Part 1: Stop Waiting, Start Living

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted on here. I’ve seen more things…experienced more things. I have a story to tell, and it may take a few blog posts to tell it all. But let me tell you how I learned to stop waiting and start living.By this I mean: stop always waiting for something to happen and start living your life to the hilt wherever you are in your journey right now. 

I had gotten into a sort of short-term relationship in March of this year, and ended it a few months later at the end of June. When I was in the midst of this relationship, I thought “Finally! I have a relationship! My life makes sense now.” And I was happy and satisfied for a minute. I ultimately ended up ending the relationship because I finally saw that we were in two different places in our lives (and he started a lot of useless drama just because he could). Him: an immature young gamer who barely graduated high school and had no goals or dreams for his life and didn’t share my spiritual beliefs or values. Me: a master’s level career woman with goals and dreams who always wants to grow spiritually and live an authentic life. Don’t ask me how this relationship happened, because I’m still not 100% sure. That’s another blog post for another day. 

But anyway, I ended the relationship. And it was only through the ending of this relationship that I was finally able to see my ultimate problem: my whole life I had been so concerned about finding a man and having a relationship that it kept me from fully living, because I always thought that my real life would start once I found my “true love.” This guy I broke up with definitely wasn’t my true love, but it still made me see that I put so much stock in having a relationship that I ignored all of these signs that he was wrong for me, just so that I could “finally have a boyfriend” and “really live.” I finally saw that I had put myself on hold (emotionally and other ways) all these years just because I didn’t have a husband or a steady boyfriend. I was always waiting: for something to happen, for my life to start, for the next step, whatever it was. I was hardly ever present in the moment (and therefore hardly ever really living) because my mind was always running the background noise of “Where is he at? When am I going to find him? Is he this cute guy over here?” I pushed myself to the side, my relationship with God to the side, everything, just so I would not be alone and would be able to “start living.” 

So because of all this, I’ve decided that I’m done waiting. I want to really start living, without all that background noise of finding a man playing in my head. I want to just live in the moment, focus on me and my fulfillment, focus on my relationship with God, and focus on my work and the tasks that God has given me to do. I want to really live and be here for all of it. I want to savor new experiences and even old ones with my focus just on being and savoring. I don’t want my life to be defined on whether I’m in a relationship or not. I am more than that and I’m worth a whole bunch all on my own. My life is not defined by having a man in it. I was given this life for a reason, now it’s time to make the most of it. 

An Epidemic of Single Women

I look around at all the people I know, and realize that in addition to the plethora of married people I know, there seems to be another stand-out characteristic that I cannot fail to notice: an epidemic of single women. An epidemic of single women who (and I have to lift a guilty hand on this one) wails about the fact that a corresponding number of single men seem nowhere to be found.

But it ain’t necessarily so. Looking at a census or a survey of any given region (you can Google any city you want to…I know I have), the numbers appear to suggest a pretty close 50/50 or 51/49 split of men to women or women to men in the population. So where are all the single men at?

What if the number of single men has to do more with our perspective and less with actual numbers? By perspective, I mean the whole lens with which many women in American society tend to view men and dating relationships. I feel like many women have talked themselves out of marriage and long-term relationships because of this idea of “the perfect man” that seems to permeate our culture. It’s never said overtly, but certainly the implication is that the man of our dreams must be perfect. He has to be at least 6 feet tall, good looking, chiseled body, has all of his hair, rich, a successful businessman (or lawyer, or doctor, or something else with equal money-making potential), smart and thoughtful, charming and charismatic, sweet and romantic, cares about cancer kids and puppies, and with no emotional baggage. And if any one of these criteria are not met, then many women write him off as “not good enough” and continue chasing after a fantasy man that does not exist. All the while wanting this man to “love me the way I am”, emotional scars, past baggage and all. *Eye-roll*. It’s time to get real!

No one is  perfect. All women, being women, are hyper-aware of their imperfections at all times. 24/7. We can never escape them. We want someone to love us, cherish us, and tell us that we are perfectly lovable just the way we are. Why don’t men deserve that as well? As much as they try to hide it, men have feelings, insecurities, and imperfections as well. They deserve to be loved for who they are and cherished as people. Despite all of our human imperfections, deep inside of each of us there is an inner light, a beautiful spirit that has a wonderful capacity to connect with others on a deep soul level. I think we should all take the planks out of our own eyes so that we can look and see who the men that come to us really are, past the outer, shallow things into the inner self. We should open our eyes and judge the man by the soul and character he has and how deep of a connection we feel with that inner soul, because that is what will make for a happy relationship in the long run. Money, looks, expensive dates, all of that external stuff is temporary and will fade with time. The external things do not equal love. But our inner selves are eternal, and a love that connects with the beloved from the inner self is one that can burn eternal. The relationship won’t be perfect, since we are in a fallen world, but it will continue to shine like a gem with a little daily polishing.

 

I Will Not Diminish My Own Greatness: Part 2

  I recently had another epiphany/experience that reminded me why I should not diminish my own greatness. Here’s the story:
   I had been interested in a guy for awhile, for longer than I care to admit. It was a secret crush; I did not let my feeling be known. I had let my hopes take me a little further than I should have: I thought that we would eventually end up together, but that he just didn’t realize it yet. He was nice to me, an acquaintance but not a close friend. He never expressed any interest in me or tried to “talk” to me or anything, just some casual conversation and some joking around. I reasoned that he was just shy, he didn’t know how to express his feeling towards me, etc. You know, the usual excuses that girls make when they don’t want to see the truth. I suppose that’s another blog post for another time
  But then, the clincher. My friend recently told me that she found out he had been dating a girl that we knew for a couple of months. I was crushed. For a minute. But then clarity began to come to me in many ways. And once the crush had been well, crushed, I began to see how I had been diminishing my own greatness the whole time.
  I would censor what I would say around him so that he would like me (or so i thought). I would stop myself from liking or posting certain things on Facebook for fear of what he would think of me. I basically hid a big part of my personality because I thought it would get him to like me. Only after the news came in about his new girlfriend and my hopes in that area were crushed could I finally see the truth: I was diminishing my own greatness to try to fit the mold of what I thought he wanted. Then, after all of that effort, he ended up liking a girl who is nothing like me at all. So why was I diminishing myself? Me watering my personality down didn’t work according to plan.
  So I came to this conclusion: never again will I diminish myself to try to fit with a guy or to try to mold myself into what I think he wants. Even if I did that and a guy ended up falling for the fake, watered-down me, eventually my true self would come out and the relationship wouldn’t last anyway because I wouldn’t be who he thought I was. There is absolutely no point in trying to diminish myself for a guy. I deserve a guy who will love me for me and who I can be myself around. If I have to water myself down to be with a guy, then I know that he wouldn’t be able to handle the real me and I don’t need to be with him anyway. I’ve finally learned my lesson: be genuine and be yourself. One day, the right man will come along and love me just the way I am. And I will feel free to be me: the lovable, real, and interesting me that I already am.

Confusing Lust with Love: A Perspective

I think it is pretty obvious that when it comes to love, most Americans have no idea what they’re doing. Dating to get to know someone and develop a relationship seems almost non-existent these days. Random hook-ups, friends with benefits, and “Netflix and chill” opportunities abound, while good, old-fashioned romance and relationships seem to be slipping away faster than the Kardashians’ last shred of dignity. People (both men and women) come back from these casual encounters bitter, insecure, and more resolved than ever to put a wall up and never let anyone in because “It’s not worth it”.

There are many thoughts as to why love is such a mess nowadays. But today I offer up one perspective in particular: our society hardly knows how to distinguish love from lust anymore. Movies and tv shows gratuitously show people “falling in love” at first sight, having a passionate sexual relationship for a few weeks or a month or so, and then soon enough, the relationship falls apart. Or, man and woman lock eyes, fall in love instantly, and live the proverbial “happily ever after” after having at least one passionate sexual encounter. We as a society all watch these things and think that this is the norm. We think that love is supposed to happen instantly: that we just meet someone by bumping into them at the grocery store, feel the sparks, and just know in that instant that this person is “The One”, our soulmate. Well, my food for thought for you is this: Hollywood is lying to you. The media presents the idea of love as a temporary high in which the sparks and the chemistry between two people wear off just about as quickly as they seemed to explode. Couple meets, falls in love and feels like they’ve finally met The One, has sex as soon as possible, and in a few months or a year or so, resolve that they don’t love each other anymore and that the other person is not The One after all. Why does it all seem so transient?

I posit that the “love” that the media so freely shows us day in and day out is nothing more than lust. Lust is seeing a person, thinking that they’re hot and sexually desiring them, and feeling any chemistry between you two, which is based on your assessment of how that other person looks. Let’s be real: a lot of us can create a whole fantasy relationship in our minds just based off of how a person looks and the image of them we created based on our own internal constructs of what we think would make us happy. I have definitely done that before. It happens all the time to people. But that doesn’t mean that it’s love. Lust is a slick manipulator that masquerades as the real thing time and time again.

So what does love look like then? It’s freeing your true love from a Nazi concentration camp, losing contact, and then being reunited 39 years later (see the full story on http://listverse.com/2014/05/16/10-inspiring-stories-of-true-love-from-the-holocaust/). It’s working for 14 years to have the hand of the woman of your dreams in marriage (see the story of Jacob and Rachel in Genesis chapter 29 in the Bible). It’s meeting in college, falling in love, and holding off on sex for 5 years until you get married (Google Elisabeth and Jim Elliot or read her book “Passion and Purity” for the whole story). Feel free to insert your own favorite tale of true love here. There are a lot of them!

Love isn’t just feeling the sparks, the chemistry, sexual passion, etc. with a person. It’s not just extreme emotion. Science has shown the the feeling of falling in “love” activates the dopamine in the human brain the same as getting high off of drugs does. True love takes time. It’s getting to know someone without rushing into the bedroom. It’s a deep connection based on mutual respect, affection, and knowledge of the other person. It’s self-sacrifice at times to make the other person happy. It’s commitment to the relationship no matter how the person is making you feel at the moment. It’s patience, giving of yourself, tenderness, the ability to trust the other person wholeheartedly and the freedom to be yourself in that love. True love is deeper than what the world tells us it is. And it is available everywhere and to everyone who opens their eyes to see it.

A Prayer for My Future Husband

Hey God, it’s me! I’m here to pray for my future husband, whoever he is. I know that You’re having me wait awhile to meet him and to be honest, sometimes I get tired of waiting! But I know that if waiting is Your will for me, then the waiting is good because it purifies my heart and helps me lean on and trust in You more and more as my Lord and Savior. So, here goes:

Dear Lord Jesus,

I pray that You will guard and protect my future husband. Please watch over him and guide him in Your ways. I pray that You will help him grow and develop a true, manly spirit. Please help my future husband grow in godliness. Please develop his character so that he becomes more and more like You every day. I pray that you help him develop leadership qualities so that he can lead our future married life according to Your will. I pray that he turns to You and seeks You in prayer for all aspects of his life. Please bless his work life and give him the strength and determination he will need to do Your will in the workplace (and in all other aspects of his life). Lord, please help him cultivate a spirit of love, patience, strength, purity, and wisdom. I pray that You shape him into the man that You want him to be. I pray that You help him grow into the man that is perfectly suited to me as my husband. I know that You know best what kind of man I will need.

Also Lord, please shape me into the kind of woman and wife that he will need. Shape me into the most perfectly suited helpmeet for him. Please help me grow in love, wisdom, and strength so I can support him and lift him up in our future married life. I pray that you cultivate in me the qualities of a godly woman, any qualities You think I will need to bless him and others. Please fill me with Your love and light so that I can spread it to others and to my future husband when we’re finally together.

And lastly, Lord Jesus, please guide Future Hubby’s steps to find me when You deem that the time is right. Please keep all counterfeits (a.k.a. guys that are not Future Hubby) away so that I can rest and wait peacefully in You and develop my relationship with You as I wait for him and afterwards. I will continue to pray for him and I hope that he is praying for me as well. I know that everything will go according to Your plan and that I need not worry. Thank You Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Empty Promises of the World

Many of those in the meet and greet line said, ‘I was curious about Jesus. I wanted to know more about Jesus. Because the world isn’t giving me what it promised’. – Clayton Jennings

What is it that the world promises, exactly? Love? Riches? Happiness? I believe that the world (especially the Western world) has promised us all of these things. We live in a time and a place where the world says, “You want happiness? Just reach out and grab it. Follow your wildest desires, and then you will finally be happy”. In this day and age, we follow every dream, desire, and yearning we’ve ever had and yet divorce, depression, and suicide rates have risen higher than ever in the last 50 years.

The world tells us that following all of our desires is good and healthy. If you deny or try to push away any of your desires, it’s “unhealthy” and you’re suppressing yourself. The world says it’s ok to go party until you black out. The world says it’s healthy to hook up with and sleep with as many people as you want – you’re expressing your sexuality. It’s all experience…or at least a really good story in the morning.The world says it’s ok to get high, live it up, party like a rock star. The world tells us that living for your own pleasure is what will make you happy. And yet how many times do the rock stars and celebrities check into rehab, die of a drug overdose, etc.? The people who have everything and live mostly for their own pleasure are the ones who are the most miserable. They who are admired by millions, make millions, and do whatever they please are the ones who are the most empty and hollow inside.

This is because the world does not give what it promises. The promises of the world are hollow and empty and will never truly satisfy the deep yearnings of our souls. Why? Because the yearnings of our souls are for something eternal, something higher than ourselves. That’s why we chase the elusive thing called Love (or what the world understands as love…more about that in another post). That’s why we constantly chase the newest iPad, phone, tablet, etc. We buy the object that the world has told us that we need to be happy, or at the very least make our lives really awesome. We use it and get all excited about it for a week or two, find out that it’s just ok, then put it aside for the next new thing. Somewhere deep down in our souls we realize that the stuff we buy is just temporal and in the end, pretty worthless. The happiness that we’re trying to find by chasing the latest fad can only truly be satisfied by One who is greater than the world. God is eternal. He is higher than us and He gives us purpose. All the things in the world we try to chase can’t give us our true purpose, they only keep us busy for a little while. God is all and in all. God fulfills all of His promises and none of them are ever empty. He has the Living Water we all need to fill our souls, and His well will never run dry.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. -1 Peter 1:18-19

I Will Not Diminish My Own Greatness

    Begin to own that woman that you look at in the mirror and understand that no one can diminish the greatness you harbor within except yourself. -Michelle McKinney Hammond

Becoming myself: this is a subject that seems to become more imperative the older I get ( and FYI in my mind I think I’m old, but I’m actually only 28). Being an old soul, I find many of life’s truths wash over me earlier than they do most folk. And this truth of becoming myself is one that keeps coming back to me again and again.

For most of my life, I have received subtle and not-so-subtle messages from the world around me to fit in. The world told me to look and act like everyone else if I want to be happy. Growing up I was teased, bullied, and called all kinds of names because I didn’t fit in. All of these messages led to me diminishing myself. I thought I wasn’t good enough for anybody. I became shy and withdrawn because I didn’t think anyone would want to talk to me. I avoided guys I was interested in because I didn’t think I was good enough for them and didn’t want to be rejected. You get the basic idea. The result of me diminishing myself was many miserable years of bitterness and unhappiness. For years I diminished myself because I believed something about myself that wasn’t true: I believed that I was unlovable.

It is only in the past couple of years or so that I have begun to challenge these old ideas I had of myself. I realized that all of these truths I thought were so self-evident were actually lies. Lies that I had believed that had kept me down. A big part of my growth was turning to God. He washed all of the dirt of those lies out of my eyes so that I could see clearly that I am loved. I am loved by Him and His Son. I am loved by friends and family. I am loved just because I am me. I am me for a reason; I’m not meant to fit in. Standing out, showing the world my true self is how I’m going to fulfill my purpose on this earth. What kind of impact can I make if I just squeeze myself into a pre-made peg? I have to carve out my own peg and make myself at home there if I am going to truly live.

So, I will no longer diminish my own greatness. The greatness I have inside is what makes me me. Making myself small serves no one. Being my true self is what the world needs and what God has called me to be. I still have more self to find…in no way do I think that I have already arrived. But I have taken the first steps down the road less traveled (a la Robert Frost), and that has made all the difference in my life.