.

So, this child will be named for more life-changing friendships and the time I spend learning to know and experience God in ways I'd never imagined.

Once I left Northern Virginia, the Lord completely redeemed my experience at the University of Virginia where I applied, was accepted, attended, and graduated with a Masters of Education in Higher Education. It was only a year, but at age 26 I was finally able to realize a dream I'd dreamed for 11 years. During that year my "relationship" with Virginia was put into such a new, eternal perspective. UVA, like any other place this side of Heaven, has warts and imperfections. However, it is also so much of what I'd imagined it would be as a leader in higher education. Charlottesville is a picturesque town with incredible people, beautiful mountains, and a vibrant local culture.  It is home to one of America's greatest founding fathers and presidents and my history-loving self relished in all it had to offer.  I realized that at age 18 I might not have appreciated it the way I did at 25 and 26. And once again, I met wonderful people who helped me learn, think, and grow and who God used to continue to shape and mold me into who He has created me to be.

So, yes, this child will be named, in part, for the University of Virginia and what it and its people have meant to me as a 15 year old, a 26 year old, and now a 32 year old.

Upon graduating from the University of Virginia I stayed 14 more months in the Commonwealth. I took a job at an all-male, small liberal arts college in the extremely rural town of Farmville, Virginia: Hampden-Sydney College. I knew no one when I took the job. I had no place to live. I ended up renting a duplex off a dirt road where the only television was satellite and there was no garbage pick up service. As a 26 year old single girl I went to work at a place where there were no other females my age. My friends became a group of Hampden-Sydney alums who were all vastly different from one another and from me. We did things like play Settlers of Catan until our eyes bled, hang out at the swimming pool outside the guest cottage one of them was renting, watch DIII basketball and pray for the home team to score more than 100 points so we could get free Bojangles, and listen to a lot of music. These guys took me in as family. They welcomed me with open arms and loved me well. I didn't invite any generic "guy friends" to my wedding, but I invited them. Although they were different than me and some of them hold different beliefs from me, they were the hands and feet of Jesus to me for those 14 months. They loved me without asking (m)any questions. They also allowed me a lot of time to myself (I can't hang out with dudes ALL the time). I had plenty of afternoons and nights to work on myself, to spend time delving into things that interested me, to read and pray and study God's word. It was the most alone time I'd ever had and the most I will probably ever have.

So, this child will be named for boldness. For going into unknown situations and new adventures trusting the Lord will provide what you need. For learning about yourself and about God and about who He made you to be.

Since moving back to Alabama from Virginia in 2012, I've had incredible professional and personal experiences--the greatest of which was of course meeting and marrying Will.  I can now say he is the greatest proof I have of God's faithfulness and sovereignty in my life.  And as I reflect on my life thus far, I can say with confidence that "till this point, the Lord has helped me."  So now when I sing "here I lay my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I come," I am reminded of my journey from age 15-26 to and through Virginia. I am also reminded of the man God made to be my husband, to fulfill such a great desire of my heart. And when I look at our daughter, I will rejoice and give thanks for God's faithfulness and provision to this point and claim it for all three of us in the days and years to come.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Cleaning the Shower

Last weekend I cleaned our bathroom. It wasn't just the usual spit shine, once-over. This was the scrubbing on my hands and knees clean that was much overdue. As I was doing this, I came to an odd realization: I would MUCH rather clean the toilet bowl than the shower. I started to ask myself why. I discovered that it came down to expectations and distance. With the toilet, well, we all know what happens there. I'm prepared for any nasty I may encounter. It's a toilet. It's supposed to be gross. I can handle that. It's also convenient that to clean the toilet (at least the bowl) there is a brush with a large handle that allows me to keep my distance from the messy stuff.

The shower is an entirely different story. Shouldn't a shower be self-cleaning? I mean we dump who knows how much soap and shampoo in there on a weekly basis. It ought to take care of the messy parts for us! A shower isn't supposed to be gross. It's supposed to be a place of relaxation and cleansing. Wrong. Also, there is (to my knowledge) no toilet bowl brush equivalent for the shower. I was head down on the floor scrubbing with my nose in the grime. There was no keeping my distance. Once I decided to clean it, I was all in.

At some point as I was scrubbing the shower, I realized that I tend to take this same approach to my sin. My "toilet sins," the ones that are easy to acknowledge and out there for everyone to see are often so much easier for me to deal with than the ones I keep mostly inside me, the ones that fester primarily in my heart--my "shower sins." If I don't acknowledge my "toilet sins," other people will notice. They will be repulsed by me, just as they would if they came to my house and saw a dirty toilet. So I clean them up faily quickly with a long handled brush and move on. I look clean and shiny because I've handled my obvious shortcomings for now.  However, the "shower sins" are easier to hide. They get in the crevices of my heart and my soul and they stay there and they mildew and rot until I finally have the courage to go before the Lord and ask Him to scrub my heart clean. Sometimes I don't even realize the "shower sins" exist and many times I choose to just ignore them in hopes they'll go away on their own. But, they don't. I have to go inside my heart and face the dirt and grime, just like I do in the shower.

This could seem discouraging, but the beautiful thing here is that when I bring ALL of my sins before the Lord, it is like bathing in a freshly scrubbed shower.  God's mercy and grace pour down over me and wash me clean.

Here's to praying my literal shower and the one in my heart and soul get a good scrubbing more often!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sports and Womanhood

This post is a response to a recent Sports Illustrated article detailing how female sports reporters are still bullied and abused online by a minority of men that just can't handle women in the sports world. I do not agree with every point the author makes, but I agree with enough to write this post. One of my favorite quotes from the article is below. You can read the whole thing here (caution: awful language due to the tweets/comments the author has received). 

"Those of us [women] who dare invade this mostly male space [sports] are generally accepted, but there remains a vocal minority committed to forcing women out and rolling things back to the good ol' days, when women talked about recipes and PTA meetings and shoes. (Is that what they talked about? I’m guessing here.)
Unfortunately for these “meninists,” an entire generation grew up as the daughters of Title IX, with progressive fathers and kick-ass mothers who took us to football games, played one-on-one with us in the driveway, and taught us how to throw a fastball. With more and more women brought up to believe that sports can be their space, too, it’s natural for them to expect a seat at the table when sports come up in conversation."

I am by no means a radical feminist, but this article is heart-breaking and important. I wouldn't call my dad "progressive," but he, along w/ my "kick-ass mom" took me to football games, played one-on-one with me in our driveway, and taught me how to slide into second (I wasn't a pitcher so there was no need for fastball lessons). 

I love sports. I love everything about them. I also believe men and women were created by God with unique gifts and strengths. I don't agree that women can do everything men can do. I don't think men can do everything women can do. Men and women are different. That's why I think it's important to have men and women represented in sports and sports media. They bring different, yet equally valuable, perspectives to the arena. 

I was reminded this weekend of how women are made to appreciate beauty. This is absolutely true, and a role I relish as a woman. However, I don't think beauty is limited to a perfectly decorated home or chic new fashion trend. It certainly involves those things, but there are other types of beauty. A Tom Rinaldi College Gameday piece highlighting walk-on athletes who receive scholarship offers from their coaches is beautiful. Pat Summitt coaching a championship game in the prime of her career was beautiful. A pitcher throwing a perfect game is beautiful. Watching Jordan Spieth play golf this year was beautiful. And of course, watching a young man from Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama return a missed field goal 109 yards to complete the upset of his in-state rival is absolutely gorgeous.


Those who know me well know I often use the refrain "sports tell good stories."  They do.  These stories range from the events happening on the field to the human interest backstories of the athletes and coaches involved. They display redemption and disappointment, victory and defeat, heroes and villains. They remind us that we are simultaneously the image-bearers of God and sinful humans who have a hard time getting out of our own way. Sports offer us a lens into the state of the human condition.


That is why I am thankful for a father who, after having two daughters, did not retreat to a nightly cigar and whiskey while watching old football films and wishing he had a son. Rather, he coached those two daughters in rec-league softball and basketball. He turned down promotions at work so he could be there to watch our games. I am thankful for a mother who cheered in high school and also played flag football in college.  She was Miss Auburn and is also a state-champion tennis player. She taught me how to throw a spiral then would make me come in and help set the table for dinner. My mom showed me that loving sports and being a woman are nowhere near mutually exclusive.


Most recently, I am thankful for a husband who is not threatened by my love for sports, but instead finds it attractive.  He doesn't care if I beat him in H-O-R-S-E every now and then. He always welcomes me to tag along with him to the driving range even if I whiff 50% of my swings, get frustrated, and interrupt what would have been his relaxing afternoon. I am beyond thankful that his confidence in himself allows him to encourage me to be myself. Last night "myself" looked like cooking us our first homemade chili of the season then eating it with him as we watched Monday Night Football and discussed our fantasy rosters. On commercial breaks, he washed the dishes so that I could switch out the laundry. By the end of the night we had full bellies, a clean kitchen, 4 fresh loads of clean clothes, and a celebration over Aaron Rodgers' 5 touchdown passes.          

I don't know the author of this article or the men who made those atrocious comments towards her. I don't know how they spend Monday nights or how they treat their daughters. However, I do know that being a woman has shaped the way I view sports, and sports have shaped the way I view womanhood. I know that one day I want my children to understand that "sports tell good stories," and I look forward to attending the PTA meeting at their school then coming home to play catch with them in the front yard.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Four/For


Will and I have been married four months today. The word "four" has rolled around in my head all day. But it isn't the number 4 that keeps coming back to me. It is its homonym. 

I attended the wedding of a dear friend a few years ago who had a unique set of vows that were spoken between she and her husband.  I remember liking the vows as a whole, but there was one phrase that really stuck out to me.  At one point in his vows, the groom said to her: "I am FOR (insert bride's name here)." As a single person at the time that hit me harder than anything I experienced at her wedding. He was vowing to be FOR her. On her team. Her cheerleader. Encourager. To pray for her. To root for her. To act with her good in mind.  I remember thinking to myself, "that's it. that's really what I want some day."

Fast forward to our first week of marriage and Will came home from work one day with a container full of leftovers his mom had sent us (Praise Jesus!). She had the container sitting on the counter with a sticky note on it that simply said "for Anne and Will" so he would know what to grab. No big deal. 

Except, as soon as I saw that note, my friend's wedding and vows came pouring back into my head. I remembered how I had felt that day and how fully God had answered my prayer in Will. He's not perfect, people, but if Will Sanford is anything, he is FOR me! I've not doubted it since day one. So, I displayed the note on our fridge and it has been there ever since. I hope it's always there. 

I hope that each day as we see it we remember to be intentionally FOR one another. I hope that we remember that we're best served if I'm looking out for Will and he's looking out for me--that we're on the same team. I don't take team allegiances lightly. So, I hope I remember the gravity I felt upon taking his name and officially joining his team FOUR months ago. I hope he remembers the joy he felt in finally finding his partner, his best friend, and his wife. 

I also hope we remember the source of that note--family. I hope that we remember that wedding day FOUR months ago. I hope that we remember the hundreds of family and friends who celebrated with us, and the hundreds more who have encouraged us and prayed for us along the way--essentially showing us that they are FOR us. I hope we remember that we have a team full of people rooting for us and that we are not alone in this sometimes scary new journey. 

My favorite number has always been 11, which is conveniently the day we got married. However, the month we got married is 4, and I hope it becomes my second favorite. I hope that whenever I see that number, its homonym comes to mind. I hope that little preposition sneaks into my brain and triggers me to pray for the grace to live outside myself and FOR Will every day for the rest of my life. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Great is Thy Faithfulness

"Thou changest not, Thy Compassions they fail not..."

I've never had a go-to favorite hymn. Several have circulated as seasonal favorites over the years, but there's never been one to consistently take the cake. I don't know that I'm ready to give "Great is Thy Faithfulness" the coveted "favorite hymn" trophy, but it has certainly had a consistent presence in my life, and yesterday I realized it certainly belongs on my list of favorites.
Somewhere around high school or college I learned that in faith, as in life, you cannot always trust your feelings or your heart.  After all, we are told that our "flesh and our heart may fail.*"  And they do. There are times we must lean on Truth--the knowledge we have which may contradict current circumstances, feelings, or emotions.  This seems like an easy concept; one I figured I would grasp, apply, and quickly master. However, I've found the opposite to be true.  This is something I have had to continue to practice and have finally accepted will be a choice I must make for the rest of my life.
So there have been times when I have sung "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with great gusto and joy from the top of my lungs, rejoicing at God's obvious displays of His faithfulness and goodness in my life. Yet, just as frequently, there have been times where I have sung this hymn through clenched teeth or clinched fists. With a somber tone or teary eyes.  There have been days when it was all I could do to utter the words and say to God "I know this is true, I but I do not feel it at all."  And yet each time I choose to sing it, choose to say that Truth out loud, even in my deepest despair, something flickers inside me, a little glimmer of hope. It doesn't make me instantly feel better. It doesn't solve my problems, it usually doesn't even stop me from crying, but it keeps me singing and believing, even if just a little bit at a time.

-Rejected from dream college: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" through tears
-New friends and a new ministry home Freshman year of college: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with rejoicing!
-First heartbreak: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with hurt, questions, and confusion
-Opportunities and honors at Auburn I'd always heard of, but never thought I'd have: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with thanksgiving!
-College graduation "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with fear, sadness, and also optimism
-The Fellows Program "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with exhaustion, joy, and community
-Several more heartbreaks: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with questions, doubts, anger, and pain
-Accepted to dream school for grad school: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with perspective on past rejection, rejoicing in God's providence, and amazement at His goodness
-13 months at an all men's college in rural Virginia: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with many days of "what am I doing here" but also friendships from guys who saved my sanity and made life fun
-Dream job offer in hometown: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with excitement and nervousness
-Blind date with a farmer from a small town 80 miles away: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with a feeling of "why not? what can it hurt?"
-Falling in love with and realizing I wanted to marry said farmer: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with thanksgiving, excitement, but still fear things going awry
-Getting engaged to the farmer: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with more joy than I'd ever known
-Resigning from dream job, leaving hometown to pursue new opportunities with soon to be husband: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with the oddest mix of joy and sadness I've ever felt
-Marrying the farmer: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" sung at the top of my lungs accompanied by a congregation of our closest family and friends as we became one on April 11th, 2015.
-Starting a new job in a new town: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with amazement seeing the path God had laid before me, yet still fearful of the unknown
-Yesterday, officially joining the first church family we'll have as our own new little family: "Great is Thy Faithfulness" sung by another congregation, this one without so many people I know so well, but full of people ready to welcome me and love me as their own, with Will and me standing in front of them, nervous, scared, but thankful to this place we have been led.

I don't know when I'll be singing "Great is Thy Faithfulness" next, but I know I will, and when I do, no matter the circumstances, its words will still be True.



*Psalm 73:26

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Last Shall Experience Firsts

Will and I have been married now for almost two months, and last weekend was our first full weekend apart.  To put it bluntly, I was embarrassed at how much I disliked it.  I mean yes, he's my husband, marriage is super fun, getting to live with my best friend is awesome, but we've only been married TWO MONTHS. I lived alone for 3 years before this!  Three nights without him really should not have been such a big deal--so I thought. 

I am the last of my college friends to get married, and had a solid eight-year run as a single adult before marrying Will.  As I watched all 12 of them (yes, twelve) get married and start their new lives I watched them experience firsts. Some of these firsts made sense to me, but others seemed ridiculous.  Whether it was due to being in a different stage of life or just not letting myself go there emotionally, I couldn't grasp the emotions surrounding these experiences.  However, just two months in, I'm starting to identify. 

One of these girls is married to an accountant.  The kind that travels and studies for work. A lot. In a humorous mingling of timing, this weekend was her husband's last test and she was rejoicing. And as I sat in my humiliation at how much I was noticing and disliking the absence of my husband, I thought about her. This woman is strong.  She is independent, intelligent, and personable.  And yet, yesterday as she described her excitement of her husband finishing his test some her words were "I'm just so glad to not have to go to social events alone anymore!"  It's not that she couldn't go to social events alone. She can.  And she has. But they're more fun with her husband. Her buddy. Her date for life.  And I'm finally grasping that. It's not like I can't stay "home alone" for three nights. I can. And I have. But cooking dinner, binge-watching Netflix or the NBA Finals, and even getting ready for bed are all more fun with my best friend, my roommate, my husband. 

So this got me thinking about all the other firsts I've not yet experienced in my marriage that may come my way. Through these incredible girls I've been able to see and learn from the following firsts:

-first pregnancy
-first failed pregnancy
-first time to move to the other side of the world
-first time to as Tim Keller puts it, "wake up one morning and not know the person in the bed next to you"
-first time to experience a death in the family
-first financial issues
-first husband job crisis
-first wife job crisis
-first breakdown as a new mother 
-first hard conversation with in-laws
-first child
-first anniversary
-first "dream job"
-first mended relationship
-first dream vacation
-first "us against the world" moment
-first home

I often tell people that yes, being the "last" in that group of friends was incredibly difficult at times. But somewhere around the time of the weddings of friends number 11 and 12, the Lord gave me a sweet peace by reminding me that He was giving me a gift.  The gift was wisdom, knowledge, and experience. As I'm learning, you never truly know what something is like until you experience it for yourself.  However, I believe I've been given one of the greatest cheat sheets to marriage from these girls. Anyone else had a front seat to (to quote Lebron) "not 1, not 2, not 3..." but TWELVE real, dynamic, Godly, messy, redemptive marriages before your own?? Anyone? Didn't think so. 

Certainly all marriages and all people are unique and we will all have various experiences.  However, as I continue to experience firsts (and eat my words) in my own marriage, I will continue to count these 12 girls and their husbands as my trailblazers and undeserved gifts from God.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"Do You Want to Resume Your Unfinished Solo Game?"



There is a game on our phones that Will and I enjoy playing called "Ticket to Ride," or "TTR," as it will be referenced for the rest of this post.  (Quick shout out to Erin Frizzell for introducing me to the game.)  This game is ideal for times when we're both home watching TV or doing chores or getting in bed right before we fall asleep.  It's a long-distance dating dream!  What's the thing I hate most about long-distance? Not being able to just "be" with the other person.  I love catching up with Will on the phone, but sometimes I wish we could just sit in the same room together and read. Or, play a game. TTR kind of allows us to simulate that. When we've already talked on the phone and caught up, or aren't in a place where we can talk at the moment, or just want to connect and play a fun game, TTR is there.  It has been a faithful friend to our relationship for about 9 months now.

Sometimes, when we are playing TTR, I get impatient waiting on Will to complete his turn (shocking, I know).  So, I'll exit our game and start my own game against the computer.  When Will plays his turn I get an alert that he has played and it asks me if I want to play on that game or "resume [my] unfinished solo game."  I always opt into playing on the game with Will without much thought, but the other night when I received this message it gave me pause.

The closer we get to this wedding the more I realize the intensity of my own selfishness, independent streak, and ego.  These traits show up in trivial things such as insisting upon carrying my own luggage, opening the car door myself, even not letting Will help me put on the new rain boots he got me for my birthday when they were a bit tricky to get on and off the first wear.  Unfortunately, these traits also show up in more meaningful areas like insisting upon my view of how we should look for a place to live or a timeline of getting something done or critiquing (okay fine, criticizing) Will when he does something just slightly different than I might have done it.  This weekend I even had a breakdown about losing my last name and the "brand" (yeah, squirm, I used that word) I had built for myself with that name while living on my own.  I confessed my fear of the anonymity I am going to have coming into a new town known only as "Will's wife" with no one knowing who in the world I am or what I did before I showed up in Prattville married to (in my humble opinion) the (former) most eligible bachelor in town.

All of this is part of me struggling to let go of my "unfinished solo game." Because I have learned that one's "solo game" is never completely finished before a future spouse steps into the picture.  One day, that person is just there and your "solo game" is cut short and your life is completely changed, albeit for the better.  Will and I are currently watching "How I Met Your Mother" from the beginning, and (spoiler alert) Season 1 ends with Lily and Marshall (the show's steady couple) breaking off their engagement because Lily leaves New York for San Francisco in pursuit of her dream of becoming an artist that she never realized because she met Marshall early in college and had melded her life with his ever since.  I assured Will, and I will assure the reader that my "unfinished solo game" is nothing of this sort.  I have no white whale that I was chasing and failed to achieve before meeting Will. Nothing like that. It's just that, no matter how much I yearned for a husband (and I did) or once realized Will would be that husband yearned to be engaged (and I did) or even now yearn to be married (and I do), there was and is a part of me that's just used to playing my "solo game."  As Will and I read books, go to our pre-marital counseling, and talk with married couples, I realize that this is the great challenge of marriage--to let go of one's "solo game" and enter into a "doubles match" with your partner.  In every aspect of life.  I'm not married yet, but I suspect this will be something I continue to lay at the foot of the cross and surrender throughout out marriage.

Speaking of the cross, yesterday was Ash Wednesday, and I had a(nother) major breakdown to Will (If you're still reading, are you surprised he hasn't left me by this point? I am. Everyday I'm surprised and thankful to find out he's still excited to marry me.) about how every aspect of my life feels like it's caving in on me and transition is all around and there are too many balls in the air, etc. etc.  And then I went to the Ash Wednesday service at church last night.  The theme, as it so often is on that day, was decluttering our lives to make space for contemplation and reflection which gives room to repentance and confession.  The service even began with a time just of silent prayer and reflection, the congregation being encouraged to "center ourselves" around the cross and set aside the busyness of the day to just "be."  I immediately almost burst into tears.  In fact, I fought tears the entire service. Not just at the reminder and reflection at my own sin and selfishness (see above), but from thanksgiving for an opportunity to come before the Lord and just "be."  I hadn't done that in quite some time and oh how my soul needed it!  I realized, in that service, that I not only had God been asking me if I wanted to "resume [my] unfinished solo game" in terms of my relationship with Will, but He had been asking me the same question in terms of my relationship with Him as well.  Did I want to continue to run around like a mad person try to check things off my list or did I want to take time to breathe and give my worries to him before going about my day?  Did I want to lower my shoulder and try to bulldoze through these last few weeks before marriage, or did I want to pause, look around, and realize the enormous gift He has given me and Will?  I realized I had been opting for the former but that my spirit needed the later.  I cannot play my "solo game" with God any better than I can play it with Will.  In both relationships it ends in frustration, exhaustion, and often times for me, tears.

So, no, TTR, I do not want to "resume [my] unfinished solo game."  As much as I am tempted sometimes to do so in order to prove my independence or worthiness or boast in my achievements, no. Instead, I'd like to learn to better play doubles.  I'd like to continue to grow as a partner, a friend, and (soon) a wife to the person I love most in this world.  And even more than that I'd like to continue to submit my desires to play my "solo game" with God at the foot of the cross where Jesus, who had every right to play solo, denied Himself, took on the sins of the world, and died for the sake of others.

Last night as I received the imposition of the ashes, my pastor said to me: "Jesus said, 'deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.'"  That's what I'd really like to do.