Women amaze me. How strong they are. How un-ordinary. How brave. For an hour last night I sweated completely out of time to the Latin beats of a Zumba class and it was wildly uncoordinated fun. I was terribly bad at it. But I caught a glimpse in the mirror and my face was hot, flushed, grinning.

There was the young Hispanic girl with the electric blue spandex, black curly hair loose and sweating tendrils down her back. So beautiful. So unnecessarily at the gym. So perfectly in time. There was the grandma with the relentless commitment to seeing every step down, every beat clapped, every sip of water at the breaks. There was the teenager next to me so breathlessly young and fit with her eyeliner smudged and hair long enjoying learning the moves alongside us all. The two friends who must have been coming for weeks, the accountant in front of me who had the moves of a dancer, the Asian mom who put us all to shame, the instructor cheering and laughing us all on.

These women, oh the glory.

The nothing ordinary in a room full of life givers, joy raisers, laundry folders, world changers.

Beautiful. Beloved. Women.

I am raising a daughter and I want her to laugh strong in her body and celebrate it rather than dread it or hide from it or try to turn it inside out. I pray this over her while she sleeps. I pray she grows to recognize the glory of her sex beyond the ability to shimmy into a pair of skinny jeans.

And while she grows I’m leaning in and listening to the daughters of other mothers. I am becoming a student of young women because I don’t speak their language and I need to learn.

Hilary is teaching me. Hilary in her freshly graduated twenties teaches me how to see the world through my baby daughter’s eyes. It looks a bit like this…

….When I graduated from college in May, I got lots of hugs and kisses. I got fun cards that played “Pomp and Circumstance” when you opened them. I got a nice dinner with two professors I love and Flannery O’Connor books. People showered me with wonderful gifts, with care and congratulations and Starbucks gift cards.

But it turns out you don’t get a how-to book for your life.

People don’t give you a step-by-step through finding jobs and losing jobs or moving home again or worrying about paying your car insurance. They don’t walk you through disappointment and changing plans and no plans and everyone wondering (and worrying) that you don’t have a plan.

They don’t give you a guide book on how to understand your own feelings about your best friend or brother or coworker suddenly having the marvelous and perfect boyfriend/girlfriend while you eat dinner with your parents and wonder if your skinny jeans will still fit. 

Some days it feels like my whole world is dating. There’s a heart icon permanently displayed on my Facebook sidebar announcing different engagements and relationships and marriages. Just underneath it, Facebook has kindly offered to help me meet Christian single men and buy eco-friendly rings. Some nights I page through the latest wedding albums sitting in my pajamas and eating my way through a bag of peppermint bark.

Some days I walk around with a pit in the stomach because I’m not going ice skating on Frog Pond with the other cute twenty somethings, or making crafts together, or smiling sneakily at each other about mistletoe and what-that-means at all the parties that we go to, because we have someone to go with and therefore don’t have to stand alone in the corner picking lint of our sweaters and drinking too much champagne

And when it feels like the world starts dating, it’s easy to walk around with that pit in your stomach, watching the couples line up for their glamorous and messy lives of togetherness. There is a familiar sting of embittered, of lonely, of despair. There is that lingering question, always there at the back of your heart: why not me?

I told God one afternoon when I was wriggling into a pair of skinny jeans that I call my life lonely. I call my life everything that my best friend and brother and coworker have found, and I haven’t. I name all the things that I wanted desperately alongside those friends and siblings, all the shared tears over chai lattes, all the dreams about boyfriends, and ice skating on Frog Pond.

Maybe it was catching sight of myself in the mirror that day, in those skinny jeans with the bangs I still haven’t figured out how to style, make-up-less. Maybe it was just that I’d stopped talking long enough for His voice to sneak in a few words. But for a moment, I listened.

And God said,

But I name your life beautiful.
I name your life blessed, a good work in good hands.
I name your life full.
I name your life breathtaking and irreplaceable, right now, right here in those skinny jeans in this house in this job, in this singleness, in this day.
I name your life all the things you need.

I name you Mine.

He doesn’t tell me how to feel when other people start dating and I don’t. He doesn’t give me a how to guide to keep me safe from failing in big and small ways.

But He names me His.

And maybe that’s the point of it all, anyway. The point of the relationships and the moving back home and the nights of wondering and the peppermint-bark-eating marathons and the tearful goodbyes and standing alone at a party in the corner and the love we fall into and the one we’re waiting for.

All of this life is because He first loved and He forever loves us in the everyday of our lives, even when we don’t.

That’s the guidebook: love, because He first and forever loves.