Why you shouldn’t wait.

Five days after I turned 25, I got a tattoo. A black ampersand on my left wrist, something I’d been wanting for several months. It meant a lot to me, getting the tattoo and being able to get it while in San Francisco near my birthday. I loved it immediately, the small mark on my skin. It became a part of me, of my story.

A few days later I realized the man I eventually meet, fall in love with, and presumably marry will never know me without my tattoo. He’ll never know what my wrist looked like without the black ink embedded in my skin, full of meaning and beauty. He’ll never know who I was before I got that tattoo. He’ll never know the woman who struggled with whether to get it at all.

And he’ll never know who I was before I was a writer. He won’t know the woman who wanted to be a history professor with a PhD in Victorian history, culture, and literature. He won’t know the woman who was shocked to discover she loved reading about gender studies. He won’t know the student who hid away in a library, researching and scribbling nonsensical notes, living on coffee and broken prayers.

He missed out on the moment when I had to choose between England and Egypt. He missed the all nighters I pulled finishing up my senior thesis and all the little papers that came before. He missed the tortuous weeks I spent watching friends walk away from me, spread out over years. He missed my first day of college, my last day of high school. He missed out on my awkward years, my naive years. He missed out on the time when I was a bookish nerd before I even knew that was an insult.

He didn’t see me fall apart in Alaska. Or Vegas. Or Nashville. He didn’t see me fail in each of of those cities, packing up in defeat and returning home. He didn’t see me fall into depression, confused by the darkness that wouldn’t leave me, rendered helpless and empty and so very alone. He didn’t see me floundering to pull myself together, to create something from the ashes. He didn’t see the moment I fell in love absolutely with writing; the moment that saved me.

In so many ways, this man who is supposed to be my partner in life, my very own love, won’t know me. Or rather, he won’t recognize who I used to be. He won’t know that girl, the girl who slowly grew into the woman he fell in love with.

And I think it’s easy to use that as an excuse. We don’t want to miss out on sharing experiences with our future spouses, so we hold off. We tell ourselves we’ll do all these things that we love when we meet the right person. When we find our soul mate we’ll travel, we’ll move, we’ll focus on finding the right career, we’ll go back to school, we’ll do that one thing on our bucket list that seems to beckons to us. When we find the right person, then we’ll start living the life we really want. We’ll fulfill our hopes and dreams and make them our reality. We have all the time in the world.

In the meantime, we wait. And wait. And wait.

Life isn’t meant to be put on hold. Because the longer we wait, the more opportunities pass us by. Chances that are once in a lifetime might not be there in a few years when we’re married, settling down, and perhaps thinking about kids or a career. We might not have time in the future to do what is waiting for us today.

And every time we say no to a new experience, we leave room for regret to grow and fester. We open the door for us to resent our future spouse. Because we waited for them to come around so we could share that moment with them, but the moment has passed us by, the chance we were desperate to take, and it’s easy to place blame. If we hadn’t waited, we could have done that amazing, wonderful thing.

But they aren’t asking us to wait. I think they want us to be happy.

I believe that our lives are a story. Different moments in our lives are different chapters. Different characters come in and out. There are plot twists, thematic arcs, epiphanies and climaxes, action and suspense, and hopefully some humor and romance. And those stories that you live are meant to be told, to be shared with people. Your story is amazing and exciting and you are the only one who can live it. You deserve to live it.

There are so many chapters of my life that have already been written and lived; pieces of my story that my future husband played no role in. But my story is worth telling, and someday I will be able to share my story with him. I will get to sit up late at night, sitting across from him and tell him how I came to be the woman he fell in love with. Because everything I’ve done, every mistake I’ve made and every triumph, every smile and move and piece of writing will have somehow brought me to him. By living my life, I became the woman I’m meant to be.

Life isn’t about waiting to find a husband or wife; life is about living each day, doing what makes you happy, what brings you joy, with the hope that by living your life you find the one you’re meant to share it with.

So live your story, every day. Live a life you can be proud of, a life you can someday share with the person who means the world to you. Live a life that fulfills you and gives you joy and isn’t about waiting. Because God brings opportunities into your life and certain moments for a reason. You are allowed to take hold of them and have the adventure of a lifetime.

Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter >> @cassiclerget.
I’m pretty entertaining.
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Gentleman (perhaps not) needed.

To my future husband,

Hello, my darling. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately with the holidays drawing near. I see my sisters with their significant others, and I crave that for myself, just once. I have no reason to doubt it will happen and yet I do. I feel as if with each passing year I fall farther away from you.

Some days, I don’t believe you exist. Most days, I know you don’t, deep down in the most secret and empty part of my heart – the part you’re meant to fill.

Because you are meant to fill me, are you not? You are meant to complete me. You are the reason I was born, my reason for existing. You are my other, better half. Why can I not find you? Why am I so alone?

I wonder if you think of me, consider me, dream of me. I wonder if you imagine what I will be like – what I will look like; what my laugh will sound like. Do you wish you knew me now, at this moment? Do you wish we were together? Are you lonely? Or are you unready to be with me?

I’m not ready for you.
I fear I never will be.

I’m beginning to believe that perhaps you aren’t meant for me, that I’m not meant to have you or know you. Perhaps my world is to be my own – unshared and untogether.

Perhaps you aren’t mine.
Perhaps you never were.

And where does that leave me, then? Incomplete? Less? Unfinished? How am I to go on alone when I’ve forever been told I’m to wait for you – a man who can’t possibly exist. What’s left for me without you?

Who am I?

How did I get to this place, needing you more than anything else in this world? When did I become so enamored with knowing you that I ceased to know myself? I am so lost. I’ve trailed after you only to find myself amidst the darkness, a chill piercing my heart. I cannot find you, nor can I find myself. I lost myself in you, even though you are not here.

I am stronger than this.
I am better than this.
I am worth more that the empty darkness I’ve fallen into.

You cannot make me whole.
You cannot complete me.
You cannot save me from myself.

You never will.

And that’s okay, I think. Because though I would love to be with you, near you, I‘m afraid of what I would become were I to find you now, in this moment. I would ask too much of you, make you into a hero you could never be. It’s time I was my own hero. It’s time I moved on without you always haunting the corner of my mind.

It’s time I let you go.

Because I am allowed to save myself. I’m allowed to be on my own. I’m allowed to go forward even if you aren’t by my side. My life doesn’t have to pause because of your absence. I’ve used you as an excuse, a reason to put my life on hold. When I find him, I tell myself, then I can begin. I’d like to think you’d want better for me than I’ve wanted for myself. You’d want me to be happy.

I’d like to be happy, I think.
It’s been far too long.

So while part of me will perhaps always carry a small hope that I’ll find you, I’m going to start hoping for other things. For happiness, for change, for strength, for new friends in new places, for opportunities, for a life I can be in love with. I’m going to live for me instead of merely waiting for you. I’m going to become the woman God intended for me to be.

Even if that means living without you.
It’s time I learned how to love myself.

Yours always,
Cassi

Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter. I’m pretty entertaining.

Lies my romance novels taught me.

Confession: I read romance novels. You know, the ones with the slightly awkward covers, steamy bedroom scenes, and sappy happy ever after endings. I used to live for them. Part of me liked seeing someone’s love story work out when it became obvious that my own love life was more of a farce than a romantic comedy. Another part of me liked reading about the leading man – the tall, dark, handsome, manly yet sensitive heroes that would sweep the heroine off her feet. Still another part of me secretly craved the sex scenes. There is some truth, I’ll admit, to the idea that romance novels are porn for women.
(It should be noted that I now tend towards books where everyone dies in the end.)

We live, I believe, in a culture of Happy Ever After. We read the books, watch the movies, invest years into tv shows that often show us exactly what we want – two people beating the odds, overcoming the unlikely to end up happily together and in love. We sigh at the final page, the final frame, the final episode when years of strife end in a kiss.
“That’s what I want,” we say to ourselves. “That’s the love story I want to live.”

So we go about our lives expecting that. Every guy or girl could be our surprise chance meeting. Every first date could be our last first date, the beginning of the relationship. Even our old loves could come back and rekindle the still-there romance. Someone who saw you as merely a friend could wake up one day and finally see you.

And some of our love stories will go this way. Some happen exactly like something out of a fairytale. But even then, they aren’t going to be perfect or easy. They aren’t going to be relationships with conflict neatly resolved in a chapter or episode. We can’t build love and trust in the span of 120 minutes.

We’ve bought into a set of lies perpetuated by the culture that gave us Disney princesses, How I Met Your Mother, and Nora Roberts. We’ve believed in lies that only make sense in the fantasy land the writers have built from nothing. We’ve allowed these lies to shape our approach to sex, love, and relationships.

Lie #1: Sex will always be perfect.
I’ve never read an awkward sex scene in a romance novel. Whether it’s between two virgins, a virgin and an experienced partner, or two experienced people having sex together for the first time, it’s always perfect. There are no uncomfortable moments or pain, and everyone has an orgasm. Always. Maybe even more than one. The guy has no performance anxiety, the woman is always in an adventurous mood, and the bedroom scenes are always explosive.
Ha. Now, I’ve never had sex, but I have friends who have. I’ve heard the stories about the awkward first time, the pain of the women, or the guy not lasting long. I’ve listened to the frustration and confusion as they say, “It’s not supposed to be like this.”
The truth is, sex is messy. Sex is a tad awkward (I mean you are naked, for God’s sake). And there’s a learning curve. What works for one person won’t work for another, because our bodies are different When it comes to sex, there just isn’t one perfect/right way. There is only the way that works best for you and your partner. (Also, the sex scenes in movies? The hot, intense moments in the bedroom? Fake. Something to remember.)

Lie #2: Sex comes before love.
The couples in romance novels and movies fall into bed pretty quick. Maybe they wait for the socially acceptable 3 (?) dates or they give into the sexual chemistry. We see the sexual tension and watch as the couple admits they just aren’t strong enough to resist.
In the last romance novel I read, every time after they had sex, the man and woman would look at each other and say, “I still don’t love you.” The sex was just sex. Just physical release. The love came later, at the end. But sex was first.
That sexual chemistry is hard to resist. As a virgin who struggles with lust, I get it. But I don’t like the idea that I won’t find love until after I’ve had sex. I don’t believe that my love for a man is less because we’ve never been physically intimate. The idea of using something as unpredictable as sex to determine whether or not you love someone is a dangerous game. I’m not saying you can’t have sex without love, because you can – people do it everyday. But don’t believe that sex determines that love. Love should come first, allowing sex to be a passionate physical expression of that love.

Lie #3: All love stories resolve.
One common motif (fancy, huh?) in romance stories is the triumph of unrequited love. The return of a lost love, the realization that a friend is more than a friend, the childhood crush finally being returned – each have created some heart-wrenching moments. We read books and watch movies where it all falls into place; everything comes together exactly how you think it should. The hero always comes back. There is always a declaration of love. Love always conquers and is always, ultimately, returned.
Only it’s not. Not always, not in the real world. Your childhood love won’t always come back. The best friend you love won’t always love you back. Sometimes the perfect guy or girl that you know is for you actually isn’t for you. We waste time waiting for impossibilities instead of going after maybes. We find ourselves wishing the man or woman of our dreams leaves the person they’ve found happiness with in order to give us what we want. We become selfish.
The truth is that not every love story has a happy ending. Some are tragic, ending in heartbreak. Some just aren’t meant to be. The longer we wait for those stories to gives us the ending we the want, the resolution we’ve been told we will get, the more we miss out on the story we’ve meant to have.

Lie #4: There is no need for God in a successful relationship.
Most tv shows, movies, and novels are of a secular nature. There are no religious themes or implications. God is as absent from the stories as He is from much of our society. So we are given examples of relationships that succeed without God’s presence. A couple meets, falls in love, gets married perhaps, and deals with all the struggles that come with it without relying on God. He quite simply isn’t there.
I’ve seen relationships where God is an important part and relationships where He isn’t. I’ve seen relationships without God succeed and relationships with Him fail. Allowing God into your relationship isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get your happy ever after. But is you, as a Christian, have a personal relationship with God, He should be at the center of every aspect of your life. We try so hard to do things on our own. We figure we can muddle through. But sometimes the problems are too big, the struggles too great. Sometimes we need to sit with our partner and admit we don’t know what we’re doing. But we do have a God who offers love, strength, and peace.
We have a God who will see us into our happy ever after if only we ask. Besides, shouldn’t we endeavor to mirrors God’s amazing love in our relationships and eventual marriage?

I’m not saying that reading romance novels is a sin, or that you shouldn’t watch romantic comedies or cute tv sitcoms. (God save me from legalism.) The problem, as I see it, is the intention with which we read the books and watch the movies; what we hope to get out of them. The problem is what we let them mean to us, what we them write on our hearts, and how we let them affect our ideas of love, relationships, and sex. The problem is when we let a novel or show teach us something it’s not meant to teach us.

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(one) gentleman wanted.

Dear my future husband,

Hello. Just, hello. I wish I could say that to you directly. I wish I could look into your eyes and greet you. I wish I could smile as you kiss my lips, but I cannot. Not yet. Not tonight.

I’m lonely for you. Perhaps more than I ever have been. I long to look up from my book or computer screen and see your face, see you watching me. I long for the feel of your arms around me, your whispers in my ear. I long to hear your heartbeat as I lay across your chest. I long to fall asleep in your arms, safe in your love and embrace.

I want to talk with you. I want to have long, never-ending conversations that continue past the sunset and sunrise. I want to argue and disagree with you. I want you to stimulate my mind with things I would have never thought of. I want to share my favorite passages from books with you as we talk through what they mean. I want to ask you a question and watch as you thoughtfully consider the answer. I want to say things to you that mean something. I want to see the spark in your eyes when we talk about the important things. I want to feel the passion in your words as they fall from your lips.

Can we travel together? Can we lose ourselves on the road? Can we disappear into the reaches of places we’ve never explored? I want to discover something with you. I want to find a place neither of us have been and learn something from it. I want to create memories with you that only we can share. Can we fly across the sea and search for these for memories? Can we become more familiar with the road we travel than the comforts of home? Can we live in the spaces between?

I prayed for you last night, and the night before. I pray for you often, whenever I feel lonely. I don’t pray that I find you soon or that you find me. Instead, I pray that you are safe, that you are loved, that you are well. I pray that you are happy and living life to the fullest. I pray that you are fulfilled, that you are doing what God has planned for you. I pray that you laugh often and smile constantly, even if I can’t be their reason. And I pray that when we meet, we are both ready.

I can’t wait for the nights when we can pray together before we fall into bed. I can’t wait for the days we read our Bibles together, being together moved by His word. I can’t wait to serve Him with you, to be surprised in the ways He uses us. I can’t wait to grow in Christ with you by my side. I can’t to experience a maturity in my faith as you challenge me. I can’t wait to worship God with our love story.

I’m sorry if I’ve put expectations on you. I’m sorry if I’ve imagined you in any way other than who you are. I’m sorry that I’ve allowed other men to become my fantasy. I’m sorry that I looked at you as something I deserve, not as a blessing or gift God gives me.

But I’m not sorry I’ve waited for you. I’m not sorry I’ve hoped for you. I’m not sorry that I anticipate finding you. I’m not sorry that the very idea of you, the knowledge that you exist brings a smile to my face.

I cannot wait to meet you; to see you for the first time. I can’t wait to hear the first words you speak to me. I will treasure them along with every memory we make. I can’t wait to love you and make love to you in every season, year after year. I can’t wait to look into your eyes when I say my vows, when I promise to love you and cherish you.

My heart is yours, ready for you and only for you.

Sincerely,

Your someday wife.

Thank you for reading! Feel free to share your thoughts. And maybe follow me on Twitter?

To my future brother(s)-in-law,

We’re really close, the six of us sisters. And in some ways, it will always be the six of us. I’m not sure any of us have ever really understood what it would mean to let someone else in; to trust someone else enough to show them what we’re really like when we don’t have to be polite and normal in front of “company.” We were all single for so long, that the idea of any of us dating and even marrying was something we talked about in hypothetical. We would talk about the weddings we would get to plan. We would fight over who gets which names for their children. We would place bets on who would be the cool aunt (obviously me) and who would always get stuck babysitting for free (Sophie, because she’s the youngest). But we never really brought anyone around. We never took anyone seriously.

But you took my sister seriously. You looked at her and saw something wonderful. You had the courage to take a chance and the faith to see it through. Out of all the other girls in this world, you chose her, and I compliment you on your good taste. But what’s more, my sister chose you. She let you into her heart and into our family, and she made promises to you. She accepted you for everything you are, and she gave you everything she has and everything she is. And if you’re the kind of guy I think you are, you gave her every part of yourself, holding nothing back. I commend you for it. It’s how I know you deserve her.

There’s probably something you should know, since you’ve vowed to love my sister forever: We’re a bit weird. I should probably apologize for it, since I’m the oldest, and my mother will tell you everything is my fault of course, but it’s probably just better if you become accustomed to it. We probably tried to act “normal” around you in an effort not to scare you off with our special brand of craziness, but I doubt we were that successful. But if you’re the sort of guy I think you are, you’re probably just a little bit weird yourself. I can’t really picture any of my sisters falling in love with a guy that doesn’t have a bit of craziness hiding somewhere inside of them.

However, in an effort to make your transition as our brother (and we will call you our brother often and excessively, because we’ve been waiting for one for decades), here are a few things you should probably be made aware of:

· We do everything together. And when I say everything, I mean anything from running to the bank to going on vacation. None of us really like to be alone, because we’ve never really had to be. So be ready to be constantly in the company of your wife and possibly your new-found sisters. (But don’t worry, because we do understand the importance of privacy.)

· Most of the things we say are quotes from a movie, television show, comedy sketch, or random things we’ve made up. It may sound like a secret language, but you’ll pick it up eventually. Also, we talk quickly and some of us (cough…Maggie…cough) at a higher decibel than most humans can hear. Feel free to jump in when you can.

· Disneyland is and always will be the happiest place on earth. If you disagree, it’s probably better if you keep that to yourself and just smile and play along as we plan family vacations to the most over-priced and crowded vacation destination in the entire world. (And no, Disneyworld is NOT the same thing.)

· Anything you do that is embarrassing, ridiculous, and/or awkward is going to end up on Twitter, Facebook, instagram, and any other social networking site we can think of. Feel free to retaliate accordingly.

· We are a bit on the competitive side, whether it’s deciding who remembers more Harry Potter trivia or who is the most clever. And we tend to fight dirty. And we remember everything.

Also, and this is important, you can never abuse my sister. You cannot demean her, take advantage of her trust, or treat her like anything less than the amazing and beautiful person she is. You don’t have the right to do that. You are her husband, her partner, her lover, her best friend. She loves you more than anything in this world, second only to God, and you have a responsibility to protect her.

But you’re human. So you’re probably going to make a mistake. You’re probably going to hurt her, maybe even make her cry, and sometimes you might not even mean to. And in that moment, I’m going to take her side. I will always take her side, because that’s what sisters do. I will listen to her, calm her down, and reassure her. But I won’t try to fix it for you or for her. I won’t tell her what to do. I won’t get in the way of your relationship.

And I’ll never tell her you aren’t the man for her. I’ll never tell her that she chose wrong or made a mistake. I’ll never tell her she deserves better, that she settled for you, that you aren’t worthy of her. I wouldn’t do that to you, and I would never do that to her.

You are her family now. You are in this together, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do you part. You made vows to each other, promises. And I’m so excited to see you both honor them. I’m excited to watch you grow with each other and with God. I’m excited to watch your family grow, one beautiful baby at a time.

So, here’s some advice from you perpetually single sister-in-law. (Hopefully by the time you exist, that won’t be true.) But until then…

Laugh often.

Love fiercely.

Speak patiently.

Listen carefully.

Care deeply.

Be spontaneous.

Be adventurous.

Be passionate.

Travel together.

Make music together.

Read books together.

Create life together.

Pray together.

Grow every second.

Smile every minute.

Kiss every day.

Treasure each moment.

Know that your wife is the most wonderful, gorgeous, loving, extraordinary woman in the world. Know that you were meant for each other, that God created you for her and her for you. Know that you deserve happiness, but you’ll have to work for it. Know that marriage is anything but easy. And know that, with God, your story as husband and wife will be beautifully written.

Sincerely,

Your new favorite sister (in-law).

Thank you for reading! Feel free to let me know what you think. And maybe follow me on Twitter?