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“Those who wait for perfect weather will never plant seeds; those who look at every cloud will never harvest crops.” — Ecclesiastes 11:4

i love the wisdom in this verse–and it’s call to step out in faith. just because things aren’t perfect, doesn’t mean we should act. God may not open that door for us now, but by the time we get right up to it, if it’s His will, we must have faith that he will.

this verse speaks volumes to me, time and time again, season after season. the first time i read it and journaled about it was september 16, and i hadn’t lived here in Grand Rapids for a week even. i’d just started my new job the day before–and my world was feeling ever topsy-turvy. so this revelation, not to let worries or “not-so-great circumstances” hold me back from sowing and trust God for the reaping, was so of-the-moment. it was also early into my relationship with michael, and we’d been doing the long-distance thing for over a month. in so many ways i looked at my life and the incumbrances that seemed to loom all around me and this verse caused me to whisper over and over again: “keep sowing. keep trusting. persevere.”

and here i am, more than 6 months later. both of those situations still get to me: i have my hard, feeling-all-alone and desperate times here up in Michigan and i still miss Michael and wish we lived closer. but i’m glad i’ve stuck it out. God has done such great things in both of them. i’ve learned so much about Him and grown in such a relationship with Him through my starting-over process up here. it’s been a great catalyst for drawing me near. and i’ve learned so much about humility and selflessness in my relationship with Michael, which has had to mostly take place over the phone as we sort through issues and hardships and dreams and everything else.

so for now, i don’t know what the future holds. i’m trying to let go of that. i went for a walk today (it’s finally getting warm enough to make that bearable up here) and that was the thought pervading me: “i don’t care what happens next. i don’t want to rush God with this. i’m OK with whatever he’s got up his sleeve.” because I know Him, and i know that whatever he’s having me wait for is totally going to be worth it. there is going to be a harvest!

when i find myself talking about everything that God’s been doing in my life lately, the words i keep coming up with to explain it are, “it just blows my mind.”

and it’s not just the new job and new city that have me saying that.

the day after i had my second interview in grand rapids, i had my first date with my now-boyfriend, Michael. (yep, he’s a music man!)

sometimes i don’t write about things until they’re a done deal because i don’t want to jinx them or i’m afraid of getting the presses humming presumptuously. but this is something different. i’m not afraid to jinx anything because i do truly trust God with what he’s done and what he’s doing and with my heart. plus, i have a great sense of peace about the whole situation (despite that the “situation” includes a few hundred miles distance). it’s just that the idea of trying to put “it” and “him” to words boggles my mind. i don’t know how to say it or give it any justice.

but suffice it to say that the whole verse from isaiah that’s been ringing so true has as much to do with him and our relationship as it does with everything concerning grand rapids. i really do feel like who he is “just blows my mind.” all this time, i’ve been expecting “bronze” from men and dating and here God has shown me “gold.” i just never expected someone like him to really exist and to really want be my boyfriend. it’s pretty amazing. he’s pretty amazing!

and the distance thing (he lives in atlanta) isn’t what i would have liked, but i think that it will be a good thing. i keep praying that God will bless that and make it a good thing instead of a bad one. and i trust that that’s exactly what he intends, because i can already see how it’s shaping our relationship and forcing us to be intentional, especially about keeping God first and keeping communication open and talking things through rather than letting them fester. (Michael’s been absolutely amazing about both of those!) it’s also made it easier for us to delve into deeper things, i think, and helps us pace ourselves from moving too fast or getting distracted. besides, i’ve already booked flights to see him in two weeks and then again for his birthday at the end of september. so we’re making it work 🙂

it’s just been so crazy to see God working so much overtime in my life lately–because i know it’s totally Him in all of this! and i know i don’t deserve it and sometimes i wonder why God is being so good to me, but i know it’s because that’s who he is and that he loves doing that for all of us! and i also know that these are all things that i’ve been praying about and so to see him answer them in ways that are so much glorious than i ever could have imagined just, well, blows my mind! i know i shouldn’t be surprised, but it really does grow my faith even more and helps me understand who He is and fathom His love even more.

it just blows my mind–Him and him and you and you. thanks for the prayers. let’s continue praying for each other.

Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.
The scepter of the wicked will not remain
over the land allotted to the righteous,
for then the righteous might use
their hands to do evil.
Do good, O LORD, to those who are good,
to those who are upright in heart.
But those who turn to crooked ways
the LORD will banish with the evildoers.
Peace be upon Israel.

-Psalm 125

“these are the days that no one sees…” is part of a paul westerberg song. “…they run together for company.”

awhile ago i read a book called “anonymous” that talked about how God puts seasons of anonymity into our lives to prepare us for our seasons of action. she paralleled it to the fact that Jesus was “anonymous” for years until he finally was ready to take the steps that would make him affect the world.

one of the analogies she uses is of trees and how the different seasons affect them: during the summer, their leaves are full and coat the limbs, but when winter comes, the leaves fall off and all you see is the tree’s infrastructure–that’s all that’s left and all that lasts. so it is with us: what the plenty of summer hides, the nakedness of winter reveals: the strength of our infrastructure–our character. but to get to that point, we have to grow to that point. so these seasons of anonymity, when we go unseen and seem unnoticeable, hide us and protect us and prepare us so that we have time to create and forge that infrastructure. when we undergo the winters of our life, our underlying strength will be strong enough and shine through–and sustain us.

a couple notes from the book: “anonymous seasons are sacred spaces, they are formative and to be rested in, not rushed through–and never regretted.” and “we can easily mistake fruitlessness for failure. we naturally grant more weight to the visible than the invisible, so it’s easy for us to underestimate its vital importance. we must not think unseen = unimportant.”

i think that’s a beautiful idea and it resonates with me, as i’ve recently become aware of one such season of anonymity that i’ve been trudging through. looking back, now i can see why my church’s lack of mature christian guys has been good for me, even though it’s something me (and various others) have lamented along the way and wondered where they went. for me, it’s been protective and helped me guard my heart. it forced me to be still and quiet and focus on other things, things that will last longer than any random relationship. it gave God a chance to work and heal and restore what’d been broken and marred by the years of haphazard dating that i was accustomed to during high school and college.

it prepared me for when that season of meeting someone does come to pass, i’ll actually be ready for it–not just in my head, but also in my heart and my spirit. God’s used this “downtime” to root me because growth takes time. it’s only now, after much fertilization and pruning and gardening, that i’m ready to be transplanted into that next phase of my life where this could come to pass. it’s only just now beginning that i’m ready to handle what that  (more specifically: the hearts and faith and community that i see in Grand Rapids) could offer to me. i have been in an “anonymous” place these past few years–but rather than stunting me, they’ve been establishing me for great things!

in the words of tara leigh cobble, “here’s to hindsight.”

Isaiah 55:13
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed.”

if you know me well, then you know there are a few things that i’m a huge fan of: the color green, licorice, songs that sing about dancing, dancing in general, anything nature-inspired (the more birds, the better). so it is that over the past few months i’ve also become a huge fan of the website/blog/webcast for Boundless.org, which, surprisingly enough, is part of Focus on the Family.

i’m not one to usually listen to webcasts, but theirs is always one i relish, and when i sat down today to catch up on the most recent one–it was no different. because they’re geared to the 20something age group and presumably because they’re affiliated with Focus in the Family, much of their content has to do with relationships. of late, they’d been discussing the idea of “settling” when it comes to dating, which aroused a lot of uproar from readers. because they were urging people to settle and “just pick someone,” i was among those scratching their heads about what kind of advice they’re dishing out–because i truly don’t believe that that’s what my God has in store for me so it sat very uneasy with me.

in today’s podcast though, i think they finally were able to get their point across: christians need to settle–when it comes to things that the world deems important. but they need to not settle when it comes to the things that the world doesn’t deem important. in other words: focus on his character and spirit and faith,  not on his wallet and wardrobe and height. i’ve always loved the idea that “the weak will be strong” and “the first will be last” and those sorts of turning-logic-on-its-head. so it is with this idea, where we take the opposite of society and then find success–which, too, is not of the world’s standards.

just read a short Q&A with a pastor about how important it is in dating that the person share your theology. he brought up a great point: are you asking what’s the least you can require to “get it right”? because if so, that’s the wrong question. instead, you should be looking for the most you can get from whoever you date, when it comes to spirituality.

he says:

Don’t ask the minimalistic question. If you only want to know how little you have to agree on together in order to move forward, then you’re asking the wrong question.

There should be a robust and common enthusiasm and joy about the gospel. You should also have a similar understanding of the gospel so that you’re not always tricking each other by your words. You want to make sure that you have the same definitions for the words that you use.

So start at the center, and want the most.

i think of that, too when people ask “how far is too far?” because that’s like looking at it as if all you need is a C on your report card, when we ought to be looking for an A and working our hardest to do the best we can–not just skate by.

ok so today at dinner we were talking about how these guys were going to a yankees training camp to try out for the team because they were amazing baseball players. well they show up to the first day 15 minutes late, and they just waltz in. evidently the coach walks up to them and tells them, “you know what? you need to turn around and leave because you’re late and you’re never going to have another chance at ball again.” just like that–for 15 lousy minutes.

then there was the story about this kid who took a dare to show up at a school basketball game drunk, for $20. he takes it, gets caught and then… ends up losing a FULL RIDE to harvard. harvard calls him up and says, no thank you. a loss of an education at the premier school in the country all for a lousy $20 and some bragging rights.

as i’m hearing these stories i’m nodding my head, like yep, i totally know where that coach and where that school admissions counselor was coming from. because when you’re laying the reputation of your school or your team on the line, you have to be selective; there are enough kids out there who can get by with “good enough” (whether academically or athletically). but the real test is how dedicated are they to your cause? do they have the heart to pursue it with all their might and all their soul? and in these two cases, those kids dropped the ball and revealed that they didn’t take these causes seriously enough–they didn’t appreciate the prizes they held and let them slip from their grip to shatter to smithereens with one stupid decision.

and i think about the guts that school and that team had to say “no” right on the spot, at the first sign of danger. rather than go, ah shucks and give them a second chance and hope they’ll shape up next time. they realized that if you can’t get it right from the start, why even attempt it? nip it in the bud at the first sight. demand the best because you know you deserve it–be willing to demand that.

which got me thinking about me dating boys. and why can i see that it’s OK for a school or a team to do that, but not for me to do likewise when it comes to my heart/dating? why don’t i have the guts to stand up and say, “no you blew it. you didn’t call me back/you didn’t treat me with respect/you didn’t make an effort/you hurt my feelings/you didn’t take responsibility for your actions/you didn’t trust me.” instead i turn to gush and waver and let it all slide. which doesn’t demand greatness or achievement. instead it encourages mediocrity for the mere fact that it allows it.

and the reason i do that is because i’m afraid of the “what if”–that they won’t do it again or that maybe he is the one. i’m afraid that if i mess up–if i cut the cord on the first sign of danger–that perhaps i’m pulling the plug on the one. i don’t trust God enough to know that he’ll make plenty sure that if it’s the right one, that he’ll MAKE the relationship pan out rather than fall through the cracks. or i get afraid that to do so is to overreact and be deemed an inconsiderate, unyielding snob. however, shouldn’t i indeed demand excellence when it comes to my most crucial attribute?

today betsy got baptized and even before she stepped into the pool, i was already crying watching mere strangers get dunked and come up anew in their relationship with God. and i thought, this is why i’m glad i have a tender heart. this is why i’m glad that i haven’t gotten jaded or bitter or callused over the various things that have happened in my life. i’m glad i get hurt easily because that’s what allows me to love easily. which is even more reason to guard my heart, because it is fragile–and that is a good thing. but not something to allow to be abused. excellence ought to be demanded.

today i met with a local high school senior who’s interested in someday entering the publishing business. she wanted to interview me to get a more behind-the-scenes insight on what goes into the job. as we were sitting there and i was telling her about our process and what we look for in articles and all the minutiae of it, i heard from the table behind me, two men talking about Isaiah and then later about a couple chapters in Romans. i wondered about it and tried to remember who we’d sat near but assumed they were some older men.

when we got up to leave, i walked Rachele back to where her mom was waiting for her, and then saw that it was a pair of guys my age (or thereabout). and i was totally impressed. it encouraged me that men do exist who can be intelligent and love God and have insightful talks and thoughts about it. because that quality seems to be so rare these days (meaning that, statistically, women are more prone to be spiritual than men). so to be able to see it with my own eyes and hear it with my own ears–it seemed a little Christmas present from God himself. and a breath of relief, that the desire to wait for and expect a “spiritual leader” is not all that fantastical after all.

oh it’s Christmas already. i hardly know how it got here. today was Christmas service at Eastside and we sang carols over candlelight, which made me smile and feel like crying, both at the same time. my favorite was when we sang John Lennon’s “So This Is Christmas” where it goes:

A very Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear.

“without any fear.” i think this time of year that line’s especially fitting, even it seems almost blasphemous to the season. because as happy as it can be for some, it can be so sad and lonely and “fearful” for others. that’s something i’ve been quite aware of this past week or so. because as busy as i’ve been–going from one christmas celebration to another to catching up with friends and other sorts of outings–whenever i do get a moment on my own (usually this is holed up in my car, driving from one point to the next) i feel lost in myself. it reminds me of the Bright Eyes’ song where it goes,

And the world’s got me dizzy again.
You’d think after 22 years, i’d be used to the spin
But it only feels worse when i stay in one place;
I’m always pacing around or walking away.

because i feel like everyone else seems to be moving around me, but here i am standing still, watching it all go by. and wonder where i’m headed or what’s headed my way?

i’ve made the executive decision that i get one month to mourn over this little break-up. i can’t dwell on it too long, or else it’ll be getting in the way of the rest of life and keep the focus on me and on the past instead of on the rest of the world and the rest of life, with all of its awaiting possibilities. but i also don’t want to gloss over it, because then it just sits with you, just below the surface and will manifest itself in uglier, but less obvious, sorts of ways. and that’s how i’ve felt lately: as if i’m mourning. mourning would was with what could have been with where i am now. not in a melodramatic way, just nostalgic. and, ultimately, hopeful. because i know that Sunday will always come.

i read this article the other day about not saving things for later, but indulging in them now–specifically saving Christmas decorations or Christmas traditions for when you’re in a relationship and settled down. i do that ever so slightly, so i decided to pull out some decorations of my own: a pretty green ceramic bowl filled with some apple ornaments and a vintage elf and a sprig of plastic holly. and that bowl of apples stands for something bigger than a month of red-and-green, but learning to mourn and grieve and then embrace everything i do have going for myself in the here and now:

christmasbowl1.jpg

long-lasting vs. early detection
you know what. i look around and see couples who have been together a year, two years, and i wonder: how? how do people end up staying together for so long–particularly when they’re together for a year or two and then call it quits. how do they stick it out that long? since college, the longest relationship i’ve been in has been about 4 months. i’ve had quite a few of these relationships that last almost a whole season, but not beyond that. something about that time span gives way to finales and closing doors, rather than standing ovations and encores.

and part of me wonders about that, if that isn’t some kind of sign that i ought to nail on my bedroom door or something: You’re Doing It Wrong. but i don’t think so. because i look around and am encouraged by everything else in my life that I’ve chosen wisely and made work and last and endure. the friends i have are amazing and so my judge in character has yet to let me down in that area–why should i doubt it in this? i like to think that these stop-and-go relationships are merely a reflection of me not being willing to settle and knowing what i want. and of course it’s going to take some testing and tasting; that’s what makes you so appreciative. if you get the cake perfect on the first time, where’s the fun in licking the batter or adding some more vanilla or trying some peppermint into the mix? and so i look forward to what’s to come, and am actually encouraged that God has someone/thing even better in store for me.

withdrawal
i was listening to one of my favorite relient k songs, trademark move, and for the first time noticed one line in it: “it’s my trademark move to turn my back on you… and sometime soon after that you’ll see me come crawling back… withdraw from everything that’s hurting me until you can finish your work in me.” and i’m doubting this whole friends-post-break up thing, how healthy it really is for me to try to have both. the reality is my heart’s still connected and to ignore that is self-destructive. i think that by sticking around and–still–trying to make things work is not giving me room to heal. holly said something about treating a hurt heart like you would a wound; don’t pick at it but put a bandaid on it and nurse it until it heals over. i think the whole friends thing is the equivalent of picking, and not giving ample time to let Time work its magic. plus, i’ve realized that i’m still embittered by things and the way he treats me and so i need Time to get over that and forgive him for those things.

i was convinced of this last night when he (yet again) decided to inform me of girls who like him or who are interested in him. i’m not jealous; i’m really not. particularly because i know without a doubt that i’m interested in him romantically at all anymore. and plus i’m confident that i’m not that easily replaceable. but i think it’s disrespectful to talk about those things to me; i think it’s evidence that he isn’t thinking about mishandling my emotions or being sensitive to that. and so why even make the attempt of friends when there’s not a mutual trust or care grounded there?

oh, the things i’ve been thinking.

sickly
and on top of all of that, i’ve been the sickest i’ve been all year. as exemplified by the fact that i’ll i’ve been eating is jello, toast and soup. and that i’m wearing 4 pairs of pants and 3 shirts because i can hardly keep warm. i went to the doctor and it’s bronchitis. but i was really scared because on sunday night my heart was racing and i was really anxious and really wondered if i needed to go to the emergency room. needless to say i barely got any sleep. but my mom said that that’s a symptom of bronchitis, an infection of the lungs, because it ends up causing your heart to have to work extra hard, a la the heart-racing and anxiety feelings. my throat still hurts and i used a whole box of tissues yesterday. i’m hoping that i’ll be up for going back to work tomorrow though–definitely threw a wrench into all my plans! but i’m feeling better. once again, i think it all just comes back to Time.

this might come out of left field for some people, because i haven’t really said much on the blog about all the specifics of what’s happened in Paul-and-Carmen-Land, but suffice them to say that if you’ve gotten the inkling that i’ve been upset for awhile, I have. the thing that sucks most about it all is that I remember being so happy with him: i remember coming into work the day after talking to him and being giddy. i remember our first date and staying out late eating ice cream and getting scared by sprinklers, and our second date when he was the most considerate person i’d ever met and we kissed under fireworks. fireworks! where did those go?

well, that’s the mystery. but also what we’re coming back to. because we decided this weekend to break up and return to building that foundation–work on building it right again. because i guess in our haste, we glossed over that. i guess–i’m not really sure what went haywire, all i know is that it happened and now we’re apart, but i’m glad for it.

the reason i’m glad for it is because through the whole thing, i’ve learned a great deal: a great deal about God and how amazing and myseriously he works and how his blessings work, and how to bolster my relationship with him and learn how to listen and how to trust, which has never been my strong point. but i feel like that, through all this, that has started to change. and for that, i can ask for no more.

it wasn’t until thursday night that i realized we should break up. until that point, i was holding on to our memories and things past and trying, trying to make it work. but all the effort was in vain. and i realized, it just isn’t working. and then i felt an amazing peace about everything–God’s reassuring hand that that was the right path to follow. i knew it’s what i had to do, what i needed. but i didn’t want to. i was very hurt by the realization because it shattered a lot of my hopes. but yet, i still knew.

so i prayed for strength to do it and to not chicken out. i had gone up to columbus on friday and when i came home, paul texted if he can come over. i did want to see him. because i’m still drawn to him, despite this revelation. and then i realize: he’s coming over to break up with me. and i was relieved; counting it another notch in the board that this is really what God intended for us. because God was doing the work for me. and that’s exactly how it happened–he came over and we broke up together.
it made me realize how fully God does look out for me and how he totally met me halfway. i guess it’s kind of like Abraham and Isaac, where all God desired was that Abraham be willing, and then he spared him. and here, even though i wavered (on timing), i knew it was something necessary that had to be done and so i was committed to the action. and once i made that commitment, God rescued me, just like he did with Isaac and the goat. it didn’t hurt hardly at all, in fact the whole thing was actually quite beautiful.

it was beautiful because it was almost magical–how a few simple words can break the spell that had been looming over us and had made everything dark and clouded and dismal. because with those words set and us being released from each other, we were real again. i felt like time was rewinded to a few months earlier–where we left off. we were real again. we just had conversation. with nothing holding back, just fun, real conversation. it was really good and reminded me once again of the guy that i first met. tonight he told me i was beautiful and that he liked my hair and my nails and my sweatshirt and my socks. oh, how i missed those compliments. and so it’s funny that they come back now. because now we’re broken up. which is what i knew i wanted… i know there’s a lot to work on, friendship-wise as well as spiritually compatible-wise. and so it’s best to do that in a non-demanding situation.

i guess we’re broken up, but with the potential for more. which kind of freaks me out because i’m afraid i won’t be able to handle that. that i want all or nothing–either to be boyfriend/girlfriend or nothing at all. and by nothing i mean, we stop talking.

but i read an article just before The Conversation that truly speaks to that idea of learning how to live life in the balance, rather than black-and-white or all-or-nothing:

Sometimes following Christ means going 180 degrees from what our culture dictates. I’m learning about that, for sure. But other times it means taking a different route … a more difficult one. It is our fallen human nature to look for the easy way out, and it is actually easier to reject God’s creation than learn to use it appropriately—because rejecting it means you don’t have to actually think about anything, while learning how to use it wisely and well means … thinking.

that this is another chance for God to challenge me and teach me. how to go ahead without expectations. and just be. leave the details up to him. to let go and give him the reigns. whether we’re together or i’m destined for someone else. that’s out of my hands right now. and for that i should be glad. and not fret or over analyze or over think. because that will shatter the whole beautiful thing we have going right now.

everything with this situation has been beautiful–learning about God’s will and getting more and more in tune with him, during this end. and looking at it now, i can see how things turned bad and could have hinged on that one point–that it wasn’t until the relationship was falling apart, that i turned back to God and learned from him and drew near enough to learn. i love that he allowed me that. because he taught me and he MADE me come to him and he MADE me learn to listen. he didn’t just give it to me, because that would have been too easy. but he gave me the opportunity to come closer to him and then i DID. i learned how to listen and how to discern. how amazing is that?

so i’m happy. in a weird, surprising, bittersweet, surreal kind of way. but happy, nonetheless…

i’m sick of my heart and would like to trade it in for another. that would pretty nice right about now. lash up the parts that aren’t working and get a new one that is New! And Improved! where i don’t have to worry or fret or fidget with old wounds or hurts.

i get afraid that my heart is permanently messed up, damaged goods and it’ll keep messing everything up. that because it’s been dropped and kicked and punched, that it will never learn its lesson and let up or be able to return to whence it came from–a place that’s pretty and unjaded and not awaiting disappointment and salty tears.

[cue background noise: wah, wah.]

i just feel like the last month has not been good to me and this little heart of mine. october: you are no friend of mine. and it just makes it hard because matter of the heart always float to the surface and take precedence and color and tinge everything else around them.

but how is that surprising? the heart is so important to everything we do and every way we live our lives. it’s supposed to be soft and supple and easily bruised. that’s what makes it so effective. we just tend to want it to be something it’s not: a machine that you can control and that is indestructible. mine isn’t like that. i wish i could turn it off and type in the command, “don’t overthink these things, don’t do this, don’t do that.” but it never listens. it’s an unruly heart. and while i’d prefer one that’s more disciplined, i know that’s not what i really want. because that’s a poor excuse of a heart.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

i’ve been sad and upset for about a month now. and i’m sick of talking about it. i’m sick of thinking about it. i’m sick of even dealing with it. how do you move on and recover from soemthing like that? that’s what i’m trying to do. because recovery is not an easy process either.

that seems to be the dominant theme here: things aren’t easy.

and while i can appreciate that in theory, when it comes to real life i struggle and trip over it. and get all tangled up in it. which is where i am. i think if i were cast into a movie of my life, the camera would pull back and there i’d be sitting on a sidewalk, sprawled out with yarn unspooled all around me as people rush by and look down but keep on going, shaking their heads. and i can’t for the life of me figure out how to pull all this yarn back together into a ball that makes any sense. or any sense that even a kitten would want to have anything to do with. much less a fellow human being.

and i’m not trying to be melodramatic. i know it sounds that way. and that you might feel like your first inclination is to email me and ask if i’m ok. here i’ll go ahead and tell you, “no i’m not.” but i think right now the answer isn’t for you to try to make me feel better. because i feel like i’ve already been too self-indulgent. i just want to let it all go and keep moving along. i want to let all that go and quit trying to make sense of all these hard times and just release them. just let them float away and start off new. stand up from the pavement, shake the string from my limbs and skip off down the park and watch some old men play chess and little kids run around shouting and moms watching nearby as they read a book. that’s what i want. it’d be nice to still believe in santa, and add that to my christmas list.

today could not be any more confusing, any more shape-shifting, any more clumsy. i can hardly think straight long enough to formulate a fluent train of thought, everything’s so mishmashed and disjointed. i think that’s what happens when everything gets turned upside down and you don’t even know where to begin. that’s how i feel.

but despite that, today has reignited my love for my friends, who make me fancy mashed potatoes and cookies with frosting and who come to hang out because they know i need it. of course i never doubted that; i know how blessed i am with my friends. but it feels good to feel loved and to know it, without a doubt, deep into your bones.

part of me is really sad and part of me is really relieved. and unfortunately i don’t think this is the time/place to go into such things. so i apologize for the enigmatic-ness of this entry. but it feels good to admit that everything isn’t ok. that sometimes things suck.

and so i’m reminded of a sermon jonathan did a long time ago–i’m guessing around Easter–when he talked about how, like Jesus, there are going to be Fridays in our lives. but, as with his ressurrection, SUNDAY will always triumph. so long as we love God and embrace his will, Sunday will always come and we will be rescued.

right now a Hey Mercedes song just came on, and it seems fitting: “it’s such a beautiful day to be sad.” because today after church, it started raining, big cold heavy wet raindrops. and i had to walk around in them. but i didn’t run or try to cover up because it was comforting–that i was sad and the weather didn’t laugh in my face, but instead consoled and let me continue that way, to ride the wave out and embrace it and sink into it.

before that was my favorite Smoking Popes song where it goes “no more smiles, it’s just teardrops falling to the ground. now it’s around here, i don’t love you anymore. and i’m sorry about it, when did my heart change its mind? must have been near the changing of time. no more smiles from now on, they are all gone. i’ll never understand what went wrong.” and the third song in this little string of consolations is an Andrew Bird one, titled, “Don’t Be Scared.” which i think is a good note to end on. because Sunday will always come. and i know that even though things suck and i don’t know what they mean or where they’re coming from, that that is a comfort. and i have nothing to be scared from. God has carried me this far, so why would he let go anytime soon? He won’t.

the idea of doubt is weird to me. because if you talk about god, even though i don’t understand him and i know i still have miles and acres to traverse and learn about him, i still know that He is good and He loves me and He will watch out for me. i don’t really have a hard time grappling that. or at least i don’t think i do.

but i’ve realized, lately, that when it comes to matters of the heart, i do.  i have a hard time giving my heart over and trusting in it. i think it’s a flip-of-the-coin thing: in the good in the bad, i know that God is doing what ultimately is best for me, even through the struggles and hard times. so i know that they will come and that they will strengthen me. but i think that i almost expect them too much. that even though i trust they will be for good, i expect them to happen. and so i set myself up for them and keep a watchful eye, almost willing them to happen.

i’ve realized that i do that with paul. and, admittedly, it’s dumb. we talk at least once a day. he holds doors for me and smiles at me and listens to me. he opens up to me. we hang out multiple times a week (this past week, we hung out, for some amount of time, on sunday, monday, thursday, friday and saturday). so should i doubt? but inevitably i do. with thoughts of “well he doesn’t do this like he used to” or “this has changed.” it almost seems inevitable for me to think that he’s always on the brink of leaving or losing interest. and i suppose it’s probably a lot of  insecurities, but i also chalk much of it up to selfishness.

because in my doubting, what does that say to him? your word isn’t good enough? your past actions aren’t good enough?

i try to think of relationships–friendships, romantic, etc.–in light of God. and so i think about how in the Bible they always refer to him as “the God of Israel” or “the God of Abraham.” they reference the things he’s done, almost as a reminder and testament of his nature–what he’s done in the past and so what he’s certain to do in the future. and yet, you watch time and time again how the israelites turn their back on god and stop trusting him. i mean, they’ve seen him provide for them and lead them out of deserts, and yet they still waver. which is why i think those reminders of how he’s proven himself in the past are so important; as humans we need those reminders. because we’re so easy to stray.

and so i have to learn to trust and let past actions speak for themselves, and quit being wrapped up in looking out for myself–and expecting that i’m the only one who will do that. it reminds me of the whole adam and eve story, when eve’s convinced to eat the fruit, because satan convinces her that god is holding out on her. and so she doubts god and all the promises he’s made and all the past blessings he’s poured out. she wavers and decides to take matters into her own hands. she turns her back on god and sins. i have to let go of that need to control and be on alert for those things. i’m sure i’ll never really overcome that (i think that’s kind of the curse of being a daughter of eve), but still. i want to trust instead of doubt. which otherwise i feel like comes so easily.

i think it’s hard with paul because there’s a lot at stake. of course i know that if it goes south, there’s purpose in that and that it’s just another step along the way. and i can handle that–i’ve been there before. so what am i so scared of?

but then i think about how God fashioned us after him, how he planted little pieces/reflections of himself in us. and i wonder if this, this need for reassurance, is a manipulation of Him. because you look at how Jesus shows us how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. the first thing he does is praise God. he tells God that he loves him. and God loves that, God wants to hear that. he knows everything about us and everything in our hearts and everything before it happens, but yet he still likes hearing it. just like i do. and in church today we were talking about doubt, and Jonathan quoted the verse in Mark 9:24  where a man tells Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” he believes but still has unbelief.

so that’s not me making excuses, it’s just me exploring and prodding. and trying to learn.

it’s silly to be happy about this, but i am. after months of bemoaning and not really doing anything about it, i’ve finally found my way to a new book that makes me giddy and unable to put down.

on sunday, i had an afternoon and evening to myself. so after taking a nap and then finally making my way to the grocery store and back, and finishing the book i’d previously forced myself through (unfortunately i have to admit it was “the lion, the witch and the wardrobe,” which i’d originally read years ago and didn’t remember being so simple)–it was still early. i’d already caught up on all of my television shows (which is impressive in and of itself), so i decided to pick up another book from my shelf. i’d started collecting a lot from the library in hopes that one of them would stick. as it turns out, the one that did was one i’d bought a long time ago. it’s called “with or without you” by cameron conant.

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it’s another relevant book and it’s a guy’s memoir about his relationship–into love and eventually out of, culminating with getting divorced. i think that’s one of the reasons that i’d put off reading it; because i was scared of what i’d read or what it’d say or how it’d change my own insights. i was afraid it’d make me sad and depressed and weary of relationships.

but it’s heartening and very human. you feel sorry for the guy–what started out as love morphs into hardened hearts and unapologetic expectations–but you also totally relate to him. you can see how something started out so innocent–the idea that “I couldn’t imagine life without her”–and how that just isn’t always enough to base a relationship on if you don’t have other things in place, namely resting on God instead of on another person. (i think the captivating and wild at heart books do a good job of talking about those ideas and how important it is to not manipulate where you look for fulfillment–it can only come from God, not from another, flawed human.) i think the reason why i like the book so much is because i do identify with him; it reminds me of the past relationships i’ve had and makes me thankful that those paths ended when they did, and i (selfishly) didn’t have to go through all the pain that this guy did. it’s encouraging and comforting in a sad kind of way.

right now i’m at the end, where he’s talking about his spiritual life and how his divorce has shaped it. how he’s learned to depend on God, but also how he feels like his Christian community hasn’t really lived up to their end of the deal. i think he looks at it from the perspective of, that’s just another reason why you have to let God and His grace be enough, but i think that’s one thing that’s sad to me–that i want to see people step up to the plate and be there for one another. of course that’s me being hypocritical, because i know i let my selfishness get in the way, too. i just wish it weren’t that way.

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looking back at the calendar, i see that days have melted away. so, playing catch-up, here’s a review of where i’ve been biding my time lately:

  • awaiting the arrival of my new computer. my home desktop died two weekends ago and i spent all that time flip-flopping between decisions–Mac or PC? desktop or laptop? 15.4-inch or 17-inch? what kind of software? what name brand? i finally got to the point where i realized how distracting it was and all the choices were getting me nowhere. so i stopped. took a deep breath and decided God would decide for me when the time was right. then on monday, with a clear head, i made my decision and my new black, 15.4-inch Dell laptop arrived with all my pretty photo-editing software. and i have peace about it.
  • now i’m just waiting to buy my new camera. i want a sony cyber-shot w80. did my research on that and i think for the price, there’s so much bang. of course i still have a little love affair going for the elph, but i’m quite content with the cyber-shot’s features (amazing lens, can take indoor pictures without flash, face-recognition, auto-focus, etc) that i’m not looking back. indecision will not take me captive again!
  • resulting in a never before seen aligning of the stars, two new, much-anticipated cds dropped yesterday: motion city soundtrack’s even if it kills me, and new found glory’s from the screen to your stereo 2. both are a-m-a-z-i-n-g. take my word for it.
  • planning for the Back to School Dance Party. or more appropriately, thinking about it but not doing anything. it takes place tomorrow. and i have no idea when we’re going to have time to prep. my gut predicts: an hour before the Eagle’s set to Land.
  • and of course…

hanging out with the ever-elusive boy. tonight’s a big night; he’s meeting my family, which i’m very interested to see. i haven’t brought a boy home in y-e-a-r-s, so it’s a weird feeling, but a good one. if you know me very well, you know that i’m pretty aware of my feelings. i remember in college going on dates and coming home and nicole would ask me how it went and i’d respond, “eehhh, i dunno.” and her response one time was, “well, what was it this time?!” it made me realize how picky i am; how i’ve gone on many first dates and only a few second dates and even fewer third dates. my dating record in that respect looks like the dropoff of a huge water slide, which ought to make a big old splash at the end but, invoking Mr. T.S. Eliot himself, “ends not with a bang but a whimper.” but, all poetics aside, i’ve come to realize that pickiness isn’t overrated and that i trust my sense of judgment, particularly when it comes to what i know that i need. i know that i want to be friends with this person. i know that this person doesn’t “fit” with me. i know those things. so the fact that i feel like this person does fit with me, at least for the time being, i’m confident in that feeling. i don’t think it’s ever let me down. and plus i think the whole situation couldn’t be more blessed from any angle.

i remember i started reading all those books about women and men and relationships and singledom, and although i had been very OK with the idea that maybe i wasn’t meant to fall in love and get married–what if i wanted it too much and singledom was God keeping me closer to his will? what if He knew that it’d be bad for me? so i was OK with that. i always just told myself that i could always adopt and that that would be enough. well in one of the books, they said something about how God isn’t malicious–he isn’t going to put a desire on your heart and then not fulfill it. so i my view of that whole situation altered and i began praying that God would fulfill that desire in his own time, and in whatever way he deemed appropriate–to my mind it was a Boy relationship, but maybe it was mentoring or missions or something else. my mind is only so big and so i can only see so much. i just wanted to feel filled.

also, one of the things i’d picked up from the “the thrill of the chaste” book was the idea that you can’t be on the hunt for a relationship because what invariably happens when you go hunting? you end up killing that which you were chasing after. it’s destructive. so i also started praying that god would make it so that i didn’t have to chase or hunt, that he’d just provide and deliver the person without me having to do any “work” (meaning, trying to make him like me, trying to get his attention, etc.). and what do you know but that that’s how it worked? that the new boy came through an avenue i never would have imagined. (abridged version: two of the girls i lead on sunday morning, who are 14 and 15, told me they had a tennis/water polo coach and wanted to set me up. i humored them. it actually happened.) God provided.

so that’s why i think that no matter what comes of this–another week or year or indefinite–right now i can’t doubt that it’s in God’s will. plus, my relationship with Him is very strong and so that is another thing that encourages me in all this, where i want to have 100% certainty but that i know that some of the best things in life require a small leap of faith–God included. so, for now, the same with Paul. (yes, there you have it: that’s his name.)

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