I have a holiday party tonight, and of course I had to RSVP to an invite that asked if I had a plus one. Once again my answer was "Nope." While I'm okay being single (really, I am), there's also this side of myself that is so tired of going to these things alone. I'm tired of going with my couples friends to a party hosted by couples, and this is even with friends that are amazing and non-judgemental. They don't care that I'm single or in a couple. They just care about spending time with me. The issue is me, and it's totally selfish.
Why am I calling myself selfish? I don't want to drive in the rain by myself (yes, rain...I don'tl live in a snowy climate. Sorry, cold-weather folks). I don't want to hang out with people talking about the things "they're" doing. I don't want to hear about "their" problems of how to navigate the holidays with "their" families.
Now this is totally hypocritical, because I know if I was in any of their shoes, I'd be discussing those things, too. I would, and I would do so in an absolutely unabashed fashion. So now I add guilt to the many negative holiday feelings flooding my inner self, because I know what a hypocrite I am.
Now I put on this happy face to everyone. I talk about how nice it is to not be tied to any of those "couple" problems. I smile and tell them it's great, just great. Part of me totally agrees. There is a large part of me that loves my singlehood. And yet...I am the one going home that night feeling alone and a little empty.
So now is when I pray. I don't know that I pray for a significant other, though. This is where I question this idea that we always have to pray for a person to come into our lives to fill that emptiness. I don't think we do, and I'm not sure that's what God really wants us to do.
We are called to ask God to fill our emptiness. There is no person that can fill a hole in our lives, in our hearts, or in our emotions like God. Even couples find themselves with emptiness sometimes. So, I pray that God fills this emptiness I feel during the holidays. That he takes the longing and allows me to channel it constructively.
It's not an easy things to be single during the holidays. It is, however, a good way to build yourself up, learn who you are, and find your own strength in you and in your relationship with God. You learn to be self-reliant. You learn to love God. You learn more about yourself and your own life. So there are blessings in it. Maybe the no-bae blues aren't so bad after all.
I'm going to be brutally honest and say that I am writing this blog post from a very raw place this morning. Before I've had time to truly heal and really think things through. Before I've had time to be on my knees in hours of prayer. Why would I do that? Because I think it's important for everyone to see that the people we go to for advice don't always have our stuff together. Sometimes we fall apart just like everyone else.
And right now, I am falling apart just a little bit.
Dating is not an easy thing. It leaves us open and vulnerable, and when we get hurt, it rips us apart sometimes. This was one of those times. I believed I was building something with someone, and he ran away from me when he got scared that we were getting too close--just when it came time to be exclusive. So instead, he decided to date someone else and forgot to tell me that it was happening until I had to ask what was going on.
So now I have some decisions to make about a relationship I've been in that just fell apart, and it's not going to be easy for me. I'm hurting, and I'm angry. We're broken up, and I have to decide my next steps. Do I allow the breakup to really happen, since he just started dating someone new? Or do I fight for this man to keep him in my life. This is a question complicated by a lot of psychology and history that is very personal to him and me, which is not anything I'm willing to make public. So I will ask that you trust me when I tell you that he is a good man with some commitment issues that are valid, that he has been honest about, and that he has to work through some unresolved things in his spirit. The details are his, and I respect that.
Now here is the lesson in all of this, because this isn't just a blog post about how my dating life is just a mess. It's in knowing that we're going to make a mess of things, even with God in our lives. Am I handling this breakup in all the right ways? I don't think so. Wait...I know I'm not. I'm still engaging in conversations with him about why. I'm running into the arms of another ex just to have comfort, even though that's not what I want (yes, functional decisions, I know). I'm making so many wrong choices. I'm struggling with prayer, because I'm angry with God. I'll admit it. I haven't had the best prayer time in the world. I'm crying in every spare alone moment I have. And yes, I'm considering fighting for the person who hurt me the most.
So that brings me to the question I'm struggling with right now...when do we forgive, and when do we forget? When do we make the decision to forgive a person and fight for them and when do we decide to forgive a person and move on. I know couples that have done both. How do I decide what this is? I know only God and I can work this out, and I know God and I will work it out in time. I know that God is going to let me make a mess of things, and He will help me clean it up. He aches with me, as a father will, and one day I will regret making him ache. Part of me already does. One day I will be stronger for all of this. I do know it.
So that is the lesson for today. I don't have it any more together than anyone else. None of us do. I just may have it more together tomorrow than you do, but today you may be more together than I am. It's how life goes. We all fall apart sometimes. We all have trauma and hurts. We all have moments when life goes down the toilet. We all fall apart and have to figure out how to pick ourselves back up. We all have those times when we have more questions than answers, and we can't seem to get beyond the questions to get back on track.
In those times, when the darkness seems stifling, all we can do is pray. Even when we don't want to. Even if it's just telling God how angry we are at Him, why we think He has betrayed us, why everything is the WORST...being on our knees is the right place to be. God hears us. He is listening. Eventually, we'll get back to the place where the darkness starts to lift, and we start listening back. I'm not there yet, but I know I will be. Eventually. One day. Hopefully sooner than later.
I’ve been seeing so many posts on Instagram lately asking, “But what did God tell you?” that it got me thinking about how many hours I’ve spent worrying about my problems, strategizing my solutions, planning for the future...when I should have been taking it to God first.
Instead of all this worry, I should be using “Take it to the throne” as my new motto—posting it everywhere as a constant reminder that God should be the first place to go when I have something on my mind.
Even now as I struggle with concern for someone close to me, I am consistently reminded by God that He’s got this. He has to whisper to me every day in prayer that He’s promised to make it okay. I can’t imagine if I hadn’t taken this worry to Him. I would be falling apart.
And to be honest, this is a spiritual discipline that I am still learning. I get better every day, but I still have so far to go.
So so where is a good place start? As single Christian women taking our desires for a partner to the throne is a good place to begin. Or if that’s a sore spot, start with something smaller on your heart. Just start. For me, I just couldn’t handle everything. I started with dating. Then my job. Then my finances. And I took bigger and bigger leaps. And I continue to take them. Each one is scary, and every day I have to take a deep breath and remind myself in prayer that I have given it
to God. I have taken my worries to the throne...
And God provides in ways I never expected. Am I married yet? No. But I’ve become stronger in who I am and what I expect from a partner. God is molding me still, and He has given me a peace and a heart of patience. God brought me from a hard job situation and to something new and exciting, where it seemed scary...but he carrried me. I wondered how bills would be paid, and yet the money came. He provided.
I spent a lot of time in my knees praying and I gave up control. I turned all of it over to the throne. He took on my worries as His own. And it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, being the control freak I am. But the more I do it, the more He surprises me with His blessings.
It’s hard to hand over the control to God. However, when we hand our worries over to God, we know He’ll not only provide the desires of our heart, but the desires of His—which are always better than ANYTHING we could imagine. I’ve found that the more I hand over to the Lord, the more I let go of control, the better He gives back.
God never disappoints.
Sometimes the seeds you plant at one point in your life come back as blessing later. Years ago I wrote an article for teenagers outlining out to overcome temptations in their lives. And while that article may have been posted on a site that was geared toward the adolescent set, I realized early that the ideas I put forth weren't just things that only fit for the high schoolers. They could be used by anyone.
Well, apparently the staff at The Christian Circle agreed, and they kindly asked me to join them as a guest on their podcast talking about how we can use some, or all, of these tools to battle the temptations we face every day. We know that the enemy would absolutely love for us to get frustrated, give into our baser instincts and just walk away from God. However, there are ways we can rely on God to keep us strong and keep us focused on Him and our Christian walk.
I invite you to take a listen to the podcast here:
But besides my episode of this podcast, take a listen to some of the other episodes. Dr. Fernandes has some great episodes for women from all walks of life talking about the things Christian women face. Explore her episodes and give her a listen. She's awesome.
Raise your hand if you are one of those people who, like me, cannot seem to resist those gorgeous planners you see making their way across your Pinterest or Instagram feeds? Yeah, you know the ones they're calling bullet journals. I call them drool-worthy posts for the Type-A sort, because I have to hold myself back every time from buying every one I see. They make me want to plan for every small thing in my life.
Except I don't, nor should I.
The world tells us planning is good, and they're not necessarily wrong. We should have goals we want to achieve. As single women, we probably want to find a lifelong partner. That's a good goal. Maybe we want a meaningful career. Wonderful goal. Maybe we want to start a small group at our church or take our kids on vacation next year. All of these are goals we want to reach.
Setting goals for ourselves is a positive thing. So having planners and bullet journals to help us meet those goals aren't bad, per se. However, they often leave out one MAJOR component when we're looking toward our future--God.
We need God in our plans.
Most of us fall into this idea (more often than we'd like to admit) that we'll make the best of plans and then ask God to bless them. Well, that sometimes works if our plans already aligned with God's plans. Sure. However, a lot of times we end up facing crushing disappointment when our plans fall apart and we wasted all this planning time, because we didn't wait on God to bless them. We didn't seek Him first.
And let's just say the waiting on God part stinks, okay. Putting that out there. Not going to sugar coat anything. It's not fun. We all just want an answer NOW, and we'd like it to be the answer YES.
But alas, it's not always yes, and it's not always immediate.
Why is that? Well first, let's start with the waiting part. If we really feel like we're going in the right direction, but we're not getting a clear answer from God, maybe what we're doing to prep for our plans has to do with another one of God's plans. So maybe He's allowing us to take things to a point before we have to shift gears. It doesn't mean stop praying or stop doing. In fact, it means to continue praying and paying even closer attention to what God is trying to tell you.
Now, when God tells us no, then that's the part that really stinks, especially if we moved forward with all of these plans and then everything goes down the toilet. It hurts. It makes us angry. It's terrible. Our plans aren't always His (again, sometimes tough to swallow).
The key takeaway is to start everything in prayer. Try to make sure you're where God wants you to be when you're planning. Ask God, ask him for blessings, ask Him to show you it's the right path. Have faith that He's going to guide you right. It can be so scary, because God's way isn't always the easiest path. There are sometimes a ton of dark places and pitfalls and hard times, but God will make it all worth it.
Then, when we start working in that pretty, pretty, pretty planner with all our glitter pens, multi-colored highlighters, rainbow sticky notes and more...ask God to keep blessing it as you move along. Let Him guide the plan and you do the doing.
"C'mon, it's just one date."
"He's a nice guy. Just give him a chance."
"You know you really want to..."
"Hey, friend. Can you just..."
No. No you don't--and no, you don't have to. Why we've perpetuated this idea that women have to set aside what they want so that other people can feel good about themselves is beyond me. We've twisted this biblical idea that we have to care for others like we care for God into not taking care of ourselves at all, and that's just not true.
We were all taught from the pulpit about being submissive and obeying, but that didn't mean we had to do everything everyone asked us to do. It had to do with being submissive and obeying GOD! We were taught the Golden Rule, but we kind of forget the part about how you can't treat others well if you can't treat yourself well.
Think of life like being on an airplane. There is a reason the flight attendants tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you assist anyone else. If you aren't getting oxygen, you become useless to everyone else around you. You go a little crazy, lose muscle function, pass out and eventually die. Great. Not helping anyone now, right?
The same goes for everyday life. When you chip away at yourself by giving away pieces of your well-being to the wrong people, you eventually lose who you are. God didn't mean for us to do that. Sure, he meant for us to care for the poor and weary. He meant for us to support those in need. He did not mean for us to lose ourselves in it.
So how do we balance being kind and helping others with being able to say no and not losing ourselves?
First, ask yourself...who's doing the asking? How well do you know this person? Funny thing is, the better I know someone, the easier it is for me to say no. My sister is the easiest person for me to say no to. However, I tend not to now that we're grown ups and our requests tend to be more serious and respectful (and really, if she wants to borrow my favorite sweater, I'm excited she shares my fashion sense...now).
But I've been on those online dating chats where some dude that I met five minutes ago wants to meet at his house in some random part of town where we will be all alone. Dude! I watch the news! You could be the nicest guy in the world, but I don't have nice enough pictures for them to plaster all over the 11pm news while they search for my mutilated body (sorry, my mother's paranoia rears up sometimes). I know to say no.
Okay, so maybe those situations are easier to say no to. You just met the guy. But what about the people in between. What about friends or guys you've been dating a while who you're still working on building up a relationship? You're close, but is saying no going to hurt where you are?
So now you have to ask yourself, what are they asking for? Is the request reasonable? This decision is purely subjective, and the subjectivity is between you and God.
Let me repeat that in all caps and bold: THE DECISION IS BETWEEN YOU AND GOD.
I don't know why everyone thinks they should be able to tell you what you should think or what God is telling you what to do, but they do. So, when that guy comes into your life, and you pray on it, and you're just not feeling it...then that's okay. Say no. Your friends (and the guy) don't have to agree. However, it's your life. You're the one who would have to live with him every single day of the rest of your life. Not them.
If that guy wants to go get coffee and you just can't stand listening to him drone on for an hour about that self-help program that changed his life forever and how you would benefit so much from it...just say no. It's okay. You're never going to see him again anyway. And if you do, at least you didn't waste that one hour on that one day when you were able to spend time with a friend who actually needed your companionship.
It's okay to take a mental health day sometimes. It's okay to be lazy once in a while. It's okay not not want to do what all your friends are doing. It's okay to say no and upset or disappoint others sometimes. As women we have such a hard time with this. I suffer from "Just say Yes" syndrome far too often. I hate feeling like I'm hurting people's feelings.
However, I've found that saying no sometimes has opened me up to being better about saying yes when it really matters. I'm no longer so burnt out on doing everything that I have more energy to do the important things. I listen more actively when people need me. I'm more open to trying new things. I actively seek out new things to do. I find that I'm more willing to meet new people (shocking to the introvert in me!).
Finding your voice to say "No," is an important part of our spiritual growth. It's a way for God to guide us in new directions. It takes practice, and none of us are perfect. Just keep trying.
I know, I know. I've been woefully neglecting the site lately in favor of the Instagram and Facebook accounts, and that kind of stinks. No defense here. It's just been out out ease and the craziness of my own life. Between leaving a job, getting a new job, and now looking for a new job (long story for another day)...there hasn't been much time for more than a snippet of things here and there.
But I'm going to try and be more focused now, because I wasn't kidding back in January that God was really going to make this about a year of #Faith. It is true. I've been trying hard to trust Him in everything, and I've truly been tested. It's a real thing that, when we fully put ourselves in God's hands--when we truly trust in Him--that the enemy will come in and try to destroy our faith. The enemy will do everything he can to make us walk away out of frustration.
I wish I could say that my singleness has been the first thing on my mind, but when it comes down to living life, paying my bills is key right now. I support a parent and have furbabies that rely on me! A job is key to keeping a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. So dating? It feels like a luxury. So it's funny how what seemed so important 6 or 8 months ago now takes a backseat. That being said, by dating not being this big priority, I've also been able to relax into dating someone with no pressure to move it too fast or too far. We just enjoy some easy time together.
Weird how God uses some things like that, right? Romans 12:12 is right. Life isn't going to always be sunshine and rainbows. However God is there in our hope. He is our light. He is good and faithful. He is there in our times of affliction when the enemy attacks us. He is our strength. When we turn to Him in prayer, He answers.
Now does that mean I'm not going to keep talking about dating? Oh, no. There's so much to talk about. I mean, just this week a guy I used to date came back with one of those "How you doing?" texts. Really? You disappeared for six months! And I'm not the only one in the world dating. You all share wonderful stories--good, bad, ridiculous, fun, and inspiring--that help one another out. So no more 6 month wait. We're back on track, baby!!
Every January 1 I choose a new theme that I use to make decisions and inspire me throughout the 365 days that follow. I do it as a simple hashtag that is easy to remember, because why make it complicated? In 2016 it was #unafraid, and I seriously stepped outside my comfort zone that year. 2017 was #givelove, reminding me to curb my anger and give more to others. Unlike resolutions, I don’t measure success or failure in the same way, but I allow the theme to guide me. So 2018 will have a new theme:
Seems odd for a woman who talks about loving Jesus all the time, right? Well, this theme isn’t just about loving God. It’s about trusting Him in a serious way. I struggle often with actually handing over the reins of my life to God. I say I trust Him, and I do, but not enough to give up all the control. Like walking a tightrope with a harness, even though I know the net is below. This year I need to work on having faith in God to move in my life and to be open to moving in His direction—even when it seems counterintuitive.
Faith in God isn’t the only area this applies to, though. I also know I struggle with my faith in people. I am a skeptical person who doesn’t always have faith in others. This year I need to have faith in others, too.
And finally, I need to have faith in myself. I need to be less humble about my accomplishments and embrace my successes. A friend of mine calls me out on my self-deprecation all the time. he reminds me that, while it seems humble, you can start to believe in the diminishing words you use to avoid sounding like you’re boasting.
in the end, #faith seemed like the appropriate choice for my 2018. What do you see for yourself this next year?
I don't know when it was decided that we should fear caring for others, but there seems to be this pervasive attitude today where we shouldn't care about anything at all--that we should all act so nonchalant about everything.
This attitude stinks, as far as I'm concerned, and I'm as guilty of it as the next person, but not any more. I think something happened when I turned 40. "It's no big deal" became "I LOVE THAT! LET'S LOVE THE THING."
Except in relationships. It may leave me open to a bunch of psychoanalysis, but I know I'm not alone here. I can profess my love for Jesus, Star Wars, the Chicago Bears, multitudes of books, my dogs, my cats, and even my family ad nauseam. I can drive everyone crazy sometimes with my love of those things.
So why is it so hard to open my heart to men I'm interested in? Why do we have to play this game of seeming calm and cool and aloof? It drives me crazy. Love can hurt. For sure I'm not alone in my fear of getting hurt, right? When we first meet another person, it's difficult, because we just don't know where we stand with them. And too often we're told how to play the game rather than how to be vulnerable. There are more books written on how to get the guy, how to play the dating game, and how to manipulate people than on how to just open our hearts and be vulnerable.
And I insist it all stems from the fear that the other person just doesn't care as much as we do.
But so what?
The thing is, I don't ever regret when I've made myself vulnerable. I fear it like no one's business, but even if I get hurt, eventually I get over it and learn from it. As someone who keeps a small group of close friends and is ridiculously introverted, letting someone in is an accomplishment alone.
In talking with my friends who are in healthy, committed relationships, many of them started with one person being far more sure about wanting the other person. The other was hesitant and needed time to figure things out. However, if the one person never made themselves vulnerable and open to heartbreak, the relationship never would've happened. How sad would that have been?
This isn't to say we shouldn't be discerning. We absolutely should. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be abused or seriously harmed because we struggle with vulnerability. We still need to be careful about who we open ourselves up to, but maybe we can focus more on being open and vulnerable than playing a game. Maybe we need to be honest with people that we like them, be truthful about what we want. We can'f force someone to love us, but we can show them love.
And the thing is, we never know what will come out of our honesty. Maybe we get the love of our lives. Awesome! Yay for us!! But maybe we also get our hearts broken. Sad, but we can pick ourselves up knowing we gave it our best and move on (of course with tears in between. Endings are sad sometimes) to someone who will love us the way we should be loved.
I challenge us all to be more vulnerable with our hearts. God is and has been the most vulnerable with His--after all, He sacrificed His only son on a cross for our sins. If I walk the walk and strive to be more like Him, then maybe I can open my heart just a little more. Maybe I can show my friends and family more affection. Maybe I can extend a helping hand to someone in need. Maybe I can be nicer to the slower drivers when I'm on my way to work (I'm trying God...really!!).
Most of all, though, maybe I can make myself a little more open in my dating life to being honest and heartfelt rather than holding my feelings back. Maybe I should say when I really like someone before it's too late. And maybe I should open myself up more to God's messages on my heart about the men I date. It's a lot of maybes, true, because it's all on a learning curve. We can all try a little more each day.
But let's all commit to letting go a little of this fear of rejection. It's just holding us back from what God wants from us. We can be stronger, because we have Him. He is our rock. He is our salvation. He is who we know we can rely on when we're in tears. He loves us unconditionally, so the lack of love from someone not open to loving us may sting, but we can immerse ourselves in His love.
I was scrolling through my social media feeds this week, and a few times articles with similar titles to this came up:
Ladies...10 Ways You Can Help a Man Keep Pure Thoughts
I just can't even begin to tell you how much headlines like this irritate me. Is it wrong for us to want to help each other out and hold each other accountable? Absolutely not. It's what we should be doing. We should be helping one another be better in God's eyes. We should call each other out when we're leaning toward, or in the middle of, sin.
But this applies to EVERYONE we know, not just women protecting men.
Too often I see articles that put the onus on women to keep men from lusting after us. This idea that we control what goes on in men's minds is just another example of how we, as Christians, continue to perpetuate Rape Culture in our society. I don't care if a woman is walking down the street completely naked, it's up to the man looking at her to control himself. It's up to him to ask God to work through his lustful thoughts about her. It's up to him to control his own behavior.
When we put the pressure on women to talk a certain way, avoid certain behaviors, dress in a "proper" manner so as not to tempt a man, we take away a man's sense of responsibility. It becomes easy for them to point at the woman as the problem when it's more what's going on in their hearts.
Look at Adam and Eve. In many churches, they still believe Eve is to blame for all the sin in the world--that it is she who is responsible for the downfall of man. She offered Adam the fruit, after all, right?
It doesn't matter. Adam made his own choice.
Adam didn't have to take the fruit (neither did Eve for that matter), but he did. Adam didn't have to disobey God just because the fruit was there. God punished both Adam AND Eve, because each was responsible for their own disobedience. Had God blamed Eve alone for Adam's disobedience, the consequences would probably have been quite different.
So why do we make women responsible for what goes on in a man's mind and heart? How about we raise men to look at women as people, not objects to lust after? How about we talk in church openly about sexuality and lust, not just condemning it, but really discuss how we work through it. Let's talk about how there isn't really a person alive that hasn't lusted after someone or something. So instead of pointing fingers, let's focus on how a relationship with God works to help us resist temptation.
Now, let me be clear, I do believe we probably shouldn't start running errands in nothing but the skin we were born in, but I also don't believe clothes or being alone with a man will stop lustful feelings. I've had more men than I can count stare at my breasts whether I'm wearing a muumuu or a bikini. I've been wearing a suit in a room with 500 people when I've been asked to dance on a table. Geishas wear a thick kimono, and yet men have lusted after them for ages. In many Muslim countries, women are covered from head to toe, and yet that hasn't stopped men from lusting after women. It hasn't stopped rape. It hasn't stopped sex.
Don't use clothing as an excuse.
It doesn't matter if you're fully clothed or not, whether you're alone or not, whether you flirt or not...lust is going to happen. So let's stop talking about how to not tempt a man and let's talk about how to hold men accountable and encourage them to deal with their feelings. Stop giving men excuses for bad behavior, and start teaching them how to handle what their feeling in a responsible and spiritual manner.
Controlling a man's lust just isn't a woman's responsibility. It is his. Just like if a woman thinks a man is attractive, it is her responsibility to talk to God about her feelings. We need to hold ourselves accountable for our own behavior. When we choose poorly, when we act poorly, it's our own faults. Let's take responsibility for ourselves, own our issues, and take our flaws to God.
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