Friday, August 26, 2011

Transitioning Out of Singleness (Part 2b): The Little Things, Or How I Was Prepared Beforehand

When I look back at the past few years, in light of my upcoming marriage, I can see ways that God has really prepared me for marriage. Some of these were things that I did - at the prompting of friends or family - and some of them were just blessings that came through divine appointments.

The various things that I've been reflecting on, in no particular order are detailed below:

* Communication:  Yes, I am a talker. But I have not always been a good communicator. I have been afraid of conflict and an avoider of the "hard talks." My ability to communicate authentically and openly has definitely improved in the last ten years and generally as a result of a few specific encounters:
           1) In 2001, I moved in with the Fergason family. I wanted to live with a young, Christian family and see what that looked like from the "inside." We used it as practice discipleship for all three of us. Quickly after arriving, I realized - as did they - that I was not sharing what I was really thinking and feeling. I would just hold it in to avoid conflict and because of that, it was difficult to work out hard issues that we encountered while living together. We got along pretty well, generally, but as always when you live with someone there are some growing pains and conflicts as you rub up against each other. Ultimately, John and Karen gave me an assignment: When something bothered me, or when something came up in my mind that I wanted to talk about, I had to write it on an index card that I kept in my pocket. Then at our weekly house meetings, I was responsible for bringing up the issues on the card, or abandoning them forever. They didn't look at the card in advance, so it wasn't like I couldn't decide to wait a week, but it helped me to discern what things were worth being upset about and thus bringing up, and what things were not worth worrying about. I've used this exercise time and again over the years, when I knew that I was going to be afraid to bring something up to a friend or family member. Putting it on the card helped me to be responsible to myself and to my feelings. It also helped keep me focus on the main issue.
           2) In 2004, I met Laura Peterson. Laura is a frank and gentle communicator. At one point, there was a mis-communication between us and she addressed it with openness and it not only cemented my friendship with her, but taught me that being open about our issues and concerns is better than holding grudges or making assumptions. (Duh, right?) She also taught me the value of creating a safe space - that when you humble yourself, you make a safe space for someone else to humble themselves. This particular finding has been very evident in my relationship with Curby, who has been willing to be vulnerable with me from the start, making it easy for me to do so also.
            3) In 2008, I became roommates with Sarah Martin-Werntz. Sarah was a mid-20's Social Work Masters student, and committed to justice, equality, and conversation. She was intentional about scheduling roommate time each week at least (Pancake Fridays was our ritual) and helped me to think more about my positions on political and social issues and also how to articulate them in a gentle and welcoming way. Learning how to challenge others and to be challenged was a great boon to my ability to communicate about my heart issues.
*** There were many others along the way to facilitated my improved communication as well. But these three are great examples of divine relationships and how the communication of others is helping me to be an honest and open communicator with Curby.

* Reading and Self-reflection: I love to read, but I don't always read "self-help" type books. However, when I came to UCLA, I found that I was struggling with loneliness and finding my place. Two books really helped me to change how I looked at myself and the world around me.
               1) Life of the Beloved, by Henri Nouwen. I blogged about this book in the past, so I won't expand much, except to say that I had to reclaim my "belovedness" in God's eyes in order to be ready to receive that I could be beloved in Curby's eyes. Being reminded of God's overwhelming and deep love for me not only allowed me to be a better friend to others because it also reminded me of their belovedness. Knowing my own belovedness, and knowing that Curby is the beloved as well, makes me value him and his nature and characteristics even more.
                2) How to Get a Date Worth Keeping, by Henry Cloud. My friend Shannon recommended this book to me, although she had not read it yet. I'll be honest I only got through about 75% of this book, and some of his exercises were near to impossible in my eyes.... BUT - reading this book and attempting the exercises (like trying to chat up five new men a week) helped me to become more open to the idea of dating. It helped me to face my fears and to own my attractiveness, my shape, my style. I didn't even realize how closed off I was until I read this book and was forced to see my own behaviors.

* Good Examples of Others: I am so blessed to have a number of men and women around me who have great, Christian marriages. Because of this, I have been able to glean little tidbits (and in some case have long discussions about a variety of things) about what it means to be a good wife - in the way that I want to be. From Karen Fergason, I learned how to exhort your husband, how to revere him and build him up. From my mom, I learned that it is not worth picking apart all the little things but instead always placing little things in context of the big picture and loving because of it. From Dorothy and Nick, I learned the value of serving your family and finding ways to bless those around you even sacrificially. From my grandparents and parents, I learned that finding shared interests was important and that you could build a life around enjoying the same things.

* Attitude of Sacrifice: One thing that I have taken from my best examples of marriage is the attitude of dying to self and living for the other. This is hard to do in a situation where there isn't mutual trust and safety. But I had been learning for the past few years that there is value in submitting your will to the will of others. To serving others even when its inconvenient and to being a friend who loves in surprising ways. I've seen this example so many times in my family and friends - not just in romantic relationships, but in others, too, and taking on this attitude that others matter more than me has helped me to be a better partner.
Disclaimer: I'm totally still working on this and SO often Curby suggests something and my initial response is "No." - but I'm learning how to say "Yes" first and then change my mind later, rather than the opposite.

* Prayers of Others and the Good Book: I used to do a lot of mentoring, discipleship and counseling. And I counseled women and men, singles and marrieds. I used to feel nervous advising married people, but Karen reminded me that I knew God's word and that if all truth is God's truth, then unmarried people have truth for married people, too.
           1) I mentioned this in the earlier post, but the prayers of others totally prepared me to be a married woman. Knowing that there were people out there crying out to God for me, gave me hope and encouragement. I felt less forgotten and abandoned when one of my married friends sat with me crying and saying, "I don't understand why you're single either, Tiffani, but I have been talking to God about it daily!" Believing that prayer works and knowing that they were praying kept me willing to believe this could happen.
            2)  It may sound cliche, but reading and studying and memorizing the Bible - especially the Psalms, where David cries out for God's help - really helped prepare me for this journey. Not only did they sustain me through my singleness, and give me words for when I was struggling to understand God's plan for my life, but they have helped me in the recent months as I pray in both gratitude and for help to be a better partner, and I know they will help me as I enter into this next season of marriage.

So there you have it. For now, those are the things I've been thinking about and noticing on my journey toward being a married woman. I continue to be excited about my future with Curby and the planning continues to move forward in a joyful way. More posts soon, friends. In the meantime, thanks for letting this blog ALSO be a way that I was prepared for marriage!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Transitioning out of Singleness (Part 2a): Words that hurt the Singleton's heart.

As I was thinking of how God prepared me for marriage, I was compelled to write about two particular things that people often say to singles about being single. It became longer than I expected, so the posting turned into two separate postings. The first (below) is things "not" to say to a singleton. The second post specifies the ways that I feel like I was prepared (and prepared myself) for marriage.

Before I share some of the things that I can see are helping me to be a better life-mate, let me first post my very strongly felt disclaimer.

Over the course of my adult life, I have heard many many many many (often married) people imply that there are specific reasons people remain single. These particular statements always strike me as condescending and generally, though unintentionally, hurtful. By identifying these statements below, it is my goal to expose that these statements are hurtful and to clarify that although I can look back and see how I was prepared, I am not saying that any other person's singleness, nor mine, is/was as a result of the reasons below.

1) The first is because "God wants to prepare them for their husband or wife." Yes, I think that a person's singleness may be a result of their needing further refinement (or I suppose of their partner needing further refinement) but to imply this about someone else is grossly prejudicial and condescending. Hopefully my words in the next post will show how I was prepared, and the steps I took to prepare myself - not just to be a good wife and life-partner, but also just to be a better friend and colleague. I would be more likely to say that doing these things helped me to be more open to approaching a romantic relationship than I needed to do these things "to be ready' to be a spouse. Frankly put, plenty of people meet a marriage partner before they are "ready" to be a spouse and just as many people get married in that same state. I have known them. Some of them worked it out and became great spouses. I just don't think "being prepared" alone is a good reason for a person being single.

2) The second is because "You need to focus all your attention on doing God's will, and then when you stop focusing on finding a partner, God will present that person to you."  Oh, this one makes me even angrier than the other - not the least of which is because I have spent the last 12 years really seeking God's will for my life -and following it into spiritual leadership roles, across the country, and into a new career, as a single woman... None of which I wanted for myself, while knowing the work would likely keep me single through each season. But also during those 12 years I wanted to meet a partner and I continued to look around for that person, even as I had fruitful ministries following God's call. And here I am - a decade older - and just now am meeting this person for me.
This particular statement "Just focus on doing God's work/will/etc, and then you'll meet your person." and its kin "When I stopped looking, that is when I found _______." are particularly painful because it implies to the receiver that they must NOT be doing God's will. Additionally, I frankly did not know how "stop looking" for my future husband. Being a wife and mother was a deep call in my heart and I did not know how to silence that in a way that made me immune to meeting new men and (even if only briefly) wondering "Could this be him?"

I want to bring these up, because I know how easy it is for each of us to advise others out of our own experience. A friend of mine, we'll call him Tom, told the story of how he met his wife and used example #2 above, during bible study, to a single gal asking for prayers for her husband. As Tom told it, he decided to stop just living to date to find his wife, and instead recommitted himself to God and gave up dating...and a few months later met his now wife of four years. This is a great story and yes, for him part of what it took was giving up his dating behaviors and focusing on doing work for God. But his experience is only his experience.  And my experience is only mine - which is why even though I'll gladly tell you I met Curby at, I won't say that you "should" get on that site because that is totally the way to find your husband. Its just rubbish to expect other people's stories to be like ours.

I guess what I'm saying is that everyone's story is different. Is it OK, when you single friend asks why she or he is still single to say, "Well, maybe there are some things you need to work on before you're ready." Sure, I think it IS OK - but only say it if you are willing to be specific with your friend about habits and behaviors that they can refine. And only if you are willing to partner in the responsibility for loving them through it. A better answer might be, "I don't know. But hopefully you'll meet your person soon." and then tell them the story of some old friend of yours who met her soulmate at 37. Or at 42. Or at 54, if you can. And pass on a little hope instead of pain.

Phew. All of that being said.... check out the next post. :)

And feel free to weigh in on this one below. What other "reasons" for being single do you hate? What reasons do you give your friends when they ask why they are still single? 

(and lastly, remember to keep our single friends in our prayers, too - it can be a hard life out there for a single person, and knowing that someone is praying for you to be at peace and to find your soulmate - that someone is crying out for you makes a difference!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

National S'mores Day!

I'm not as up to date on the national "food" celebrations as I should be...So when I made Mini S'mores Pies last night for my small group bible study, it was without knowledge that today was National S'mores Day.

I first saw this recipe on Pinterest. Pinterest is an online 'bulletin' board where you can pin images from around the web and it will keep track of websites for you. Your friends can connect with you there, comment on the different images you post (I've been posting a LOT of wedding ideas and things), and suggest stuff as well. If you are interested in joining, let me know by putting your email address in the comment field and I'll send you an "invite."

Anyhow, on Pinterest, I found a recipe for "S'mores Pie" - it looked pretty easy (so easy my mom wouldn't send it out on her recipe of the week email) and delicious. I put it aside to try someday.

Last night, I was in charge of bring snacks to bible study and I thought "This is the perfect opportunity to make that pie!"

But then I thought.... What if instead of a big gooey pie, I made little individual pies in cupcake papers?

So I did.

I used break apart cookie dough, and pressed one square into the bottom of a cupcake paper, in a regular-sized cupcake pan (I highly suggest using the papers and not just trusting your pan to release the pies). Then I put in about a tablespoon of marshmallow fluff and topped it with a dollop - maybe 1/2 a tsp? maybe a tsp? of Nutella. The recipe called for Hershey's chocolate bar, but I was experimenting. :)  Then I pressed out another cookie square in my hands and sort of fitted it on top of the filling, like a lid.

Then I baked them at 350 for about 14 minutes (or until they looked almost done).

I wish I had taken pics of the process, but I didn't. While cooking they puffed up really big and marshmallow broke the surface. After cooking they sunk in like black bottom cupcakes. Maybe I could have used a bit more filling?

Either way, they were a HUGE hit at bible study. We all loved them and some people had more than one. It was the perfect amount of sweetness.

The finished product (I reserved a couple so that Curby could try them) looked like this:
(please excuse the quality, they were taken with my phone and I forgot to use the macro function)

So Happy S'Mores Day! Now get baking!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Since Curby and I got engaged, we have been working on establishing our "wedding website." We decided to create our own site on blogspot, so we had more control over the design of the site.

I've been blogging in both places - here on Tiff's Life, I'm blogging about, well, my life....  and on the other site, I'm blogging about various wedding-related events, experiences, thoughts.

My current debate is whether I should re-post my posts onto this blog, or just refer you to the other.

For today, I'm referring you over. :) If you're interested in reading thoughts specifically related to the wedding stuff, go to:, and enjoy. The most recent post was about our experience getting our engagement photography and videography done this last weekend. Enjoy.