Monthly Archives: July 2013

In Love With a Feeling

Dear Baby Sister,

Do you know I write a lot of this for you? Sure, I address it to all women in so if somebody needs a real-world talking-to, she can find it here. I hate seeing anyone make the same mistakes I’ve made, especially in matters of the heart. But I care most about you, because watching you trample your heart is slowly killing mine. And I know that you’re going to be mad that I address you specifically here, but I read your blog today, and it’s time for a reality check.

Let’s talk about love, Baby Sister. Let’s talk about what love is, and what love isn’t. I tried talking to you about this in March, when I told you about how a friend and I got into a mild debate about whether or not love was a feeling. In both the debate and my conversation with you, I expressed that love was not a feeling, although feelings often accompany love. You asked me what I knew about it, since I’d never been in an “official”, dad-approved relationship.

Although I was too hurt to respond then, I’ll tell you now. I know about love, because as you stated in your post, love is a choice. I know about love because even without the “official”, dad-approved relationship, I am loved deeply. First John 3:16 says, “This is how we know love: Christ laid down His life for us. And we also should lay down our lives for the brethren.” True love is a setting aside of ourselves for the true benefit of another, following the example of Christ. So while my relationship resume is virtually nonexistent, I have experienced Christ’s love and Christ-like love, and I can spot a counterfeit.

Although you will doubtless experience feelings for those you love, my dear Baby Sister, love is NOT a mere feeling. It is so much higher and holier than a feeling. In talking about love only in terms of the feelings, you exchange love for something cheap and far less superior. And you don’t even know you’ve done it, because those feelings make you feel so good, don’t they? I know I like that feeling, when I’m just getting to know a guy, and anything can happen. (Heck, we could even get married). Every little thing he does is just so sweet, so considerate, so Christ-like. I’ll even go a little crazy, wearing make-up and dressing up a little bit every time I see him.  I like the nervous butterflies in my stomach when I’m around him. It’s all just so exciting. And sometimes even I think silly things like, “I might be falling for him.” But sooner or later, I come down from that feelings-induced high when I realize he’s a player and he’s just using me, he doesn’t even like me, he’s kind of a jerk, we don’t value the same things, we’re going different directions, or he’s just too short. And I usually realize that I didn’t really even like the guy, let alone love him.

Another thing, Baby Sister. Love is not being willing to do anything the other person asks you to do, even if they tell you that’s what love is to them. Even when you truly love people, you are not their doormat. Yes, love requires sacrifice, but more often than not, that sacrifice involves surrendering them to God’s will and what is God’s best for them, rather than insisting on your way for them or your way with them.  It doesn’t involve flying to the moon and collecting moon dust for them.

So your two great loves, Baby Sister? Based on how you described them, you didn’t love them. Not really. You loved how they made you feel and you thought you should express that love by doing whatever they asked. And if you really believe that’s love, I’m sorry, but you’ve been robbed of the Real Deal and left with a fake in its place.

You said, “One of the cruelest things a person can do is to awaken someone’s love without the intention of truly loving them.” (Which is a paraphrase/misquote of a Bob Marley quote: “The biggest coward is a man who awakens a woman’s love with no intention of loving her.”) In Song of Songs, the Shulamite woman admonishes other women “not to awaken love until the time is right.” Solomon was a wise man; in Proverbs 4:23, he says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” YOU are responsible for diligently keeping your heart in regard to these matters. I’m not saying guys can’t and don’t lead girls on, because sometimes they do, but you were not lead on in either of these instances. You awoke your own heart, your own love, without any consideration of whether the time was right or not. I know your heart hurts, Baby Sister, and I am sorry about that. I know when it hurts its easiest to blame someone else. But I also know that GREAT healing comes when we take responsibility for our own actions.

I want to tell you about one of my greatest loves.

She came into my life when I was five years old. Growing up, we shared a bedroom, and she was always taking my stuff and making messes that I had to clean up. She would also occasionally pummel me, but I could never tell on her because that was tattling, and I could never pummel her back because that would have been wrong. (And also I was nowhere near as strong). But she was so sensitive, she would get really emotional if somebody pretend died, or if our older sister threatened to suck my brains out through my nose with a vacuum cleaner. As we got older, we got our own bedrooms (which did wonders for our relationship), and she would come to my room and talk and I would go to her room and talk. She always knew when and if I liked a guy (even though she blabbed one time), and typically, I knew who she liked. There was this one time when I had just had my wisdom teeth out and I was out from all the painkillers. I woke up and she was giving me a manicure and reading me this random story she was writing. We went through all of life’s ups and downs together.

Then, what felt like out of nowhere, there was distance. Backhanded remarks. Lashing out. She started saying mean things to other people about me. Things that made me insecure and sad. I tried to spend time with her, but I was constantly being accused of minding her business. And one day, she broke my heart all together, I think probably more than anyone else ever had.

But you know something? I still love her. I’m sitting here, bawling because of her, but I still love her. Why? It’s not because she makes me feel good about myself. It’s not because she’s this wonderful person who has her life together. It’s not because she’s easy to love. It’s not even because she’s my sister. I don’t know if there even is a because. I just love her.

Would I do anything for her? Absolutely not. I try to maintain a relationship with her, to give of my time and energy, but I don’t do everything she wants. Sometimes, in recent months, my love for her has meant sitting back and letting God pursue her, rather than trying to intervene myself. It means watching her do things I would never desire for her, knowing that God can redeem them.

I know, Baby Sister, that God loves you so much more fully than I ever can. It is my greatest prayer, the one I breathe every instant, that you will wake up one morning and realize how deeply loved you are and that will inspire you to deeply (and truly) love others.

I love you!

Your Next Oldest Sister

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Maintaining Autonomy In Ministry

Autonomy.  The quality or condition of being independent.

Not something you hear about in reference to ministry often. Or at all.

After all, as Christians we are all part of the same body, and belong to each other (Romans 12:5).  Additionally, we are told to die to ourselves (John 12:24-25), and we are to think of others before ourselves and look out for the interests of others above our own (Philippians 2:3-4). What’s that acronym? J-O-Y: Jesus-Others-You. These things are important, and believe me, I’m all about them.

So much about them, in fact, I frequently lose sight of my individuality. I become so much about the church, so much about the ministry, I forget my personal endeavors.  I forget that we are all “members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27). I forget that God has given me unique gifts, talents and things so that I can better enjoy Him.

I got into such a forgetful state about this last year.  I had been challenged and convicted about dying to myself as a 2012 New Year’s resolution. I wanted to be that seed that fell to the ground, died, and brought forth fruit in as a result. (Or at least, I thought that’s what I wanted).  As many of you know I was directing FortyOne20 Ministries during the spring and summer of last year. I was also heavily-involved with church activities. I was doing good things, and honestly, I thought I was doing the right things as I sacrificed personally-beneficial activities for ministry activities over and over.  Things like fellowship and building relationships with the people I was trying to minister to, personal writing and other creative pursuits, and enjoying my relationship with God. I was so busy and frazzled doing what I thought was most important, putting myself at the bottom, or very often, thinking about myself at all. And by the end of June, I was also completely miserable. I have never felt more lost and outside of myself as I did last summer and fall, and I really thought that was the dying to myself that God had called me to, that this was what  He wanted for me. And I stayed that way for several months, burning out and coming to a complete halt ministry-wise.

In November, I read C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and I came across this quote: “When He [God] talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.” I know this book is not the word of God, but this struck me as particularly true in my case. God wants me to enjoy Him. God wants me to enjoy and use the gifts and talents He has given me. And God wants me to enjoy relating to people. God wants me to live freely, how He created and intends for me to live.

Since then, it’s no longer about obligation for me. It’s the best-worst thing that’s ever happened to me. You might think, with a hard-learned lesson like that, I would more heavily-consider what I take on and why. And I’ve been pretty good about establishing and maintaining boundaries over the past year.

Then suddenly, last weekend, I felt overwhelmed by all of the things I needed to do. I wrote it all down to make sure I wasn’t just psyching myself out, and discovered I’m involved in like six or seven different things on a weekly basis. Meanwhile, I’m not spending much time writing or producing, which I need to be doing to maintain my personal portfolio as an independent writer/producer. I feel busy all of the time, no time where I’m not thinking about the next thing, including during my personal times with God.

I had to let a few things go in order to better worship God, in order to better use and enjoy my gifts and talents, and in order to more effectively minister to the people God places in my path. I’ve decided to take one day a week (Sunday) to worship and rest in God, to be present and spend quality time with family and friends, and to otherwise do things I enjoy, so that I’m refreshed and ready for my week. I’ve decided to spend time every day writing and working on production projects. And I’ve decided to be more intentional about the people in my path.

So, where does dying to myself come into the picture? The hierarchy is still Jesus>Others>You.

My relationship with God is my first priority.  I will spend time with Him even when it means giving up time with other people or time for personal endeavors. And I really want to enjoy that time and be present in it.

I’m still called to walk in humility, to look out for your interests before my own. I’m still a part of a body, and I still need to think about how my actions (or lack thereof) affect that body. I’m called to love you, serve you, exhort you, and walk through life with you. I’m also called to reach the lost. And I still need to use my time, resources and energy to do these things.

I’m also still a unique individual, by God’s design. I’m told to rest (Matthew 11:28; Hebrews 4:11a). I’m told not to strive (Psalm 46:10). I’ve been given abundant life (life to the full), not a frazzled and frustrated life (John 10:10). And for my well-being as an individual, I have to establish limits and boundaries in ministry.

And believe it or not, so do you!

Binge-Writing

Binge-writing today.

I’m in a perpetual state of writers’ block, and today I sit down and write for eight hours straight.

I guess I’ve been mulling over it for so long it just kind of spilled out.

Why I Don’t Wear High Heels

Keeping it light this week, because I am in my head too deep. If I take on a heavy topic, I might accidentally-on-purpose verbally sucker punch somebody, and then I’ll feel worse.

On Sunday, a friend and I were talking about high heels, and why I never wear them.

Never wearing them is an exaggeration on her part.  I have a pair of black boots with heals, that I consider my big girl shoes. Much like big girl panties, I put them on when I’m dealing with big girl stuff. I also own two pairs of black sandal heels that I bought for two siblings weddings five years ago. I wore them to the weddings, and when I’m feeling especially daring I wear them now.

But the bottom line is, I really just don’t like wearing high heels.

And my last outing in them illustrates why.

It must have been a Sunday morning at the beginning of June. I was wearing a purple and black dress with black leggings and (you guessed it) a pair of black sandal heels. I was feeling pretty confident.

Thing # 1: They just aren’t comfortable.

Then I got to church and found out I had nursery duty. Guess what? Those heels came off, because it’s just not comfortable squatting and playing with kids while in heels.  During the second service, I help in a Sunday School class. One of the kids’ favorite songs to sing is “Hallelu-Hallelujah/Praise Ye the Lord”, which if you didn’t know is an up and down song. Yep, the heels came off again. I spent my morning barefoot.

Thing # 2: They make me waddle. Thus, any cuteness the heels may inherently possess is completely undone by the unattractive waddling.

I then agreed to help out with an outreach my church does on Sunday afternoons. (Back story – I live like 40 minutes away from the church, so it was impractical for me to go home and change, otherwise I would have).  My feet and my back were in pain from wearing my heels for about fifteen minutes, and I was taking them off every opportunity I got. Our outreach was outdoors, and I thought, “Eh, that’s fine, I’ll just take my heels off and go barefoot.” Unfortunately there was broken glass everywhere, and I had a vision of myself getting a piece of it stuck in my foot and having to explain to my dad exactly why I was barefoot. (He’s a stickler for shoes being worn outdoors). So I waddled around outreach, and couldn’t play the games with the kids because I was wearing heels. (And I’m pretty sure some people who don’t have the back story like you do were judging me just a little bit for wearing heels to outreach).

Thing # 3: I am already an Amazon woman, I don’t need (or want) to be taller.

Working with kids, I like to be on their level for communication purposes. (Well, actually, that’s true of anybody). That’s already challenging because I’m pretty tall, but in heels, it’s even harder.

I laugh when girls tell me they want a guy who is tall enough that they can heels and he’ll still be taller. I just take the whole heel thing out of the equation, and can be happy with a guy right around my height. (Let me tell you, it opens your world up).

I’d rather wear a cute pair of flats, exude confidence, feel beautiful and comfortable in my own skin. Heels just don’t do that for me.

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Defrauding

I haven’t written much on relationships between girls and guys in a while, mostly because I’ve been overwhelmed with other stuff and have needed to process. But the topic of “defrauding” has been on my mind for several months now, and I wanted to talk about it. Normally when I write a post like this, I primarily address the girls, but today I want to talk primarily to the guys. (Don’t go anywhere, ladies, there is stuff here for you too).

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7).

First of all, let’s get this straight: these verses are speaking about physical sexual purity, but they also get applied to lust and emotional purity.  I’m dealing with the second application in this post, so I’ll be talking about more of an emotional defrauding.

As Christian women, we are often expected to consider our brothers in Christ in how we dress and conduct ourselves. Why? Very simply, we don’t want to cause them to stumble in their thoughts or actions. We don’t want to defraud them. For the record, I think it’s a good practice. What I’ve rarely heard talked about in reference to these verses or any others is how Christian men can and often do emotionally defraud their sisters in Christ. (Yes, I went there).

Guys, more than anything else we girls want be known and know others. When someone takes the time to get to know us – who we are, what we like, our interests, what’s going on in our lives – it means the world to us. It’s how we relate. When it comes to guys getting to know us, sometimes we build up their intentions to be more than they are. And that is on us. (Just as a guy’s thought life about a woman is on him).

But sometimes, guys play the field. (You know what I’m talking about). They want to get to know a girl, not for herself, but for if she could maybe possibly be a girl he’d like to date. He displays interest in her by asking often super-personal questions, buying her things, spending more time with her than anyone else, and letting her do things for him (like laundry and cooking). Maybe he hasn’t been taught about these things and he’s ignorant, or maybe he has and he’s being selfish, but he suddenly stops talking to this girl and is dating someone completely different. Maybe he genuinely thinks they were just friends and that she felt the same way, but trust me, that connection was much deeper on her end and now she’s a mess.

Dear guys, just like you don’t think like us, we don’t think like you. Somewhere in all of that getting to know each other business, we’ve gotten ideas about our relationship (some of us may have started planning the wedding), and we think it’s more than it is. And that is partially on us. But it’s on you too, particularly if you are treating us like a girlfriend in everything but name.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t get to know us or be friends with us at all. Just follow some practical guidelines:

– If you want to casually get to know a girl to see if there might be something more there, do it in a group setting, not one-on-one. It’s less easy for a girl to misconstrue your intentions that way.

– If you want to casually get to know a girl to see if there might be something more there, don’t ask her any questions you wouldn’t ask any other girl. In fact, in the group setting, throw a question out there for everyone to respond to.

– Unless you’re interested in some form of commitment (however small), don’t single her out for special attention. If you wouldn’t do it for any other girl, don’t do it for her. That includes buying or paying for things for her.

– Try not to let her doing things like cooking, cleaning, or laundry for you. Some girls are bound and determined to do these things for you anyways, and that’s why I say try not to allow it. When you start dating someone else, she will feel taken advantage of.

During my junior and senior years of college, I knew this great, godly guy. We’ll call him Brad. All the girls liked him. (Well, I don’t know about ALL the girls, but a good number of them, including myself). He was a servant leader, a good listener, and a little goofy too.  Brad took all of the interest in him kindly and patiently, and everybody kind of just worked through their feelings while being friends. (Including myself). At the end of my senior year, God had called Brad somewhere far away. We’ll call it Timbuktu. We got him this gigantic card, and as I was thinking about what to write, I was super-impressed because I realized that this was the guy who taught me what a great brother in Christ looked like. He wasn’t worried about conveying interest (or disinterest), he just focused on being Christ-like. He didn’t leave me (or any other girls in our group) with broken hearts or emotional scars because he acted wisely.

Sometimes attraction comes way too easily to us girls. We are responsible for prayerfully working through those feelings, just as guys are responsible for their feelings. But we can all make this easier on each other by just respecting and considering the different ways we think and feel.

A final note to the ladies: When and if a guy is interested in you, he will find a way to convey that interest clearly. That’s just how guys work. Until then, you’re just friends. If you find yourself making more of it than it is, maybe it would be wise for you to step away. Don’t be cold, just limit your interactions. If he’s walking in step with God, he’ll most likely understand without your even having to tell him.

For everyone, be wise. Don’t play games. We’re talking about human emotions here.

Life Lessons from Spring 2013

“How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow is she, who was great among the nations! The princess among the provinces has become a slave! She weeps bitterly in the night, her tears are on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her. All her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies. [She] has gone into captivity, under affliction and hard servitude; she finds no rest; all her persecutors overtake her in dire straits … Her uncleanness is in her skirts; she did not consider her destiny; therefore her collapse was awesome; she had no comforter … The adversary has spread his hand over all her pleasant things; for she has seen the nations enter her sanctuary, those whom You commanded not to enter Your sanctuary…

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which has been brought on me, which the LORD has inflicted in the day of His fierce anger … For these things I weep; my eye, my eye overflows with water; because the comforter, who should restore my life, is far from me. My children are desolate because the enemy prevailed.”

~Lamentations 1:1-3, 9a, 10, 12, 16

Over the past few months, I’ve been reminded of and tested in some things I’ve already learned.

Reminders about nothing being more grievous than watching a loved one self-destruct. Reminders about nothing being more distressing than not being able to do anything about it. Reminders about rejection, and the painful questions of self-worth that come with it. Reminders about persevering in some things and letting other things go.

I am re-learning through grief to seek and abide in God’s comfort. He truly is the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). I know He understands my grieving heart.

I am re-learning through losing control (or losing what I think is control) to rest in God’s sovereignty. There is nothing about the past few months that has escaped God’s notice or control. He has a plan and purpose in all of it.

I am re-learning my worth, independent of the approval and acceptance of others. God delights in me. He is excited about me. I am His masterpiece in Christ.

I am re-learning to evaluate my relationships, and grow away from the ones that cause me harm spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I grow with the ones that sharpen me spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

But I am still very much in the middle of everything, so there are more lessons to be learned, I am certain. (Probably more accurately, at the beginning, but who really knows?)

“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

~Lamentations 3:21-23