Grant proposed to me on December 13th and I am officially an engaged woman! Wedding planning has me stoked (probably a tad too stressed, as well), and I know that being engaged is supposed to be an exciting, celebratory time. And I am excited and celebrating.
But I’d be lying if I said that Grant and I are having the time of our lives. I pray to God that this is not all there is.
Because relationships are not easy. They are back-breakingly hard.
And if you are dying to be in my shoes, I want you to know that sometimes I’d really like to be in yours.
This is where everyone scolds me for getting engaged. You’re not ready! Are you sure he’s the right one? This is an awful attitude to have when you’re getting married.
But is it so awful? To have the realization NOW that love feels almost impossible sometimes than have that realization AFTER we vow to spend the rest of our lives together?
I’m thankful that my eyes are opened continually to the selfishness of my nature and the selfishness of his. I’m perhaps even glad that we fight and raise our voices and feel hurt from the weight of each other’s weaknesses.
Why? Because when I say “I do” to this man, I’ll know that I really mean it. I’ll know that this commitment I am declaring before God and my loved ones hasn’t been made in blind love. It’s been made through tears and anger and fears and some bitterness, too.
I believe that the decision to marry someone is a commitment that should not be made when you’re happy. It should be made when you’re in your lowest of lows, when you’ve seen some of the tough stuff that this commitment will ask of you and bring into your life.
Although I know marriage is not all there is to life, I do believe God designed it to be a beautiful and life-long demonstration of Christ’s love for us. And in case you are unaware, Christ loves us through EVERYTHING. Our good times, our best behavior, and also our weakest and darkest moments. It doesn’t make sense. And Grant and I want to love each other in this nonsensical way, too.
We must be crazy because we are nowhere near ready to be married. We are young and immature and bad at love. Yet we are ready for marriage in the regard of signing up for this ludicrous idea of lifelong love anyway… because that’s the kind of commitment that I know marriage takes.
After watching married couples struggle and fight and divorce and mourn, I know that the ones who remain committed to each other must be crazy. And not crazy in love. They’re so crazy that they plot murder while somehow not acting on it. They’re wrapped up in a terrifying, almost-ridiculous commitment that watches love walk out the door again and again yet still hopes and still stands firm.
I’ve only begun making this commitment to Grant. It’s something you do with an officiant and some witnesses, but it’s also a decision you continue to make and live with for the rest of your life. And I want to take the next step.
Because I know this is one back-breaking, gut-wrenching commitment that will take me places I didn’t want to go and then carry me to places I never want to leave.
The reality is that relationships and marriages will face opposition and bring you some of the worst pain you’ve ever known all while being one of the greatest adventures you could ever ask to be on.
Because even though it’s far from perfect, it’s with him. And even though you will have thoughts of walking away during tough nights and loud fights, you will realize you wouldn’t want it any other way. Easier, maybe. But not if it means a different man at a different time in a different place. You see the beauty in where you are, the holy ground you both have been standing on.
And you realize that this desire to fight for just one chance with this one man is love.
Faithful, tried and true love with room to grow.
This is where Grant and I are at. I know we have so much left to learn. We’ve hardly even started figuring out this whole dating thing, let alone this permanent doing-life-together thing called marriage.
But we’ve figured out that it has to be done together. Join or die.
Are you in this with me?
Yes, I say.
Are you in this with me?
Yes, he replies.
It somehow becomes enough. When you know that you have a God beside you and going before you, you start to see things in a different way.
Thoughts of giving up become prayers of surrender. Signs of failure become opportunities for growth. A growing faithfulness to each other becomes an increased awareness of God’s faithfulness to us.
I’m sharing these things because I want you to know why I am marrying Grant, but I am also sharing these things because I want you to know what it might be like when you’re engaged. If you’re wishing to be in my shoes because you don’t yet have a ring on your finger, I want to emphasize one thing.
Having a ring on my finger has not made a single thing better. It’s just made things more real.
And I don’t know about you, but I need more of reality. I need to see things as they really are so I can stop standing in one place and wishing for something to magically happen instead of doing the work that I know building a life together requires.
I need constant reminders that love isn’t magic. Love is a beautiful gift from God and of God that we’re still figuring out how to wield. That’s why we need to be on our knees, praying out of desperation for the things only God can do. That’s why we need to be alert, aware of the attacks of satan that have been trying to strangle Grant and I since day one.
When I first got a taste of this reality, I hated love. I hated Grant. I hated the promises I made. I hated this ring. Take it back! I wanted to scream. But after pushing through that hate and that bitterness and that fear and those doubts, I began to figure out that I do love being engaged to this man. Despite the harshness of reality and the lack of magic in this ring, I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s a conclusion I’ll have to keep coming back to for the rest of my life. That’s marriage.
If some of these things sound like dumb reasons to get married, then I guess we’re getting married for some dumb reasons. But regardless of whether we have the best of reasons or the absolute worst, I know we’ll stay married for beautiful, wise reasons.
Christ is in it for the long haul and so are we.
My boyfriend is quite an optimist. I, on the other hand, lean more towards being a cynic.
And when an optimist and a cynic get together and fall in love, conflict happens.
Let me give you a way of understanding what our differing thought processes are: He sees a glass half-full and I’m doubting if the glass is really going to hold my water.
Grant is the most supportive boyfriend I could ask for, but because of my cynicism and skepticism, I question everything. I question why he’s being supportive, I question whether he really wants to be supportive, I question whether his support is enough, I question if I even know how to receive support. Even though he’s sincere and hardworking, I find something to doubt and criticize. In other words, I don’t fully believe in anything.
Now, when I express my doubts of Grant’s intentions and sincerity, he’s surprised and responds to my cynicism by believing things will be fixed no matter what. He’s confident that he can prove himself again, and he’s so sure that he can do it that he often forgets to work towards it. When my cynicism reveals itself a couple days or weeks later, he’s caught off guard and thrown for a loop all over again. Because of his optimism, he expects things to quickly become fine and dandy like they once were. In other words, he believes in everything.
This post is not meant to condone nor condemn either perspectives of life. I can see pros and cons for each, and those pros and cons have presented themselves in our relationship.
You might be thinking to yourself that optimism is the obvious winner when it comes to whether optimism or cynicism should be most celebrated and sought after. But let me offer a different way of looking at it. Yes, optimism tends to make you more happy and more friendly and more hopeful, yada yada. But optimism, if unchecked, can lead to carelessness. An optimist can believe so firmly that something will happen that they end up not doing anything to get there.
And cynicism is no winner, either. Being a cynic makes you a little more foolproof than others. You are skeptical of people’s motives and already expect some disappointment, which can protect you from being taken advantage of or hurt. But cynicism, if unchecked, can lead to faithlessness. A cynic can believe so firmly that nothing will happen that they decide to not even try doing anything to get there.
I have seen both sides and I can’t say which is more right.
But here’s something Grant and I have realized: we might not be able to change each other, but we have to figure out a way to accommodate each other. And if we really want our relationship to thrive, we have to figure out a way to bring out the best of these things in each other.
When our optimism and cynicism work together, we become unstoppable.
He’s the hopeful one, the one looking toward the future and believing wholeheartedly we’ll get to where we want to be. I’m the critical one, looking for the pitfalls that we need to avoid and pressing us to evaluate and fix our motives.
If he’s being overly optimistic, then he won’t understand my cynicism. And if I’m being overly cynical, I won’t understand his optimism. And when you don’t understand someone and you just assume they’re the one who needs to change… well, both people get a little ticked off.
With that being said, we each have to find a way to hold ourselves accountable so we don’t get carried away in our mindset and shut ourselves off from options.
We need to know how to allow room for the other’s perspective and beliefs.
So God comes in.
When I surrender my mind to God, He can shape it to be more understanding and loving of Grant’s hope and optimism. He might not rid me of my doubts (because a healthy amount of doubt in life can serve a purpose), but He can give me just enough faith to keep believing and keep hoping.
And when Grant surrenders his mind to God, He can shape his to be more understanding and loving of my doubts and cynicism. He might not rid Grant of his confidence (because a healthy amount of confidence in life can serve a purpose), but He can give him just enough humility to keep working hard and keep striving.
And when I’m believing and hoping a little more, and Grant’s working and striving a little more, we’re one step closer to seeing eye-to-eye and conquering any conflict or misunderstanding that wants to rear its head.
It’s not a perfect formula and I’m sure I’ll never find one, but at least I know that when an optimist and a cynic fall in love, nothing has to be hopeless.
This is my stud right before his big interview with the fire department. And let me tell you, preparing for such an interview is no small task. It’s a task requiring a healthy amount of both optimism and cynicism, and I’d like to think that we came pretty close to mastering the fusion of our perspectives during that process. It was just one of many opportunities to work together and pray together, and nothing’s over yet.
Being in a relationship is hard, guys.
I’ve known this for years, yet I still feel like I’m punched in the gut with that truth again and again.
I have no idea how to be someone’s girlfriend.
It’s a daunting task: to be the person they run to, the person they want to pour their love into, the person they want to support and appreciate wholeheartedly.
Because when you are that person for someone, there’s that little voice in the back of your head that says, But I don’t deserve it. And there’s no way I could be that lovely, loving person for them in return. At least that’s how it is for me.
I’m too selfish, too emotional, too messy, too prideful, too insecure, too bitter… how could I rightfully treat this man with respect and love when I hardly know how to love myself? How can I support and encourage this man when I can hardly support and encourage myself?
And he claims he’s a mess, too. Everyone’s got issues, he says. Baggage. But often times, I can only see my flaws and his strengths (or in my prideful moments, it ends up the other way around). And sometimes that makes a relationship one of bitterness or insecurity.
You have it all together. And I’m just… me. Awful, messy me. You should find another woman to love. Someone who doesn’t cry when things don’t go her way, someone who doesn’t pick fights for no reason other than her stupid insecurities.
Someone who always says the right things and does the right things.
It’s hard to remember that that someone doesn’t exist.
The other night, my boyfriend and I had this realization that we call ourselves a team, but we haven’t been acting like one lately. And my first reaction was, It’s my fault, while his first reaction was, It’s MY fault.
Isn’t that so silly? We both were so quick to take the blame.
And we could’ve just left it there. We both could’ve silently come to the conclusion that we’re messy, stupid people who don’t know how to be a good boyfriend or a good girlfriend. Beat ourselves up further and resolve to be better.
But that’s not what I want for him and that’s not what he wants for me.
So what’s a couple to do? Baby steps, my friends.
I asked how he was doing and he shared– open, honest communication about his week, his fears, his struggles. And I listened. I tried offering advice, but didn’t know if it was what he needed. I do think he appreciated the effort. But our conversation didn’t really last long. He had to be up early for work and I was pretty tired myself, so we said goodnight and went our separate ways.
And despite how I felt at that moment– wanting to storm into every room of mess and misunderstanding to set everything bad on fire and leave only the good, perfect, lovely things– that small, honest conversation was a good start.
I’m realizing you don’t have to hash everything out overnight. Every single issue, weakness, and insecurity doesn’t have to be laid out there on the table from day one. You don’t have to fix, fix, fix until both parties are dead tired and there’s nothing left to say.
There’s always going to be something left to say. We’re always going to have bad days and stress. We’re always going to have secrets we hold onto until someone pries us open. We’re always going to have moments of utter weakness that we beat ourselves up over for days.
You’re not going to make a perfect team overnight. You’re not going to make a perfect team over A LIFETIME.
Relationships are hard for everyone. Even the loveliest, sweetest of seasons in dating/marriage are eventually followed by hardships and messes.
We are messy people.
I’ve heard it said that a perfect relationship is just two imperfect people who don’t give up on each other.
I think that’s only partially true. What should be taken out is the “perfect relationship” part because there’s simply no such thing.
No two people can have a perfect relationship because no two people are perfect. No commitment is perfect. Promises are not always perfectly kept. Support doesn’t always come at the perfect time and in the most perfect way.
There’s no such thing as perfection in relationships because there’s no such thing as perfection in life.
The only perfect thing we have is a perfect God, and He’s the only one who can make our relationships into the beautiful, supportive teams we desire.
And even then, they can only be so good. Never perfect. That’s just the burden we live with until we go home to heaven.
So here’s my take on relationships right now: you do what you can with what you have and rely on God to do the rest.
I can show love to my boyfriend in the ways I understand love– kind words, warm affection, gifts and sacrifices. But when I’m stuck in my pride or my foolishness and I don’t even WANT to be loving or kind, I can ask God to strengthen His love in me so I can see past myself and forego my selfish ways.
I can offer wisdom to him when he needs advice or counseling– wisdom I’ve gained from experience and study. But when I don’t know the answers and I’m just as lost as he is, I can lean on God to show us both the right thing to do and the right thing to say.
I can be a sweet, fun, caring girlfriend– when I’m in a great mood or things are going great in my life. But when I’m angry at God, depressed for no reason, and feeling insecure in every area of my life, I sure as heck know I need the grace of God and I can ask Him for that, too. Lord, help my boyfriend deal with me. Because I’m crazy.
Asking God for help in these areas doesn’t mean He’s going to mold me into the perfect girlfriend. What it means is that I recognize my inability to be that perfect somebody for my ever-so-forgiving boyfriend and his inability to be that perfect somebody for me. And in recognizing that, God has the opportunity to heal me of some of my fears and insecurities, offer grace in areas I so badly fail at, and show me how to love in difficult moments. It reminds me that I can’t do it all, and that’s okay.
All I can do is baby steps.
Particularly because I can only predict my mood at this very moment. I can only guarantee I’ll feel nice and loving for the next hour. I am messy and unpredictable. I don’t think that’ll ever change. So I must take just one baby step after another, and believe that it can be enough.
The other night, my baby step was just listening. His baby step was offering nuggets of his life.
Tomorrow, my baby step might be apologizing first. His baby step may be relying on God through prayer instead of trying to fix things himself.
This is what I think relationships are mostly about. Not who will do the right thing first or who will do the right thing better. Certainly not how to be that perfect partner.
Just simply: when will I take that next step, be it ever so seemingly small?
I still have a long way to go. I’ll never win that trophy for best girlfriend of the year. But I can win the heart of the man I love day after day as I become more of the woman– messy and imperfect as she may be– that God is shaping me into.
Relationships will still be hard, but I think I’m learning.
Oh, here’s a photo of me with my wonderful boyfriend, Grant, right before we went on our first Valentine’s Day date. This stud took me to Waffle House (yes, I shamelessly picked Waffle House over every other restaurant we had to choose from… jealous?). Grant is very sweet and understanding of my strange, crazy oh-my-gosh-is-she-even-sane ways. He calls it part of “my complexity”, which makes it sound rather romantic. Oh, and he loves nerdy things, God, and me. So obviously we’re just right for each other.
Ladies, this one’s for you.
When I was a little girl, I was told countless times that Jesus loves me. I was reminded time and time again that we are each created unique, and we are all beautiful in our own way. I used to think I was as pretty as a princess, decked out in a pink dress and ruby red Dorothy shoes.
As I grew older, my trust in these truths began to fade. Bombarded with standards of “true beauty” and “perfection”, I somehow stopped seeing myself as this amazing and adored girl. I somehow became blind to how much I am really loved.
I think the root of most of girls’ problems these days is the desire to be loved. I think it’s safe to say that we are all searching for approval or love from someone.
What saddens me is that we stop believing that we are worth loving.
What saddens me is that we stop believing that we are adored and valuable to this world.
Somehow or another, we find ourselves searching in all the wrong places for adoration- boys who only want to use us, friends who only want to make themselves look better, our peers who only want to judge us for what we wear and who we hang out with. Even parents can put pressure on us to look a certain way and do certain things.
Because we’re looking in all the wrong places, we’re constantly let down. As these disappointments build up, it becomes harder and harder to see someone worth loving when we look in the mirror. We just don’t seem good enough for anyone.
This is an epidemic. This is affecting girls WORLDWIDE.
You are not the only one. Everywhere you go, you will find someone dealing with the same insecurities, feeling the same doubts, and searching for the same approval you wish to have.
What we all need is a long and hard look at our Creator. God, the all-mighty Creator, formed us all. We are each made unique, we are each made in his image, and we are each blameless in his sight when we trust in what He did for us. We have a Savior who redeems us, who protects us, who LOVES us, who ADORES us so much, he laid down his life so that we could be released from the bondage of sin.
We do not need to earn God’s love. He loved us first. He loved us before we were even placed in our mother’s womb. From the beginning of time, He had us in mind. With the sacrifice of His Son, He had us in mind.
As we struggle to gain acceptance and love from others, God still loves every fiber of our being.
This is something that a lot us girls forget too easily. This is something a lot of girls do not even know yet. We are already loved.
Instead of chasing after approval from all the wrong people and in the all the wrong places, let’s focus back on God. Let’s trust that He has a plan for us. Let’s trust that He loves us even more than we could comprehend.
Let’s rise above the labels, rise above the rest of the crowd, and chase after the life we are called to live.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16)