Abundant Life

sharla1Sharla Langston is an author, giving coach, and nonprofit leader. She said “I do” for the first time at 50, and in her book The Crowd-Sourced Marriage, she shares how Team Sharla helped her find the perfect-for-her partner. A passion for generosity drives Sharla’s work. She enjoys helping people find ways to invest their time, talent, and treasures. A fun fact – she loves heavy equipment and wants to learn how to operate a front-end loader, a crane, and an excavator.

I grew up in a small town in north Louisiana; I was the youngest of four children. My parents both came from large East Texas farming families (Mom is youngest of 10, Dad in the lower litter of 17). They grew up during the Great Depression, and frugality was king. My dad rejected the church when I was six because someone asked about money. My parents were hard-working, blue-collar people, and they instilled in us strong work and savings ethics. That was a great thing, but the scarcity mindset also led me to live in fear of not having enough. Learning to trust God to provide for me came much later in life.

I didn’t meet God until I was 35 even though I had gone to church my whole life. When I was 33, the company I worked for offered a ridiculously generous severance package. I took the package, quit my job, stored everything, and traveled the world for a whole year. When I came back to the U.S., I moved to D.C. and worked on Capitol Hill. The job was good, but it was a vacant place. I met many people, but I had no close relationships. When I was 35, I broke up with a guy who I thought I would marry. My heart broke so bad that I didn’t know what to do with the pain.

That’s when I started asking the big life questions: Who am I? What is my worth? Why am I here? At some point, it dawned on me – I am not in control, Jesus is. I was so relieved by that discovery. It was beautiful! I desperately wanted something else, other than me, to guide my life. I handed control over to God, and the rest is history. No, it is not always easy. God continues to peel back the layers and reveal areas of my life that I didn’t even know I am trying to control. I appreciate the quote, “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.” (D.L. Moody)

One of the most unexpected joys of marriage is the partnership

After I had met God, I figured out the hole in my heart was for Him, not for a husband. With that said, age 35-50 wasn’t easy. When I was in high school, I thought I would go to college, marry, and have a family. That didn’t turn out to be my reality. I didn’t marry until I was 50. There were long, lonely years mixed in with living in different places with an exciting and varied career. I grieved as friends moved forward in life and I seemed to be stuck. Imagine how I felt every time I received another wedding shower invitation. I had to learn the importance of relationships outside of marriage. Ultimately, it was those very friends (my Bible study small group, co-workers, neighbors, and church friends) who helped set Mark and I up together.

For me, one of the most unexpected joys of marriage is the partnership. For all those years, I had to make all the decisions on my own. It is wonderful to have someone to deliberate with. We experienced a lot of personal loss in the first two years we were together. We lost my dad and mom, his dad, his brother-in-law, and a close friend. I can’t imagine going through that alone; I am grateful to have someone to grieve with, a partner in sorrow. One silver lining to all that was, it helped deepen our relationship and put life in perspective. Whatever newlyweds might argue about, we didn’t, because it didn’t matter. We chose to focus on the joy and fun.

Sometimes after people hear my story, they will say, “It was so worth it, right?” That is a ridiculous thing to say. For the first five years, the hair on my neck would stand up every time I heard it. I get people are just trying to justify God’s plan and timing, but they do not realize the pain in waiting. I love my husband, and I am blissfully married, but I was single for 30 years.

In hindsight, I wish I understood more fully, in those waiting years, how to make the very best of what God has put in front of me. I don’t want to sound lightweight, but the best advice I have is: ask God what to do with every aspect of your life. Ask God what to do when you wake up each morning, when you are alone, even though you don’t want to be. Ask God what to do on Saturdays when most of your friends are busy with family and kids. Yes, cry and suffer, but don’t stay there too long. In the hardship of waiting, there are open opportunities for other relationships. Prayerfully ask the Lord to give you ideas and people to engage. Have fun with it and enjoy the people in your life!

 

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