They Do Exist.

Dating

10 Lies We Believe About Interacting With The Opposite Sex

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Editor’s Note: Today’s kickbutt post is by Courtney Gabrielson, a senior at Davidson College. She tweets at @cogabrielson and blogs at cogabrielson.wordpress.com. With that, HERE IS THE AWESOME. – Lauren

Truth: I am nearly 22 years old. I have never had a boyfriend – serious or otherwise – and have only been on two casual dates, one of which was my high school prom. For a long time I thought it was my problem. I seemed too awkward, too fat, too incapable and uninteresting. So I dieted, learned how to ask people questions, did a lot of social things that felt risky and uncomfortable so as to strengthen my latent relational muscle.

And nothing happened. Still. Nothing’s happened. And perhaps it continues to be my problem. Perhaps, being a member of Generation MTV, brought up with Disney and Barbie’s Dreamhouse, I am a dysfunctional customer of a culture that sold me a hyper-romantic myth of what relationships look like: sex sex sex or Kleinfelds. I do watch a lot of movies.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I’ve done my research. I’m convinced there is a big glob of lies that stand between women and men, keeping us from truly understanding one another, and messing up what should be relatively simple interactions.

I think that there is something wrong about the fact that girls feel guilty for wanting to be asked to formals; that come Friday night the same ladies are left lonely; that the majority of conversations women have with men are driven and instigated by those women; that at college breakfasts after church, the genders part much like the Red Sea.

It’s dumb and I hate it, and I think we need to get real. So, I want to take a few moments of your time, patient reader, to break down the lies I see from my perspective. Here I go.

Lie #1: “Let’s get lunch” = “let’s reproduce one day!”

I dislike the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” in much the same way that I abhor the phrase “intentional dating.” Their continual use in Christian culture has programmed everyone to think all women want is marriage, and that until mens’ desires finally catch up, there is absolutely no point in interacting with women beyond a casual, “how are you?”

The collateral damage of this lie has been staggering. I feel as though I am surrounded by guys that are, for the most part, scared of having mature, one-on-one conversations with other women. In the same vein, I feel as though I am surrounded by girls (myself included) who are constantly fighting a battle against discontentment and self-consciousness, wondering when it’ll be their turn to feel noticed. (And since it hasn’t happened yet, what’s wrong with us?!)

Furthermore, the sexual tension that pervades even the simplest campus ministry meeting is a pungent and thick as smoke. I can’t help but think that these problems wouldn’t be problems if we were okay with casual mingling.

Gentlemen, it’s what girls want to do. Hang out! Go to the movies. Dance at the Court. Laugh over chicken parm at Commons. Get pretty for you because frankly we think you’re cute! Ultimately, we just want to get to know you beyond the fact that you’re a Christian and a male. Contrary to popular belief, as much as we may want to get married eventually, no one is really truly biting at the bit to do it now. After all, we have to get into grad school and write a thesis and do everything else that we do. When we say “let’s get lunch,” that’s really all we mean.

Lie #2: Just because us ladies are slightly more assertive these days, it must mean that we want to be treated like robots.

Go my gender. We can vote, we can have jobs, we can be President. Yaaaaaaaay us. Why does this scare you? A lot of us still believe that women are programmed to be pursued by men [translated: We like when you initiate things]. The ball is in your court! We can be patient, but take note: we won’t wait forever. “Mario Kart” will not be going anywhere, but this girl and many others like her will if you don’t speak up. With words.

Lie #3: Being friendly equals “leading us on.” Therefore, in the interest of protecting us from thinking you want to pursue us romantically, acknowledge us as little as possible.

It’s sweet that you’re trying to guard our hearts. Really. But much like we can’t own your libido when we dress, you can’t own our emotions when you engage us in conversation. So, engage us in conversation. I don’t get why guys think it’s okay to be rude and standoffish during social occasions. It sucks to be ignored! Pleasantries are pleasant! Say hello when we’re standing three feet away from you; chat about the weather, ask about classes, work, whatever – we’re friends, so let’s act like it. Believe it or not, we are not 12 year-old-girls at a 6th grade dance; if you acknowledge us in public, we will not be writing our first names with y’all’s surnames in Hello Kitty journals after recess.

Lie #4: Dates mean high costs and expectations.

Do I have standards for a guy? Yes. But if we’re just getting to know each other, I’m not expecting an all-expense trip to Santorini here, nor Pride and Prejudice theatrics. Let’s just chat! Laugh. I might even split the check. If conversation makes you nervous, let’s ease into it by going to a movie. No. Pressure.

Lie #5: It’s okay that we don’t socialize or interact with the opposite sex, because my spouse will fall out of the sky.

This was a hard lesson for me to learn, because I have struggled for a long time with a false sense of introvertism (is this a word?). But God got my attention. How? Because He reminded me with that I cannot love Him well in a vacuum.

Do I believe that God has someone planned for me? Yes. But do I believe that the TV will turn on by itself? Nope. I have to get up and turn it on. In the same vein, I’ve got to meet Jesus [and people] halfway! I need to develop the characteristics of the woman who will one day be a good wife. And how do I do that? By meeting people, interacting with people, serving people. I’ve got to leave my dorm room occasionally. When Jesus said, “go out and make disciples of all men,” he didn’t indicate that we were to Facebook stalk them into submission, but instead to go out. One cannot say “I’m focusing on my relationship with Christ right now!” and then go into a hole. We are a social creations, of whom God said, “it is not good for man to be alone.”

This means that the sexes will have to mingle if we are to be a functioning, vibrant, Jesus-centered community. We might as well enjoy each others’ company! Does that mean that we are to serial-date and turn into some absurd lady killer or Scarlett woman? Nah. Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Conversely, I think a lot of us are waiting for it to rain when God’s saying, “I invented hoses for a reason!” Check out Acts 1:11: “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?” We are constantly called to action, to do things that make us uncomfortable so that we grow.

Lie #6: My decision to ignore the opposite sex doesn’t hurt anyone.

False. Do you know how many crying-conversations I’ve been a part of because of the passivity and indecision of Christian men?

This is best evidenced by a conversation I had about dating with a guy friend of mine. I discussed how a lot of girls are frustrated with the disinterest of the great guys around them, and they are caught in a spiral of self-doubt. Guy doesn’t ask me out, there’s something wrong with me, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not skanky enough, I need to change, or be more aggressive. This is coming from girls who love Jesus and are otherwise incredibly confident. This was/is me! My friend was astonished that the non-initiative of Christian men was causing a loss of confidence in these awesome girls, which sucks, because men SEE the loss of confidence, and then don’t like it!

Lie #7: Women just want romance and have a minimal sex drive.

We are sexual creatures and have sexual desires. All of us. While I acknowledge that men may be wired in different ways, it’s frustrating and disillusioning to suppose that guys are alone in the fight against lust, fantasies, the objectification of the opposite sex, and pure thoughts on the beach. I and many women like me experience these things, too.

Lie #8: I don’t need to interact with real women, because porn is more interesting, or safer. I don’t have to try, and there are no strings attached.

I would wager that if men and women spent more time interacting in a low-pressure environment with the opposite sex, the desire to rely on pornography as a source of relief would decrease. Is it a scientific fact? I don’t know. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying. But from my perspective, it seems as though we’re getting more and more uncomfortable with each other while the percentage of pornography users in the Church grows. This problem is an essay for another day, but essentially, porn is crippling men and women, stunting their relational abilities while placing incredible pressures on the opposite sex.

Lie #9: Non-Christian girls have a more low-key approach to relationships, so it’s a good idea to pursue them instead of the Christian crazies who want to marry me after the first date.

No. No no no. This one makes me mad. Why? Because I’ve lived it. I’ve faced the judgment of high-and-mighty brothers in Christ, who made me feel like crap because my evangelistic strategies were not as militant as theirs, because I liked to wear bikinis in the summer, and because I thought their concepts of submission were delusional. Yet the girls they dated were the girls we “good Christian girls” were to never act like. Double standard?

This is not a judgment call on any women, nor is it saying I am a saint. It’s just a call for consistency between words and actions of Christian guys.

Lie #10: Submission is a divine right that all men receive from their ladies, either girlfriends or wife.

Submission is a good thing. But when Paul talks about wives submitting to their husbands in Ephesians 5, he states that men are supposed to love their wives as Jesus loved everyone. That’s incredible love!

I will most certainly submit to my husband – I’ll make him sandwiches everyday for the rest of his life if it’ll make him happy – but this will be after he’s proven to me he tries to love me unconditionally. If not? Well, then have a nice day. I won’t be marrying you and we won’t have any issues.

Some people see this verse as a mandate used to justify misogyny in all types of male-female relationships. Submission should never be used as tool for enslavement. Paul uses states submission is for “husbands and wives.” Not boyfriends and girlfriends. Not friends. It comes with marriage.

***

Guys: The awesome girls around you are sick and tired of this relational confusion. We want to be your friends! We want to get to know you! We want to spend time with you! Zetus lepidus, we want to encourage you! Show us how to do this. Meet us halfway. Stop being scared or indecisive or lazy or whatever it is that is holding you back from being the men we know you are capable of being.

Let’s smash the metaphorical Horcrux (he he he) and work together to achieve this goal. Ignoring us, putting off figuring out your issues, acting as though we’ll go away and re-appear when you want a wife isn’t getting anyone anywhere. May I make a suggestion for a good first step? Ask us out to lunch and we can discuss, maybe, how we can best encourage each other over some mac ‘n cheese.

xoxo,
Courtney


So, I Waited For Him To Tell Me He Liked Me First.

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Editor’s Note: We can get and give advice all day long, but it’s the stories and experiences that show us what life is made of and how people really operate. I love love love this little story by Amanda Bishop. – Lauren

I thought having a guy for a best friend was the best idea I’ve ever had. It’s not even that I thought girls were annoying or caddy. I had plenty of great girlfriends, but I didn’t want them as best friends. I wanted him.

One simple visit to see me at work turned into texting, calling, hanging out in groups, and before you knew it we were inseparable. After several months of being completely patient, my heart was bursting. He was passing up important meetings at work and canceling plans with friends just to spend time with me.

Surely he loved me, right? I had to know.

Everyone’s advice was to wait.

Wait for him to tell you his heart. Wait for him to ask you to be his girlfriend. Don’t pursue. Don’t initiate.

Don’t tell him how your every thought is consumed by him, or that you wake up every day hoping and praying that today will be the day he claims you as his.

So I waited.

Two years later and I was staying up late because I knew he’d call and I didn’t want to disappoint him. It was texting all day, every day. It was sharing every single tiny detail of what Jesus was doing in my heart. It was refusing to let anyone else pick me up from the airport after trips to Africa. It was long walks into town for dinner. It was hour long conversations in my car. It was waiting. It was A LOT of waiting. It was a million conversations from people in our lives telling us we were going to date and me laughing it off as nothing as I gauged his reaction.

It was feeling the need to be the person in his life who affirmed him, listened to him, and encouraged him. I constantly thought of ways to better myself to be better for him. I thought the more I shared about my heart for missions, the church, and Jesus with him, the more quickly he would date me. I thought that soon he would realize my worth and choose me.

It was two years later that he finally told me he had found his wife…and it wasn’t me.

I was told our friendship was everything he’d hoped his marriage would be, except it wasn’t with me. I was told, “thank you for preparing me to be a Godly husband to my future wife, Amanda.” He even jokingly calling me his “practice wife.”

I was never “chosen” and my “worth” was never realized by him.

What I learned: it is never okay to keep silent and wait on a guy.

You were not created to prepare somebody else’s husband for them. God created your heart to be unique; protect it. If a guy friend doesn’t realize your worth and you aren’t “chosen” by him, it is because he was never meant to realize your worth. He was never meant to choose you. God is preparing you for something, SOMEONE so much better. Until then, let Jesus have your heart.

If you like a guy; tell him. Don’t wait till he’s your best friend of two years and knows all the depths of your heart.

Because frankly, no guy best friend was ever created to know all the details of your heart without any commitment to it. Your best friend should be your husband, not just a guy friend.

Finally, seasons of waiting are not bad. They can be fruitful. If you want someone to share your day with, your passions, desires, and depths of your heart, then spill it to your Creator. He wants to hear every single word. Pray it out or journal it.

So I’m back in a season of waiting, but this time I’m living.
I’m giving the details of my day to my Creator. I’m not sitting around and waiting to be “chosen.” I’m sucking as much out of life as I can each day until I meet my husband.


5 Tips For Dating A Little Happier by Kayte

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Kayte! She’s an indie singer/songwriter who loves burritos, talking to strangers and not knowing what day of the week it is. She lives in New York City and writes about life as a feisty, Christian 20-something at longcitywalksblog.com. You can check out her music at kaytegracemusic.com and follow her on Twitter at @kayte_grace. – Lauren

I’ve had many a girltalk about the twinkly, colorful fun-ness of dating … and probably almost as many about the surprising insecurities that surface in the push and pull balancing act of falling in love with someone. Wanting the feelings to be equally strong. Wondering how what they’re learning about you is being received. Your dreams, your family, your past. Things like that.

I’ve thought about the times I’ve felt most confident – most sure footed – while in a relationship and this is what I’ve realized. I hope these thoughts are helpful, and as always, leave your thoughts as comments. Let’s talk about it!

1. Keep your outside-of-the-relationship passions burning hot.

It is so easy to become consumed in your beautiful relationship, and if you’re not careful, you can each begin to neglect the outside-of-the-relationship pursuits that attracted you to each other to begin with. Remember how in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, when Andie was reeling the guy in, she kept a healthy level of focus on her successful career and wore slick little, business casual numbers to after work dinner dates? And then how, once she had him, she all of a sudden insisted on wearing matching Burberry outfits, lost her edge, and started using their baby pictures to synthesize what their future children would look like…and then scrapbooking the pictures?

Yeah. It’s funny, I’m just now noticing that in Proverbs 31, more than half of what’s celebrated about this uber-woman is her outside-of-the-relationship “hobbies,” which include, among other things: dealing raw wool and linen, buying real estate, running a farm, caring for the poor and designing her family’s clothes. These outside-of-the-relationship passions and enterprises are listed right along with feeding her children and edifying her man in her list of “noble,” priceless qualities. Crazy huh? So stay passionate. About everything. Keep learning. Keep growing.

2. Choose discernment over neurotic over-analysis.

So you’re wondering what he meant when he said, “Yeah, you look great!” If you’re still trying to figure it out four hours after the initial comment, it may be time to ask your brother, instead of 6 different girlfriends, what he really meant. And your brother will look at you and shake his head and wonder why you’re even asking. There’s nothing to decode. He just meant that you look great!

We’re programmed by women’s magazines that write articles like, “What Your Man Really Means When He Says” that some women forget how to let something mean what it means. If something strikes you as a comment you’ll be mulling over for days, you can just ask, right there in that moment, “What do you mean, [insert pet name]“ and voila! Instant clarity. Feels a lot freer than being locked in the closet of your mind, wrestling with the same sentence for hours, right!? Right.

3. Know your love language & communicate it.

Unmet, unarticulated expectations may be the greatest enemy of relationships. It can leave you feeling unsure of someone’s heart towards you if the way that they’re loving you doesn’t actually feel like love to you. I joke that I have the same love languages as puppies: quality time and physical touch. I’d choose a full day of city adventures over a piece of jewelry any day. But everyone’s different. Learn what feels like love to your person, and then get good at it. And don’t forget to share yours with them. It may feel silly now, but I guarantee you, it’s so, so worth it.

4. Give of yourself in proportion to articulated commitment.

Sounds romantic, right? Ha! But seriously, giving more of yourself (emotionally, physically, or even just in the amount of time you spend on him) than what matches the level of your commitment can just make you feel entitled to your guy’s declared love and commitment, rather than allowing the guy feel compelled or excited to commit any more of himself to you. Free yourself from those suffocating expectations and from that icky entitlement or desperate hope that causes discontent! Freedom feels good :)

5. Lose yourself in worship on a regular basis.

I’m very much a feelings person – I even wrote an article here on GWP about it. And for me, if my feelings towards a guy are way more powerful and compelling than the feelings I have towards God*, I can subconsciously begin to place more mental and emotional energy into my relationship with the boy. It’s important to be reminded that passion isn’t just for earthly romance, and that euphoric feeling of love-gone-right is most strongly felt when I run to my Savior. It somehow liberates your relationship from some of the pressure of being your only source of rich love, when you have something infinitely richer with God.

*Don’t worry TOO much about feeling consumed by a new love in your life. We’re created that way, and for a variety of healthy reasons. That crazy attraction and passion for someone indicates that you’re a healthy person, not that you’re sinful or that the relationship is inherently bad. If you start feeling bad for thinking or spending too much time with your boyfriend, don’t let guilt pummel you into the ground. Simply create some space for yourself and use it writing and praying about how you feel. The key to health is balance, not panicking from fear-based or guilt-based rules. Just a little reminder from Lauren.


Dating Tip #1: You Don’t Have To Date.

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Editor’s Note: See over there on the righthand side? That little poll we’ve been running to gauge what you girls want to read most? You’ve all voted Dating Tips up to #1, so today, Brooke Odom has shared one with us. We’ll be sprinkling these “tips” in throughout the rest of the year for you. <3 Brooke lives in Los Angeles and blogs at brookeodom.tumblr.comLauren

So another one of your friends has gotten engaged.

Someone’s just had a baby.

The wedding pictures of so-and-so’s beautiful day have just been posted.

You’re a combination of happiness, for your friend’s happiness, mixed with a bit of befuddlement, because when did everyone start getting married?

And add to that a brief but potent jolt of panic that you’ve missed your time for rings and wedding bells and baby booties,

immediately followed by the incredulous laugh at your own silliness, because—

You’re only 22 years old.

* * *

I’ve known for a while that the Christian culture abides by a timeline separate from that of secular persons.

Christians get engaged earlier. Wed earlier. Have babies earlier. And everything in life seems to take its placement from that first head start.

So if you’re not having children at the same time as your friends, you’re not getting married with them, you’re not engaged with them, you’re not dating with them… you can feel a bit left behind.

A large part of the church wants you to feel the bliss of marriage, the joy of children, the wonder of building a relationship. So they – your pastor or your friends or your bible study leader – urge you toward all the things you really do want by… urging you to date. (Or just ‘get married soon!)

But what if you don’t want to?

I’m writing this post because I recently ended an emotionally exhaustive relationship with a Christian man. A lot of aspects of our relationship became tangled between his problems, my problems, and our shared religion.

Even now, nine months after our break up, I’m trying to sort through what ‘Christian’ really means to me, to others, and to a relationship.

I’m tired, I’m skeptical, I’m hurting, and I’m recovering.

I’m also hopeful, forgiving, growing, and faith-full.

But right now, the last thing I want to do is date.

* * *

I’m writing this post because one of my good friends ended her own Christian relationship around the time I did and she’s still working through it as well.

She lives across the country from me, and I was upset to read in her letters of the women at her church pressuring her to date, to find a good Christian man to settle down with.

Well-meaning women, content in their own marriages, pushing her toward a man she can build a life with. They tease her about the church bachelors, setting her up on blind dates, hinting to the adult sons of their friends how beautiful and smart she is.

They do it because they want to see her happy, but it leaves her feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed, and a little ashamed.

* * *

Why do they think I need to be in a relationship to be happy?

We know that we don’t. And really, they do, too. They just think it will make us happier.

Why do I feel like I won’t be happy if I don’t date, yet the thought of dating makes me nauseous?

Things that we want in our lives are results of first having dated, and it’s understood that eventually dating is a necessary part of your future if you continue to want those things.

But here’s the thing— you don’t have to do it right now.

* * *

Being married does not hold a greater joy in life than can be found as a single person.

Being married doesn’t solve all of your problems.

Dating someone does not make a dull life vibrant, or a greyscale color.

Dating someone is not the answer to life’s every question.

You aren’t missing everything.

Because what those well-meaning people have, what your friends enjoy, what your church upholds? Their stories are not yours.

If you snapped your fingers and had a boyfriend, a husband, whatever… you still wouldn’t feel like they do. Your story is completely different from theirs (font, cover, page count, all of it), and

only you can live your story.

Who knows what it holds?

A relocation to a place you never thought you’d live.

A job you never dreamed you’d get.

A career, a passion, a wealth of friendships you couldn’t replace.

Yes, you may want those other parts— the husband, the children, the family.

But no one else is writing the words of your life except you and God.

You’re one who meets him, the one who falls for him, the one who says, “I do,” the one who sees the strip turn pink, the one who paints the nursery, the one who rocks the baby to sleep.

You know yourself and how God speaks to you better than anyone.

* * *

Hold on, let me say that again.

You know yourself and how God speaks to you better than anyone.

So trust yourself. And trust God.

If you don’t want to date right now, don’t.

Because you’re in high school, in college, in your twenties.

Because you’re focusing on your writing, your music, your athleticism, your SATs.

Because you feel God drawing you closer to Him and there’s not room for someone else right now.

Because you simply don’t feel ready, or there’s just no one you like. (And that happens, and that’s okay, and please, don’t ever force that for the sake of just dating someone, okay?)

‘One day’ doesn’t always have to be right now.

* * *

You don’t have to date. It doesn’t mean you never will.

You don’t have to date. It doesn’t mean you’ll be single forever.

You don’t have to date. You will discover that happiness and joy can be found in a thousand other ways and moments and relationships.

You don’t have to date. Don’t believe the lie that you won’t be ‘complete’ without someone else.

You don’t have to date. You decide what goes in the pages of your story. Don’t let other people skip a few chapters ahead because they prefer a certain type of content.

* * *

God will never pass you by or forget you. So rest your hopes in His hands and trust He knows better what to do with them than you ever could.

Be happy for those who love what they have and want it for you, and be okay with telling them, not now, not yet. This is my story.

You won’t do it because you feel like you should, or out of fear, or boredom, or co-dependency.

Date someone when you want to date them, not when you just want to date.

It’s supposed to be fun, remember?

Enjoy it when you do it, and until then, enjoy it when you… don’t.


When You’ve Only Dated One Guy 10 Years Ago, And He Broke Up With You.

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Editor’s Note: Today’s story is shared by Jen Rose. She blogs at jenwritesstuff.com and tweets at @jen_rose. So, so lovely. For more stories on dating and being single, visit our archives. – Lauren

I went on my first date when I was eighteen, if you want to call it that. I didn’t. My goal all along was the smart path of the forward-thinking, 21st century woman: go to college, make the grades, get the degree, and begin charting the course toward my perfect career. Radio and the music industry was my destination, and I had to at least get started before I could even consider any kind of relationship. Besides, as the I Kissed Dating Goodbye generation knows well, why even bother if I wasn’t ready for a ring? God’s perfect design, right?

But, well… when the boy you’ve known for years admits he’s crushed on you for most of that time, and the shy, quiet homeschool girl, all frizzy curls and acne marked, finally feels noticed, clearly God has changed his mind, right? I wasn’t ready to be serious, but I was open. So, jittery and aimless, I agreed to give it a shot, at least in the “let’s hang out and get to know each other” sense.

Our dating “relationship” consisted of several months of self-conscious phone calls, innocuous emails, and one really strange night at the roller skating rink in a sketchy part of town. I fell and slammed my head against the hardwood floor early in the evening. My main recollection of the whole experience is me, sitting on the sidelines and grateful for an excuse out of awkward “couple’s skate time” decisions. While pairs of teens drifted in circles to suggestive R&B songs, the sparkle of a cheap disco ball setting them alight, I pressed a bag of ice against my skull and felt like a failure beside my suddenly quiet date.

And this was how it was with us. He wanted to be a prince, but I was a stubborn, confused, and rather clumsy excuse for a princess.

During this time, our friendship/relationship existed in a perpetual “getting to know you” limbo. I believed we were just learning to navigate the murky waters, that we needed to take our time, so I plunged into my college studies like the bookish nerd I was becoming.

A few nights before Christmas, I checked my email and saw words that stung more than I could have imagined: “I’m sorry. It’s not working out.” My first thought was, “What’s not working out?” Then I knew.

I didn’t tell anyone, not even my mom, until I finally couldn’t stand it any more. I felt too ashamed. For the first time ever, someone wanted to take a chance on me, and I blew it. God only knows when that chance will come again.

A decade has gone by. I got the grades, the degree, and the job. I haven’t, however, gotten the guy.

I watch my friends grow up. I attend weddings and baby showers. And sometimes, though I love this time of my life, I catch myself noticing a dull ache for someone to once again invite me into his story. Occasionally, doubt creeps in, and we all wonder if we’re doing something wrong, don’t we?

I know I never had a reason to be ashamed. Actually, I’m grateful things worked out this way, because now I see there was nothing wrong with either of us. We were two souls pointing in different directions, our compasses leading us to opposite shores. If I tried to go and drag him with me, or the other way around, then only greater heartache could have followed. But at the time, to my young confused heart, I honestly believed there was something wrong with me, that he needed something I couldn’t fill, that I wasn’t enough. But I know something now that took me years to recognize.

A man cannot complete me. Only God can do that. And this same God that said, “it’s not good for man to be alone” prepares our souls to complement each other instead.

Do you know the feeling of being so in tune with someone a sideways glance speaks volumes, or you can have the same weird thought and burst into laughter? I do, with a precious few, and that is what I now know love to be. The proverbial “One” is someone who will help me be holier and more human than I am on my own. Not a white knight to rescue me, but a broken, lonely wanderer to come alongside and teach my pride to die.

Someone not to mold me in his image or make me feel good, but who will love me enough to let me be myself and challenge me to be more than I am.

We are not called to complete each other, because only God can do that. We are not called to rescue each other, or be someone’s personal Jesus.

Instead, we are privileged to carry each other’s burdens on this journey, our ships steering by the same bright star.

Before, I wanted to be rescued, and I wanted to be a savior. I couldn’t then. I can’t now. I’m not enough for that. But I can live a life of beauty — working with excellence, creating, writing, laughing, loving.

And perhaps along the way, my course will align with another’s, and we’ll sail toward home together.


Playing The God Card

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Editor’s Note: Breaking up is hard. Seeing a guy for awhile and finding the words to explain why you don’t want to pursue the relationship can be even harder sometimes. I know. No one wants to hurt anyone’s feelings, and often, the God Card seems like a reasonable way out, right? Wrong. The God Card isn’t honest or helpful. Just because you know and God knows that a specific person isn’t right for you, doesn’t mean the God Card are the words you choose to explain why you won’t be seeing him again. Practice thinking about why you “know” that God doesn’t want you to date someone. No attraction? Different future paths? Conflicting interests? Perceiving life differently? He’s just not “it?” Those are the words to use. <3 Today's post is written by Renee Fisher, author of Not Another Dating Book. She blogs here! – Lauren

It all started out with a tweet to eHarmony.

Back me up on this, @eHarmony. A guy (or girl) should tell you if there is no chemistry instead of playing the God card.

Let me tell you up front. I’ve used this excuse before during my online dating experiences at eHarmony. So I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin.

When I forked over the $250 for a years subscription to eHarmony I figured–yes, finally I won’t be single anymore. But I wasn’t thinking that I was going to meet my husband. I had done enough online dating to know it was purely to learn dating experience. The man I was looking for (excuse me God, was looking for me) didn’t exist.

Be Honest

Photo by sacredlotus on Flickr

I was bitter.
Jaded.

I had been single for twelve years, ten months, and twenty-four days before my husband asked me to marry him.

I even wrote a book in all my angst. We met after I finished writing it and then God made me (excuse me, my editor) rewrite the dang thing.

To say I’m passionate about relationships is an understatement. Since I was 15 I told God my husband was late. Verrrrry late. I wanted desperately to get married and have lots of married sex.

Yes, I waited if you’re asking.

Not that it matters. Because the world–Christians included–seem to have the same standards. Sad.

But that’s not my point.

My point is this: I never had the guts to tell someone to his face why I was breaking up with him. No guy rarely made it past the first date. My standards were picky, yes, but I was also deeply insecure. Insecure about my weight, about the fact that my relationship with God seemed to surpass most. I could quote almost the entire Bible. I was insecure that God was laughing at me thinking I knew too much and for that He would make me wait.

So while I was waiting. I learned a lot. A LOT. A lot. A LOT.

Like how to tell if a guy really values you. Like how I want to be treated. Like how honesty really is (almost) the best policy. Tears help too!

I’d rather have a guy tell me to my face instead of lying and then a week find out that he’s dating the only girlfriend I told about him.

Yeah. That happened to me.

Don’t play the God card.

I learned my lesson in the most painful of all ways. The girl I confided in about this guy I liked? She was in leadership, and I took the time to seek her out because I needed prayer. It was like the worst double-edged sword ever to teach me one thing–I finally had confidence. I knew my worth. That’s why I was so hurt. Instead of slinking away I told them off–to their faces. Now, I’m not proud of the way I handled things–but we’ve since reconciled.

If you remember one line from this entire post, it’s this: never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever play the God card. Even if it feels like those are the only words you have. Wrestle through it, find the words, and tell the person why you’re not into him or her. Or simply tell them that you aren’t. Without the God card.

But only if you have the guts. It takes a real person to be truly honest.

If you really struggle on saying no to men, or turning them down, Lauren Dubinsky has answered a question on turning down a guy’s advances without hurting his feelings HERE. If you met a great guy who wants to date you, but you don’t want to turn him down sounded like a Christian snob, Lauren also wrote a post on that HERE.


Boundaries: 5 Do’s and Don’ts in Dating

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Natalie Albertson. She’s a masters student in English at Iowa State University, and she blogs at nataliealbertson.com. We love her emphasis on grace, balance, and moderation. – Lauren

Boundaries can be a wonderful thing. The boundary at the Grand Canyon, for example, that says, “Do not walk further, or you will fall and die” is a wonderful boundary. But boundaries can quickly become a focus on the negative: what I can’t do. Sometimes we try so hard not to “fall and die” that we forget to admire the Grand Canyon! Other times, we get so excited about the Grand Canyon that we take one step too far and…well…you know. Life requires balance. The world often looks for happiness through self-assertion, and the stoic looks for happiness through self-denial. Yet the good woman knows that self-fulfillment is found in self-abandonment. We set a boundary not just because we don’t want to do something – but because we do want to do something else. 

Because of this truth, I’ve made a list of five do’s and don’ts of dating. These are things that God taught me through mistakes, and that’s the beauty of it.

Photo by Carli Wentworth

1. DO: Look a man’s heart. DON’T: Hold men to a standard you don’t want to be held to.

When I was dating, the type of man I was looking for to be my husband had to have the spiritual maturity of my two youth group pastors at my home church. These men were 35 and 40, which means that I expected to find some poor 20-something year old man to have the wisdom, experiences, and knowledge of a man twice his age. Don’t hold your brothers-in-Christ to this type of standard. The most important thing to look for in a man is someone who DESIRES to be a good husband. It’s completely fine if he’s not there yet.

2. DO: Embrace chaos DON’T: Desire chaos.

Love can be chaotic and it’s almost always disorganized; love stories are even more so, because we have an idea of how things are “supposed to be”. I remember getting so scared that the man I was dating wasn’t “the one” because the things that happened in the movies were not happening to me. I never got butterflies when he walked into the room, there weren’t fireworks when we talked, and this made me think that we weren’t “in love”. Once I saw the movie “Love Comes Softly”, I slowly started to learn that love should feel like coming home and not like being on a rollercoaster. Rollercoasters are fun for a few minutes, but you don’t want to be on one for the rest of your life. Being grounded is good.

3. DO: Desire something better than momentary pleasure. DON’T: Get pregnant.

Never, ever, ever, never kiss. Because you will get pregnant, and then you will die. No, just kidding. But seriously, do take your physical life seriously. It can be a very slippery slope. The lines you should and should not cross will be different for everyone, but it’s important to seriously determine what you desire, communicate that to your significant other, and pursue that together.

4. DO: Look deeper. DON’T: Trust popularity.

Our culture tends to glorify a certain type of man that I want to warn you about. You know. The hot guy in high school. The athlete. Whoever the guy is at your school that’s getting all the attention from his surface level success. The reason I bring this up is that, as young women we want to date “popular” men. Let me remind you that many of these things are temporary, and years later? The popular guy in high school might not be the guy you want to date. Men change, and they change a lot. Just like we do. Don’t let culture inform your sense of a man’s worth or merit.

5. DO: Take comfort in God’s sovereignty DON’T: Settle.

Augustine once described “evil” as simply a reordering of goods, and marriage can quickly become this. Marriage–and dating for the sake of finding your spouse– is such a wonderful thing, but it’s not worthy of your worship. Don’t let marriage be an idol in your life. If you’re dating a man you shouldn’t be–and you’ll know if you are–let him go. Don’t settle. Trust that God is in this with you, and that he sees you.


Boundaries After A Break-up

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Editor’s Note: I am consistently in awe of the grace and wisdom found in this community of women. Break-ups are some of the most painful experiences in our lives, and today, Megan writes on handling the aftermath. Megan Odegaard has an M.A. in Marital & Family Therapy from Bethel Seminary, San Diego. She is currently on staff at UCLA. You can follow her on Twitter: @meggo310. And sidenote? We have a question for you.Lauren

“It’s called a break-up because it’s broken.” Greg Behrendt

“Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” Henry Wadswoth Longfellow

What does the word “break-up” stir up in you?

For me, it is the state of being in which emotions are raw to the core. Usually consisting of large amounts of shock, frustration, anger, and devastation. The person you thought you were going to have a beautiful life with is perhaps suddenly gone from your world. Or maybe you spent years trying to fix a problem and came up completely empty.

One thing seems universal following a break-up: You can’t help but crave that closeness again.

So what do we do? Maybe we use our circumstances to try to have a “chance” meeting. Or come up with a hundred reasons why texting or calling is a GREAT idea. At some point, we will probably resort to cyber-stalking (don’t even try to deny it!)

These things we do are an attempt to block us from the pain brought on by the loss of the relationship. The question always is looming: how long can we continue contact — and lessen the feeling of “loss” — before we have to create a boundary?

In this society of prolific communication, we can stay connected to people we perhaps shouldn’t. I mean, there are an infinite number of decisions – Do I delete this person from my Facebook, Twitter, G-Chat, YouTube, Instagram, Blogger and Tumblr accounts? And what about his mom and sister and best friend that I am also connected to?

One thing is clear — Breaking up is not so black-and-white these days. The boundaries can be very blurry.

I know for me, I have to do whatever it takes to disconnect myself from the comfort and security of connection with that person. Sometimes that means not talking for a long time or seeking out some new habits and friendships. Sometimes it means turning off facebook for awhile (because even if you delete the ex from your account… you still have 76 mutual friends that post about stuff involving the ex… ). It can turn into a daunting task.

I dated a guy once who happened to live next door. Which was amazing while we were together. Following the break-up, communication was pretty much severed. But there was a point when I realized that I took comfort in knowing every night when I came home, he was next door. Even though we weren’t really on speaking terms, and even though we both started to casually date other people, I still took comfort in his unspoken presence.

It took me almost a year to face the hard reality – Although it was easing the pain, if I ever really wanted to move on with my life, I would have to physically move apartments. Which was not ideal, because our place was great and cheap. (And I had lived there first. Not fair!) But after moving, I was instantly free from that final touch of emotional connection, and that feeling was priceless. Now having experienced some of the best years in my new place (and even successfully finding new love), I wonder what the heck took me so long.

The truth is — the longer you hold on, the longer you may be missing out on the blessings God has for you. You wouldn’t go back to a job you’d been fired from would you? (“But I really loved my job!”) And yet we find ourselves continually investing mental energy in relationships that aren’t right for us, whatever the reason may be. In one way, it could be seen as an admirable quality of perseverance. However, when it is over – truly over – no amount of negotiation, promise to change, or willpower to try harder can make something work that doesn’t. It is time to free yourself in order to be able to receive God’s best for you.

Which leads me to the next hard question – when do you have hope and when do you move on?

I wish I could answer that question for you, but I can only tell you this for certain. Knowing your identity makes all the difference in how you respond to a break-up.

What (or who) do you put your hope in? Do you seek comfort from past loves because it is easy, to assuage your own doubts of your worth? To calm your own fears of the future? Or do you embrace your calling as God’s child and trust that God is sovereign and has your best interest, even in (and especially in) this break-up?

I believe a break-up is one way God calls his children back to him. Relationships are very tangible sources of security and comfort. However, when you get so comfortable you start overlooking God’s will for your life, and what is best for you, it is possible to make a wrong turn.

“Much of the disappointment and heartache we experience is the result of our attempts to get something from relationships that we already have in Christ,” Timothy Lane & Paul David Tripp write in their book, Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. They go on to say (paraphrasing): If we seek our identity from other people, we will ride the roller coaster of their best and worst moments; we will become acutely aware of their weaknesses and failures; we will become overly critical, frustrated, disappointed, hopeless and angry because they have failed to deliver the identity we desperately seek.

However, if we remember that we are a beloved child of God, and that he has given us everything we need to be who he created us to be – we are freed up to truly love and serve others. We are free to be patient and forgiving, because we are not demanding anything in return. And we are free to mourn the loss of something special, appreciate it for the gift it was, and move on to better things for us.

So, in the face of a break-up, it is okay to be hurt, angry, and disappointed. It is okay to feel the looming pain of loss. But the sooner we embrace the appropriate boundary toward healing, the better. Even if the boundary is temporary. Even if we try one thing and have to change it. It is important to take a step away from communication for awhile and gain comfort in something besides that person. Do something you have always wanted to do, just for yourself. Take time with some great friends. Try a yoga class. Sign up for a marathon. Most importantly, seek God. It is in this place that you will find true healing, comfort and wisdom even in the midst of the most confusing relationships.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask of God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. – James 1:5


When The Man You Thought You’d Marry Breaks Up With You

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Editor’s Note: Kimberly shares her story on going through a breakup with the man she thought she would marry. A story that so many of us have experienced, including myself. You will make it out alive. She blogs at Bloom Of Hope and tweets at @__youareloved__. – Lauren

Last year, the guy I thought I would marry broke up with me.

Flash back to two years prior – life was busy but good. I met an amazing guy. He listened, loved Jesus, and made me laugh. He became my best friend.

Eight months later we were dating. A few more months and I was in love. He wasn’t like the other guys I had dated. I felt genuinely accepted, loved, and adored. After being in several bad relationships, I was hesitant, but eventually I let my guard down and trusted him completely. “This is what a real relationship looks like,” I would tell myself. “This is the man I’m going to marry.”

Then, after a year and a half, everything changed. He wanted out, he was done, there were things about us he didn’t like. I told him I loved him, that I wanted to work at it, fight for it. But that wasn’t something he desired anymore. I wasn’t something he desired anymore.

So there I was with a heart full of love and arms empty. Totally rejected. To put it gently, I was disoriented and very, very confused. To put it bluntly, I was a wreck.

For a while, I tried to rationalize his decision and have some control over what had occurred. My thoughts constantly churned in my head as I tried to come to some sort of resolution. This was exhausting and pointless. I eventually had to accept the fact that I’d never fully understand what happened and why. And that’s when the true ache set in.

A pain I could not control crashed over me, knocking me down and leaving me completely paralyzed with heartbreak. “What is the matter with me?” I cried out to God. And not the cutesy one tear, makeup-is-still-in-tact, movie-star kind of cry. I’m talking about the ugly kind. Red cheeks, tear stained face, the whole bit.

The man who I totally trusted, who knew me better than most, decided I wasn’t worth it anymore. So doesn’t that say that I’m worthless? His actions made me feel as though I was nothing, that I had no value. That is the underlying message when someone leaves us, when someone hurts us. If we were valuable enough to them, they wouldn’t have walked away in the first place.

This kind of pain shapes and scars us. We start to believe that our pain was deserved and that those who wronged us did so because they knew. They knew who we really were. And we start to believe it: that we deserve to be left, to be hurt, to be alone. But that is a vicious, seething lie that we must not believe.

In my times with God, I’ve realized that I’m worth much, much more than the pain I’ve experienced. The person that hurt you didn’t treat you with the love, respect, and dignity that you deserve. You are loved beyond measure and God’s heart breaks when yours does. He has taught me that the abandonment I experienced had nothing to do with my value as a person. NOTHING.

I am God’s child. His heir. His princess. His beloved. His creation. And so are you.

Your circumstances and your past do not reflect your value. But Jesus does. Jesus died for you, suffered for you, laid down his life for you. Because you’re that valuable.

Because he adores you and delights in you.

Because he wants to keep you safe and protect you from harm.

Because he loves you more than you can even fathom.

I don’t want the men who have hurt me in my life to speak for my value anymore.

If I let any man speak for my value with his actions – I’ll let it be Jesus.

This gives you and me great freedom. We no longer have to hold onto bitterness and anger towards those who have hurt us because their actions don’t reflect anything about our hearts, bodies, minds, and souls. In the midst of our healing, join me in remembering what Jesus has done and what it says about you.

Your value is secure. Even when your heart is breaking, even when you are hurt beyond measure, even when you feel small and sad – your value is spoken for. Irrevocably.

You are loved, admired, adored, and taken care of. Forever. The pressure is off. Because you will always be enough to the man that means the most.


I Don’t Flirt Anymore So That I Won’t Get Hurt

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Breanna Moret. She tweets at @imabumblebre and blogs at breannachanel.blogspot.com. She also wrote a phenomenal post for us on emotions called On The Run, In Hiding, & An Attempt Not To Feel. Oh and PS. Do you stalk your ex on Facebook? We want to know.Lauren

So there’s this boy…even writing those words gets me excited. Can you feel it too? The excitement you feel when you hear someone tell their love story, the story of how they found someone to love and be loved in return. So there’s this boy. And I like him. But before I go any further, I feel like I need to explain some things.

I have never met my real father and my stepfather is anything but fatherly. Safe to say, I’ve got some residual “daddy issues”. I’m familiar with defense mechanisms, finding ways to compartmentalize and ignore the heavy baggage I carry, from myself and others. When it comes to my heart, I keep it on lockdown, safely tucked away in a box somewhere so that I can control who and how much a person can access it. It’s a continuous battle to keep the doorways to accountability open in my relationships, willing myself to be brutally honest about the current state of my heart. In the last year or so, I’ve welcomed the fight more and more, finding immeasurable amounts of encouragement and support from the people the Lord has placed in my life.

But boys? Boys are another creature entirely. You see, I have never dated. Never had a boy call me up and ask me to that much desired dinner and movie. Never had a boy tell me I’m the most beautiful girl in the world. Never had a boy hold my hand on the way home and kiss me goodnight. So I don’t have the scars some girls carry from a really horrible breakup or relationship gone wrong. I have scars of an entirely different kind.

This is how my story usually plays out: Girl meets boy. Girl likes boy. Girl isn’t sure how boy feels. Girl wonders and hopes and thinks and then wonders a little more all while experiencing a range of emotions from giddiness to insecurity to jealousy to desire, all jumbling together until one bleeds into the next and she doesn’t know what she feels. Girl eventually realizes she’s not enough to catch his attention and gives up. And repeat.

But today I realized the lie in that story.

Why the hell not? Why aren’t I enough?

I have let myself believe that I’m not worth his love, not worth his respect. And not only have I let myself believe that lie, I’ve come to expect it. Instead of putting myself out there and flirting and getting to know a guy, I run away. I run away because then I remain in control of the situation. I control whether or not I get hurt.

I fill my head with lies that eat away at my self-esteem, my confidence, the very things that make me me. Have you ever told yourself that you’re not pretty enough? That you’re not funny enough? Have you ever told yourself that he would never choose you when he could have so many others?

Because if you have, you need to stop. Stop right now.

You are pretty enough, funny enough, special enough. You are enough.

Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

The Lord, our Most High God, says you are are fearfully and wonderfully made. All of you. Every inch.

Who am I to say what He has made isn’t good enough?

I’ve burrowed myself deeper and deeper into a pit of doubt and insecurity, refusing to see me how God sees me. Refusing to see that I am worthy. And I am loved. I am respected and desired in every way I could possibly want or imagine by our glorious and perfect God. And that is so much more than what any guy can give me.

So I’m done with the comparisons and the expectations and the lies. I’m done with the running away. I don’t know what will happen with this boy, whether it’ll turn into something or just be one of those crushes, but I don’t really think that’s the point.

The point is that I’m enough.

You’re enough.

We’re enough.


Last Valentine’s Day I Watched Kill Bill & Broke Dishes

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Kelsey Manning. She’s the one who takes care of our Facebook page and is simultaneously obsessed with music, puppies, puns, and Jesus. We love her like something else around here. You can read her full bio here or check out her blog and Twitter! Tomorrow we’ll be doing a SPECIAL GIVEAWAY for Valentine’s Day, so make sure you pay attention! – Lauren

Last year, to celebrate Valentine’s Day, my friends and I watched Kill Bill and broke dishes.

I’m pretty sure that it’s not quite what Hallmark had in mind.

It’s not that I’m against love, but watching gory revengeful movies and getting out all your feelings on one of the dumbest holidays ever is healthy. Because, you know, I’m an expert who needs no entanglements or silly boyfriends or head-over-heels-crushes to stay happy. Or you know, I might just be a cynic of love who is scared to admit that she still is a hopeless romantic who loves musicals under that tough skin and making-fun-of-relationships-facade.

TMI?

Being single on Valentine’s Day is dramatic even if you don’t acknowledge it. Every commercial on television is for chocolate and perfume and K-Y warming liquid. Every store display is disgustingly overdone with teddy bears and roses. But it isn’t the cheap gifts or obnoxious displays that get me – when you’re single on Valentine’s Day you entertain the thought that there may be something wrong with you, because it seems like the rest of the world is coupled up. You hang on to the reason you’ve failed in relationships in the past, unable to let go. And then, at least in my own heart, I pile on guilt from other mistakes I’ve made and suddenly one tiny little holiday makes me feel worthless.

Last year, all these feelings had hit me at once, along with my group of friends – all fantastic people, yet all feeling guilty and left out by being single – and I decided we should take action against these feelings. And when I take action, most often, I do so with a vision.

You see, I’m a visual learner. As much as words can comfort me and I can bask in them, roll them around on my tongue and rewind television shows just to hear the rhythm in the way certain sentences sound, if I really want to drive a point home, I have to see it with my baby blues. I want to open my eyes wide and get to know the colors and shapes and textures and how the light hits something just so.

Luckily, I got to learn this particular way last February 14th, when my friends and I had ourselves a little “Break” party.

What does this entail?

It’s simple, really. We drove to Goodwill and collected a handful of cheap plates, all of different colors but all those that looked extra fragile. We then brought the plates back and attacked them with Sharpies, writing out everything that we wanted to see break into a million little pieces. Fears, shame, bad dreams, regrets, doubts, guilt, experiences that hurt, and, since it was Valentine’s Day, most of our plates had failed relationships, lost loves and the names of soul-crushing boys and heart-stealing girls that we wish we’d never run into in the first place written all over them. We kept our plates to ourselves, mulling over them until we were all ready, then trekked out to the railroad tracks behind my apartment, and huddled together, we said goodbye to our precious regret-stained dishes. One by one, we said goodbye to pain and failures and secrets and feelings that left us worse off. Standing across from each other, we addressed our plates individually, addressing them like they were our own hearts, and, as if in slow motion from our very own Tarantino movie scene, then smashed them down into the tracks, watching them all break away and cheering with each broken dish at the realization that, surely, it was all just words on a plate anyway.

When we’re wrapped up in the past, we’re unable to handle what happens day-to-day, much less think about the future. God says that when we ask for forgiveness from our mistakes, he cleans our slates (or plates!) immediately. Psalms 103:12 says that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” But even believing in this promise, after being forgiven, we still so often hold onto the guilt and shame with a clenched fist. We know we’re forgiven, but the ways in which we’ve failed come up in our conversations like word vomit and hang over our heads like a dark cloud, refusing to let us live. But the truth is, that is no way to live at all!

So this Valentine’s Day, I’m trying to approach it less dramatically. I’m trying to let Hebrews 10:22 wash over me – ”let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience,” and simply invest in my own Valentine’s Day by remembering that I am fully forgiven, justified just the way I am and loved deeply by Jesus.

But, I’m not promising that I may not invest in another 25 cent plate and a sharpie.

Call it dramatic, call it childish, but I can honestly say that last year, I left a few things on that railroad track that I won’t be needing anymore. Maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t meant to be spent wallowing in romantic comedies and cookie dough. Maybe our mistakes in love shouldn’t bring us down, even on a day that can be hard to be alone. Maybe visually smashing the things that we need to let go of costs way less than therapy.

Maybe plates need to break so that we don’t have to.


What’s Your Definition Of Love?

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Editor’s Note: About two years ago, I started a photo project where I took portraits of strangers in the street and asked for their definition of love. Not a single one of them knew right off the bat, and only after 5 or 10 minutes of hard thinking could they come up with a strained definition. So today, after you read Natalie‘s post, won’t you leave your definition of love in the comments? Everyone needs a definition of love. Let’s share ours with one another. – Lauren

Love? Are you sure?

I love being in love. It’s probably the one feeling I love the most. I’m addicted to it. If you ask any of my friends or family, they’ll tell you – that girl loves being in love more than anyone we know.

The butterflies in the stomach, the warm embraces, the crazy passion, my heart always racing.

And I’m good at it, too. I put my boyfriend on a pedestal, I’m a huge romantic – affectionate, supportive, faithful, I get along with all his friends, like his taste in music, do all the things he loves to do, basically treat him like he’s the last man on earth.

My last boyfriend said I treated him like a prince, and whenever he was with me he felt surrounded by love and safe. Yet if that was the case – why didn’t it work out? Where did it go wrong?

I know this is going to sound really funny – but I’m an awesome girlfriend. Not because I think I’m some kind of great person – I just LOVE being in love, and it shows. I live for it!

And it’s all real, in my mind. When I hear “I love you” and say “I love you!”, I never give it a second thought. I never think that it might not be love. In my mind, I’ve decided I’m going to love them with all my heart, always be there for them, to encourage them and do life with them… and I believe that they’ll do the same.

Naive? Maybe. But I’ve loved it too much to check myself.

The problem is, I never stop to see if our definitions of love are even the same.

My idea of love, like many women who grew up on Disney fairy tales, is that my prince charming, my knight in shining armor will slay a dragon just to be with me. You know, that he would rather die first before ever dishonoring me.

I can’t help but think, if I had just taken the time to find out what the word love meant to my past boyfriends – maybe I could have spared myself and them a lot of tears and frustration.

God’s love is unyielding and ours is so fleeting. Yet we use the same word to describe two very different kinds of love.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately, reflecting on God’s love for me. What it’s looked like over the past 10 years.  What it’s looked like over my entire life. And I think, “I’m going to have a hard time accepting the word ‘love’ so easily from now on, from someone I’m dating.”

In the past, I never used to question it. I was just glad to hear it. Relieved, and excited by it. But thinking it means the same thing to them as it does to me has resulted in a lot of heartbreak.

The next time a man says “I love you”, I will ask him:  “Are you sure? Because God’s shown me what love means to Him and I have a hunch his version is a little different than yours.”

Next time, I’m going to make sure we both understand which definition we’re referring to.

We need men who try to love us the way God does. Because we’ve walked away from, ignored, abandoned, betrayed, lied to, and hurt God in incredible ways. Yet God never left us or loved us any less.

I need to know that a man will stay and love me through all of my mistakes and offenses. That he will be willing to work with me. That he will wait for me.

Because God is willing to wait for me no matter how long it takes. His love never ceases, changes or grows weaker.

That’s love.

Anyway, I’m just thinking that a lot of hurt and suffering might be prevented if couples start take a good hard look at what their definition of love is.

My prayer is that we all find our true love. But in the meantime, we don’t have to look very far to find it – it comes from our heavenly Father above us.


I Met My Future Husband When I Didn’t Want To

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Stephanie Spencer. She’s wife to a wonderful man, mom of 2 great boys. Lover of coffee, chocolate, & good conversation. You can follow her blog at everydayawe.com or on Twitter at @everydayawe. – Lauren

It was a Tuesday afternoon. I was taking one of those wonderful after-class naps that are the bread and butter of college life. Until the phone woke me up. It was a guy. He asked me to a movie. I said yes.

The only problem with this response was what had happened a week earlier. ONE WEEK earlier. The day I wrote this in my journal…

“My past history shows my tendency to look for security in a male. If I don’t commit that problem to God, whatever relationship I enter into won’t be a healthy one…. For at least 1 year from today, I will not date anybody. That way, I can focus on my love for God and my relationship with Him.”

My reasons for making this commitment were good. I needed time for healing. I needed time to focus. I needed time for my identity to be rooted in God’s love for me.

But now, here I was, having said yes to a movie with this guy.

Because it’s not really a date if it’s a Tuesday, right? And if it was someone I was friends with? And if he didn’t pay? And if we didn’t hold hands?

I didn’t tell him until the end of the night that I was in a commitment to not date anyone for a year.

Oops.

This guy was great. Really great. We both volunteered in the youth group at our church. We both went to the college group there, too. And, so, we saw each other a lot. And the more we saw each other, the more I liked him. He was nothing like the guys that were a part of my past relationship flubs.

It was clear to both of us that we had feelings for each other. But did that mean I should stop my commitment? The commitment I made before God? Wasn’t that getting my priorities all out of whack?

So, I prayed. A lot. More than I had ever prayed about anything in my entire life to that point. As time went on, it felt disingenuous to keep this commitment. There was an obvious spark between us. People saw it when we were around each other. Many people thought we were dating. (To be fair, we also probably hung out more than we should, encouraging this perception).

On the other hand, I had made this commitment for good reasons. I wanted to live out Mark 12:30.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

I knew that in the past, my relationships had clouded that.

I had loved men who didn’t share my love for God, and had split my heart.
I had thought my worth was based on whether men liked me, and had split my soul.
I had made decisions not in line with what God’s ways, and had split my mind.
I had pursued men because I didn’t feel whole alone, and had split my strength.

The commitment to not date was meant to take off the pressure. Remove the temptation. Focus my energies on the One who loved me with an everlasting love.

I didn’t know what to do. This guy was a godly man. Time spent with him encouraged me in my faith. It didn’t feel like a splitting of my heart or soul or mind or strength. It felt like an expansion of those things. In time, I fell in love with him.

I fell in love with him when we were not even dating.

Eventually, 4 months after I made the commitment, I broke it. This man and I prayed (together) and felt that making it official was the right decision.

I labored and struggled with the weight of that choice. But, I truly felt that it was the right one.

It seemed to me that the desire to focus on the Lord, to not rush into a relationship, was God-given. But this matter-of-fact, write-it-in-my-journal, set-a-time-frame vow, was not. It seemed to go against what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount about making vows. It seemed to have an air of pride. An “I know what God wants from me” attitude instead of a “I will be open-handed to what God wants from me” attitude.

Am I sure I made the right choice? No. Perhaps we should have waited. But, it felt like the right choice at the time. And it definitely felt like the right man.

All these years later, I still love my husband. For all the same reasons I did then. And more.

And I am still glad for the commitment that led me not to date him right away. Not because they were magic. (Please do not make a commitment to not date anyone and assume the next guy God sends your way is your husband.) But, because the commitment grounded me.

The commitment showed God my willing heart. It showed me my brokenness. It showed us how our relationship, from day one, needed to be laid on the foundation of prayer.

And what has stuck with me the most is what the commitment ended up teaching me about love. It was because of the commitment that I fell in love with a man before I dated him. I didn’t fall in love with the idea of being in love. I didn’t fall in love with the idea of who the man I dated should be. I didn’t fall in love with a man because he loved me.

I fell in love with a man because of who he was. And I’m very glad I did.


It Is About Us

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by my sweet friend, Haley. She blogs here and tweets at @haleykristine. This month as we share stories about dating, not dating, and trying to date, I want to take a time out and look at this from another perspective. One we’re too often guilty of not seeing. – Lauren

So often I think it is about me. About us. About women.

Probably because I am one.

I think of our broken hearts, shredded and lonely, waiting and wondering if anything but Christ and loneliness will ever live here.

I think of tears cried in the darkness and at empty kitchen tables, and smiles forced over cups of coffee pretending stories of others’ togetherness are simply a source of joy.

I think of how it feels to wonder who and to wonder why and to wonder why no one ever just asks, because you never know unless you ask.

But I rarely consider the responsibility you bear, brother.

I rarely think of what it must be like to be the one to ask the question, to make the first move, as your broken, lonely, shredded heart beats a bit faster as you wonder what she will say.

I rarely think of what it must be like to face the choice of relationship instead of independence, to choose to love another as Christ loves the Church. For the rest of your collective time on this earth.

Brother, that must be so daunting.

I do not know if I could handle that responsibility.

Of course I have my own responsibility to bear in that same agreement, for the rest of our collective time on this earth.

But, brother, I rarely consider your side.

I rarely wonder what you think or feel late at night in the darkness or at empty kitchen tables or over cups of coffee, or perhaps for you it is pints of beer and cigars.

Brother, I am sorry for thinking it is just me, it is just us, just women.

It is about us, men and women, with hearts on the mend, waiting and wondering if anything but Christ and loneliness will ever live here.


Most Embarrasing Dating Stories + A BOOK GIVEAWAY!

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Editor’s Note: Today we are featuring Renee Fisher‘s new book release: Not Another Dating Book. I LOVE Renee’s story, and she’s been so generous to giveaway THREE copies of her new book, as well as to share with us some hysterical “terrible date” stories for today’s post. To enter to win the book giveaway, LEAVE A COMMENT WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. Thank you! – Lauren

So you think your date was bad? After being single for eight years you would think I could laugh in the face of Valentine’s Day. Not so much. I hated that holiday more than any other, and naturally assumed all chocolate and flower companies came together to make us poor single girls feel bad. (Not that I can’t buy myself Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and bright red, orange, and pink gerber daisies, but whatever!)

When I wrote Not Another Dating Book as the answer to my single woes, I felt it was a mantra to all things singles struggle with. For instance, learning how to laugh while you’re still waiting. Why? Because Humor in relationships is important. Very important. My favorite part of the book are all the most embarrassing date stories I collected from across the country from dates gone wrong.

This Valentine’s Day, no matter which side of the fence you find yourself, let’s choose to laugh and here are some quotes to help you do just that!

* * *

My date was twenty minutes late for coffee, and when he finally showed up he sat down and started talking about his goals and plans for the future. He wanted to be a high school teacher in a small town in Iowa, he wanted at least six children, and he wanted his wife to be a stay at home mom. “What do you think?” he said. “You up for it?” I replied that I was hoping to have a career after college, and he shrugged, stood up, and left. –Stephanie, 20

I’d asked this guy out for coffee, and I thought he understood that it was a date. We met at a coffee shop on campus and were having a great conversation when he started to look all nervous and twitchy. He nodded over to the door, where another woman had just walked in. “I’m thinking of asking her out,” he said. “What do you think?”—Gillian, 25

It was my first date with this guy I’d liked forever. He took me to Olive Garden and ordered salad without dressing for us. I looked surprised, and he informed me that “Dressing’s really fattening. I don’t think you need it.”– Shelli, 28

I went on a date with a guy who ended up dining and dashing. I was sitting at the table waiting for him while he went to the “restroom”…and then I looked out the window to see him outside the restaurant waving at me, signaling me to run out and leave! I ended up paying for the entire meal myself. –Christine, 28

I went over to my date’s house to pick her up for a dance. She got in the car and I proceeded to try to back out of the driveway with the emergency brake still on. Her parents, grandparents, and siblings were all standing there laughing. –Ethan, 20

My ex-girlfriend had just broken up with me, but couldn’t find a new date to her homecoming dance. Her mother called my mother, and my mom forced me to take her. It was awful. – Nathan, 28

My boyfriend took me for a picnic in the park after it had gotten dark, not realizing that it was illegal to be there after sunset. He’d just leaned over to kiss me when a policeman showed up and demanded to know what we were doing. – Emily, 21

I was set up on a blind date, and I was only told the guy’s first name. When he arrived, it turned out to be an ex-boyfriend. Our breakup hadn’t been a good one. He stormed off, and I sat there feeling awkward. – Kelly, 31

In the middle of dinner my date got up, said he was going to the bathroom, and left the table. He was gone for half an hour. I started to wonder if he’d ditched me, but his jacket was still on the chair and his phone was still in the pocket. He finally returned with some excuse about feeding the parking meter, acting like nothing was wrong. When the check finally came, he whipped out a two-for-one coupon. “I bet you’re glad I have this,” he said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have taken you to a place this nice.”—Andrea, 23

I was on a date with a guy I met on eHarmony. It was really uncomfortable—we had nothing in common, and I had more chemistry with our waiter. As the date was ending he looked at me and said, “So how should we pursue this?” I told him I wasn’t interested. – Chelsea, 26

I spent the entire date calling a guy by his twin brother’s name. Worst date ever for him and me. – Bethany, 32

Note: To enter to win a copy of “Not Another Dating Book”, LEAVE A COMMENT WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. The giveaway will be open until Monday at midnight. We will announce the 3 winners on Tuesday. To purchase her book, or read more about it, you can find it here on Amazon. – Lauren


Valentine’s Day Stories: The Third Year’s The Charm

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Editor’s Note: Happy February, everyone! This month we are sharing both funny and tragic Valentine’s Day stories – but we’d also like to throw some other dating stories into the mix. If you have a Valentine’s Day story to share, or would like to share some hard lessons you learned about dating, not-dating, or falling in love, please visit our Contribute page! Today’s post is by Jess Bender. She tweets at @blessthisjess and blogs at bless this jess. – Lauren

The way Dave and I met and fell in love was meant to inspire a cinematic romance. We had our meet-cute in our alma mater’s dark room nearly four years ago, where he was working on his budding photography career and I was the department’s assistant. After talking for four hours about how much we hated the movie Juno, video games we played in our childhoods, and our mutual appreciation for B-movies, we added each other on Facebook and planned our first hangout.

Dave came over to my dorm room on a Friday night at 10:30 after a long shift at work, and our courtship officially began. I like to think that I won him over when I cooked him some badass orange chicken, because he practically begged me to hang out with him on Sunday. What was supposed to be a photo excursion to Chinatown ended up being a 14-hour date that was capped off with our first kiss at 2:45 in the morning.

The honeymoon phase of our relationship lasted quite some time. We both fell in love with each other at the same exact time (after catching a Lou Reed documentary and we wandered to Battery Park on the foggiest of nights); Dave eventually confessed he was falling in love with me at Bryant Park while we were surrounded by rabid Jonas Brothers fans. From that moment on, I knew I was in a solid relationship I’ve always dreamed of being in since I was a bright-eyed little girl.

Despite our near-perfect relationship (I’ll admit, there have been a few major hiccups during the history of us, but who hasn’t had those?), one area that Dave and I had a hard time perfecting was the Art of the Perfect Valentine’s Day. Just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, we’ve managed to get things “just right” by the third time.

Our first Valentine’s Day together was void of any plans and filled with much angst. As a 20-year-old who was used to depressing or underwhelming holidays, I was expecting the most flawless February 14th that year. Unfortunately for the both of us, things didn’t go as planned. Dave couldn’t get off work that night until 11, and I gave him hell for it (I still apologize to him for it to this day – man, I was a brat). I ordered a pile of Chinese food that night and proceeded to watch sugary romantic comedies on my laptop in my room. Conveniently, while I was busy stuffing dumplings and tears into my giant mouth, my Macbook decided to break on me. Dave was a hero that night as he accompanied Grumpy Me to the 24-hour Apple store on 5th Avenue, but I was too upset to appreciate his chivalry until now.

365 days come and go, and our next Valentine’s Day was disastrous in a different kind of way. Weeks of constant bickering and verbal quarrels had worn me down, and it was in my personal interest to give our relationship a time-out. Dave wanted to save our partnership, so he planned the most elaborate date that I’ve ever heard of. He booked all of my favorite activities and squished them into a single day – a morning in the kitchen at a couples’ cooking class followed by a romantic stroll in Central Park followed by a night of stargazing and chocolate-covered strawberries at the planetarium. Unbeknownst to him, I had already intended on brunching with my parents and baking with my brother to keep my mind off my complicated relationship status.

Looking back on the Valentine’s Eve that followed, the night was both weirdly hilarious and a bit upsetting. Fortunately, Dave gave me the permission to tell this tale, since it was the event that brought us back together for the long run.

Dave and myself were invited to the same house party, a party we didn’t really want to attend due to our mutual depression. I clung onto my gal pals and strangers I met that night, and he mingled with a bottle of whiskey and a handful of vodka-soaked Gummi Bears. Trying to start a conversation with him became harder to do as he became drunker and drunker. Within an hour, he blacked out and found a way to get sick in every part of the host’s apartment. When the host pulled out his samurai sword and hovered over Dave’s passed-out body, I had to step in and save my man from being chopped up. Two hours later, five strong volunteers and I carried Dave to his mom’s boyfriend’s truck, three stories down.

Fast forward to a year later, and the beau and I thought long and hard about how we wanted to spend the most romantic day of the year. After much discussion (AKA about ten minutes) – we both came to the conclusion that we needed to eat. He booked the joint (a cheap-but-respected BYOB Asian tapas joint in the Lower East Side) and I bought the fancy red wine to accompany our meal. Piles of spring rolls and sake-braised scallops, along with sloppy renditions of Biz Markie songs and tons of deep eye-gazing across the table, made for a wonderful night.

We figured out how we’re going to celebrate the love-filled holiday this year a few nights ago. Dave found a quirky restaurant near the place where we realized we were in love with each other, so it’ll be another year of good food and even more memories. I’m not sure if we’re going to top the epicness of last year’s romantic rendezvous, but at least I know we finally got the hang of this thing we call Valentine’s Day.


What I Learned About Relationships In 2011

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post was written by Diana Rausin. She blogs at Just Be Loved and tweets at @LadyDi1115. I really love all the relationship advice that is crammed into this article! SO MUCH goodness. – Lauren

This past year I’ve come in contact with many different forms of relationships.

Some of my friends entered their second year of marriage.
Some of my friends got married.
Some got engaged.
Some just started dating.
Some broke up.
Some have been married for many years.

And none of them are the same.

I decided a while back that I would try to learn from what everyone around me in relationships had to offer. How do relationships really work? What’s normal? What’s is trying to make it work and what is beating a dead horse? What makes a relationship last?

So I’ve watched. I’ve asked. I’ve taken mental notes. And I’ve prayed. Most of all, I’ve learned.

I’ve learned that no two relationships are the same. They all start differently, they all have different struggles, and they all have different ways of functioning. You cannot compare your relationship to that of someone else. Just because one relationship starts really quickly and one takes months of months of being friends before dating… doesn’t mean one will last and one won’t. There is no cookie-cutter relationship that we should all hold as our standard.

I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be hard. I’m not saying that it is always going to be easy, or that you will never fight. But I’ve seen a lot of my friends in couples over the past few months… and it doesn’t have to be that hard! If while you are dating: you fight every single day, you can’t agree on anything, you talk bad about each other when you aren’t around one another, you’d rather be alone more than being with your significant other, you can’t trust them… there is better! Maybe you work it out with the person you’re with. Maybe you decide to move on. But I’ve seen it. It does exist. Relationships are work, but they don’t have to constantly be hard work. 

I’ve learned the importance of dealing with your baggage BEFORE you enter a relationship. I never realized that the things that have scarred me in my past –’daddy’ issues, the way I have been treated in past relationships, the way I behaved myself and the scars I caused myself – will show up in your relationships! In a major way. No one person can make me whole. No one person can ‘fix’ me. It is up to me to allow Christ to do that and to genuinely seek becoming more like Him and healing those scars. He is the ONLY one that can do that.

I’ve learned that your spouse will always come second. I used to believe that my future husband would come above anything and everything else in my life. If we had children, they would follow. Then I fell in love with Jesus Christ. And He wants to be first in my life. ABOVE ALL ELSE. That includes a husband and kids. That includes family. That includes EVERYTHING. If you do not have a significant other that feels the same way or sees Christ the way you do, you need to seek Christ together and ask Him to change your hearts, make you fall in love with HIM, that way you can allow room for Christ in your heart and in your relationship.

I’ve learned my position as a woman in a relationship. I used to get soooo offended at the thought of ‘submitting’ to my husband. I am my own person, why should I let him get the say? It takes an entire post to expound upon this, but in the end, it’s not a power thing… it’s respect, it’s Godly, it’s trust. The Bible calls me to be with a man worth leading me and making the decisions when it comes to our well being, our walk with Christ, our children. Ladies, if he’s not worth submitting to, don’t. Men, we need you to lead us. We need you to be worth submitting to.

I’ve learned that no matter how hard, difficult, or confusing it may seem at the time, sometimes you have to walk away. I get so upset with friends who allow themselves to be walked all over. Because I’ve been there.  Ladies, if he is having an emotional affair with someone BEFORE you get married, what makes you think he won’t run to another woman when you’re married? Guys, if she’s cheated on you once, what on earth makes you think she’ll never do it again? She did not have the respect or love for you to not do it the first time. You may be afraid of being alone, you may not want to give up, but God wants you to. Let go of a bad, abusive, emotionally trying relationship. Don’t settle.

I’ve learned not to settle. I need someone to lead me in my everyday life and my spiritual walk. Someone who makes me laugh and laughs with me. Someone who appreciates me. Someone who is not abusive in any way. Someone who loves Jesus way more than he will ever love me. Someone who is ok with the fact that I may know just as much about football and baseball as he does. Someone Godly, respectable, and endearing. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I’d rather be picky, have high standards, and not settle than be in a relationship that is destructive for the rest of my life. I’ve come too far to give up now.

I’ve learned it’s not about me. My entire life, I have desired a relationship with a man. I’ve wanted a family. And more recently, I have desired to be a stay-at-home wife and mom. But these are selfish desires. I’ve learned we must align our hearts with God’s. If my relationships, if my life, does not honor and glorify Him, then what is the point? I do not want a relationship, simply to have a relationship. If I can serve God more furiously as a married woman, FANTASTIC. If I serve Him better single, then He will grant me the peace and understanding to do so for the rest of my life. I fully believe and put my hope in this truth.

I’ve learned the best and most fruit-bearing relationships bring you closer to God every single day. I’ve observed some pretty incredible relationships this year and have been so lucky to get to be a part of the lives of those in them and learn from them. And the biggest lesson they have all taught me? You can’t get closer to each other, without getting closer to God. Intimacy was CREATED by God Himself. How do we expect to know it, to have it, without Him? It’s like a triangle: The closer you get to Him at the top, the closer you get to each other. It also keeps your relationship strong and keeps Satan from attacking you with the everyday struggles of life. Those can either magnify the relationship or destroy it.

What advice do you have? What have you learned through relationships of your own or from others around you? Are you looking to learn? What could you learn?


What I Learned In 2011 About Love, Sex, & God

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Kelsee. She shares her story through years of struggling with sex, abandonment, beauty and men – and what she learned this year by the grace of God. – Lauren

I grew up never feeling beautiful or lovable. I always felt out of place and awkward and at 5’10″, I am somewhat taller than the average woman. I have struggled with that extra fifteen to twenty pounds as long as I can remember.

I did not grow up with a good relationship with my dad. My dad, while around, was never present. He was busy, he was an adult, he was working. Constantly. Our interactions were limited to him yelling or lecturing and I never felt affirmed as a beautiful daughter.

My older brother left for the Marine Corps when I was 16. We had a rough relationship. He ridiculed me and never defended me. I was never affirmed as a beautiful little sister. He and our father had a rough relationship too, which affected his with me, as I know now, but this is my story, not his.

My parents are both Christians and my mother is the most courageous and graceful, gracious woman I have ever met in my life. I grew up basically living at my church in southwest Ohio. I was there four to five times a week: Sunday morning, afternoon, night, Wednesday night, and usually Friday and/or Saturdays too. I met my best friends at that church and today we are still very close – but when I was sixteen, my parents moved the family to Michigan, to my grandparents’ house.

I was a junior in high school and I felt like God was punishing me for something, but I didn’t know what, because I was good kid. The perfect kid really; I didn’t drink, do drugs, smoke, rebel in any way, or have sex. I was trustworthy, responsible, got amazing grades, and played sports. So when we moved, I became angry, so angry. When I went to my new school, I was nasty with my words to anyone I didn’t like and shot icy glares at anyone who crossed me. I did not speak to God. And I did not participate at any church we went to. I was going to show Him.

My mom says today that I handled everything with such grace and that she is so sorry and so proud of me for what I had to go through. She doesn’t know that I cried myself to sleep at night, that I was miserable, that I cursed God.

When I was eighteen, my dad went to prison. February 2, 2006. I will never forget the last conversation I had with him. I will never forget visiting him in prison. I will never forget sobbing uncontrollably the night my mom told me where he was. I will never forget my incredible friend Hope, holding me in her arms on the floor of the school bathroom for three periods the next day. I was a senior and my dad missed my graduation, my open house, my first job, and my first day of college. He missed all of it. And I was heartbroken and angry. Again. Once again I felt ugly and unlovable and a now, a new one: abandoned.

I got a job and went to college and started drinking and smoking and ignoring my grades and flunking out of classes. I wanted to be noticed and loved and God noticed me and God loved me but I still held onto my grudge and ignored Him.

At my first job I met lots of boys who liked me and I didn’t understand why. I never grew up feeling beautiful or lovable because I never felt my father’s presence in my life. I did not know how to accept love from men. I was embarrassed when they would compliment me. My father never complimented me. He did not express his love for me in a way that I understood.

Then one day, I met a boy and this boy liked me. A lot. He broke up with his girlfriend because he liked me so much. And I liked him, but I was terrified of what letting someone love me would mean. So, for six months I kept this boy at arm’s length. I partied instead, never letting him get within reach of my heart – until one day I decided that I was ready take a chance. May 1, 2009.

I was 21 years old and had never had a boyfriend in my life. I had never been kissed. Never held a boy’s hand. Nothing. And I did everything with this boy. Everything wrong because I did not know any better. I knew in my head not to sleep with this boy but my heart was so thirsty for affirmation that I ignored the Truth and fell for every single lie Satan told me.

Lies that said I was not a good girlfriend if I didn’t sleep with my boyfriend. Lies that said I wasn’t good for anything but sex. Lies that said sex is the ultimate fulfillment in a relationship. Lies that said even God did not love me. Lies that said I was not beautiful and not lovable.

I got pregnant, but God had other plans for that child and I had a miscarriage. September 3, 2010. 4 days later my boyfriend broke up with me because “God told him to”. Yes, he really used that; he brought his Bible with him and everything. Yes, I hated God in my heart. And the next weekend, my ex-boyfriend had a new girlfriend.

Satan reiterated the same lie that he had fed me from childhood: I was not beautiful and I certainly wasn’t lovable and I was abandoned. And again, Satan added something new; I was also a failure as a woman because I had lost a child. I was devastated.

I struggled with my guilt and mistakes for several months, dwelling on Satan’s lies and drowning myself in alcohol and cigarettes. I had the typical rebound and a one-night stand. Mid-January, 2011.

And then God did something. He spoke to me. He whispered softly to my heart and took hold of my hand. He stopped me dead in my tracks and gave me a choice. Point blank. He said very clearly, “Kelsee, either you trust and believe in me this day, like you’ve been saying you trust me your whole life, and you follow me and serve me and turn away from this sin or you don’t believe in me at all. And you need to choose. NOW.”

And I did. I chose God. I chose life. I chose love and I choose love.

That was almost a year ago. In that moment of choice, I felt God and I knew God and since that moment when I finally sought His forgiveness and healing, He has been blessing me. He has been renewing me daily and saving me daily. He has been pursuing me and loving me and washing me with His blood. He has taken away my guilt and shown me that I am beautiful and I am lovable and I am not alone and I am not a failure as a woman.

I am now 24. December 5th. I am once again a student, but this time I have a clear path with God’s blessing, and I am not flunking out of any classes. I quit smoking back in June. I have abstained from sex since that one-night stand and I am saving myself once again for my future husband. My dad has been out of prison for a couple of years now and our relationship is much better. We had a discussion full of tears and apologies awhile back and we still fight (we’re both pretty stubborn and determined) but I know that he loves me and that he thinks I am beautiful. And by God’s grace and renewing love and mercies, I am learning to love myself and others from the inside out.

I still struggle with my past and wrestle with my demons, but God is faithful and God is strong and I am learning every day to trust Him.


My Greatest Mistake Wasn’t The Lying, The Cheating, or The Sex

Editor’s Note: We are getting ready to wrap up this month’s topic of dating and introduce November’s topic of pornography. If you are willing to help us begin the woman’s conversation of struggling with pornography, please send in your coveted words. Thousands of girls and women are fighting a solo battle against the lure of pornography and have no one to turn to, and believe they are completely alone. Today’s post is anonymous, but if you would like to get in contact with the author, please send me an email! – Lauren

Tell me, how do you get from a confident, Jesus-loving sixteen-year-old who is madly in love with her Pastor’s-son boyfriend – proud of her virginity, never tasted alcohol in her life, blonde hair down to her waist – to a depressed, angry eighteen-year-old who constantly cheats on her boyfriend, drinks, parties, short black hair and uses her body as a way to control men?

It started with small compromises and my desperation to break away from my large, conservative, Christian family and small town. Despite growing up in a Christian family, attending church and youth group, going to a Christian school, being a leader in my youth group and surrounding myself with solid friends, it only took three days from when I moved away for university before I showed up on the party scene. Here I was, this confident girl who had never before cared what the world thought of her, desperate to prove myself as fun and worthy.

This desperation led me down a dangerous path. I started drinking, staying out all night, and one night after a huge fight with my boyfriend, I cheated on him. A few days later I came clean and promised him that it was only one night and would never happen again. We had been together for two years by this point and I was desperate to keep this guy who treated me like gold. He loved me unconditionally, saw me for the woman God had created me to be, constantly encouraged and challenged me, and made me want to be the best possible version of myself. I’ll never forget the tears in his eyes as he told me that I wasn’t the girl he fell in love with and he saw so much more in me. Even though he spoke truth into my life and attempted to call me back to God’s heart for me, I retaliated in anger and pain over his perceived “rejection”.

On the surface, I kept trying to “fix” things with Jeff. But I would kiss him goodnight and go straight to another guy’s bed, trying to replace the intimacy that I had lost, with men who only wanted to use and abuse me. Jeff and I were severely broken and although we tried hard to deny it, we both knew that we were going down fast.

Having become something that I no longer recognized (and hating myself for it), I was grasping for something, anything that would keep Jeff’s attention. I was so desperate to get things back to the way they were before.

I began to use my newfound sexuality as a weapon of control. If he didn’t love my heart anymore, then fine, at least I knew he still thought I was hot. Let me warn you, ladies, no matter how steadfast and strong and Godly your boyfriend may be, don’t think that nothing is going to happen when he finds you taking your clothes off in his bed. Our formerly PG-rated relationship was quickly rolling downhill. I did my level best to break his resolve and threw every power of seduction that I had at him day after day. I hated myself, I hated him for giving in to me, just as I also hated him when he denied me.

At the same time, I continued to cheat, and to lie about the cheating. I found myself in a dark hole of depression. I cut off twenty-two inches of my golden blonde hair and dyed it dark, just because I knew that Jeff loved it long and blonde. I was self-sabotaging my relationship. I was lost and I was quickly losing everything – the guy who would have laid down his life for me, the new college friends that I thought cared about me, my reputation, but mostly, my faith.

If you thought that my greatest mistake was the lying or the cheating or the sex, it wasn’t. It was losing sight of God.

Without knowing Him, I didn’t know who I was or what I was about. I believed the lie that my body was the only thing that I had left to offer. In cheapening myself and using my sexuality to control, I was trading my body for sweet little lies that I was worth something. I refused to go to church or to pray or to journal, because I couldn’t handle the conviction and I didn’t think I deserved to talk to God anyway.

So now tell me, how do you get from rock-bottom at eighteen to loving life and alive in Christ at twenty-three?

After that first year of university, I knew that something had to change. I said goodbye to Jeff and decided to come home. It was there that God recaptured my heart. He began to pour truth into me about who He is and who I am. He lifted the shame and guilt off of me and gave me a peace and joy that I had never known before. He began to heal me, slowly and carefully. He showed me that no man can validate my worth; that is His job and His job alone. I learned that intimacy with Jesus is hard work and that there was nothing I wanted more than to fight for His heart and to be delighted in by Him.

Today, I am twenty-three, I have a degree, I have a great job and I serve in youth ministry. I have amazing friends, and have lived, studied, traveled and served in missions all over the world. Jeff also has a degree, also travels around the world serving in missions, has worked in government, and is about to start his masters degree. Most importantly, although we’re not together and never will be, God has healed our friendship and our hearts. We are both single and being used by God in ways that would have been impossible had we been together.

I give you this picture of now, because I think it’s the most important part. It is the picture of God’s great redemptive and restorative power to transform our lives. It is only by Him and through Him that we find ourselves healed and whole and equipped to serve Him.

Some days I wake up feeling like it’s all a story that happened to someone else.

Because that’s not me any longer. And it never will be again.

I am loved and cherished and worth so much more than one night or a cheap thrill. I understand now that my body cannot be used as currency for love. It is impossible. We are simply not created that way. I am the Bride of Christ.

I will one day be another man’s wife and I choose only to date men that treat me as such.

But above all else, I keep my eyes fixed on Christ. I’ve made many mistakes in dating since that time, but losing sight of Christ is not one I can afford to make again.


Dating Mistakes: Christian Man = Future Husband

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Ashley Wolf. She blogs at Little Somethings, and confesses something that a lot of us girls are guilty of: jumping to conclusions. I understand that good men are hard to find, which makes us cling to the hope of a relationship with them even more, but Ashley shares the mistakes she’s made in these exact same scenarios. – Lauren

I’m not a seasoned dater. I’m not one of those girls who gets out of a relationship and jumps into the next. In fact, I don’t even leisurely saunter to the next – I remain single for what seems like for-ev-er. I like to call this “chronically single”. That’s not really relevant, I guess – but all that to say, even in the limited “dating” I have done, I’ve made a whole lot of mistakes. Including the mistake of dating men who weren’t Christian, thinking my influence would change them.

This mistake realization may have led to yet another, less-obvious mistake that reads like a geometry proof:

IF: I like a guy, am attracted to him, and he is Christian (a Bible-believing, church-going, small group-leading Christian),

THEN: He is perfect for me and we are meant to be.

“Perfect Christian man” mistake number one happened in college. He was an officer of our college Christian organization, he was attractive, funny, smart, and *gasp* seemingly interested in me. We went to a few dinners and shows together, hung out with our Christian friends, watched movies and cuddled. He even took me to the top of our football stadium (which is not allowed, p.s. – what is it about breaking the rules that makes good men even more attractive?) to watch the sunset while we ate ice cream.

Pretty promising, huh? I certainly thought so. This was in the time span of about a month. So why, when we were having the DTR (define the relationship) talk a few months later, was I so heartbroken to not be walking away with a boyfriend (slash fiancé, slash perfect Christian husband)?

Probably because I had let my imagination – my hopes, dreams, expectations – run away with me. I had planned out our wedding, future mission trips, and babies.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, GOD, THAT THIS GREAT CHRISTIAN GUY ISN’T THE MAN I’M SUPPOSED TO MARRY? It hurt. It hurt bad.

Flash forward to a more recent occurrence of yet the same issue. Several “date-like” events with another young gentleman of excellent caliber and I was hooked. He knew his Bible. He led our Bible studies. He was mega-intelligent, witty, and made me laugh. Hard. A Christian I was attracted to, smart, funny, and I had good chemistry with? Somebody must have me on “prank’d”, ’cause this kind of thing just doesn’t happen. And because of its rarity and the amazing “Christian-ness” of said gentleman, I fell into the same trap.

How perfect! How stellar! No wonder it hasn’t worked out with others in the past! It couldn’t get better than this dude! Mistake. Mistake. Mistake.

This one didn’t “end” the same as the last. Instead of a nice, tidy conversation to tie things up, this man just stopped talking to me. He stopped initiating conversations and actually moved without letting me know (I know, this makes me sound like a crazy stalker… I swear I wasn’t. And yes, I’m aware that all crazy stalkers say that). Insert heartbreak here. I felt completely expendable and unimportant. Weren’t Christians supposed to treat each other better?

And there’s the lie. The lie that Christians are perfect. The lie that Christians will handle every situation perfectly. ESPECIALLY a great Christian male.

Certainly they don’t ever let anyone down.

Lie. Lie. Lie.

The ridiculousness of this lie is that I am a Christian. I know that I make mistakes. MANY mistakes. On a daily basis. Wait, make that hourly. I don’t handle many situations well. I let people down. I hurt people. I don’t intend to, but let’s face it, I’m human. We all are. Even Christian men.

Don’t put any man on a pedestal, whether he is reading his Bible eight hours a day, a youth minister, or a missionary in Africa.

The only one worthy of a pedestal? Jesus Christ.

The only perfect man? Jesus Christ.

The only one who will never let us down? Jesus Christ.


A Letter To My Younger Self

Editor’s Note: Today, Mary Trenda is sharing a little more than just dating mistakes. I love these letters to our younger selves that are slowly coming forward on the Internet. Mary blogs at MaryInMarriedLand and tweets at @maryeatsgreen. – Lauren

Dear younger self,

Life is hard, but it’s a lot less messy if you seek Jesus daily. Please make sure you make time every morning before school or work to read your Bible and talk to Jesus. You do not know what this will mean for you just yet. I promise though that you will make much better choices.

Please please please STOP listening to the voices of the mob. Those voices casting stones at you. They are feeding you lies about your true heart and worth. If someone tells you that your legs and butt are fat, don’t let those words define the way you see yourself. Give them over to Jesus and let Him tell you who you are to Him. ‘Cause you see, His opinion is the only one that matters. Your jean size, breast size… those sizes fit you perfectly. You have curves as women were created to have and you are beautiful. Remember that those larger hips are going to hold your baby. Love every inch of you, and DO NOT settle for a man who does not love every inch of you the same.

You will be presented with many options for what kind of man you want to align yourself with over the years. You will feel an incredible urgency to find a man. And sometimes it will feel like that’s all your world is supposed to be about. You will love men’s look, smell, touch, gentle words. Then there will be the ones a little more rough around the edges. You will be drawn to them too. They will present life as an adventure. It will get overwhelming, so this is where I hope you listen to me: do not settle for any man who does not love Jesus. This means he REALLY loves Jesus. Be drawn to the right kind of heart. One day this man will come across your path if you too are seeking Jesus wholeheartedly. He will sweep you off your feet, dear one, because he too has been waiting for you.

If you choose a man less than God’s best, marriage and raising children will be even more difficult that it normally is. So wait for this man. And when you marry him? Respect him and let him lead your family. Be sure to show him mercy (as Jesus has done for you) because he will not be perfect for you. He too will be flawed and a sinner. He will not meet your every need. So, once again – find your worth in Jesus.

You will be asked to go to parties, drink beer, smoke cigarettes, do drugs, have sex, steal some things… the list goes on. You do not struggle with these areas alone. Everyone on planet Earth has been presented with these things. So, before you go feeling that “no one else understands what I am going through,” please remember that everyone does. Trust me when I say you want to stay clear of those things. Yes, you will want to stop being a “good little girl” and will want to experiment. You are only setting yourself up for heartache, heartbreak, time wasted, and consequences that follow years and years to come. These things will scar you more. They will wound you. Don’t go there. RUN from them.

Be bold. If you are passionate about something, run after it with your whole heart. Love Jesus boldly and never apologize for expressing or sharing that love with others. Just make sure it does not come from a judgmental place. BE REAL. Be open. Be raw. Love well.

And never forget this part: If you start to let bitterness of any kind creep into your heart – get rid of it. Period.

Do not get caught up in comparing yourself to others. You will waste all that you have to offer the world when you let your energy focus on living up to other people’s standards. You will feel like you don’t measure up sometimes. You will feel that you are not pretty enough, smart enough, fun enough, rich enough, talented enough. When you get caught up in the comparison game you will feel depressed, envious, and bitter.

Let this be enough for you: Jesus says that you are enough. Let that be your motto. This frees your heart up to love those around you and appreciate the gifts that God has blessed others with. This allows you to be open to learn from others.

Give your dreams to God and let Him make of them as He wishes. Do not stand in His way. Make sure though that you do your part and put forth the effort. Work well and work hard. Do not be lazy. He will bless you. Do it all in His name.

Don’t live by a set of rules. These rules will be presented to you in black and white. Instead choose to focus of living in freedom. Freedom that only comes as you develop and grow closer to Jesus. If you put all your energy into following the rules (the law as the Bible calls it) you will become so burnt out that you throw your hands in the air and give up because you aren’t good enough. So just follow Jesus daily.

Oh, and another thing, I know that those pretty high heels and lacy dresses are beautiful but they are not worth spending every dime on. Be sure to give your money to people who actually need it. Give freely and do not expect anything in return. Learn to be content with what you have and thank God for blessing you with what you do have. You have so much more than half the world’s population. To them, you are already rich. Do not let money and things become your god. It will destroy your heart and rob you of having compassion for others’ needs. You are rich if you know Jesus.

I know that you will want to “appear” like you have everything under control in your life. You will want to be the pretty girl that all the boys want. You will want to be popular and be adored. You will do your best to keep up appearances just because you do not want people to find out that you are flawed and less than perfect. NEWS FLASH: you are less than perfect and flawed. You were born into a world of sinners along with everyone else. Why try to be something you are not? But dear one, there is hope in that Jesus died to forgive you of your sins and to give you a full life on this earth. HE IS YOUR ANSWER. Run to Him and never look back.

Lastly, make sure that you have fun. Enjoy your life. Savor every memory. Savor the moments with family and friends. One day you will experience the loss of a loved one and you will understand how important it is to never take one day for granted. SO ENJOY LIFE. God gave it to you to enjoy it. You have His permission. Soak it all up, but remember that you will give an account to him for all the things you do (both good and bad).

Love always,
Your older self


Dating Mistakes: I Changed.

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Kaleigh Somers. She blogs here and tweets at @kaleighsomers. In February, she wrote “A Walking Contradiction” for us. How have you changed for a guy? Has it happened without you noticing? What has happened to you when you dated before you knew who you were? – Lauren

I have only ever seriously dated one lousy boy. He was enough, though, to turn me off to all the almost-somethings who followed him.

The problem, of course, started years before that. Back in fifth grade, if I’m being honest with myself.

My then-best friend ratted on me to my mother.

“Kaleigh was flirting with Eric,” she told my mom, standing in our kitchen one afternoon when I’d invited her over. And my mother frowned and I swore up and down this wasn’t true.

I wasn’t flirting; I was just a giggler. Was it my fault everything he said was funny?

I remember my awkward, crooked-tooth self leaning over, even then, like maybe seeing down my shirt might change his mind about me. I don’t think it was intentional, or even something on my radar, but he stood with that awful boy band bowl cut hair in front of me and every move I made, every laugh that escaped my lips, was exaggerated.

That moment in math class is cemented in my mind.

That little act of mine continued straight on through middle school and all of high school as I fell, schoolgirl style, for popular boys who were too nice to completely ignore me as a human being. I knew only how to laugh at boys’ jokes—funny or not—and smile like my life depended on it.

It never worked, clearly.

And then I got quiet, just at the end of high school, and some boy I’d known since eighth grade, some boy I’d overlooked back then because I was too busy giggling with someone else, decided he couldn’t take his eyes off the only quiet girl in the group of seven loud mouths.

That’s what he told me then, at least.

But it didn’t take long for me to make the biggest dating mistake of my life: believing, without a doubt, that part of the process of dating was changing yourself to be someone the other person decided he liked better.

He liked me, but maybe some additional altercations would make me really sparkle and shine.

I was like a prom dress that looked great on the rack, even better in front of the mirror, but oh, how nice it would be to tailor it just a bit here and add a little embellishment there and maybe, yes, don’t move a muscle.

Just hold still while you balance on an impossibly small tightrope between what you are and what he wants you to be.
That is the lesson I steered away from admitting I’d learned in the fourteen months I spent chained to his side. Later, when we were broken up, my friend confided in me.

“You were the closest he’s ever going to get to perfect and he still tried to mold you into someone else,” she said. “He was so controlling, Kaleigh.”

I didn’t believe her, of course. By then, I was too wrapped up in trying to be perfect, still trying to be the one he might want, but for myself this time. I thought he’d found how to make me better and I needed to follow that formula if I ever wanted some other boy to give me a chance.

What a horrible, horrible mistake.

Nobody told me you chose someone, loved someone, because they are who they were the moment you first called them up and asked to go out to dinner and a movie. Nobody told me you chose someone to spend forever with because she stood her ground and knew who she was.

That’s why, I think, I’ve been hesitant to jump back into dating. I know I don’t know that girl anymore, and I know I made a mistake trying to change myself for the sake of someone else.

I think it’s the reason so many women my age are trying to run for the hills the moment the word ‘date’ comes up. If someone offers to set me up, instead of outright asking not to be, I just pray they’ll forget.

It’s been two years since I tried to be that girl, the one who fit his new girlfriend mold, and I’ve tried to push myself into dates that don’t fit.

Boys who like me because they think I’ll change for them. Boys who want to call me up in the middle of the night because they’re lonely, but can’t commit. Boys who tell me they’re proud to drink a case of beer in a day’s time.

I have had to promise myself, and will continue to, that I’m not going to change for those boys. I’m not going to alter the girl I am for a man with whom I fundamentally disagree. It no longer makes sense to me, and I wonder how it ever did.


Dating Mistakes: I Ignored An Abusive Past

Editor’s Note: So, so many of us women have had broken mothers and fathers in our lives, and it is crucial that we not sweep our past under the rug. If you’ve been hurt, you will only further hurt yourself and the men in your life if you do not get healing. What does “get healing” mean? I love Jen’s words: Replace your perception with God’s truths. Pursue finding someone to open up to and talk with about your past. And take it to God with them. – Lauren

There’s a lot of us out there who grew up with distant, abusive, absent, volatile, and/or immature fathers.

Fathers who didn’t cherish us the way we should have been cherished when we were little girls. Fathers who didn’t guide us in the right paths, fathers who didn’t tell us we were beautiful and worthy of only the best. Fathers who cheated on our mothers, looked at porn, or openly talked about women as objects.

Maybe it was our mothers who taught us to place far too much importance on our bodies, or who taught us to use our sexuality as a tool to get what we want.

A lot of us have scars from this, or even open wounds.

I don’t know about you, but looking back, I developed some serious self-image and sexuality issues from the way I was raised.

I was taught that I was a burden instead of a blessing, and that a woman has to give a man her body in order to make him happy. I believed that a woman was worthless to him unless she gave herself to him. I was taught that in order to be loved, a woman must be willing to do anything sexual that the man asked for. Otherwise, she wasn’t any fun and would be replaced by someone more adventurous.

Was I aware of these perceptions? Not at all. It was the only reality I knew, and it caused me to give away my body far too easily at far too young an age. I thought my body was the only valuable part of me, and that I couldn’t be loved unless the guy had it. I said ‘yes’ to everything asked of me, because I was too afraid that I would be rejected and unloved if I said ‘no’. To any of it.

And then I found God.

I thought that would be enough. I thought that along with my sin, my past thought patterns and perceptions would instantly be washed away. I wouldn’t need to work through them or acknowledge their existence, I could just hide in my new found faith. I thought that now, in my relationships, I surely wouldn’t have a problem with sexuality. It would be simple to just wait until marriage, because God was on my side!

Just because you find God’s love and have the best intentions, doesn’t mean you don’t need to face your past issues. God wants to heal you, and He is able, but healing is a process.

My point? Face these issues and find healing before you focus on dating.

As a brand-new Christian, I entered into a relationship with a guy without addressing and evaluating the “daddy issues” of my past. It was extremely difficult to break out of the patterns caused by those issues. I still had the urge to use my body to make him happy when he wasn’t happy. I still felt like I wasn’t worthy of being loved. I still felt like I couldn’t fully trust him, because every man in my life who came before him had hurt me.

God was trying to tell me differently, but I never opened myself up to true healing. I pushed my problems under the rug and tried to deny their presence in my life, because I didn’t want to face their existence. I didn’t want to think about the past, I just wanted to focus on the future. I found myself unable to be assertive in my relationship and unable to say ‘no’ when I needed to.

I needed to work through my feelings about sexuality, love, my childhood, and my dad with a pastor, therapist, or someone with some sort of wisdom and experience. I needed to examine my perceptions on these topics and replace them with God’s truth. And I desperately needed to do this before getting into another relationship.

Instead, I denied that my childhood had any lasting effect on me, and didn’t allow myself to be healed. I knew that God loved me and that I had more worth than just my body. I knew that in my mind, but I didn’t quite know it in my heart. I didn’t allow the truth to go as deep as it needed to, because that place was filled with pain and it was easier to ignore.

If there are issues in your past, if you have ugly perceptions of relationships or sexuality or your body or your heart, face these and replace them with God’s truth before you get into a relationship. Get healing.

A guy cannot “fix you”. He will not fix you.

God can fix you, but only if you open yourself up to it.


Dating Mistakes: I Can Change Him

Editor’s Note: I am so incredibly thrilled that Ruthie Dean wrote this post for us. She blogs at RuthieDean.com and tweets at @_ruthiedean. If you’re dating someone who doesn’t share your faith, I’ve written another post on the topic for you here. Much love. – Lauren

She is 42. She has 6 children. She is recently divorced.

“What happened?” I asked. Because seriously, how do you go from “Let’s have ½ a dozen kids together” to “I hate your guts and want out”?

“Well…” she paused, “I married him under the classic assumption that my love would change him. The issues in dating were heightened in marriage.”

All the guys I’d dated flashed through my mind. And all the wasted years I’ve spent trying to CHANGE men to be who I wanted them to be.

In high school, his name was Matt. He wasn’t a Christian and I wanted to change him into a Christian. No matter how hard I prayed and begged and talked about my faith – nothing changed. 10 years later, I still don’t know if he knows Christ.

Freshman year of college, his name was John. He had an ego problem and a drinking problem. He also wasn’t a Christian. So I foolishly believed my love would help him stop drinking and humble him. It didn’t.

The next year, his name was Brandon. I made a commitment to only date someone if they checked the “I’m a Christian” box and embarrassingly began a relationship with him just hours after I shared Christ with him. Yikes. He had a drinking problem and some violence issues, neither of which were solved by my efforts to change him or his supposed conversion.

Six months after my relationship with new convert ended, I invested my ‘change efforts’ onto a football player named Greg. He confessed desperate love for me and I begged him to stop sleeping around. I called God in to help, and I just knew my love, our love, would change his sex addiction. He would take me out to dinner and, because I was “a prude”, would call up someone else to spend the night with. To this day, he is still living the same life in a different city with different women. His love for me didn’t change anything—long term, at least.

Junior year. I was on top of things. Standing strong. President of Campus Crusade and leading two Bible studies. Did I wait for the right guy to come along? I really wish the answer was ‘yes.’ Instead, I started a relationship with a drug dealer. The first order of business was to change his salvation status [take him to church]; the second, his drug problem. Because Jesus can save anyone, right? And I was doing the right thing by taking him to church? Wrong. The Bible warns us not to become entangled with non-believers. Take them to church? Great! Share Christ? Amazing! But doing these things with our own agenda, while we date them? No. It is against God’s will. It is wrong, and it is hypocritical.

And I could name others. But do you know what happened with almost every guy I prayed incessantly for and tried to change? They didn’t change. At least while I was dating them.

Yes, some are different people today than they were five years ago. One eventually accepted Christ. But the truth is I didn’t change any of them, and I wasted so many years of my life. It was a trust issue—I didn’t feel like I could trust God completely with my future husband. So during long periods of waiting and moments of weakness, I would twist God’s will into allowing me to date nonbelievers, alcoholics, drug dealers… guys I clearly wasn’t supposed to be dating.

Do you have a hard time trusting God with your future husband?

What do I wish someone would have told me? God is in the business of changing and redeeming men’s hearts. You aren’t.

So stop smothering him with your prayers and church outings and leading conversations. Get out of the way. Let God work. If you’re supposed to be together, don’t you think the Creator of the Universe can change his heart, his addictions, his salvation status without your help?