Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Dating Game

"Above all else guard your heart."  Proverbs 4:23

As I venture back into the dating world, I have come to remember how difficult it is.  One thing that has been discouraging to me is the number of men that seem to be Christians in name only.  They attend church and are good people.  However, what I'm noticing is a lack of conviction of sin in a lot of these men who say they are Christians.  That really bothers me and also saddens me.

My thoughts are that if I feel that there is a spiritual foundation and common interests, I will go on one date with someone after we have talked a little bit and I feel that there may be potential.  You can tell a lot from that first date.  For instance, if we eat a meal together, do they offer to pray for the food or do they just dig right in?  It's also important to me to find someone who is easy to talk to where the conversation is not forced, but just flows.

I also like playfulness and to feel comfortable just being myself and not always in "analyzing" mode. That part is the hard part for me and where I have to guard my heart the most.  Because sometimes you can be having a really good time with someone who has spiritual differences from you.  This is the area that gets me most in trouble as I have chosen the wrong people in the past and ignored that little voice in my head that clearly sees the problem but is having such a good time that I just go with it because it feels good.  That pesky flesh.

So I actually met three guys about the same time... I'll call them G, J, and C1.

G
G and I chatted for a little bit and started to communicate via text quite a bit.  He was a good family man with three daughters who were the loves of his life.  I like a nice family man who loves his kids.  We talked about everything.  Our interests, our kids, our beliefs, our careers, etc.  I really felt like there might be potential.

J
With J, there were things I liked about him but he didn't communicate with me as much as G.  However, physically I was very attracted to J.  And when we did talk, I enjoyed the conversation.  However, I wasn't sure if this would go anywhere.  I like to be pursued and he seemed a bit slow in that area so I wasn't really sure how interested he was.  So I asked him outright, because I did want to guard my heart and didn't want to crack it open for someone who might not be interested in seeing where it went.  I was actually a little surprised when he said that he was interested and wanted to get to know me more.  I figured maybe he just wasn't the chatty type as much.

C1
C1.  C1 and I had good conversation.  He was very active in his church and even led a weekly Bible study there, which I liked.  Being involved in serving within a church says a lot more to me than someone who merely attends services.  We also had good conversations.  One evening in particular, we talked for a long time and I really enjoyed the talk.  It was light-hearted conversation mixed with thoughts on deeper subjects such as politics and world events.  I liked the combination.  However, C1 never asked for a date or pursued me in any way in that form even though we continued to talk some.  I felt like it was more of a friendship than anything else.  I'll still hear from him from time to time but not sure about that one since he never asked me on a date.

So there I was, talking to three different guys.  I hadn't gone on dates with anyone at that point so I decided that it was okay to talk to all three of them.  However, I wanted to go out with them at least once to learn more.  If the first date goes well, I will go on a second.  After a second date, I feel I need to decide between them because I prefer to give my attention to just one person rather than just casually dating.

My first scheduled date was with J.  I really didn't have high expectations.  I found him attractive and enjoyed the short bits of conversations we'd had, but I really didn't have much depth past that.  We met for coffee and to my surprise, we actually hit it off really well.  We had great conversation and I felt really comfortable with him.  After that, we walked around the outlet mall for a little bit and talked some more.  We went into a store because he had a shirt he needed to exchange and passed a display that had my favorite men's cologne right in front.  I mentioned it was my favorite so he sprayed some on his arm.  He said he might have to get some of it since I liked it so much.  Then he kept playfully asking me to smell his arm throughout the store.  It was funny.  And cute.  I was really enjoying myself.  After that, we were having such a good time that neither of us wanted it to end.  He asked if I wanted to have lunch.  I said sure.  We had a really nice time.  But he didn't pray before our meal.  I thought maybe he was just nervous.  I didn't know.  When we finished, he said he had a really good time and would like to see me again.  I said that I would like that as well.

G
The day after my date with J, I had previously agreed to a date with G.  I liked them both and wanted to see them close together because I knew I would have to make a decision as to which one I connected with more because I wasn't willing to date them both at the same time.  As much as I enjoyed my date with J, I was really looking forward to my date with G.  We had already talked quite a bit and I was starting to like him.  We met for lunch after church that Sunday.  I arrived there first and as he walked up to the door, I already wasn't as attracted to him physically as I was to J.  However, I didn't discount our conversations so I kept an open mind.  G was a lot quieter than I had expected after our conversations.  I think maybe he was just nervous.  I can understand that.  We ordered our food and continued to talk.  Our previous conversations flowed a lot easier than now here in person.  It now felt a little forced.  Our food came and he did not pray for our meal.  Again, I thought maybe he was nervous, especially given the rest of our encounter.  We did talk throughout the meal but I just didn't have that same "spark" that I had with J.  I was really surprised because before this, G was really my front runner and I wasn't sure what I thought about J.  I could tell that G felt differently.  He leaned in during the meal and told me that I was really stunning.  When we left, he gave me a hug and kissed my forehead.  He said that he would like to see me again.  I wasn't sure but didn't know what to say right at that moment.  I don't really remember what I said in that moment, actually.  What I did know is that between G and J, the one I wanted to see again was J.  So later that day, I talked to G again and had to let him down.  I hate having to hurt people and I felt really bad doing it but knew I had to.  He was very gracious and understanding even though he felt differently.

J
J and I started to talk a lot more after that.  He would call me in the morning on his way to work every morning and text me throughout the day.  We would talk on the phone again in the evening.  I liked it.  I was pleasantly surprised that this guy who I was unsure about was someone I actually liked.  We made plans for a second date the following weekend.  Throughout the course of our conversation during that second week as our conversations deepened, I started to notice that we had some differences in our beliefs regarding boundaries in relationships.  I knew it was something I needed to talk to him about early on because my heart was already involved at this point and all I could keep thinking about was "Guard your heart..." from Proverbs.  I had to have a very difficult conversation with him.  I was really nervous about it and knew that it would probably be the end of the road for us.  It was difficult because I still liked him.  But I already know from past experience that it would be much more difficult down the road when my heart was even more involved so it was better to find out early.  As I expected, our convictions were worlds apart and that was the last time I ever talked to him.

I was bummed about J but also proud of myself for standing up for my faith and convictions.  It felt good.  If only he wasn't so good looking, lol.  Oh well.

*** sorry this post is so long.  I have a lot to say after not blogging for almost 2 years***

C2
So then there was C2.  Oh, C2.  He contacted me two days after I had ended things with J.  He lived about an hour and a half  away so I told him I wasn't sure.  However, we continued to talk and I found it really fun and easy.  We got along really well and had a lot in common.  He was a very loving dad to his young daughter, which I loved.  He also had a great smile.  We loved to do the same kinds of things.  He grew up Baptist but was now attending a non-denominational church.  I was almost immediately smitten by him.  I kept telling myself to "guard my heart" but this time it was really difficult.  I really liked C2.  Because of the distance, we talked on the phone and texted longer than with J and G before we went on our first date.  We would talk for hours.  It wasn't long before I felt like I had known him for years rather than weeks.  We finally met for our first date.  It was awesome.  I had the best time and liked him even more after that. I couldn't wait to see him again.  We continued to talk for hours every night.  He was the first thing I would think about in the morning and the last thing I thought about at night.  He felt the same.  With all of the talking we had done, I realized pretty quickly that we did have some foundational differences as well.  However, he was very respectful of me and I liked that.  I knew in my head that I needed to guard my heart but my heart didn't want to be guarded.  I was absolutely crazy about this guy.  We went out again and it was just as great as the first date.  It was strange to think it was only our second date because we talked SO much.  Both of us couldn't wait to see the other again.  We planned for a third date but due to circumstances beyond each of our control, it ended up not working out.  We were both disappointed.  So we rescheduled.  I was falling hard for C2 and also feeling really conflicted at the same time.  I knew because of our differences it probably wouldn't last long term, but I lacked the strength to stop it.  I had all this head knowledge of what I should do.  But my heart was hooked.  The heart is a powerful thing.  It makes complete sense why Solomon taught his son to guard it.  I felt in my heart that I was even starting to fall in love with this man after a month and a half, but my mind knew it was probably more infatuation.  Ahh, this was so hard.

C2 and I were supposed to see each other again last night.  I couldn't wait.  Neither could he.  The days could not pass quickly enough.  Yet, I still had this nagging conviction in my soul that I was not guarding my heart and the longer I continued, the more it was going to hurt.  It already hurt just thinking about it.  Two days ago, I don't know how I mustered up the courage, but I had the talk with him.  It could only have been the Holy Spirit because I had zero courage or desire to have this conversation with him on my own.  I was crazy about him.  I still am crazy about him.  But I had to finally guard my heart and end it.  He didn't like it but understood.  Honestly, I think we both knew this ultimately would not work out, but we both liked each other so much that neither of us wanted it to end.  I cried several times that day.  By the evening, my tears had dried up as I tried to distract myself.  Until he texted me to see if I was okay.  Then they came again.  I guess they needed to.  I needed to feel in order to eventually get over it.

Yesterday I felt sad all day but I didn't cry.  That's progress, I guess.  Even as I type this right now, I miss him and want to talk to him.  I know that I will get over it, it's just hard in the process.  One of my girl friends had texted me that same night to check up on me after I skipped my ladies' Bible study.  I hadn't talked at all about this relationship.  I guess I'm just kind of private about this kind of stuff.  I told her what had happened and how sad I was feeling.  Her response really meant a lot to me.  She said, "I am so sorry!  I am proud of you for being so brave to end it now rather than later.  That takes a lot of courage, Jenny.  God is protecting you.  He knows your heart and the desires of your heart.  He will only provide the BEST!  I will pray for you.  I really admire you!"

And there it is.  I am so thankful that God has given me such great friends.  I needed that so much.

So now, if you are reading this and have gotten this far, I just ask that you would pray for me.  I feel really sad and lonely... pray that I would continue to make wise choices that would honor God.  I can tell that God is already working in my heart because in the past, I didn't make these choices to end things early when I knew I should.  And I have suffered for it.  I don't want to keep making the same mistakes.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Lesson on Holiness in the Fast Food Drive-Thru

"Be ye holy; for I am holy."  1 Peter 1:16

I was sitting in the drive-thru at McDonald's.  It was one of those fancy new drive-thrus that has two separate ordering lanes to choose from.  I pulled in on the right and placed my order.  The car to my left finished and pulled ahead.  As I finished my order, I began to pull forward assuming that it was my turn to go.  Just as I started to inch forward, the next truck on the left started to push his way into the line ahead of me.  I paused and wondered out loud, "Hey, I thought the lines were supposed to take turns... what is he doing trying to get in front of me?"  As I continued to pull ahead, two little voices from the back seat proclaimed with excited anticipation, "Mommy!  Let's pay for the car behind us!"

What?  That car behind us?  The one that was trying to push me out of line and get in front of me? You want me to pay for that car?

At that moment, I had a choice to make as I pulled up to the payment window.  The innocence and compassion from my 8 and 11 year old touched my heart.  They were right.  

The Bible says, "Be ye holy; for I am holy."  To be holy means to be set apart.  Later that evening, I continued to think about that.  If I want to be holy as He is holy, my responses should be different than those of the world.  

I am so thankful that when Jesus was hanging on the cross as an innocent man, being mocked and beaten, that He didn't choose to say, "Forget them.  I'm not doing anything special for those people who have treated me so terribly."

Instead, he chose to say, "Father, forgive them.  For they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

That is the holiness of God.  He didn't respond as the world would respond.  Instead, he responded with grace.  As I think about this, I realize that I have a question to ask myself in the face of injustice:

Should I respond with holiness or should I respond as the world would respond?

Father, I ask today that you would grant me holiness in every situation that presents itself. Help me to put aside my own feelings of injustice and bitterness and respond as You would respond. In your Name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

In Defense of Anna Duggar

"Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."  Matthew 10:16

Very rarely do I jump on the social media bandwagon of trending discussions.  However, the current trending story regarding Josh and Anna Duggar makes me sad.  Everyone has an opinion... as they always do.  It comes from every side of the issue.  It's easy to think we have all the best answers as we casually swipe across the screen of our Smartphones and then move onto the next topic of the day.

One story I read today came from a mom in Georgia.  I liked her statement that she wished "more people would talk about Anna" because I think it's easy to overlook the pain of others involved in a scandal like this.  But then she talked about her thoughts that Anna Duggar's parents had "utterly, utterly failed her" by not teaching her to stand up for herself against mistreatment.  While she made some good points about women not allowing abuse (and most definitely protecting your children from it), I couldn't get over the fact she probably doesn't actually know Anna Duggar or her parents.  All that any of us know about the circumstances are based on reports from any given media outlet.  Anything other than that, we can only assume based on observation which may be biased based on our own beliefs and past experiences.  This is true of any story in the media on any given day.

If I were to make an assumption based on my own past experience, I would assume that Anna is struggling through a traumatic time in her life right now.  Since she recently had a baby, Anna would be experiencing a lot of hormonal change.  That alone can make the emotional side of dealing with the recent events in her marriage and family one thousand times worse and difficult to sort through what is real and what is not.

On top of the hormonal changes following childbirth, it is likely that this newest baby is not yet sleeping through the night.  That leads me to believe that Anna is probably not sleeping through the night, either.  I remember how it felt to be experiencing deep pain and grief compounded by hormones and a lack of sleep.  It's very difficult.  Add to that taking care of a newborn plus three other young children.  Then compound that with the fact that her husband's past and current affairs are being played out in front of massive audience of wolves poised and ready for attack.  And the attacks are not only directed toward the person who committed the sins, but also of those hurt and devastated by them.  This is a reality that we know is true of the world, but don't really expect to experience in such a radical way in our own lives. It is shocking and devastating to find out that the person you married and love and had babies with may not be the person you thought they were.  Lord, I pray that Anna would a experience a calm and quiet spirit that only comes from You as the world around her is spinning. 

Yes, I also wish more people would talk about Anna.  But what I really wish was that more people would pray for Anna.

Pray that she would be wise as a serpent and also harmless as a dove.  But be wise.  "Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves."  Matthew 10:16

Pray that the Lord would give her eyes to see and ears to hear.  "The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them."  Proverbs 20:12

Pray that she would guard her heart and protect those of her babies.  "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."  Proverbs 4:23

Pray that the Lord would bring other believers alongside her to support her and pray for her. "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Pray that truth would sink into her being.  "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts:  and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom."  Psalm 51:6

I pray that Anna would have courage to walk the road ahead with boldness to stand up for what is right. These are the same things that I pray for myself and for my own children.  I also pray for her in the wee hours of the night as she rocks her sweet little one to sleep, that the Lord would quiet her soul to find rest in the comfort of His arms.

In the coming days, weeks, months, years... Anna Duggar will make good decisions, and she will make decisions she will later regret and wished she had done differently.  She will make decisions for right now and decisions that will impact the rest of her life.  It's hard to live righteously in a wicked world even without all of the added pressures that she has.  But with every decision that she makes, whether good or bad, I believe that God will use them all to mold her every day into His image.  It may not look like that to us, the outside judging world, as we read the latest stories and news feeds. But I trust that the Lord knows what He is doing... in Anna Duggar's life... in my life... in my kids' lives... in your life.

It's easy to say Anna Duggar should do this or that but it's another thing to actually be living it and making those decisions in real life.  It begins with prayer.  My prayer for her right now is for comfort and wisdom in making decisions for her and her children.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Instead of "I Should Have..." Say This...

I am a thinker.  

I am an analyzer.  

I am introspective.  

I am sometimes borderline neurotic.

Over the years, I've gotten a better handle on personal boundaries and being proactive rather than reactive.  But not always.  Recently, I've found myself saying, "I should have..."

I should have spoken up more.

I should have done this instead of that.

I should have kept my cool when my kids were fighting with each other.

I should have just stayed out of a conversation that didn't have anything to do with me.

I should have...

Should have is a reactive statement and self-defeating.  It doesn't build me up.  It tears me down.  It leaves me clothed in guilt and regret.  The glass is half-empty.

Recently, I have learned a new technique.  Instead of saying "I should have..." say "I would have preferred to..."  

I would have preferred to have spoken up more in that situation.  Thank you, Lord for helping me to see that and I pray that you would give me the boldness and confidence to speak out when appropriate and to use my tongue wisely.

I would have preferred to do this instead of that.  I am not going to beat myself up over this, but will remember these preferences as I face similar situations in the future.

I would have preferred to keep my cool when my kids were fighting with each other.  Instead, I yelled.  I could have handled the situation better and will humble myself and apologize to my children for losing my temper.  I will lead by example of how to respond to anger and frustration.

I would have preferred to stay out of a conversation that didn't have anything to do with me.  Instead, I joined in the gossip.  Going forward, I will be intentional about not involving myself.  I may even come up with some simple one liners to politely excuse myself from the conversation such as, "I'd prefer not talk about that."

Saying "I would have preferred to" instead of "I should have" gives me power over my own emotions and reactions and allows me to be proactive and focus on the future rather than remaining reactive and focusing on the past of all the things I should have done.

Instead of I should have... say I would have preferred to...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Finding my Happy Place in the Darkest Days

Tonight, I was reading through my old journals as I randomly do every once in a while.  I came across a conversation I had with the Lord back in 2011 that I really liked:

I'm siting at [Y] Park right now and it's just as peaceful and relaxing as I remember it.  You and I had some good talks right here at this park, Lord.  It's a beautiful day out, too so I'm just sitting here in my old usual spot with the windows down.  If I ever need to go to my "happy place," I think this should be it.  Not because I was always happy here.  I used to come here on some of the darkest days of my life.  But I met God here.  There is peace here.  Will you meet me here now, Lord?  I really don't even feel like I need to ask because I know You're already here.  I just know.

I love that.  I used to sit in my car at that very park almost every day.  Sometimes I would write. Sometimes I would read.  Sometimes I would listen to a program on the Christian radio station. Other days, I just sat in silence and watched the clouds go by.  There was nothing special about that park, in particular.  There was no beautiful landscaping.  The walking trail was old and cracked.  In fact, there was a big rain gutter right by the area where I always parked.  But for me, it is my happy place. Although I could meet with the Lord at any time and place, that corner spot in the parking lot over by the soccer field was special to me.

I think I'd like to visit there again sometime soon.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Single But Never Alone

"Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."  Deuteronomy 31:6

Do you ever have one of those "Aha!" moments?  You know, when you learn something that in theory of mind you have known all along, but in that one split second, you really know it?

I had one of those this morning.  I was reading a blog post by Brooke McGlothlin posted at The MOB Society.  She wrote about fighting for her Hard to Handle (H2H) boys.  I can relate to that sometimes. She talked about reading the book Little Pilgrim's Progress to her boys and referenced a paragraph about fighting a dragon.  And then she wrote...

"Everything changed for little Christian and his friends when they know Greatheart was there to help them.  For the first time, they realized they weren't alone, and that maybe they had the strength to fight the dragon after all."

That was my "Aha!" moment.  As a single mom, sometimes it's really hard raising young boys on my own.  This past weekend was especially difficult as one of my boys was having a really difficult evening, to the point where we had to retreat to our separate corners and calm down.  At that moment, I felt very alone.

All along, I've always known that God was with me.  But this morning when I read Brooke's post, I felt in that very moment, the presence of the Lord and His help and companionship in this thing called parenting.  I really needed that reminder and fresh look.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Dealing With Difficult People (Part 2)

"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"  Micah 6:8

Recently, I have felt convicted about my attitude towards Mr. X.  In my anger towards the actions of his character, I have wanted only one thing:  Justice.

And then I realized something that in all my interactions with Mr. X, I had overlooked:

Jesus died for Mr. X.

Christ died for the just and the unjust.  There you have it.  There has been something missing from my equation:  Mercy.

[Mr.] X = Justice + Mercy + Humility

Mr. X has a sin problem.  And guess what?  I have a sin problem.

"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."  Romans 3:23

Wow.  That's convicting.  Showing mercy doesn't mean I now have to turn over and become a doormat.  But it also doesn't allow me the right to maintain a heart of bitterness.  That's something I need to deal with in myself, with God.

Fortunately, things have gotten slightly better because Mr. X hasn't been getting away with as much. But honestly, that shouldn't even matter.  My attitude should still be one of acting justly and loving mercy.  I can't control his actions, only my attitudes and reactions to the behaviors.  Still, I'm thankful that the Lord has allowed me a glimpse of Mr. X through His eyes of mercy.