Thursday, February 27, 2014

Having Sex

"So, you have a partner, right?"

I panicked a little...because, yes, I think that I do...but not necessarily in the context she was referring to.

"Well, no. I'm engaged, but we're not sexually active."
"Oh. But you've had partners before this, right?"
"No...I haven't ever had sex."
"Oh...?" She looked up from her notes a bit alarmed by my answer, almost in disbelief.

This, my friends, is how a gynecologist appointment starts when you're a 29-year-old virgin.

For as long as I can remember, sex has been this thing I couldn't wait to partake in....I'd giggle about it with friends, push the limits with past boyfriends, talk about it, think about it... it was something I was sure I would never get enough of. I'd be that wife who wanted to have sex more than her husband. It was going to be awesome.

But now, as talk of honeymoons, birth control, UTIs, and lingerie surface... I find myself asking: what do I really think about sex? Before it's always been this thing to talk about, but never anything that was a possibility. Having sex before I was married was never a thought that crossed my mind as something I would or could do...but now that I'm getting married, sex is something that I can and will do.

If you've read my blog at all, you'll know that I'm a huge advocate of acknowledging the fact that we are sexual beings with sexual desires and to deny that or ignore that can be incredibly detrimental to how we function and how we think about things. But, I'm also a huge advocate of abstinence until marriage and I'll stand by that stance until the day that I die.

I grew up with the mentality that sex was wrong outside of marriage. I grew up not talking about it very much, except in situations where I knew I could get in trouble if I were caught. It was covered by guilt, shame, secrets. If movies I saw at a friend's were too sexually explicit, there was no chance I'd ever tell my parents about it. If someone passed around the health books (you know, the ones that informed us about sex and puberty and all the joys that come with our body changing) on the bus and told me things the books never would... I kept those new facts to myself. Because... sex was bad.

Don't have sex.
Don't have sex.
Don't have sex.
Okay, okay. I get it. It's been hammered into my brain for decades now.
And so now, when I think about having sex, I'm not 100% sure I can erase the embossed "Don't" that's always been attached to least when it comes to me actually doing it. I don't know how, in one night with one ceremony, that I'll (a) even feel like I'm actually married and then (b) let that brand new status sink in enough for me to move away from the NO SEX rule that I've abided by for so long.

How do you immediately take something that you've associated with sin, guilt, shame for your entire life and then suddenly absorb the fact that it's now okay and good. Because, it is. And I'm still excited about it...

But when I take a look at what I really think about it? I recognize that it's not going to be as simple as just "doing it". There's stuff to talk through, to sort through. There's something important to being willing to take the time to search out how I feel about sex and why I feel that way. There are hesitations and concerns that I have and I want and need to be willing to openly have those conversations with my fiance, even if they feel humiliating.

I've waited to have sex.
I've waited, knowing the intimacy that occurs and only wanting to share that with one person for my entire life. I've waited, knowing that it was something I needed to do out of obedience. I've waited, because that's what I was taught to do.

I'm so so glad that I have. I can't yet tell you how awesome that it is or how I truly can't get enough of it... but I do know that I want to know the fullness of how sex was intended to be. And I do know that, while I've never had sex, there's still baggage to sort through before I can know that fullness. And while I'd much rather be on this end of the spectrum than the other end, it isn't this thing I want to take lightly.

Sex is a big deal.
My fiance told me last night that sex has always been presented to him as a good thing. A good thing that he was encouraged to wait for.

I don't know much about the best way to inform youth about sex in a healthy, positive way that encourages abstinence without hammering in such a negative, guilty view of it....but maybe he's onto something. A mindset of waiting for this really incredible thing without the secrets, the guilt, the shame that's too easily attached to the "Don't Have Sex" mentality. Just waiting. Patiently waiting for the good when it's the right time.

If there's one thing I've been learning in life lately?
Waiting is always worth it.
The Lord is faithful and good, even if it feels like a slow (and painful) process on our end.

Keep waiting, friends.
And if you haven't waited.... start.  It's not too late.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An Off Button

I wish there was an 'Off Button'.
An Off Button that quickly turns my crazy, irrational thoughts into sane, rational ones. An Off Button that quiets the lies, the insecurities, the fears, the worries...

But there isn't one.
And sometimes I feel trapped between my own version of reality and the actual version of reality (unfortunately, they don't always line up).

I had an epiphany this last week about myself and the way I project things upon others. Ready for it?

Here's what I do:
If I recognize something in myself that isn't good, right, edifying, desirable.... if I recognize the darkness within me as something that's driving me or motivating me, I quickly let that become all I see. I cover myself with this blanket of darkness and let that be the filter I view everything else through. It also becomes the lens in which I perceive everyone else to be viewing me through. Here's the visual--->

I convince myself that if all I see is this grossness, how could anyone else see anything different? Surely all they can see is the blanket that's covering me, too...? And if that's all they see, why would anyone ever want to stick around?

Eventually I start to distance myself from others, I start testing them, I start trying to gauge how soon that they'll abandon me. And, more often than not, I'll convince myself that it's soon and so I decide I'll make the first move. I'll get out before they have to ask me to leave. I'll get out before they decide for themselves that's what they need to do. I want to make it easy for them...

So, before I've ever even had an actual conversation with another person about all of this, this dialogue within myself has already taken place. Decisions have been made. I'm swallowed by the blanket and I'm convinced that no one wants a blanketed person in their life. Not when the blanket represents ______ (fill in the's most likely different every time).

Oftentimes the blanket represents my insecurities. My inability to trust. My selfishness. My tendencies to be so easily unsatisfied. My high expectations. And when those things are triggered, I begin to despise them within me. I begin to let them be what defines me...and so I beat myself up over it. The initial lie takes root and suddenly all I am is someone who will never get over the past. Someone who will never be fully confident in who the Lord says I am. Someone who will never be selfless. Someone who will never let what other people do be good enough

My life turns into absolutes.
The blanket defines me.
I am insecure. Broken. Untrusting. Selfish. Unsatisfied.
How could anyone ever want that?

But people do. The Lord does.
They don't only see the blanket that I'm convinced I'm under. They see more of me than I'm willing to see myself. They see good things. They see the bad things. But they're willing to keep choosing me, to keep loving me...because those aren't the things that define me.

The blanket doesn't define me.
Not really.
Only in my perceived reality of how things are... which is often very different from actual reality.

I need an 'Off Button'.
An Off Button that reminds me that who I am is far different from who I think that I am sometimes. I'm praying that the gentle truths found in Scripture would be what define me. The whispers of a Savior to rebuke the lies. The light to penetrate through the dark.

But there isn't an Off Button.

Because I am a sinner, yes...but I am saved.
There isn't a need to run, to hide, to let the darkness define us any longer... there isn't a reason to push away the good in our lives because we're preemptively trying to protect ourselves from all the worst-case scenarios we dream up.

I am redeemed.
And I'm begging that my identity would be rooted in who Jesus says I am instead of whatever image I choose to adopt of myself, instead of whatever I choose to project onto others.

I know it's better there.
And so I'm fighting for and praying that I might exist in a land where my actual reality also defines my perceived reality.

In all of my imperfections, I'm mostly overwhelmingly thankful for the patient ones who love me when when I fight, run, hide and project lies upon them regarding how they view me.

I am humbled.

Just as I am...
and as I move toward better (and as I, often, take a step back).

What a life...

Your entries will remain anonymous

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Apathetic Valentine

This may be the first year in my life that I actually don't care about Valentine's Day.

I'm sure I've said I don't care in the past, but there was a part of me that still did. It was just another reminder of how I was still single, or a holiday that, for whatever dumb reason, caused me to set these unrealistic expectations for my boyfriend at the time.

I don't know if it's because my relationship is currently long-distance or if it's because I'm so humbled to be in a relationship where I feel like I'm constantly being doted upon...but, I actually don't care about Valentine's Day (although, I do really like those candy hearts). There's a confidence and a security and I don't need him to do something special for me on this particularly mandated day...because who he is every other day is more than enough (and in this, I already know that whatever happens/doesn't happen isn't going to disappoint).

It's a weird place to be, honestly.
It's a freeing place to be.

I feel like I should always write something about the holiday, though...considering that my blog has lots to do with love and relationships. But, I feel like it's better if you just read what I wrote last year.

Because this year, I'm just thankful.
I don't need anything more than what I have. I don't want anything more than what I have.
This year, I'm an apathetic Valentine....but I recognize that it can very much be a holiday that many struggle with and through for various reasons.

So, read on... 
And don't lose sight of the things that matter infinitely more than this.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Loving Two People?

The Comment:
What's your take with this quote "If you love two people at the same time, choose the second. Because if you really loved the first one, you wouldn't have fallen for the second."? Is it really possible to love two people at the same time?
Well, I've never heard this quote before now.... and my initial reaction isn't positive.
There's a lot of unknowns attached to this quote...a lot of context that's missing. Does the person you love first love you back? Or, have you been pining after them for a long while and they aren't showing any interest? In this case, of course, choose the second.

But, I also think that this quote is some weird justification for affairs. Saying that if you're in a committed relationship where you love someone and then, over time, someone else comes along that you find yourself really starting to be into...that it's perfectly acceptable to go after that second 'love', because that's who you're really in love with. Bogus.

I think the thing that we forget about love is that it's a choice. Too often we're making decisions based on our emotions and our feelings of love. Too often we are quick to fall in and out of love, letting our emotions drive us. Too often we back out of commitments, out of relationships, out of jobs, out of parenting....all because it didn't feel 'right' or because we had lost a lot of the initial charm.

Is it possible to love two people at the same time?
Sure. It's possible to have romantic feelings for two people at once.
But is it possible to be truly committed to two different romantic relationships? I don't think so.

So, I guess you have to look at love differently than just as this emotional connection with someone. That's there, yes... and you want it to be there. But, you have to be willing to acknowledge that it's not always going to be there in every moment of the day. Relationships can be hard at times. People are messed up and broken and sometimes when that becomes the prominent thing we are living out of, love becomes harder. It isn't always just fluffy and ooey-gooey and feel-good. But, it's committed. It's a desire and a commitment to stand by someone's side no matter what. It's not something to back out on when something 'better' seems to come along (remember how the grass is always greener on the other side, but when you get there, it's not actually everything you thought it was going to be??).

We can't be wishy-washy people who worm our way in and out of relationships based on our feelings, fears, insecurity. We have to be loyal, dependable, and trustworthy. People who honor our commitments.

We also can't let quotes be anything that we base our lives/decisions on. Bad theology equals bad decisions. There's nothing true about this quote. Nothing that suggests it has any credibility to be taken as an absolute for how we ought to live our lives. There's too much at stake, too much unknown.

Don't be someone who tries to foster two romantic relationships at once, even if you're just trying to "keep your prospects open". Your actions affect other people. Your actions speak of your respect of other people and your concern over their lives/well-being. You have to be conscientious of this as you enter into dating relationships. You have to be honest, you have to be transparent, you have to establish trust from the beginning.

Mostly I'm just trying to say that oftentimes you probably still really love the first (there's a reason you wanted to be with them in the first place, right?)....but in the moments where it isn't as easy/wonderful as it once was, it's easy to think that maybe it's not right. And, on top of those feelings, if there's someone else who seems wonderful, it's even easier to think that they might be more right for you than the person you're currently with. And maybe, if you're dating, it could be true.

But, friends...
Once your married?
Once your married, who you've committed to be with for the rest of the life is the person who you must choose to love for the rest of your life (no matter what you might feel for someone else). They are the person you are supposed to be with, until death do you part.

Let's honor our commitments.
Let's not be wishy-washy.
Let's not be selfish.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Perfect Relationship

The Comment:
Sometimes it's easy for me to think that my significant other cares more about having a perfect relationship more than they do about me...
It's a trap, it is...the quest for perfection. The desire to do everything 'right'. The need to make things be the way we think they ought to be in our head. I hope that he/she will be and do everything 'right'. Perfection soon becomes an idol that we turn to and, before we know it, our desires that (usually) come from a good place have begun to harm our relationships.

At this point, it's often hard to see where we went wrong. It's hard to see how wanting things to be so good are making things so bad.

And so, I think you've nailed it.
The partner who is on the receiving end of another's need for perfection can soon begin to feel like that's what matters most to their significant other. They can soon feel lost, forgotten, or like they're just another means to someone else's end.

Unfortunately, I've been the one who is often seeking perfection. The one who is often comparing my relationships to other people, stacking what I have up against what everyone else has. The one who is overly concerned with how things appear and whether or not we will achieve that gold star at the end of the day. The one who got so wrapped up in my own agenda that I forgot that another real person was part of the equation... a real person with feelings, desires, and opinions.

It's only recently that I've had to ask myself: What is perfection, anyway? Whose standard am I trying to uphold? 

It's really interesting to track...for this idea of perfection isn't the same for everyone. What my thoughts are will vary vastly from the person next to me. While I might be striving for excellent communication and for my fiance to always feel respected and loved, someone else might be thinking that perfection exists by following a certain set of guidelines that help determine appropriate boundaries with the opposite gender. Someone else might think that perfection is never giving an appearance that there is conflict in their relationship. Someone else might think that perfection is never giving anyone any reason to doubt the purity of the relationship.

I think it's important for us who struggle with seeking perfection (let's also make sure that we're differentiating between a desire to be better and perfection...) to be willing to dig deeper. To be willing to examine where the need for perfection comes from and what does it mean to you to be perfect in your relationship. What does that look like? Do you even know? If your relationship was suddenly 'perfect' what would have changed?

I think when we are willing to do that, we're then establishing the things that matter to us within a relationship. We're able to have a better idea of where we are trying to head and why we are trying to head that direction. Sometimes, when we pause, we're able to see how ridiculous it might be (or maybe it allows us to recognize that our standard of perfection isn't actually perfection at all... i.e. Just because another couple does it this way, it doesn't mean it's the best or right way to do it). We're able to see how the thing we desire is far less important than making our significant other feel insignificant in the process. Sometimes it helps us with a bit of a perspective shift.

I also think, when we do that, it opens us up to have better communication about our priorities within our relationship. It allows us to say to our partner, "Hey... I realize that I care a lot about this and making it right/better...and so I want to move forward in this direction." It doesn't allow you to say that, "This is how it's supposed to be," but it opens up the conversation. It allows your partner to have some say in the end result, versus you just declaring that your ideals of perfection are the way it should be. Remember how everyone's ideas of perfection are different? I imagine that this takes place within your own relationship, too.

Mostly I just think we need to be careful in establishing ideas of how things should be. If I were going to listen to most people's thoughts and base my own story off of their stories.... I'd be incredibly insecure that I got engaged to man when we hadn't been dating even three months. Because, in other people's opinions, that wasn't long enough. We needed more time. It wasn't.... right. It wasn't... perfect. At least not to them. But I truly can't imagine anything more perfect....for us.

While we can learn from other people and grow by watching how other relationships doesn't mean that it has to be our own reality. What works for someone else won't always work for you.

Don't establish your ideals of perfection based solely on someone else's example. If you're looking for standards, you always have to go back to truth. You always have to go back to Scripture. Find your base there. Not in magazines, books, other couples. Take good advice, sure... but don't make them your absolutes (especially if they aren't rooted in truth.... and even if they are rooted in truth, sometimes how it plays out is going be different from couple to couple).

I'll always tell you to strive for better in all things... but make sure that as you do that, you're not letting the quest for perfection ever interfere with the way you treat people. Seek perfection in the way that you love people, not in the way that you appear...not through establishing rules/boundaries for the way you think things should be.

If you find yourself, in seeking perfection, ruining your relationship and not understanding why...? Pause. Take a step back. Ask yourself some hard questions... and be willing to have open conversations where you lay down your own set of shoulds and can listen to someone else's hopes, expectations, standards for your relationship.

Because, friends...there are two of you in this.
Be fully invested in the other person, placing their needs above your own....being willing to change your perspective, your standards, your idea of perfection.

It might not be so "perfect" after all.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Monday, February 10, 2014


Do you gossip?

One of the questions on our staff application has to do with gossip. Every applicant gets asked to tell us their personal views and involvement with gossip. It's sometimes funny to read the responses. Most people are willing to admit that they gossip, but there's always some disclaimer about how they're getting better at it. My personal favorite are the applicants who attempt to assure us that gossip isn't something that they ever struggle with or partake in (kind of like the guy applicants who tell us they've never had an issue with pornography).

I recognize that it's unfair to assume that everyone has struggled with these things, but it does go back to me valuing honesty. Then again, we usually try to put our best foot forward in a job application. I get it.

But, here's the reality of the situation (at least for me):

I gossip.
I do.
It's not anything I'm proud of and nothing that I'm satisfied with...but if you were to ask me if I sometimes talk about other people negatively behind their back? I'd have to say yes. It happens.

Why am I telling the world this?
Because in my recognizing of how destructive it can be to people within a community, I've wanted to point my finger at other people. I've wanted to tell other people to remind them of how detrimental it is. Don't you know that you talking about this to everyone isn't going to bode well for your relationships? Don't you know how terrible it is? Don't you know that you're breaking down trust? Don't you know that you're settling in life? I sometimes want to scream...

And then, it dawned on me.
I do it, too.
Not always, not to everyone...but there are some people whom I feel I can vent to, people whom I trust....and so I, for whatever reason, think it's justified.

It's not.
It never is.
Truthfully, in my quest for honesty, I'm sometimes (to a fault) pretty upfront about how I feel towards people. If you're doing something that I have a problem with, I'll usually address it. I'm usually pretty open about what I think/how I feel (especially if you've upset me)...but that doesn't mean I won't go tell a trusted confidant what I told you about what I thought about your actions (i.e. Listen to this conversation I just had....etc. etc.).

In my willingness to admit my suckiness to you, I think there are some solutions in which we can all actually move forward within this. In recognizing a need to sometimes vent about our lives, I'm wondering if we can be better about venting in an anonymous sort of way. We don't need to name names when we are talking about our struggles in our lives to our close friends. And, no matter what we're struggling with, we don't need to talk about people in a way that is attacking or accusatory. There's never a need for slander.

If you aren't willing to talk to a person about the ways they are annoying you, frustrating you, hurting shouldn't be willing to talk to anyone else about it. My painful confrontations have often made me aware of how much conflict arises simply out of miscommunication or misunderstanding and if we're just willing to sit down and talk to a person about it, oftentimes there can be much resolution.

I've also been made aware about how sometimes we just don't know that what we're doing is causing someone else to be annoyed. If I knew that I was chewing loudly, I probably would try to control it when I'm around others.... but unless someone tells me, I won't ever know. I think, a lot of times, we get annoyed by other people's habits (especially the closer we are to them) and instead of bringing it up with them, we just talk about it behind their backs. If it's something that can be changed, why not mention it? Or, just get over it and keep your mouth shut. Us talking about it isn't going to be beneficial to the person it's about in any way...unless we're willing to talk to them about it.

I think that we often forget the gravity of sin.
That we forget the gravity of gossip (which, in case you forgot, is a sin). Perhaps we rationalize it by insisting that what we're doing isn't gossip....but if you're saying something and you know that another person would be hurt by your words about them, you better believe it's gossip. I don't care who you're talking to and I don't care if they'll never tell another soul. It's still gossip. It's still sin.

When we say the things we say about various people in our lives... we can't forget the cost. We can't forget that blood has been shed for the forgiveness of that sin. We can't forget the gravity of it. We can't forget how destructive it is. How it can sabotage community, friendships, it can destroy trust.

Can we be people say that we hate gossip and then actually hate it? Can we refuse to do it? Can we be slow to speak and quick to think through the things that come out of our mouths before we let them come out of our mouths? Can we not spread negative images about people? Can we be people who edify and build each other up.... who serve and love well... no matter how frustrating, confusing, annoying, socially awkward, broken someone is?? Can we be willing to dive in deeper to get to know someone before just establishing them as a person unworthy of your love and energy? As a person who is unworthy of kindness and grace?

Because people matter.
And our words about them matter.

I pray that our eyes would be opened to the weight of our words. That we would be people who avoid slander and bad-talking at all costs. That, even to our closest friends, we would speak about others in a way that is life-giving... no matter what they've done to us, no matter what they've said about us. That we would be willing to turn the other cheek. That we would be unified in Christ, despite all the differences that make us unique.

We have to stop gossiping about each other.
It isn't an option any longer.
Man up. Go have hard conversations when you need to, with the people you need to have them with. Bear with one another in humble and gentle.

It isn't a suggestion.
No more justifying, no more rationalizing. We just have to stop. And, when others try to do it around us, we have to stop it.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

We have to change.
We can no longer settle.
Strive towards better in all areas of your life, including this.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Being Engaged

People make a lot of assumptions about engaged people. It's been interesting finally experiencing it firsthand instead looking at it from an outside perspective. 

I used to think people were kind of ridiculous in their public declarations of love for each other.
I used to try to tune them out. 
Mostly I was just annoyed, jealous, and I trying really hard to not focus on their happiness in this area of life where I was most certainly lacking. 

Because, if we're really being honest…I wanted what they had. Or, at least what I perceived that they had. I wanted to love. I wanted to be in love. I wanted to love someone no matter what and wanted to go through whatever it would take to love them in that unconditional sort of way. I wanted a love that was reflective of the Gospel. One of my mentors used to always point out this passion of mine, of this love that I longed to give and how deep that it ran. I'm not sure I ever believed her until now (mostly because my dark heart was well aware of my evil thoughts toward others). 

In past relationships, I used to hold back a lot. I never wanted to be too much. I never wanted to be over-the-top gushy mushy. I often feared that the things I truly felt and wanted to say were going to sound ridiculous, or cheesy, or be met with a rolling of eyes or a flatly recited: "I miss you, too…". And so I refrained. I didn't let myself say most of the things I wanted to say out of fear…out of insecurity....out of a desire to hold onto what I had. 

If you were to ask me the best part about being engaged, though…?
The best part of being engaged is that I don't have to hold back anymore. 

All this love that's been pent up inside of me for so long? All the love that's been longing to get out? It never fell upon the right person before. But now?…now, there's someone who wants it. All of it. He doesn't want me to hold back, he doesn't want me to refrain. He wants it... real, raw, crazy, imperfect, emotional love. Now I've found someone who welcomes in my irrational, all-over-the-place thoughts. Someone who loves my ridiculousness and is humbled by my desire to walk with him through life, no matter where it takes us.

We can dream about our future together and I don't have to wonder if I've freaked him out. I can send him multiple emails a day and know that he wants to receive them. I can tell him I love him a hundred times in one conversation and not have to worry about if it's too much. He gets to take all of the love I've ever wanted to give, and he loves it. I'm never too much with him. It's a crazy, wonderful reality. 

I recognize that in my past, while I held back, a lot of me wanted to make love happen on my own. I often thought that, maybe, if I just tell him this one thing that I'm thinking/feeling, it'll ignite something within him. Maybe I just needed to be honest with him about where I was at and then he'd be able to unleash, too….

Only, it never worked like that. Oftentimes, things would backfire. Oftentimes I would be too much….or not enough. Things were always just off. No matter how hard I tried.

I guess what I want you to hear is that there's a lot to look forward to. There's a lot that I didn't think about happening when I got engaged, but I'm thankful for the freedom that I've found. There's something really beautiful to getting to just be and knowing that it's okay (no matter how emotional and ridiculous you might feel in the moment). The unleashing of who you are in the safety of a truly committed relationship is incredible. 

I don't have to hold back anymore. 
There used to be days when my heart ached to really just love someone. Oftentimes I didn't even have a person in mind, but I knew that my heart just longed for that type of love. They were the times when I was probably the most confused with the Lord...when I couldn't figure out how and why this desire was so strong if it was never going to be fulfilled.  The times when I begged for him to take it from me. 

But He was faithful. 
And now I get to love. I get to pour out my love on man who receives it and offers it back with just as much passion. A man whom I hold in high respect and am impressed by every day. 

You may be rolling your eyes, annoyed by my posts about my engagement, wishing that you had what I have... and, I get it. But, I hope you don't settle. I hope you don't try so hard to make something happen, that you don't throw your love upon just anyone when it's not the right one or the right time. 

There will be someone someday for you.
Someone that you can be fully yourself with. Someone that allows you to say as much as you want, whenever you want... no matter how mushy and gushy it might be, no matter how many times you've said it before. 

Being engaged is incredible. 
And I'm quite sure that as we move forward and see what all life throws our way, that it'll continue to get better and better.

Because it's a love that reflects the Gospel in a way that no other love can. A love between a bride and a groom. A love that I'm honored and humbled to get to partake in. A love that I could have never made happen on my own. A love that I did nothing to deserve. A love that is only possible because of Jesus. 

Do not arouse or awake love until it so desires...  

Your entries will remain anonymous

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The End

This isn't the end of the story. 

I think it's pretty easy to lose sight of that when we're in the middle of something heartbreaking, confusing, challenging.

This isn't the end of the story. 

Sometimes we forget that the 'right now' isn't forever. Sometimes we forget that just because we feel the way we feel in this moment, it doesn't mean that we're going to feel like this for the rest of our lives.

This isn't the end of the story.

When we're disappointed with the actions of someone else, or the "bad" decisions they make, it's sometimes hard to not think that they're ruining their life. It's sometimes hard not to judge. It's sometimes hard to not hold them to our own standard of right, wrong, good, bad. It's sometimes hard to think that there could be hope for them outside of what we're currently witnessing.

This isn't the end of the story. 

No matter what the doctors have said, no matter how bleak the circumstances look, no matter how awful it seems like it could be...

This isn't the end.
There's still room to hope. There is still the possibility that it could be different.

We don't know.
All we see is the here and now and sometimes our limited perspective drives us. It can often drive us into a pit of despair and sorrow. It can make us feel as though what we are currently in the midst of is all that will ever be. It can make us feel like there's no way out.

Zoom out for a second.
Recognize that you don't know the end. You don't know how it's going to turn out. You may never know.

Allow yourself to hope that it could be better.
Allow yourself to believe fully in a God whose sovereignty goes beyond our limitations, whose goodness goes beyond our own understanding. A God who knows the end of the story, a God who is making everything beautiful in its time.

There's much to hope in, friends.
Because we don't know the end of their story. We don't know the end of our story.

He might overcome that addiction. She might walk away from that sin. We might break out of our comfort zone and have an opportunity to really chase our dreams. He might miraculously recover and live a full and healthy life, despite what the doctors all said. She might walk away cancer-free. We might, actually, meet the man of our dreams...even when we've given up every hope that it could be possible. We might, one day, feel something more than the throbbing pain of the loss that we just experienced.

Don't treat life like your current circumstances are defining of your existence. When we can zoom out, when we can allow ourselves to admit that we don't know what's going to happen... I think that's when we can learn to be content, no matter what's going on.

It's a shift to an eternal perspective.
A shift to trusting the Lord in a way that maybe you never have before.
A shift to living more fully in the here and now.

Because we don't know the end of the story.
And there's something powerfully hopeful in that.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Guys who Get the Girls (Part II)

I kind of have the theory that any guy can get any girl. 

I'm not a sucker for love stories. I'm not someone who will tell the world that I love love. I do…but a lot of the times, love stories make me roll my eyes. But there are love stories that really make my heart smile. Those are the stories of the unlikely guy getting the girl. The guy who was persistent in his pursuit of the one that he wanted. The guy who was unrelenting in going after the only one who was worth it to him. 

I love those stories. 
Those are the stories that back my theory. 
The problem is, those stories are pretty few and far between. Generally, if a guy asks a girl out and gets rejected….he'll usually attempt to move on with his life. He'll pick up his pride from off the floor (sometimes that takes a while) and looks for someone who might be a better fit for him. 

I don't blame them.
Oftentimes, I'll encourage the moving on because I want him to have a girl that's just as crazy about him that he as about her. I hate the heartache that often accompanies the long journey of sticking with it... and as much as I can believe my own theory, I don't exactly have proof that it works (even if deep down I often want to tell him to keep trying). 

But the guys that stick with it?
That don't give up?
That keep asking, and asking, and remaining even when there's seemingly no reason to hope? It's this beautiful picture of the Gospel to me. It speaks to something deeper that connects with my soul. It reminds me of a Savior who, no matter how many times we reject Him, never gives up on us

Beyond being just this beautiful image, I do think it works (even if there isn't proof). I think when men are willing to take hit after hit, when they are willing to not give up, when they are willing to change up the way they are pursuing….there's a good chance that she's going to respond. When a man is willing to be patient, when he's willing to slowly ease his way in….to earn her trust, to allow her to see a fuller picture of his character and his integrity? That stuff starts to matter more. When he proves himself, over and over again, that he's going to be there…that he's going to love her….that he's dependable and loyal? Not a lot can top that. When a guy is that persistent, it's hard for a woman to not see who he really is and not want to respond to that kind of love and pursuit in a positive way. 

I'm not saying that it's going to work out forever, but I am saying that she's, more than likely, gonna give you a chance. The moment she starts to allow herself to really understand what's going on, the moment she lets down her wall? She's going to want to let you in. She's going to want to see what this is all about. 

I guess what I want to tell men is that... I think you can get the girl of your dreams. 
Even if she feels so far "out of your league"....even if she's resistant, even if she seems like she wants nothing to do with you? I don't think it's impossible. It may take you years to get your foot in the door (i.e. for her to even be willing to have a conversation with you), but I think if you do it right... you have a shot. 

I'm not saying be creepy or forceful or over the top. I am saying: find a way to get to know her and then speak into her needs. Be what she needs, what she wants (even if she doesn't know she wants it). We're not that hard to figure out, guys. We all, in the end, kind of want the same thing. We want someone who is going to love us no matter what. We want someone who is going to be there no matter what. We want someone who is going to see as at our worst and still think we're beautiful. We want someone who believes in us, encourages us, supports us....sees the good in us when all we can see is the bad. We want someone who inspires us towards better, who pushes us to become the woman we always wished we could be. We want someone who will listen to us, who will understand us, who will let us be who we are while simultaneously expecting more from us. 

If you find a girl and it seems impossible? Be all of that to her, in any of the moments that you can. 

Because, I think it's true.
Any guy can get any girl. 
He just has to want her enough.
He has to think she's worth it. He has to be willing to do whatever it takes, no matter how long it takes. 

I've seen it happen. I've heard of it happening. 
And, whenever it does, I'm reminded of how truly beautiful it is. 

Those stories point toward something greater.
Those stories point toward Jesus. 
Those stories are full of hope, full of depth, full of moving past the things that we think matter as women begin to recognize the love that is being offered to them and don't want to resist any longer. 

But, what do I know...?
I don't have any proof.
Just theories... 

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Guys who Get the Girls (Part I)

The Comment: 
Six months later he admitted he was interested in me the whole time. Why did he never say anything?
Oh my...
There's probably a whole mess of reasons behind why he didn't say anything and I can't even begin to deduce what it actually was. Maybe he was scared you were a rebound? Maybe he was scared you weren't interested? Maybe he was not in a place he felt like he should be pursuing anyone? Maybe he was scared he wasn't really interested (and just liked to entertain the idea without wanting to actually put any feet to it)?

Maybe he's just... scared. 

We can always come up with reasons to not do something. In fact, we're pretty good at talking ourselves out of things... especially things that involves risks and possible rejection. But, he may have had legitimately good reasons for not making a move, but we'll never know.

Mostly I think he's a moron (is that too harsh?)...
Here's why:
If he wasn't willing to say something at the time (or decided it wasn't a good idea), why did he decide to say anything at all...especially if he was never going to do anything about it? What's the point? Where's the logic? Did he even think through the ramifications of it all? Did he think there was a benefit?

And, even if he didn't say anything out of fear six months ago, was he hoping that your reaction to his confession would spark some sort of romance?

Do guys know that (generally) if they just take a risk and ask a girl out, that there's a really good chance she'll say yes? Do they know that them making a move is usually better than them making no move at all? Do they know that asking for a number, taking some initiate, taking a chance on a girl is one of the most attractive things to a girl? Do they know that girls don't always want to be the one having to flirt, drop hints, or bring up DTR conversations?

Do they know...?
Because part of me thinks, if they knew, that things would look a bit different out in the world. That instead of a small percentage of girls being asked out, there would be this flurry of confidence and excitement as men step up and take risks because they've decided a particular girl just might be worth it.

You don't have to know that you're going to marry the girl. You don't have to have everything all figured out. But, I guarantee you that it's going to be much more likely that you get the girl you want if you actually try to get her. If you put yourself out there. If you face the possible rejection. If you are open and honest about where you're at....even if that includes your hesitations and fears along the way.

Women are drawn to that type of vulnerability, that type of risk-taking...especially when they're the one you're taking a risk on. They see honor it, they see courage in it. It's attractive....even if they might not initially be attracted to you, even if they might not have considered you a possibility before. Once you put yourself out there, once you ask... they'll at least think about it. And, the more sure you are that you want to be with them, the more attractive it can be. We want to be wanted. We like being wanted. We like when guys are sure they want us (even if we aren't 100% sold on it just yet...).

Your chances are slim to zero when you're unwilling to try and get the girl.
Your chances increase dramatically when you're willing.
When you try.
When you get over your fears and ask a girl out (without being all wishy-washy and unclear about your intentions).

Be bold.
Don't wait.
Don't psyche yourself out.
Just do it.
I bet you'll be surprised by the response.
You might just get yourself the girl.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Fear-Based Life

I've been wondering lately how often people make decisions based out of fear.

There have been a few conversations here and there where, as I listen to people sort through their reasoning for deciding something, the only thing I can hear in the process is fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change.

There's this fear that plagues us sometimes...and it soon becomes the decision-maker in our life. If I can't know the end result, I'm more prone to avoid walking down that particular path. It makes sense, right? We want to know that we're going somewhere that is sure to be filled with success, joy, good stuff. If we can't guarantee that, why would we head that direction?

It makes sense, especially, in regard to relationships. Oftentimes we don't ever want to enter into a relationship unless we fully believe it's going to work out. We go into relationships with every hope and intention that it's going to be successful....and if it seems doomed from the beginning, we usually bow out (unless we're just in it for a temporary good time). Honestly, even in a "successful" relationship, there can be a lot of fears there and a lot of unknowns. Sometimes, because a successful relationship is so unknown to me, it feels easier to get out and move into something I'm much more comfortable with, something that's much more known. At this point in my life, it's more known to end a relationship than it is for me to stay in one forever.

It also applies to future life decisions--like jobs, schools, moving. We want variables that we can count on. We move back home because we know people there, we know the short-cuts, we know which grocery stores to shop at, which restaurants to go to. We move to areas where we know people because, even if everything else is new, there's a certain stability to having a small community of people who know us. We take jobs that are within our realm of expertise, or different jobs at places we have worked before. There's something familiar that draws us to places... and that isn't necessarily bad.

I just wonder how often we are willing to step into places where we know nothing. Where we don't allow the fear of the unknown to be a factor in our decisions...
I wonder how often we look at our motivations and are able to identify them as driven mostly by fear, and then what it might look like if we were willing to remove that as an obstacle in our lives?

Are you hesitant to date that person because he's a man of bad character and you're not attracted to him at all? Or is it because you're scared of letting someone in... you're scared of a relationship working out... you're scared that you don't know what'll happen in the end?

Are you hesitant to take that job because it might require something of you that you feel inadequate in? Are you hesitant because it's in a place where you know no one and nothing? Are you hesitant because it's different than anything you've ever done before?

There's a lot of things that we take into consideration when making decisions...especially big decisions... and I'm not saying we shouldn't factor all these things in. But, I am challenging all of us to look at our reasons for them. Are they fear-based? Are the fears rational? Or are they simply rooted in the unknown? Are they rooted in a fear of change?

I don't want us to be people who miss out on good...on places/things that the Lord is calling to because it's unknown, because it's different, because it's new.

So, when you make your pros/cons list as you process through your life-decisions, I'd urge you to dive deep into the reasons why your cons are your cons and your pros are your pros. I'd urge you to be willing to jump into the unknown, especially if it has the potential of being good down the road. I'd urge you to walk down a path because you're ultimately trusting that the Lord is going to be faithful to you when you're open to new adventures and seeking to live obediently.

There may not be a wrong choice.
But, I'd hate to see us live a life of regret because of how we let fear make our decisions for us.

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Being Real

The Comment:
Why is it so hard to take off our masks? To take down those veils that we so carefully put up to keep people from really knowing us. It's like I want so badly to have those transparent relationships with people, but I freeze up when the time comes to talk to them. I guess part of it is the fear of feeling judged...but I know in that same vein that I shouldn't worry about that because the things that I'd feel judged about are all in my past. I'm not that person anymore. But it's still hard to be really real with people.
Yes it is.
I've been thinking lately about how much I still try to hide while simultaneously trying to be honest. It's really quite exhausting.

I often ask myself: How can I be a good example, while also admitting the millions ways that I don't have it all together? How can I openly admit my darkness while not leading others down a path where sin seems justifiable to them? How can I fully take off the mask so that others are encouraged and challenged without simply seeing my sin, judging me, and rationalizing sin in their own lives (i.e. Debbie does/did it can't be that bad, right?)

It's a fine line. A balancing act.
Then again, I don't necessarily think that the place for my confession of sins is via the Internet. My place to fully let down my mask isn't through various blog entries. I can be vulnerable, real, honest...but also maintain a degree of an appropriate amount of disclosure.

It becomes tricky when I allow that to extend to all areas of my life, though. If my closest friends, mentors, my fiance are never allowed into the inner circle of what's going on... that's when something is wrong.

I think it's important to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Who are you wearing your mask around? All people, or just some? 
  2. Why do you think you're still wearing it? Is it simply out of fear of being judged...or is there another reason?  
I sometimes think that when we don't fully disclose every detail of our darkness (be it the past or the present) to everyone we encounter, we bash ourselves for not being 'real'. I'm not certain that this is the mark of authenticity, though. Who you are isn't defined by what you have done or who you might have been in the past, or even your current struggles. It shouldn't affect the way that you have to interact with people now. In Christ, you are a new creation...the old has gone, the new has come. In Christ, we put away our old selves... it's gone. It isn't who we are anymore. 

Living in Christ, in our new selves, with our new hearts... it isn't a mask. It's who we are now. The old stuff... it's fading away, it isn't what's defining of us, it isn't what everyone needs to know about us in order to determine if we are a worthwhile person or not. That stuff will come up as we get to know people and, yes, it's our responsibility to be honest about who we were and where we come from (because of the testimony it is of the Lord's faithfulness in how much He loves us and what He has done for us). It's also our responsibility to be honest about where we're at and how fellow believers can come alongside us and pray with us and encourage us (as that's how the body of Christ functions), but that doesn't have to be broadcasted to everyone you encounter. 

It doesn't mean you aren't real.
It doesn't mean that you're constantly wearing a mask. 
Full transparency can be reserved for an elite few. 

We can't expect our leaders in ministries to be perfect all the time, but we also can't expect them to tell us of their biggest indiscretions constantly (nor do we necessarily want them to). We trust that they have that inner circle of people who are holding them accountable, digging in deep, and that they're going before the Lord together. 

Because we're all a work in progress. 
But if you're hiding all things from all people...? Then, let's talk. 
If you're ashamed of your past? I get it. But, your story is that of one who has been redeemed and you may be surprised by the many ways the Lord longs to use it once you allow the light to impact it. You may be surprised by the number of people who have shared in a similar struggle or are in the midst of something right now. You might be surprised by how unveiling yourself (your past, your present, etc.) to people you encounter in various settings might bring about true life-change that you never could have on your own accord. Sometimes, in being transparent with others, you have to remind yourself that it isn't always about you... being vulnerable and dredging through all the gross stuff can sometimes be the most selfless thing we do if it means bringing about good for someone else, if it means revealing a bit more about the character of God and what Christ has done in our lives. Sometimes, we just have to decide it's worth it...even if we aren't proud of what we've done/who we were. 

Pray about discernment and wisdom as you share your life with people. Maybe sometimes you do need to broadcast things to the world (I mean, didn't Paul on some level??....Although we don't know what his 'thorn' actually was, but I'm guessing his inner circle probably did). There are certain levels of disclosure to have in certain situations/scenarios. 

But, don't automatically believe the lie that you aren't real or that your mask has yet to come off if you're walking more fully in the redeemed life that Christ has called you to just because it's sometimes hard to open up about your past/current struggles. There's a time and a place for that.... there are people for that. 

Walk confidently in who you are and who you are becoming.
Confess your sins/junk to a trusted few whom you know will urge you toward better and are willing to get on their knees with you. Open up about who you were when the time is right, and allow your story to be a testament to the Lord's saving grace. 

And above all...
Let's remember that our lives are not our own. 

You just might be more real than you think. 

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