because bravery.

A brief introduction to this blog post…I wrote this a year ago when I was starting to see the cracks in my relationship with my ex. It’s bittersweet to read now – knowing what I know – that my wishes and dreams and hopes have turned to ash and dust. But in spite of that, I am so very proud of how brave I was. Brave enough to love and to risk my heart. My good friend Isa Garcia said it best (in her book Found: Letters on Life, Love, and God)…”only the vulnerable heart can love rightly”.

One of the best compliments you’ve given me is to tell me you see an inner core of strength in me. I wish you could always see that. Sometimes it hurts when I hear you voice your concerns. Concerns about me being fearful, loving routine, not taking risks. I wonder if you see my desire for stability and security and safety as a noose around your neck. The truth is you probably don’t feel that way. But sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder if you do. The fact that it concerns you must mean something. Maybe it isn’t a big deal at all but it must mean something. Otherwise it would not be a concern.

I wish you could see me being brave every time I open up to you. Every time I let you in. Every time I open up a wound or a scar and expose myself so you can have a bit more of my heart. These are all moments of bravery. Because I do not know the ending to this story. I do not know if it will be worth the sacrifice and the risk I am taking with my heart. I do not know if I will give you pieces of me only to have to watch you walk away with them. Yes, I am fearful. I am human, and risking your heart is one of the scariest things you can do. But I wish you could see the bravery in every fear I face with you. I wish you could see how valuable that is – to find someone who will face their fears with you, instead of someone who has no fears at all.

Maybe you do see that.

“Don't worry about a thing,every little thing is gonna be alright”.png

 

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different needs.

As I continue getting to know the man I’m dating I’m finding it trickier to navigate our relationship. We both believe in really taking the time to get to know the other person and building a safe space while we do that. But I’m starting to feel like I’ve hit a wall as far as growing this safe space. We are dating exclusively – somewhere in between casually getting to know each other and being in a committed relationship. And I find myself liking him more and more and sharing my vulnerabilities and secret parts of myself. I am beginning to wonder – if this doesn’t work out, will I regret having shared so much of myself with someone who wasn’t my boyfriend?

When I talk to him I get the sense that he needs to feel that he has really gotten to know me before he decides whether he wants to take it to the next level. He needs time. But, when I search my heart, I’m starting to realize that I need that commitment to feel safe before I continue to share even more parts of myself with him. I don’t think either one of us is right or wrong. I think we just need different things.

And it’s not only the internal things. It’s also the physical side of the relationship. I was never the girl that wanted to save her first kiss for the altar. But at the same time I had never imagined feeling so connected, physically, with someone who wasn’t my boyfriend. I don’t regret experiencing those things with him but at the same time, a part of me questions whether I would regret it if we don’t ever get to a relationship.

It’s not an issue I can force. I can’t twist someone’s arm into giving me what I need at the expense of his own needs. I can, however, make decisions as to how much I do share or how much I am willing to do physically. I just worry that the boundaries I place on myself, particularly about sharing parts of my internal world, will make it harder for him to get what he needs – which is a deep sense of knowing a person.

It feels like a catch 22 sometimes. And I don’t have the right answers. At some point, I think someone has to bend. But how do you bend in such a way where you both feel you are still standing firm on your convictions? Or where you feel like a conviction has genuinely changed because you see the other person’s viewpoint and understand it, as opposed to changing because you want to give the other person what they want?

Tough questions to ask myself. And tough questions I’ll have to ask him eventually. In the meantime, I’m praying that God works in both of our hearts and minds to reveal the next steps He wants us to take.

This is hard y’all.

on vulnerability.

I recently had a talk with the man I am dating about how I was feeling vulnerable and didn’t want to think I was the only one in this boat. He bravely opened up and made himself vulnerable in response to my letting my guards down. So today I googled “vulnerability” and “dating” and a list of articles popped up. One of them was “Being Vulnerable and Increasing the Attraction”. I didn’t even click on the link.

When did being vulnerable become a game we play at to entice someone? To manipulate them into liking us?

Brené Brown says this of vulnerabililty –

Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust-building process.

So if vulnerability is about trusting someone…isn’t it counterintuitive to use vulnerability in such an untrustworthy way? I don’t want my vulnerability to be a tool to lure a guy in. I want it to be a gift I share the more I feel safe with someone.

Over one phone conversation he mentioned that he feels we are in a stage where we are building a safe place to share and be vulnerable and get to know each other. A couple of nights ago I told him that everytime I shared something with him, he responds with such graciousness to where I feel like our safe space is expanding and we can talk about more vulnerable or intimate topics. I am slowly learning to trust him and feel safe sharing pieces of myself. It’s something I am grateful for and would never want to cheapen by “using” my vulnerability. I just want to BE vulnerable with him. Because he makes me feel like I can.

vulnerability

*In the midst of all this anxiety and feeling all the feels…I need to say…I am so grateful to God for this whole…whatever this is. i’m just grateful God decided to take me on this journey with this man. I’m keeping things in check but at the same time hopeful about where this might go.

the space between.

Well. It went somewhere. The last 2 weeks have been a bit of a blur. Meeting the guy in person for the first time. Feeling all kinds of awkward. Panicking (again, internally) about what I should feel and how I really feel. Traveling together. Becoming more relaxed with each other. Being playful and flirty and affectionate. Developing real feelings. Dealing with uncertainty and insecurities. Having to say goodbye. Missing him. It’s crazy how life changes for a person in a handful of days.

I don’t want to get into the details of getting to know him. Those are private and special and I’d like to keep it that way. But we are now exclusively dating. I’m still not completely sure what that means. Isn’t that the same thing as being in a relationship? Or is that a step before you really dive in?

This is the space between. And I am terrified. I am terrified of being abandoned. Of possibly liking someone more than they like me. My past experiences always seem to have included men who pursued me and once I made the decision to like them back…they left. And I am so afraid that will happen again. But I got some really great advice from a guy friend who isn’t usually known for giving great advice…

You have to let his actions speak for him. You can’t put the actions of others on him.

Wise words.

What do I know about the guy? He’s honest. And open. And if he’s struggling with something he will let me know. He won’t intentionally hurt people. He loves Jesus. This is enough for me to take the baby steps of trusting him.

What do I know about God? He is with me. He is guiding this. He’s speaking to the both of us. He will work everything out for His glory. I can trust Him.

It is hard navigating the space between friendship and relationship. This could go either way. You don’t have an assurance that things will work out. You don’t always know what the other person is feeling. You worry about being out of sight = out of mind. You panic for no reason sometimes. You have to be patient and let the other person process at their own pace. And all while continuing to be vulnerable and open. I still have to invite him into my life and continue to take the risk of getting to know him. I still need to step out in faith. But faith in what?

Faith in God. He’s got this. He knows what is best. He knows what will grow us both. Faith in the guy. He’s a good person. He can lead and navigate this situation. I can take these small steps of trust. Faith in myself. I am worth being pursued. I am worth the difficulty of getting to know someone long distance. Because I am loved by the God who assigns me immeasurable worth.

Now it becomes a season of patience, and of “wait and see”. And maybe someday this space between us will be filled with something more.

the space between

growing up.

 

I’m not good at romantic relationships. Maybe it’s because, at 30, I haven’t ever been in a real relationship. And I only really started dating at 28. I’m sure it’s because I fed myself a steady diet of romance novels since I was 7. Or maybe it comes from my mom constantly telling me that men were deceitful and to never settle. Maybe it’s because my old church hyped the fact that women are “princesses” and men should jump through hoops to get to them. I don’t know. Whatever the reason – I suck at this romance thing.

My MO has always been to fall for someone who I know will never actually commit to a relationship. It’s usually the fun, charismatic, carefree guy who will ask to “hang out” late at night and well into early morning. We’ll talk about our deepest darkest fears and hopes and dreams. He’ll tell me I’m beautiful and amazing and a wonderful catch. I’ll wonder why he doesn’t attempt to catch me. We’re just friends. Who hang out. All the time. Deep down I know this isn’t going to work out. And because I know that – I’m free to be emotionally vulnerable. I will give it my all, because in a roundabout unhealthy way – this feels safe.

When a decent guy does come along and shows interest I have the opposite reaction. I will freak out. I may have started out liking them but as soon as they start to show interest in me I bolt. I suddenly find myself repulsed by them. I nitpick and find things to dislike and I focus on those things until I convince myself that they are completely wrong for me. Decent men liking me does not feel safe. Because deep down I know, this could go somewhere and I will have to actually commit to a relationship. I will have to be in uncharted territory. I will not be able to control whether I get hurt or heartbroken. In a way falling for the douche is better because even if I know I will end up hurt – well, I control that choice and decision.

But that can’t go on forever.

So I met a guy. Someone totally different than the fun-loving, life of the party, center of attention guy I go for. He’s serious and intense and introspective. The second time we talked he told me he liked me. I freaked out (internally of course). Old habits kicked in and I started to try to find things to dislike about him. But something held me back. I never regretted pushing all the other “decent” guys away. I could have handled things better but I was happy with the end result. With this guy – I had this strong sense that I would regret not giving it a fair shot. This was one “relationship” I did not want to sabotage.

When-you-sabotage-yourself

I started talking to my best friend about my feelings. Her advice was simple – “everytime you start to panic and pull away – DON’T. Just tell yourself to stay. Be open and vulnerable.” So I did. It’s only been a month. But for the first time I’m actually powering through my baggage and dysfunction. And I’m getting to know a really good man. Who I happen to like quite a bit. And when he cleared things up for me by telling me he was “pursuing” me – I didn’t panic. I have no idea if this will go anywhere and I know this doesn’t mean my bad habits have disappeared for good. But it feels like I’m finally getting over this. Like maybe I’m finally growing up.

ps – I’m really hoping it goes somewhere.

on lists and being image-bearers.

I was having dinner with a married girlfriend and a single guy friend one night and the topic inevitably turned to dating & marriage.  We’re all in (or nearing) our 30s and it just makes sense that this topic comes up more and more in conversation.  Somehow we got to talking about our preferences in a life partner.  My guy friend started talking about his dealbreakers.  He discussed how he had been getting to know a woman and how he had witnessed her lose her temper.  That was an immediate turn-off for him and he began to distance himself from her.  I tried to tactfully let him know that everyone at some point loses their temper.  She could have been having a really bad day, etc.  Granted, it’s not an excuse for losing one’s temper but I thought it was premature to become disinterested in a person because they turned out to be…well…imperfect.

My girlfriend offered one of her own dealbreakers – she could not date a man who didn’t speak good English.  I was surprised.  I understand how people have preferences but I didn’t consider these things dealbreakers at all.  But then I realized I had voiced similar opinions in the past.  So here I was, contemplating what I wanted to say to add to this conversation when my guy friend hit me with a doozy of a dealbreaker.  He didn’t want a girl that came from a broken family.  I was floored and stupefied.  This man is a loving godly person.  Couldn’t he see what he was saying was demeaning and unloving and unkind?  Did he really think that women from broken homes were somehow “less than”?  That he was entitled to a woman that came from a perfect family background and never lost her temper?  I tried to be kind as I carefully added my 2 cents.  Inside, my heart was breaking.  Is this how we choose whom to pursue or who we allow to pursue us?  How discouraging to live in such a world.

The bible declares we are made in the image of God.  I like the term “image-bearer”…we are image-bearers of God.  What does this mean?  Mike Erre, pastor at EvFree Church describes the duality of being an image-bearer of God and being a fallen sinful human in this way:

you are a person who has intrinsic dignity, honor, and worth. You, like the rest of us, are also broken and bent toward what is worst for us. But the good news is that Jesus has come to make things right. He invites you into that redemption.

To recap: we ALL, no matter our backgrounds, no matter what we’ve been through have the same intrinsic dignity, honor, and worth.  We are ALL also broken.  We must never believe that we are somehow “less broken” or “more worthy” than someone else.

When choosing or praying for a life partner many of us like to make a list.  This list may contain “dealbreakers” – characteristics or traits you absolutely cannot have in a life partner.  The list may also contain “must-haves”.  A list of items you wish your partner to be.  Many a person has spent countless hours pondering their list and praying over it convinced that if God really loved them He would give them what’s on their list.  Convinced that this person they have made up in their minds is exactly who God has handpicked for them.  I have several problems with many of these lists (note I did not say ALL of these lists).  I don’t believe God has handpicked a person for everyone.  I believe God let’s you choose – although He knows who you will choose.  I truly believe in my heart that we were made FOR God and not for another person.

The List.

I also don’t believe that God actually values most of the items people place on their lists.  There are 2 things that I find on most lists…

1. Appearance.  People put things like “blond” “blue-eyed” “dark-hair” “fair” “not dark” “not (insert race here)”.  People place these items in their lists and say well God knows what my attraction gift is…it’s not that I’m racist, I’m just not attracted to certain people.  Is an “attraction gift” even in the bible?  I’ve never read a passage with regards to that so I have to think this is something people have made up to make themselves feel better about making these choices.  And I can understand having a preference for people who look a certain way…but there is a difference between stating a preference and saying “I absolutely cannot see myself marrying an African/Indian/Chinese/Caucasian person.”  Why? Do you think God cares about race?  Do you think He cares about whether a person is short or tall or dark or fair?  Can you see God showing up and saying “my daughter/son you cannot marry this person because well…they’re kinda chubby.”  Let’s be honest – we are being superficial.

2. Background.  I will reference my friend’s dealbreaker of not pursuing someone who comes from a broken home.  Going beyond that this isn’t even the person’s fault – you really can’t blame a person for their parents’ decisions…Do you honestly believe God judges people based on where they came from?  Didn’t Jesus open his arms and his heart to the worst of the worst?  The shunned?  The outcasts?  The sinners?  That list includes you and me by the way – did you think we were any different?  That we were somehow cleaner or better?  Debra Katherine Fileta, author of True Love Dates has this to say in her article “I settled in marriage…and here’s what happened”:

BACKGROUND is just that: the backdrop.  No matter what “background trait” we’re talking about, how often do we move the background qualities to the forefront- defining people by their history, their past, or their origins…instead of defining them by who they are today? As Christians, we should be the FIRST to have eyes of grace and clarity, looking for the truth of a person’s here and now, instead of defining them by the background story.

I was so encouraged by my girlfriend’s eventual response to our conversation.  She texted me a day after saying that she had thought about what we talked about and realized that preferences were a good thing as far as reminding yourself not to repeat certain mistakes in choosing who to be in relationship with but ultimately she realized that we all need to be flexible enough to respond corrrerctly when God reveals what He thinks would be best for us.  She also realized that having these kinds of dealbreakers were indeed degrading to others.  In fact, she shared that she never expected to be so happy in a marriage to a man that was more sensitive than herself and she realized that had she stuck with her own dealbreakers she would not have the wonderful marriage she has today.

I’ll be honest.  I have made my own fair share of lists with superficial and degrading dealbreakers.  I have judged people on appearance and background and a host of other things that I know God does not value.  Friends, we continue to demean and degrade each other as image bearers with these kinds of lists.  How would a woman who came from a broken home feel had she heard my guy friend’s comments?  What about a man who was foreign and struggling with his English…how would he have felt if he had heard of my girlfriend’s dealbreaker?  Do we truly treat others as fellow image-bearers of the Most High?  Please, let’s treat each other with the dignity, respect, and kindness we all deserve.  Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate those lists.

 

If you want to check out Debra Katherine Fileta’s article please click here.

it’s always the same, it’s just [a] shame.

Yesterday night I had the privilege of hearing a couple speak about their love story.  It was truly beautiful to hear how God had redeemed two broken people and brought them together to glorify Him.  They talked about staying pure and their boundaries.  I didn’t agree with everything they said as a general rule but I realized that these boundaries were right for them (perhaps even right for me…only time will tell).  Towards the end of the night the woman asked the single women in the room who wanted to be in a relationship to stand so she could pray for them.  I remained seated.  She looked at me and asked what was wrong and prompted me to stand.  I tried to shrug it off and motioned for her to begin praying.  She again prompted me to stand.  I did not want to offend anyone.  I wasn’t trying to call attention to myself.  But in that moment I knew I had to stand firm.  Half-jokingly I said “well, what if you’re perfectly happy to not be in a relationship?”.  For a couple of seconds there was total silence.  My pastor noticed the tension in the room and tried to smooth over the awkwardness by quickly saying “that desire is a gift!” and they then moved on to prayer.  I felt my whole body go hot.  My first thought was “I hope she knows I didn’t mean to offend her”.  And in the next breath I realized that I should also feel offended – I had unintentionally been single shamed.

Simply put, single shaming is an occurrence (common in churches) where a single person is made to feel like there is something missing from their lives because they are not in a relationship.  It implies that there is something wrong with singleness, or that it is merely a season that will soon pass.  Always, marriage is heralded as the gold star or first place.  Singleness is somehow reduced to a consolation prize.

singleness is NOT this.

singleness is NOT this.

I am not going to discuss my own personal opinions on this – it would no doubt lead to misunderstandings.  Instead let’s look at what the bible says about singleness (and marriage).

1.  Your life is really not about being single or being married.  I say this with all the love in the world…Jesus did not come to this earth so you could get married.  Dying for our sins, he came to restore our relationship with (and reconcile us to) God.  He empowers us through his Holy Spirit to love others as he loved us.  To proclaim the good news.  To reach the brokenhearted.  To be salt and light in a broken world.  Never have I heard it said that Jesus came so we could find “the one” (not a biblical concept by the way).

2.  Being married doesn’t matter in the eternal perspective.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I don’t hate marriage at all!  I think it is a wonderfully beautiful representation of God’s love for us while we are on this earth.  But the bible says that at the resurrection “people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matt 22:30).  On judgment day God will not ask us whether we were single or married.  Instead He will ask “did you feed Me?” “did you clothe Me?” (Matt 25:31-46).

3.  Marriage is not for everyone.   In 1 Corinthians 7:7 Paul says that some will have the gift of singleness and some will have the gift of marriage.  In fact, that whole chapter in 1 Corinthians talks about both marriage and singleness and how in some cases singleness can be very beneficial in serving God (allowing for undivided devotion to God).  Jesus himself discusses this as well.  In Matthew 19:10-12 it says “The disciples said to him, ‘If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.’ Jesus replied, ‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.'”

4.  Just because you desire something doesn’t mean that’s your gift.  I’ve heard it said that if you truly truly desire marriage then you’re not meant to be a single.  Where in the bible is that?  And please don’t misquote the verse on God giving you the desires of your heart.  Because otherwise half the female American population would be married to Brad Pitt.  Psalm 37: 4 actually says “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  This means that you actually have to spend time with God, getting to know His heart and having your heart turn towards His.  This means His desires become your desires.  So take inventory.  Is it really God speaking?  Or is it your own heart?  Ultimately it is impossible to really know if you have the gift of singleness until you die (as a single).  It may be that your gift of marriage was reserved for much later in life.

5.  Many of the figures in the Bible were single.  Jesus himself was single.  So was Paul.  Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, and Lydia were all single.  What makes marriage better than singleness (or vice-versa for that matter)?  I have heard of churches that do not allow unmarried men to be pastors, elders, or deacons.  So Jesus couldn’t be a pastor.  Neither could Paul.  Interesting.

Again, I feel it is important for me to say I don’t hate marriage.  If God were to bless me with a husband I would be extremely happy.  But He may choose not to.  I don’t think it’s wrong at all to pray for a partner.  Or to spend time talking about singleness and marriage.  These are both good things that should be talked about.  There is much to learn from both camps.  I maintain that I was truly blessed to listen to that couple’s testimony.  I recognized how God was so present in their love story and how He has plans to use their testimony to glorify Him.  My point in writing this entry is not to belittle marriage at all.  Marriage is beautiful and a blessing and gift from God.  My point is – let’s not forget that singleness is all of that too.