Sunday, May 27, 2012

I don't have what it takes.

The gong of imperfection strikes again.

My world is filled with a thousand voices asking, pleading, begging to know that they are enough. My own is included in the chorus. Sometimes mine seems louder than the rest, but lately it seems lost in the abyss of the feelings of insufficiency that surround me. 

It would it appear that everyone is asking a question that penetrates down to this idea. When it comes down to it, we're scared that we aren't enough. 

We aren't strong enough, smart enough, fast enough, pretty enough, quiet enough, loud enough, whole enough... We always feel the need to be more, the need to be better, the need to be assured that we have what it takes. 

But what if the truth is simply that we don't have what it takes? 
What if the truth is that we aren't enough? 
What if we aren't strong enough, or smart enough, or fast enough, or pretty enough...? 

And what if that was okay? 

I guess I get worried that we spend so much of our lives disappointed with not being enough (by some ridiculous, earthly standard of 'enough' that we've created, too...) that we forget that maybe that's the point. Maybe, when we're not enough, it gives God a chance to be more than enough. When we are weak, He is strong..

I wonder what it might look like to not be so consumed with myself. What could it look like if I let it be okay when I'm not enough of something and instead of trying to be better, look better, do better, feel better.... what if I trusted God to use my 'not-enoughs' for His glory? 

I think we often feel like we're entitled to feelings of being enough. I think that's the mistake...especially here on earth, especially in the eyes of others. I think our promise is that the Lord is enough. 
'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him'
He is enough.
I am not.
Will I let Him be enough instead of constantly trying to be enough without Him?

Today I'm focused on droning out that small voice within the begs the question of being enough. Today I'm focused on truly letting the Lord be my portion, of admitting when I don't always have what it takes... and letting Christ redeem, save, heal and transform me.

He must become greater.
I must become less.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Grace vs. Perfection

Someone left an anonymous note on my desk yesterday: Hold yourself to a standard of grace, not perfection.


It makes me wonder a handful of things. 
Does whomever left me this note think that I'm striving for perfection and lacking in accepting grace? Or was it merely just a word of encouragement as I have a lot of responsibility on my plate and they fear me focusing too much on having to do everything just right? Am I reading too much into it and someone was just being a 'note fairy' and that's the random quote of the day that landed upon my desk? 

Either way, the words are there. I can't decide if I'm more intrigued by the phrase or by who left it. 

I suppose I don't even know what it means to hold myself to a standard of grace.  What is that standard, anyway? Does that mean holding myself to a standard of always extending grace... or maybe always being willing to receive grace? Does it essentially mean that I'm going to screw up and it's okay because of grace? 

What, then, do I do with verses like 'Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect'? While I think, in context, Christ is talking about perfection in love... it seems like my standard might need to be perfection sometimes. 

Can I simultaneously hold myself to a standard of both grace and perfection? 
A standard where I'm striving for perfection, but still allowing grace to enter in because I ultimately know that I'm not perfect? Can there be a balance? 

I think maybe there can be. 
That sometimes we, as Christians, (if we're not pretending to be perfect) can exist in this place where the opposite is more desirable. That we sing of imperfections and the impossibility of being anything other than imperfect beings, that we automatically disregard the call on our lives for holiness, for purity, for perfection. We live in defeat because we can't ever get there...

And maybe the deal is that we can't.  We can't because Christ is so necessary for anything good to flood out from us... but the point is that we are still striving. We're still training for the race, we're still putting on the armor to prepare for battle, we're still turning from sin and standing firm in freedom. We are still diligent. 

In the standard of perfection, there must be grace. In the standard of grace, there's no room for perfection. Yet, we must seek both. 

Wrestle with that for a while. 

If you profess Christ as your Savior, it would seem that you are called to live a life that his holy and pleasing to God. Will you fail...? Yes. Grace. Do you keep trying? Yes. 

For as much as Christ depicts grace for us, He also is the epitome of perfection. And isn't HE who we are striving to be like?  

Balance. It's vital. 

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Sunday, May 20, 2012


It's been a week full of heightened emotions, spiritual realizations, late nights and lots of laughter. It's been a week where a bunch of strangers come together, united through one thing, and they learn to get along because they have the same mission in mind. It's been intense... but it's been so good.

It's made me wonder how good I've become at leading others through things without going through them myself. As my summer staff has sifted through some big questions and had life-altering realizations...I've remained emotionally and spiritually unaffected.

How can that be?

But it makes me think that in a position of leadership, you're not always afforded the time or the energy to not only process how to better lead a group, but what's really going on with you internally. In fact, I wonder how many of us can use leadership as escape mechanism. I know I have.

Honestly, it's probably not exclusive to just leadership... it's probably inclusive of anything that takes up our time. Busyness becomes an excuse for not processing through emotions, not spending time with Jesus, not spending time in true community.

What are you spending the majority if your time on?
Is it work?

What are you using as a deterrent so you don't actually have to examine where your heart is? So you don't have to deal with things that may be hard for you to sift through?

And while you may really have to do all of those things, at what point do we not let it be an excuse for not taking the time or spending the energy on examining where we are really at in the midst of things? I guess the danger lies in the fact that I feel like I can go for long spells where I pour out, where I extend myself, where I work long hours, where I am able to do all the things I'm 'supposed' to do... but I actually have no idea how I'm really doing. And when I don't know how I'm really doing, I live in such a way that is numb or destructive to myself and others.

Think about it.

Making time to know where we're really at is important... and even as I write these words, I realize that I've failed drastically at this. I fear that if I make time, I might crumble under the weight of what lies below the surface... and so I avoid.

But, I need to go there.
Because I don't want to be numb. I don't want to be destroying myself and relationships around me.

It's time to make more time for examination.

What about you?

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Saturday, May 12, 2012


I used to resist change a lot. 

I'm not saying that I've changed (ha!) so much to where I'll now welcome it with open arms...but, I think I've come to a place where I've realized that change is inevitable and that sometimes change can be a good thing. 

I probably operated under the mentality of, 'if it's not broke, don't fix it' (spoken like a true southerner, might I add) for a majority of my life. I hope my mindset has transformed into more of a, 'this is good...but how can we make it even better?' 

I can accredit my change of heart to the fact that my current place of employment (and entire life, really) is constantly changing. There's nothing consistent about where I've been for the last 6 years. From roommate to roommate, house to house, office to office, co-worker to co-worker, a flooded river to a drying up river, new buildings built, old buildings gone... the list goes on. And on, and on, and on. 

I used to panic when they put up fences and my regular path to work was interrupted. I used to panic when doors were literally moved, when new programs were added, when new people came. 

Now, I don't panic... I've come to realize that this is just how life is. And it's been good for me. 

Some change is hard. Some change involves heartache and goodbyes and leaving behind good things. But sometimes the change is exciting and refreshing and freeing. Sometimes it's a mixture of both. I guess, when change happens, I want to believe that there's always a newness and a hope of something better coming along. So far, that has been true. 

And there's a Constant, even in the midst of the change. A Constant to cling to, to put my hope and trust in. A Constant that reminds me that there's an eternity of glory that awaits me. 

But for now I need to be okay with the change. 
It's suddenly upon me as summer begins tomorrow. In just a few short months, life will look drastically different. An unknown sort of different. 

Instead of fearing the change....instead of panicking... I know there's a hope of something greater than what I've always known. A newness. A new place. A new home. A new life. It doesn't mean that the past is forgotten, but it means that when change happens it's not detrimental to my existence anymore. It means that when change happens, it can be life-giving and absolutely beautiful. 

I don't know if you hate change or if you love it... 
But I hope that you're open to it change when it happens... and I hope you don't just seek change for the sake of change. I hope that you are a person who takes the good and longs to make it better. I hope that you are a person who believes, no matter what happens circumstantially on this earth, that there's an unchanging, unwavering God who is good. To you. Even if you don't exactly quite understand that in this moment. 

There is always more than this life... even when all seems to fade away. 
There's always something constant to cling to. 
May we hang onto Him and enjoy the ride. 

I'll be posting quite a bit more sporadically for the next 3 months as life becomes slightly busy for me. Feel free to continue asking questions, giving feedback, and sending in topics you'd like to read about. I look forward to hearing from you! 
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Friday, May 11, 2012

Biting off Whiskers is Bad

When I was a kid, I used to bite off my cat's whiskers.

I'm not sure why. I just remember having them sit in my lap, and much like you might chomp on your fingernails, the cat's whiskers were just at mouth-level to give a little trim. 

My brothers dubbed me Elmira. If you've ever seen Tiny Toons, you'll know this is no compliment. I didn't realize that my little whisker trims disabled one of the primary function of the whiskers: determining the width of an opening. Turns out that the whiskers are the approximate width of it's body and helps the cat gauge whether or not it will fit in an opening. I didn't realize that whiskers were sensitive... or purposeful. 

Sometimes I think I'm still like that little girl. No, not chewing off cat's whiskers... but just incredibly oblivious to the way my actions and words can have a disabling affect on those around me, to those closest to me. 

Not only is it unfortunate that we have the tendency to hurt those closest to us without even meaning to or even realizing it, it's unfortunate the way that people typically react to having their feelings hurt. Myself included. We're passive aggressive, or we're avoiders, or we stuff it all inside until it comes exploding out. Very rarely do we openly communicate with others about the wounds inflicted upon us. We don't want to be too sensitive, we think we can get over it, we don't want to stir something up unnecessarily. 

But the wounds remain. 
And without proper healing, long-term damage can be done. 

I actually think that sometimes I'm incapable of hurting others. When I was a little girl there's no way I ever dreamed that I was causing pain to those cats...there's no way I would have wanted to cause them pain (remember, I like cats). But, I was.

So maybe I think there's two important things to be aware of here.
  • We can hurt other people, even when we aren't meaning to.
  • We should be honest with people when we feel hurt by them. 

I can't change the past. I can't change the thousands of times someone has winced at my too emotionally driven, harsh words. I can't change the ways my looks, my actions, or my lack of action have caused pain. I wish that I could. 

But I can try to do better, to be better, to be aware... 

So maybe we should help each other out a bit. I don't always know what I do that hurts you. Will you tell me? Will you be honest with me? Will you open up? Will you help me get better? And I'll try and do the same for you. 

And may we both be willing to receive the other's hearts. May we not get defensive or justify ourselves. 

Pain is pain, regardless of if was intended or not. 

I stopped biting cat's whiskers once I found out the pain I caused them. 
I want to stop hurting you, too. 

Because I have to believe that change is possible... and so is true healing and forgiveness. 

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Like the Movies

I've been paralleling my life to the movies lately.

It's probably a dumb move, as life is never like the movies...but, it's made me think a bit. We're always rooting for our favorite characters to take risks--to go after the person they love, to jump in front of bullets for their friends, to bear their souls despite the unknown.... to essentially do the unthinkable, the scary, the bold.

But, when we're put in comparable circumstances, I wonder how many of us are ever willing to take those risks. We are drawn into these movies because they have a good story. We are rooting for these characters because they want something that they've deemed worth it, and they'll stop at nothing to get it. This resonates deep within us as we tell our own stories, as we consider what's worth it, as we make our own choices.

As much as life isn't like the movies, I've been wanting to live my life lately like it is. I want to live my life like I have a story worth sharing with the world. It may not be the type of movie where the world is ending and I'm the heroin saving lives right and left... but it's a movie where life becomes great even in the mundane and ordinary. Where life is about living for a something better, something meaningful, something worth fighting for.

It's a life full of risk.
And, as a result, it's probably a life filled with heartache.

I've been wondering lately if I can be okay with that. I've been wondering lately if I can even manage that emotionally. I've been wondering if I can be okay with the end results not looking like the fairy-tales or the happily-ever-afters.

I've been living in this world where I'm subconsciously protecting myself in everything I do. I've been living my life out of fear, out of doubt, out of the possibility of the worst case scenario coming true. And I just wonder.... are the things that I'm trying to protect myself from really that bad? Am I even able to protect myself from those things, or is it just this weird delusion I've created for myself? Am I attempting to control things that are completely out of my control?

I'm so tired of living cautiously.
I'm so tired of living by the book.
I'm so tired of living a life of control.
The alternative is terrifying, but I think what's even more terrifying is missing out on living a great story. Instead of a life of love and risk and heartache... I fear a life of being closed off, distant and alone.

Something has to change.
It's time to risk.
It's time to put my heart out there.
It's time to tell a better story.

It's time to live like I'm in the movies.
It's time to chase after those I love, to step in front of bullets, to spill my soul... even if I don't know the outcome. Perhaps the ending will be happy... and perhaps it won't.

Either way...
It's time.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

He Loves Me?

I dated a guy once who told me, after a month of dating, that he loved me.


As much as I longed to hear those words and believe them, I hated him for saying it. I hated him because I knew he couldn't possibly mean it...not yet, anyway. I was angry that he would mess with my heart, and so I did what I do best: I stayed distant. I insisted that he couldn't love me and I found a thousand reasons why I couldn't love him. A month later he was releasing me of our relationship, and I was relishing the freedom that came with singleness. 

In reality, I was terrified. I was scared to believe that his words might be true and have my heart be shattered. I never once allowed myself to believe it was actually possible. I never once gave him a chance to prove that it might be. 

I should probably mention that a little over 2 years later we started dating again... and we still are. But, guess what? It's been over a year and a half and he hasn't told me he loves me this time around. I don't blame him. 

It's this dumb thing where we cruise around in life declaring that if this one thing just happened, we would feel more confident, more worthy, more secure, more loved, more wanted.......and then that thing happens, and we reject it. For whatever reason, it wasn't good enough. It didn't happen in the way we had wanted it to, the way we had always pictured it might. There was something just off about it that convinces us that it's not for us, that it's not good, that we should flee. 

My oldest brother had told me once that when a guy tells you he loves you, he should back it up with a ring. It made sense to me... and so for many years, that became my expectation. I would never believe that a guy loved me until he was willing to follow through with it to marriage. It still makes sense to me, but the way it became such a requirement wasn't good. The way it proved to sabotage a relationship wasn't good. I had created this ridiculous stipulation for how love was supposed to be presented and I never allowed for there to be any alternative. 

Instead, I was a crazy girl. Gosh, I'm still a crazy girl... but I hope I'm learning and growing as I see things through various perspectives. 
I hope you are, too. 
I hope you're willing to see the areas in your life that you run from or avoid or intentionally sabotage because you're driven by a fear of being hurt. I hope you're willing to see the specific ways you flee from ever believing people care about you, and stop

People can love you... even if it's only been a month
Because, as much as romantic love gets tied up in emotions and attractions...there's still room to make the choice. There's still room for him to choose to love you. 

Here's the guarantee: you will get hurt. Even if you end up together forever, there will be times in your relationship when he hurts you and you hurt him. It's the nature of being sinful humans. But I think it's worth the risk... every time. 

Instead of telling someone that they can't possibly love you, I encourage you to embrace it... to believe it... to relish it. Stop fighting, stop running, stop resisting. 

Let love happen. 
I realize I have so much to learn in this department as well.... but I can now recognize the need to really believing that another might choose to love us, despite our imperfections. 

May we all be able to receive one of the most beautiful gifts of all. 'Cause when we are able to receive it from other humans... how much more likely might we be able to truly receive from a perfect and holy God? 

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fitting a Mold

I had a friend recently tell me how annoyed she gets by guys deciding that they want a wife and then going out to find the girl who will fit that mold....instead of meeting a girl and deciding that she's what they want.

I see her point, but I'd have to say that girls have the tendency to do the same thing. We're all kind of in the same boat here. The difference is that girls, oftentimes, don't feel as much liberty to go pursuing romantic relationships because we've been told to be patient and wait for 'that guy' to come around.

I do wonder how much of it's true though.
How many guys do decide, 'Hey, I think I could see myself getting married soon....and this is the kind of girl that I want.' and then they set out to find a girl that matches all of their criteria? I feel like I've known a few to think the opposite. They think they'll probably never get married and are quite content to remain single, but then they meet someone who shatters that vision for their lives.

Mostly, all of this makes me wonder how detrimental planning can be. I know to some degree we have to... but don't you always feel like anytime you actually make a plan, something goes awry? Don't you always feel like the more you expect something to go a certain way, the more it goes the opposite of that? At times I feel like I almost bank on that to be the case.

Regardless, this isn't a subject I can elaborate on much more...since I'm not a guy. Although, I remember always wishing it were different. I remember always wishing that the guys I were friends with would wake up and see that the girl they were in search of wasn't necessarily what they might need in a life mate. I remember wishing that they could see me as compatible, even if I didn't necessarily fit their mold.

And it makes me wonder how many guys feel the same way about certain girls- how many guys think that they're just not enough to be considered for our checklist of the 'perfect guy'. So maybe we're all just longing to be noticed by someone else in a way that takes us out of the realm of friendship. And it makes me wonder what are the things that allow us to move into a world of romance and intimacy with someone else.

What is it for you?
Could what you're looking for be right in front of your face? Could it be your best friend? Could it be a casual acquaintance you haven't looked at twice because of some dumb, untrue rumor you heard about them?

I don't know.
I just think that sometimes we miss out on some of the best things.... on some of the best people...simply because they aren't packaged in the way that we wanted or expected. I can't help but hope that we would all be willing to open our eyes and allow something different to be a possibility. To allow our plans... and even our ideals... to be different.

I'm not saying forget about standards and things that really matter... but I am saying that oftentimes those things look incredibly different than we think they might.

Open your eyes.
Are you looking for someone who may not even exist, when something great is already right before you?  When that something great might even be perfect for you?

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Can't Get No Satisfaction.

I feel like I've been writing this blog and can sometimes have these easy-sounding solutions for you: surrender, let go, stop doing what you're doing, love others even when it's hard... do this, do that, don't do this, definitely don't do that.

I want to apologize.

I think the point of this blog was to admit how not easy any of this is. To admit that I'm struggling sometimes, and that there often isn't this simple solution to all of our problems in life. And that sometimes, I think that's okay.

People want answers though.
We want a way to deal with our problems and our pain... and we want the solution to be instantaneous. Unfortunately, that's not typically how it works. And oftentimes, what works for one person doesn't always work for another person. And yet, we are people who continually offer up steps and solutions to comfort others.

I wonder if we might be okay acknowledging that there's not always a 'right' way of doing things. There's not always a 'right' way to achieve freedom over specific sin. There's not always a 'right' way of moving on or getting over tragedies in life.

I'm sorry if I've ever made it sound like anything was an 'easy-fix'. It's not. I'm sorry if I've ever made it sound like I've got all the answers and have anything figured out. I don't. I really, really don't.

I'm struggling.
Yesterday was my birthday and it sounded more enticing to sit on my couch and watch tv all day than it did to allow anyone to show me that they care about me. Because, when it comes down to it, I think I don't really believe that people do. I feel like people have this obligation toward me... that sometimes I become this charitable cause to them. They don't care about me because I'm worth caring about... they care about me because that's what they are 'supposed' to do.

There's a lot of stuff that just keeps surfacing within me and I desperately want to know why I am the way I am. I heard this quote recently that essentially said that when people are looking for the bad in someone, they are always going to find it. I felt like it summed me up in a nutshell. I'm always looking for the bad in everything, and I always find it. I focus on it. I let it consume me. When I think people are only caring for me out of obligation, I find every reason that could possibly be true and I believe it.

And so then I think on 'special days', like my birthday, that I really hope I don't see the bad, I really hope that someone will prove me wrong and care about me to the point where I don't ever doubt it.  But, I do doubt....and it ruins everything. Instead of joy and excitement, I feel dread and sorrow. Instead of laughter and celebration, tears run down my cheeks.

It's a life of disappointment.
Ultimately, it's a life consumed with myself. A life consumed by wanting to feel special, of wanting to feel important, of wanting to feel like I matter. A life where I feel like I can't get very much of the stuff that matters 'right'. I'm never joyful enough, I don't love enough, I don't serve consistently, I don't have enough faith...
A life of no satisfaction.

I don't have a solution this time.

I don't know how to not be this person anymore. I feel like I've tried. Pray, read the Bible, pray some more, fake it until I make it.... but at the end of the day, I'm just a sinner saved by grace.

My hope awaits me. The hope of an eternal glory.
And right now, I'm just thankful for the second chances...because they are so necessary.

Today I want to be okay with not being okay. I want to be okay acknowledging that I'm a work in progress... and that I always will be in this life. I don't have to have the answers today.

But, I have to keep waking up and hoping...

Here I go.

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Striving for Desexualization.

The Comment:
When I was reading your blog post about lust, this question was going through my mind. I feel like I have been trying to completely de-sexualize myself. But then, attraction is natural, and it has to happen for marriage to happen--which is a good thing. But I'm just wondering, how do we stay away from lusting, yet let relationships happen, too? Because I really tried to rid myself of every sexual desire that I could and just shut that part of myself off, bc I was too worried about sinning. Where is the fine line between lust and life? How do you know when it's good to allow yourself to be attracted to someone?
Gosh, I don't even know where to begin.
Upon reading this, I was honestly sad. Sad because I know you're not the only one in the world with this mission in mind.

I think we are sexual beings. I think God created us to be sexual. I think sex is a beautiful gift that we've been given and because so much darkness and sin surrounds it, it seems to have become tainted. We grow up thinking that sex and wrong and bad, and so any time we have a sexual thought, we slap ourselves on the wrist. Any time we go too far with our boyfriend/girlfriend, we beat ourselves up.

We train ourselves to become people who, on our wedding night, lock ourselves in the bathroom because we can't bear the thought of having sex with our spouse. There's been too much negativity associated with it our entire lives.

I firmly believe this attitude we have toward sex is wrong.
To de-sexualize yourself seems like one of the most unnatural things we can do. And, I get it.  I get the reason why you might feel like you need to... but I don't think it's the solution to lust.

I don't think we can flip a sexual switch on and off, as much as we might want to. Turn me on for my husband, but turn me off for any other guy. Nope. It's a battle. Turning me off for all time doesn't solve the problem though... in fact, I think it creates new ones.

Attraction isn't wrong. To want to be with someone... it's not wrong. I think the lust comes into play when we start imagining all the details of what it will be like. I think lust comes into play when we allow those images to linger in our minds- whether they are actual images that we are watching, or whether they're the ones we've created in our fantasies. And the lust becomes a problem when we give into these thoughts and these images instead of having self-control and turning away.

I would probably argue that sexual desire, in and of itself, isn't wrong... it's what we do with it that becomes the problem. I want to have sex. I hope I never stop wanting to have sex, even when I've finally gotten to have sex. I hope I love it as much as I think I might. But... that doesn't mean that I fixate on it, or conjure up sexual fantasies, or watch porn.

I guess I just fear really unhealthy views on sex. I'm not saying I have the best views on it (since I'm clearly inexperienced)... but I don't want to be scared of the sexual desires within me. I don't want to put them in this box of 'wrong' or 'sinful' until I'm married and then suddenly be expected to open those boxes on my wedding night and have there be new labels attached to them. Of course sex would be terrifying if that's your mindset.

Instead, I want to acknowledge that I have sexual desires. I have them, and I think they're good. I may not be able to indulge in them right now, but that's okay. In the meantime, I'll still let myself be attracted to my boyfriend...but it doesn't mean that I'm constantly lusting after him.

I think we all know when we've allowed ourselves to go too far....whether that's mentally or physically. We know when we've fantasized too much, we know when we've crossed a boundary with our significant other, we know when we're watching porn it's not a good thing. There's conviction that sets in and we know. Flee from those things, and I think you'll be okay. Don't get so caught up in not doing the 'bad' things, that you miss out on all the good things, either.

You are a sexual being. Embrace it. You were created for sex... you were created to were created to be fruitful and multiply!
No need to get all crazy with it right now... but don't deny yourself something beautiful that has been given to us.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

I Probably Don't Like You.

"I don't like her, but I love her."

I've always wondered at the phrase. Is that even possible?

Initially, it mostly just seems like some sorry attempt to be good Christians by 'loving' everyone and not dealing with the fact that we might not actually love them at all. But, maybe not...

Bear with me as I do some processing of my own right now.

Perhaps, when this phrase is spoken, we're referring to a feeling of liking someone. An emotion. A desire to want to be near someone, to hang out with them, to be their friend. We don't have that with everyone. I think we'd be liars if we said we did. We don't even have that feeling all the time with the people that we think we do like...

So, can we still love someone without this feeling?

If my argument is that love is not based on emotion, but more on action and choice... it seems it could be true.

I don't have to like you to be kind to you.
I don't have to like you to be patient with you.
I don't have to like you to put your needs above mine.
I don't even have to like you hope for you.

What if were okay to not like people?
I've been struggling with not liking people lately... and I've been struggling with feeling like they don't like me in return. I've been battling with this a lot...battling through the guilt I feel for not liking them, and battling through feeling unworthy because I don't think they like me, either. It feels contrary to how it's supposed to be.

But, what if it's okay that it is this way?
What if, instead of trying to conjure up pleasant feelings toward others (which typically end up feeling forced and fake), we spent time simply serving them and being kind to them. What if we practiced living out of love instead of trying to feel like we are loving?

What if, instead of trying to 'fix' our heart, we took action where we can and let the Lord be the one to work on our hearts?

I don't know. I'm still processing.

I guess I think that regardless of if we like someone or not, our words and actions towards them must only reflect love. I also think that while we may not like someone, it's important for us to not want to sit in that place. It's important for us, while we might not feel like it, to not become people who are great at loving outwardly and have our hearts be disconnected from it all.

Only, instead of thinking we can accomplish this change within... there's a necessity of begging that the Lord would change us (remember Maggie??).

Despite whatever amiable feelings I may or may not have for you, I always want you to know I love you. Not because I like you and want to be your best friend...but because I think you matter. I think your soul matters.

So, depending on who you are... I may not like you.
But I want to love you.
I'm still figuring out what that means, though.

And may the Lord do a work in my heart, so that my actions and words would not be empty or forced. May I genuinely care about each of you, regardless of if you're my best friend or not.

So maybe it is okay if we don't actually like each other... as long as we never let it stop us from loving each other.

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Loving Even When...

There was a boy a few years back that I met a handful of times. Despite the hundreds of miles that separated us, we somehow managed to become good friends.

You'd be a fool to believe that I had never thought about anything more with him...because up until the moment he started dating someone else, I genuinely thought I stood a chance.

Between emails and phone calls, we shared our hearts and lives with each other in ways that I had been closed off to for a long time. I felt he had opened up to me in unique ways, too... and although we were very, very different, our commonalities seemed to bring us together. Together we were two lonely people, questioning life, love and our faith. He was driven, successful, honest, funny, intelligent and wanted my friendship.

Just my friendship.

Eventually I told him I loved him.
Not that I was in love with him... but that I loved him.

For those of you who know me, I don't spit these words out easily. But this time, I meant it. I wanted to mean it. As we began to dig deeper into each other's lives, I realized that before me was a man who was hurting, closed off, and prideful. I felt this need to love him. To love him in a way that I hadn't ever loved anyone before.

And as I set out on this journey, I realized that it would look different because the Lord would ask me to love this guy even when he didn't love me back. As much as I hoped and dreamed that our friendship could blossom into some type of romantic relationship, that was never the purpose... that was never the end goal. As much as I wanted to run away from this friendship, as much as I wanted to stop offering parts of myself to him as I sought to challenge, encourage, and simply be there for him... I knew that loving him when he didn't love me like I wanted him to was necessary.

I remember one time wanting to pull out fast. And then I happened upon a Scripture I am I sure I had never seen before. Maybe because it was in Numbers.
When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his oath but do everything he has said. 
I had made an oath.  Not only to the Lord, but to this guy... to myself. See for yourself:
i don't know how love you... but I do know that i do love you.  and it's a love that has nothing to do with emotions or feelings or romance.... but it has everything to do with being there for you in whatever capacity you'll allow.... it has everything to do with walking through the good, the bad, the ugly... of rejoicing when you rejoice and mourning when you mourn....of reminding you that you, just as you are, are loved deeply and intimately and nothing can change that. 
I desperately wanted him to know that he mattered. That Jesus mattered. It seemed that if loving him in such a way gained me nothing and him just a little bit of that... it was worth it. It had to be.

I wasn't perfect in this attempt to love. As I debriefed it occasionally with another friend, he had encouraged me to write a blog about the journey. Loving someone even when..... they disappoint, they betray you, they break your heart, they make fun of you, they don't love you back. I fear we all have a lot to learn about this.

I never thought I could save this guy. I knew that wasn't my job, as much as I wished my words or my presence could bring him into a place of total surrender. So I did what I could.

I loved him.
Imperfectly and with great struggle. But, it mattered.

Who are you actively loving right now?
Who are you loving even when...
Who are you choosing to not love because it's not as easy as you'd hoped it be?
...i suppose i need you to know that loving you isn't conditional.  i'm not going anywhere.  and even if our talking decreases, or your desire to be friends disappears, or you get super busy, or start dating someone, or you lose your job, or you move away, or you're broken and don't want to risk anything with anyone.... i'll still be here whenever you want or need me.  i recognize that i can't force that on you, but i need you to know that it's yours for the taking.  
 What if they weren't just words and they became our reality?

Make an oath.
And then follow through on it.
Maybe, just maybe, you'll be a part of truly changing someone's life.

At that point....isn't everything worth it?
I hope we all think so.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Lusty Girls

The Comment:
This new found hatred for bikinis is making me wonder if taking my own shirt off when I go bathing or swimming can be cause for other girls to stumble. Do you have any thoughts on this???
An honest comment from an honest guy, striving toward purity. In his recognition of how much bikinis have a negative affect on him, he's also aware that showing his skin might have a negative affect on girls. I can appreciate this gesture. 

I smiled when I first read this email--not because it was a dumb question, but because of how I often I feel like girls are quick to want the same rules applied to guys that are applied to girls (I suppose I found it a bit funny to think about guys not taking their shirt off to bathe, too...). It's inevitable, when having a conversation about modesty with girls, that one of them will chime in about how guys need to cover up, too. Sometimes I fear this more about our quest for equality than it is about our struggles when seeing them bare-chested. 

Because... while, sure, maybe some girls struggle with the visual of a shirtless guy... I don't typically think that image alone sends us into lust-world. Can it segue there quite easily? Absolutely. 

I think women are generally more turned on by emotional and physical connections than we are the visual. While we might see a hot guy and appreciate his hot bod...the arousal doesn't seem to come until we take that image into our mind and then start fantasizing about what it would be like for him to hold us or touch us or whisper sweet nothings into our ear. 

We don't need the visual in order to create the fantasy though. It's why we read romance novels, watch chick flicks and invest in trashy magazines. We want a heart connection, we want a man that meets every single need of ours (emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc) without flaw... and so we conjure that up in our heads. 

I don't need to see you without your shirt on to think about what it might be like to have you like me, want to date me, hold my hand, cuddle with me, kiss me. I don't need to see you without your shirt on to think about what physical intimacy and a deep, romantic connection with you could look like. I can get there on my own. 

So... while I appreciate the gesture, I don't really think it's necessary. Whether your shirt is on or off, I can still fantasize about you... and I'm not convinced that you having your shirt off makes me get there any faster. If anything, women will admire and talk like it does... but I truly think the things that cause us to struggle are on a more emotional level. 

Rather than asking you to keep your clothes on, I'd probably challenge women to, instead, look at the content of their books, their television dwell on the things they think about as they fall asleep at night. Maybe they do conjure up that shirtless image and go from there...but if they like you, they'll be able to conjure up their own shirtless image of you regardless of if you were shirtless or not. 

Lust, for us, typically isn't visual. 
It becomes this complicated web of emotions, desires, and fantasies that are not real.... just as much as your playboy model isn't actually a depiction of reality. 

And, unfortunately, since our issues with lust aren't easily identifiable.... probably many of us go through life lusting away, without even realizing we're doing it or the harm it's causing in our lives and in our relationships. 

After all... lust is a passionate (typically sexual) desire for something. 
And most of us are passionate, sexual beings. 

So men: be cautious, sure. But, be aware that your words, your touch, your smile.... those things can lead us into a sexual frenzy more than the sight of your body at a distance. 

I think it's probably also good to note that while short shorts on a girl can turn you on... short shorts on a guy are typically not ever a thing that causes us to lust after you! 

And ladies? It's okay that we struggle with lust differently... and I think it's important to know the ways in which we do. Be willing to consider it... even if it means giving up things you might enjoy. Consider why you enjoy them, what benefit they bring to your life... and if it could possibly be leading you to lust. 

I went there. 

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Friends with Benefits

The Comment:
What do you do when you think you have a good guy, because he talks all the time about waiting for his wife and everything. He really likes you but always has an excuse on not getting into a relationship when the reality is he wants to be single and just have you as a make out buddy?
Ah... the 'ol friends with benefits card. Unfortunately, I have played this hand before... on both sides. In high school I was the one calling the shots, keeping it casual and commitment-free. Later on in life, I was wanting more of a commitment and he wasn't.

My short answer? He's not that great of a guy.
My lengthier answer? Maybe he is a great guy, he's just a little mixed up right now and struggling through some things. Which, I'd essentially conclude, that where he's at right now isn't a place you should be dabbling around, too.

I guess I think (from experience and from talking to plenty of guys) that if a guy really likes a girl, he will do whatever he can to make it happen. If for some reason he can't (some legitimate reason) and he really likes her, he is going to honor that and not find silly excuses to not date her and not lead her into a bunch of emotional anxiety by still making out with her.

It sounds like this guy is playing on some of your emotional heartstrings and you need to be really cautious. 'Friends with Benefits' is typically a colossal mistake. Someone always winds up more emotionally invested in the other... and the more you give of yourself physically, the more you are going to long to feel connected to this person in other ways. It's the way we are wired.

We long to be connected, we long to be known, we long to be wanted. So, sometimes we do whatever it takes to feel that way...even if it means we compromise ourselves. Stop!

I'd encourage you to think about what really makes him a 'good' guy. If he talks about waiting for his wife, but he's willing to make-out with you for fun without commitment... something isn't adding up. There's a disconnect between the things he's saying and the things he's doing.

Be willing to walk away from the friendship and not put yourself in compromising emotional and physical spots. It doesn't seem that, right now anyway, it's worth it. This requires a lot of self-control on your part... it requires walking away from something/someone that you might enjoy and value a lot. I think you'll feel better when you're able to free yourself from this unhealthy attachment.

Maybe he's that great guy... but he needs some time to sort through life and figure out how to become the man that he needs/wants to be. Be willing to give him that time- even if it means walking away. If he really does like you, he'll either respect your decision or not be able to live without you. Time will tell.

Also... be willing to be patient and wait for a guy who wants to be more to you than a make-out buddy. You deserve more... and they DO exist.

You've got this.
Go be bold.
Do what is right... not always what feels good.

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