A Week of Stretching

 

I should preface this post by saying that lately, I have gotten into the habit of bottling myself up. I’m one of those people who tends to put up a front. I put my best foot forward, rarely discussing what I’m really going through or how I’m feeling. But I got convicted by that this week so today, I am going to write a super awkward post about probably one of the most ridiculous weeks I’ve had in a long time.

It all started with an Instagram post from this social media influencer I follow (I know, I know. Very millennial of me. I don’t care. Her posts are awesome.)  Anyway, she shared this post about this five day prayer challenge for praying for your future spouse.

Here’s the thing: I don’t pray for my future spouse consistently. I keep meaning to but I always find an excuse not to. It’s just so uncomfortable. I pray when I’m moved by the spirit. I have, however, spent much of my time praying for the men I have fallen for. An act, I would learn later this week is actually super unhealthy. But we’ll get there.

So I felt like this was a good opportunity to grow. I’m all about growing. I signed up for the challenge. I received the first email on Monday.

Day 1: Pray their house isn’t built on sand

Basically, it was about praying that your future spouse loves Jesus fiercely. I spent the morning trying not to pray for the guy I had been pining for the last eight years. I had reached this point a few weeks ago where I decided I was going to move on from him. It was right around the time I decided to be a foster parent.

Day 2: Pray they are breaking ties with every ex-lover

This was actually super convicting for me. On the one hand, they were talking about “lovers” as in idols, so that could be anything that separates your future spouse from God and honestly, loving you. So I was on board with that. The convicting part for me was this little secret I’ve been carrying for over a year.

I still follow my first love on Instagram.

I actually get a lot of enjoyment from knowing what’s going on in his life, because he uses it on a regular basis. It’s not like I still want to be with him or anything. He was just such an important part of my life that I take comfort in knowing he’s okay. But I realized it’s a load of crap and I should probably unfollow him. Actually, I should definitely unfollow him.

Day 3: Pray for “Godly Chemistry”

This one was interesting. It wasn’t talking about chemistry in the traditional sense but rather that “Godly chemistry” has to do with matching purposes. I used to equate this with compatible jobs. For example, I first fell in love with my first love over our shared passions for nonprofit work. I mean, I saw our whole freaking future together. And man, did I argue with God over it. I told God repeatedly why we made sense, what impact we would have if we were together.

The hardest lesson to learn for my little pragmatic heart was that matching purposes between spouses has more to do with how you’re both wired. Elizabeth Elliot describes it in The Mark of a Man by that a man will know his wife because “she comes from your rib bone.” She meant that a man’s wife is a reflection of who he is. Still doesn’t totally make sense to me but I tell my guy friends this all the time.

Day 4: Pray they don’t eat the apple

So I literally prayed this over a month ago, in the spirit. This was about stopping with dating other people. Amen.

Day 5: Pray they are “hiding & seeking”

A very well-known trait of mine is that I like to take the lead in relationships. I have asked out every guy I have ever dated or liked. About three years ago, I realized how sinful my behavior was. Don’t get me wrong – I love a strong, confident woman who knows what she wants and goes for it. But I wasn’t doing it for that reason.

I didn’t want to be found. I didn’t want to be pursued by a man. I didn’t want to be wanted. Being “found” meant opening myself up to being loved. Weirdly, I preferred rejection by my own hands than intimacy with another person.

The devotional said to pray that your future husband will “find” you and you are in a position to be “found.” I was really confused about what it meant to place yourself in a position to be found so I asked a friend to explain it to me.

She explained that while it’s the man’s job to find, it’s the woman’s job to be found. She does this by basically ignoring other men by pursuing Christ so deeply that she doesn’t notice the men around her.

It hit me that I think  I have reached that point. I really do. So my week was crazy emotional and now I really don’t know what to do with myself.

Probably unfollow that guy on Instagram.

Advertisements

All the Single Ladies (and men)

I still remember the conversation I had with my stepdad at 19. I had watched a boy I had fawned over for three years fall for someone else, a heart-breaking, soul-crushing spectacle that I wish I could have avoided.

But I was on the mend, relieved to be finally okay when I sat across my stepdad in our dimly-lit living room and proudly proclaimed that I was not planning on ever getting married.

This was not a new sentiment but one I had shared over the years since the tender age of eight. As much as I liked guys, was attracted to them, enjoyed spending time with them, I found that I valued my freedom much more. At 19, I had every intention of becoming a missionary and then adopting a daughter later in life. This was going to be my story, sans a man.

Over the years, I dated purely out of rebellion and fell in love with a boy that never loved me back. Before you feel sorry for me, you should know that I genuinely believe that I deserved the treatment I received from said boy. You reap what you sow and I had sown discord and heartache with every man I dated.

By the time I got to counseling, I had a trail of pain and idolatry following behind me. I told the counselor I believed I had the gift of singleness, which was why nothing had worked out. He responded curtly with a no, you idolize singleness. There’s a difference. People with the gift of singleness don’t break hearts and use people the way I did.

So I went on this journey, exploring the darkness I called marriage and for the last three years, I have wrestled with, sought out and ultimately idolized the very thing I ran away from. It brought me here, to this very day when I finally admitted to myself that I had a problem. I had traded one idol for another and I was done. My heart exhausted; I threw up my hands and told God I’d take whatever life He’d give me.

I had finally been throw out of the whale. I was free.

I realize I might never get married or I might marry someone for fifty years. Whatever the case may be, I’ll be okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Picture credit: <a href=”http://www.freepik.com/free-photo/girls-looking-at-her-funny-friend_909409.htm”>Designed by Freepik</a>

A Prayer in the darkness

Nobody taught me how to pray and it really wasn’t modeled for me at home. Prayer, for me, was this way of learning God’s heart. I would submit a desire to God and watch how He would either affirm or deny the desires of my heart by changing me from within.

I’ve learned this practice is uncommon among Christians. It is far more common to attempt to pray in a way that pleases God. But God and I have had an uncommon relationship. He is my best friend, no exaggeration, so I have always spoken to Him candidly. My prayers are neither long nor eloquent. I have often felt out of the ordinary in Christian circles because I don’t multiply my words.

****

A lot has been on my mind lately. Last year, I watched several visions come true from seven years ago that, when I had these visions years ago, I immediately dismissed as false. Without drawing out specifics, the visions stated that I would marry someone I wasn’t particularly a fan of. Vision after vision came true in a matter of months, leading me to believe that ultimately, I would marry this man. A man I was not a fan of.

Despite my feelings against this man, I continually submitted to God. My gut spoke against this man, this was not a good match for me. I struggled to reconcile how my best friend could expect me to marry someone I didn’t like. But I chose God, so I waited for the fulfillment of the visions. Right up until the day he married someone else.

I was so certain that I had done everything right but as God so tactfully told me earlier this week, I had missed the point.

You can’t marry someone if you never actually choose them.

I had chosen God but I had never chosen the man.

****

I learned early on in life to trust my gut. I’m rarely wrong. So when I met him at 19 and liked him right away, I trusted God to make the connection. I wasn’t sure if he liked me back but I distinctly remember his mom whispering to another woman, that woman pointing at me and then his mom calling me by name. When we had never met before. I made the educated guess that he had told his mom about me. He liked me. He had to.

So I waited for him to do something. He never did.

****

Recently, I decided to pray that God would give me the man I did want to be with. I prayed every day for this man. I told no one what I was praying for. I was sure no one would understand what I was doing. I knew that God would either affirm or deny my desires and I needed answers. For seven years, I had had feelings for this man that was built on nothing more  than a gut instinct that this was a man worth my time and energy.

For the first time ever, God didn’t affirm or deny my desires. He gave me contentment in Christ, this deep thirst for Him. My desires had changed. I still wanted to be with this man but not as much as Jesus.

It was a miracle.

****

Over the last year, I have had several false starts with guys. Honestly, I find myself attracted to men but my gut always says the same thing: this isn’t it. The chemistry fizzles, the flirting fades and I’m left with the eventual conclusion that it didn’t matter anyway.

I know people will argue with me on this but I want to know in my gut that it’s right. When you know, you know.

I may have not chosen the man I had visions about but I’d choose the man I’ve prayed for a million times over.

I just hope one day, he chooses me too.

Search Me & Test My Heart

I haven’t written in a while. Mostly, I think it’s because I’ve been too absorbed in the world around me to take the time to write down what I’m experiencing.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been in this play where people with disabilities share their personal stories with the audience. I made a choice to be a part of the performance, a choice I regretted as soon as I did it. Because as much as I could talk about my cerebral palsy, what I felt compelled to talk about was the last year of my life, living in psychosis. It was really good for me to reflect on the last year, the last three years if I’m honest, and it led me to some startling conclusions.

As a healthy person, I have never put much emphasis on romantic relationships. I didn’t think of my husband or what my wedding would look like. I have wanted two things consistently: to have a successful career and to be a mother. I knew how to guard my heart, almost too well.

But when I got sick, something shifted in me. I couldn’t guard my heart. I latched on to any guy that I was attracted to. Often times, these men had girlfriends already or were at least not interested in me. I was persistent and pushy and advocated to be loved by men that I probably would have not pursued otherwise.

It got me into a lot of trouble. The worse part was that I couldn’t understand where this audacity came from. I thought I was changing and I really didn’t like who I was becoming.

My friends got involved, calling me out on what was supposedly my evil nature. Boyfriend stealer. They said that they believed that I was not capable of change, that I would continue to be this evil, intrusive person.

It was awful, mostly because I believed them. It was the harsh words they said to me that, in the midst of my psychosis, led me to try to take my own life.

When I got better through treatment, I saw myself going back to the person I was before I got sick. Quiet, reserved, patient. Combined with the counseling I had gone through over the last three years, I understood that I have worth. I began to love myself again.

Despite this healing, there was this nagging feeling that until I was presented with an opportunity to test this shift back to who I was, I would never know if this was truly change in my heart or if it was just a feeling.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24

I said this prayer early on in my treatment because I needed to know that I was okay, that the person who interfered with men was not the real me. Until I was sure of that, I couldn’t see myself dating anyone.

God was faithful. He brought a man into my life that set off every trigger I had experienced in the last three years, only this time I was able to withstand the temptations. I came out the other side with renewed joy. I was okay, really okay.

Ultimately, I didn’t end up with that guy. I actually got to a point when I knew he wasn’t the type of guy I wanted to date, something that I would never allow myself to reach that point before. In my illness, I had always jumped the gun.

I was driving home one night, questioning God as to why He would allow me to open myself up to the possibility of this man, only to have it fizzle out. And then it hit me. It was never about the guy. This was about me knowing I was healthy, that I was not the vile, evil person I had been accused of being.

When this clicked for me, I knew I was ready to start dating again.

Of mice and butter

I’ve been wrestling lately with pretty significant writer’s block, which is bad when you write professionally for a magazine. My editor has not been pleased with my work.

The last time I couldn’t write like this I was 20, a sophomore in college and making new friends. My social life was thriving. I had an active dating life. Things were good.

Until it wasn’t. You know, if you truly want to understand exactly how well you’re doing in life, fall in love. Falling in love has a way of revealing how miserable you really are.

I didn’t intend to fall in love. He was a friend. I generally have my guard up in relationships. Blame it on trauma. Blame it on my upbringing. I do not come from relational parents. Whatever the case may be, intimacy and I have never quite been on the same terms. I learned early on in life that if I shared my story in all its gory details, nobody would question whether or not I was truly a vulnerable person. Years later, I have been told by friends that my vulnerability fooled no one and they all felt like they never truly connected with me.

I have no good answers for why this friend was different. I think my guard went down most likely because I never saw him as a threat. He came from a wealthy home, drove a car his dad bought him, wore nicer clothes (read: not from a thrift store). There was nothing about him that suggested that we would have anything in common. And yet, despite our superficial differences, we were very much cut from the same cloth.

I let him in. I let myself care about someone wholeheartedly. And there’s something really beautiful about that.

But here we are, seven years later, and I am still struggling to form intimacy with others. Even worse, I am at a place where I am fighting to be vulnerable with where I’m at. I can count on one hand the number of people in my life that I would say know me and vice versa.

 

I’ll be honest-I don’t want to write in this blog anymore. Would it matter if I stopped? This used to matter but I’m at this crossroads of deciding who I want to be. I either choose to stay the same, fall into old patterns of shutting people out or I choose to move forward in faith toward something real. Because I’m getting fed up of living a mediocre life.

I heard a pastor say once that marriage is the ultimate form of intimacy. It’s choosing to let your guard down fully with one person every day for the rest of your life. Inside, I was shaking. I really, really love being single. Like really. I used to think that I had the gift of singleness but I know deep down it’s just the warmth of self-preservation that I’m attracted to. I have driven away every man I’ve ever dated or been interested in by my unwillingness to let my guard down.

But I remember what it felt like to let my friend in. It wasn’t that it felt good all the time or that he didn’t drive me crazy at times. It just felt real, like my feet hit solid ground.

I had bad writer’s block when he came into my life. I was suffocating behind the wall I had built for myself. But maybe that’s why I fell in love with him, because as long as I was comfortable, I wasn’t going to be ready to love anyone. Comfort can be deceitful. I used to believe that I would know I was ready to be with someone when I was settled and secure but that’s not what I’ve seen in my life.

Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse, wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out. – Catch Me If You Can

Maybe the struggle means I’m on to something important.

Hard to Love

I’ve prayed a lot of weird prayers in the last thirteen years. Like a lot. Like things I would never say to another person but I’d tell God because He already knows.

Perhaps one of the weirdest prayers came at a time when I was a complete hot mess. I had come out of an incredibly traumatic household and was knee-deep in the thick of counseling. If you’ve ever experienced what trauma does to a person and what happens when you’re finally free, you already have a picture of my behavior in your head. I was abrasive, decisive and pushy. Of all the things to come out of my relationship with my stepfather, it was this recurring thing he used to say to me when he was angry.

No one would truly love you if they really knew you.

I genuinely believe this one sentence sums up every last damn fear I have ever had. Every isolation, seclusion, tarnished relationship and inability to commit to another person could be traced back to this one sentence.

I’ve absolutely sucked at community. My dating life was a mess of leading men on and walking away before I could be rejected. Or I would swing the other way and pursue men because I never thought I was worth being pursued.

To this day, the idea that a man could be thinking of me and want me is still so farfetched. It’s not that I think I’m a terrible choice. There’s just this part of me that still operates under this one sentence.

In the midst of all this darkness and shame, I asked God for a favor. My heart was starting to open up in this new way that I wanted to love and be loved. I asked God if He would let the man I marry see me at my worst and love me anyway. I wanted my stepfather to be wrong.

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” – Timothy Keller

There’s times I’ve regretted asking for such a difficult request. I’m convinced that’s why now every man I could have been interested in has seen ugly parts of me. I’ve scared away more men than I can count just by continually screwing up.

I think it’ll mean more when the guy sticks around. When he pursues me because he sees who I am becoming through Jesus rather than just who I am now.  He’ll see past the mistakes I make. I’m going to keep telling myself that I did not, in fact, make my dating life exponentially more difficult.

But you know, maybe less weird prayers in the future.

Spirit lead me…

Sometimes, I think I chose the transparent life.

Mostly, I think the transparent life chose me.

I still remember the first time I felt the leading of the Holy Spirit on my heart. I hadn’t been a Christian more than about two years and I was sitting in a crowded, hot room one night in California.

How I ended up in that room, that night is a story for the books. It was the first time the Holy Spirit took over my voice and I said yes to going to church camp when I had fully intended to say no. I was this sullen, angry teenager. Hell-bent on making every authority figure in my life fearful of me. I was not a fan of the church.

But you know, the joy of the Lord is my strength.

So I was sitting in this room that I never intended to be in, experiencing what I can only describe as the impulse of the Holy Spirit.

Most people talk about the Spirit as this mystic being that gently leads followers of Christ to where they should go and what they should do.

No. Just no.

Homeboy, I have no idea what anyone is talking about.

The Spirit is not gentle. Not in my life. It is straight-up the most impulsive feeling I have ever experienced.

Because it’s been ten years since that night in California and God hasn’t changed the way the Spirit moves in my life.

For everyone else in that room, they saw a small girl sharing her transparency for the first time. How she was hurting herself. How much she wanted to die. The tears rolling down her cheeks.

But my heart in that moment? Oh, the Holy Spirit did for the first time what it’s done ever since. The joy bounced around my chest in a way that took my breath away. It felt like a hand reached out and grabbed my heart, my only response being impulsive. I opened my mouth.

With everything that’s been going on in my life lately, I’ve been trying to find clarity in how to follow God faithfully. And it’s remarkably simple. God is not a God of confusion. When the time is right, He makes the path clear. If the path is not clear, it’s because you’re not ready for the answer.

My journals lately have been full of prayers for my future husband. I’ve never done this before, not really. Pray for him. Talk to God about him. Up until about three years ago, I never wanted marriage. And if I’m being truly transparent, it’s because I never wanted to be disappointed. I never wanted to desire something that I might never receive.

My heart has been grieved enough.

But in the last few weeks, I’ve felt that impulsive nature of the Holy Spirit. That hand has stopped me in the middle of a work day to write out a quick prayer. I sat in a movie theater when that hand grabbed my heart and I prayed for him again. My journals are full of previously unspoken and unknown desires.

I’m not really sure what the Spirit is doing in my life but something is moving in my heart.

To this day, I have no idea why it was so important that I spoke up and shared my story that night in California but it really doesn’t matter. I’ve been serving God impulsively ever since.