Tagged: fear

Stepping into the Light After Having Sex Before Marriage

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Someone once asked how Grant and I resisted sexual temptation before we got married. She was struggling with temptation herself and was hoping for some encouragement and guidance. I gave her the truth.

“We didn’t.”

Like many other couples in today’s sex-obsessed culture, Grant and I didn’t save sex for marriage. An intense relationship and long engagement paired with too much freedom led to a lifestyle of sin that we took much care to conceal. We loved our church community and being in student ministry together and feared that coming clean would mean having to choose between serving in ministry and serving our fleshly desires. To avoid that decision, we feigned purity in the public light and continued living out the opposite behind closed doors. Eventually we started to believe we weren’t doing anything wrong.

I know that our experience is not unique. Statistics show that a majority of young Christians are not waiting until marriage. Some are simply swept away by a passionate moment and then don’t get the help they need to make it back to shore. The current often carries them much farther than they intended to go and makes it much harder to swim back.

It’s unsettling yet not shocking that many of our friends, like us, are carrying around secrets of sexual sin to one degree or another. Some have been carrying around secrets since before they began a relationship with Jesus, while some started carrying them after. Some are in ministry. A few of these couples are married now; others are single. And there is one thing we’ve all shared in common: the fear of bringing our sin to light.

There’s something about knowing that you’re not living out the godly, pure Christian walk that is expected of you that makes it more difficult to ask for accountability or be honest about the difficulty of staying pure until marriage. Sometimes it just seems easier to cling to the excuses and justifications that make you feel as though what you’re doing is not that bad. Our culture’s way of normalizing sex and making purity a joke doesn’t help matters either.

Now that Grant and I are on the other side of it all, we realize that this is something we don’t want to see other couples get caught up in. We understand now that choosing purity is not a matter of checking something off the “good Christian” to-do list, but rather a path designed by God for our protection. It is not only the best way to enjoy relationships and marriage, but also what helps preserve peace and joy in both faith and ministry. It’s a fruit he and I will never get to taste. This is why I’m sharing our story today.

Instead of adding onto the fear and guilt that encourages men and women to conceal and stay in their sexual sin, we want to offer a message of freedom that can help get them out. And it starts with pointing to what Jesus has done. How he walked with Grant and I on our dirty, broken path. How he brought us into a covenant of marriage and breathed new life into our faith. How he showered us with immeasurable grace we could never earn or deserve. But most of all, how he transformed our “worldly sorrow,”  the kind that “brings death,” into “godly sorrow,” the kind that “brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Godly sorrow. This is what the Lord has been teaching me and what I hope begins to move in the hearts of those who know the pain of sexual sin all too well.

It’s true that now being married to Grant “softens the blow” in some regards; it makes our sin a little less scandalous or a little more easily forgiven, at least in our minds. But I still have sorrow. I have sorrow for the wedding night and first year of marriage that wasn’t quite what I had dreamt of. I have sorrow for the day when we will have to share this part of our story with our children, when we will be to them a warning to heed rather than an example to follow. I have sorrow for my relationship with the Lord that suffered as I carried around the weight of my guilt.

I also have sorrow because I know that as I confess this now, I am probably disappointing people I care about — family members and friends who believed Grant and I were doing things right, friends and mentors who encouraged me and gave me sweet advice for what they thought would be our first time on our wedding night, faithful readers who’ve applauded my authenticity and honesty, pastors and leaders within the church who expected and trusted me to pursue purity, and students under my leadership who looked up to me.

But when I say that we now have a godly sorrow rather than a worldly sorrow, I mean that while there is still a longing for things to have gone a different way, there is also an acceptance that this is our story, a desire to move on and heal, and faith that God will use it for good.

This is different from the sorrow I once had when I was grieving more because of my guilt than because of my loss, when I felt too burdened by what I had done to want to bring my sin to light or make amends with the Lord. The weight I was carrying became so heavy that the only way I could think of to keep moving forward was to pretend it wasn’t there. This is worldly sorrow. And it only leads to death — death of hopes and dreams for the future, death of authenticity and transparency, and death of a once vibrant relationship with God.

Godly sorrow, on the other hand, leads to repentance, salvation, and a life not hindered by regret. It leads to freedom. And the only way to get from A to B, from this worldly sorrow to godly sorrow, is to take your eyes off that sin and instead put it on the Son on the Cross. Believing that the only reason you could ever be victorious over that sin is because of the victory Jesus won for you. Trusting that “his divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). Allowing yourself to accept that it’s never too late to turn back, to run into the Heavenly Father’s open arms and take hold of the mercy and grace he’s so freely offering you.

Grant and I don’t live with much regret anymore. We live with freedom instead. And if we had only believed that we could live with that freedom back then, things would probably have gone a lot differently. I don’t think we would’ve hesitated to get help and ask for accountability when we needed it. I don’t think we would’ve made excuses or tried to hide from God or from the church. I don’t think we would’ve wanted to remain in our sin. Not if we had truly tasted freedom, if we had remained captivated with the Cross.

The reason I’m sharing these things is because I believe in the power of godly sorrow, of repenting and allowing yourself to receive God’s grace to start anew.

If you are feeling the weight of worldly sorrow and the regrets of a sin you just can’t outrun, I wish I could be sitting across from you right now. I’d put down my coffee, grab your hands as I meet your eyes, and say these words with the sincerest love and longing for you. “I understand you. I don’t judge or condemn you. And I want more for you. The Lord wants more for you. Even now, no matter how far you’ve gone, he longs for you to know his love and choose a better way.” I hope that in that moment, you would realize you still have a small voice inside of you saying, “Actually, I want more for myself, too.”

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

In the light there is relationship and community. Renewal and cleansing. It’s a place where perfect love trumps fear. There’s no room for shame; it’s just a wide open space of freedom.

And you, my dear friend, are invited to step in.

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When All of My Flaws Are Laid Out One by One

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Photo by Liliya via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/d9Wb99)

When all of your flaws and all of my flaws

are laid out one by one

The wonderful part of the mess that we made

We pick ourselves undone

“Flaws” — Bastille

There’s something about vulnerability (okay, A LOT of things) that I still don’t understand. Like why it’s so dang hard.

Today I was asked why I want to get married, and instead of giving the shorthand answer, “we feel like it’s the next step” or the hyper-spiritual answer, “because God says it’s not good for man to be alone, etc,” I gave the real one.

I want to get married because I know I can’t do as much on my own as I can with Grant. He brings the best out of me (and sometimes the worst) and I bring the best out of him (and sometimes his worst). We are compatible — not because we are the same and we perfectly relate, but because he and I are amazed at how many ways we are able to complement each other.

But for some reason, despite the truth of this statement, there’s still so much holding me back in my relationship. I can see the fruit that comes from being vulnerable. I have experienced the warmth of his support and encouragement in times of honest communication. Yet there are some topics I deem “off-limits,” some things I veer away from.

I was discussing how difficult it can be for me to be vulnerable with Grant with my counselor today, and she pointed out that I don’t usually feel this way with my girlfriends. I love sharing all things with my friends; I can be messy and explicit and wear my heart on my sleeve with those people.

With Grant it’s a different story. And it’s a different story because romantic relationships and marriages seem so much more risky to me. They’re risky and frightening because they’re supposed to be permanent, but sometimes they aren’t. Like the time I was dumped by my ex-boyfriend when I thought we would soon be getting engaged. They’re scary because you want them to last, but there are some things out of your control. Like the times I thought Grant and I could instantly resolve arguments and we could both wake up as new people who would stop hurting each other.

I’ve always had the philosophy, “friends come and go, but relationships are forever.” And I know that that’s counterintuitive to those who preach “bros before hoes” and “chicks before… well you know.” But that’s just the way this hopeless romantic has always felt. I’ve always put romantic relationships above friendships. I somehow understood the sacred nature of marriage long before I really knew God’s intent for it.

And here I am — about to get married, about to really put those philosophies into action, about to commit myself to what I deem permanent.

And I’m kinda, sorta terrified.

Because yes… this is for forever.

And what if that thing Grant says he loves about me he no longer loves tomorrow?

What if the stuff I tell him today he uses against me next week?

What if the issues I have now that he says he will support me through will one day end up destroying what we have?

What if the things I ask him to fix for us he never ends up fixing?

But here’s what I’m needing to be reminded of: I will never be able to see my vision for marriage — that beautiful union where each partner learns to bring the best out of the other — if I do not let Grant see ALL OF ME.

How can we grow together in our walk with Christ if I remove him from all things pertaining to my walk with Christ?

How can he encourage me to become my best self when I’m only showing him the parts I think he’ll like or the parts that mistakenly slip out?

If I’m really going to benefit from this union, if I’m really going to have the best marriage I could possibly imagine, I’m going to have to make a choice day after day.

I’m going to have to choose to be seen.

My friends, I know that there are so many secrets we are still holding onto, so many fears we’re still afraid of sharing. We’re embarrassed to admit our weaknesses and we cling tightly to our flaws instead of bare them in front of the ones we say we love.

But how can people love us if they don’t know who we are?

How can people support us if they don’t know where we are weak?

How can people lift us up when they don’t know that we have fallen?

Vulnerability does not come easy for most of us, but it IS possible.

I have to believe that it’s possible; otherwise, why am I getting married? It would all be for nothing. Because no glory can come to God through two people promising partnership when there is no actual partnership. No Christ-like love can be shown through a marriage that is still comprised of two people hiding behind defense mechanisms.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22).

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… (Ephesians 5:25).

I am making the commitment to submit myself to Grant. This does not mean I am a servant to be stepped on. This does not mean I will no longer be seen. It’s the exact opposite, actually. I submit myself to Grant by allowing myself to be seen, by making myself vulnerable and trusting that he will not harm me.

And if Grant will hold up his end of the bargain (which I believe he will), he will love me with the same unconditional, all-knowing, grace-saturated love that Christ loves me with.

This is what I want our marriage to be founded on — this idea that we can love and serve each other boldly and with vulnerability.

But I have to start making the choice to do so now.

Will you please pray with me as I venture into the unknown, as I lay down my pride and fears and allow my partner to see me as I am?

And today, will you please allow yourself to be seen? Will you let yourself believe that you have things to offer this world, and the world has things to offer to you?

Because life without love, or rather life without vulnerability, is no life at all.

And I want you to live. I want you to live with all you have, with all the gusto you can muster. Love boldly. Love unashamedly. Love wisely. And let yourself be loved in return.

Eighteen Things No One Told Me About Being Engaged

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There were a lot of things people didn’t warn me about prior to getting engaged, such as how being engaged doesn’t look anything like it does on social media. I think it’s too easy to get caught up in this idea that the season of engagement is supposed to be purely blissful and filled with photos, presents, and romance. For the benefit of those who are currently engaged or going to someday be engaged, I’ve put together a list of things that I have learned over the past four months on what planning a wedding, preparing for a marriage, and being engaged is really like.

. . . . .

Eighteen Things No One Told Me About Being Engaged

1. You will feel somewhat guilty for every decision you make pertaining to your wedding when your parents’ money is involved.

Very few of us have the privilege of coming from a well-off family that has thirty grand to spend on their daughter’s special day. I am not one of those few. My mom gave me a budget and at first, her number sounded too high. As time is passing by, however, I’m realizing that it’s pretty difficult, if not nearly impossible, to have your dream wedding without costing your mom and dad a couple (and by couple, I mean TEN) of thousands of dollars.

2. You will wonder if your flaws and weaknesses will end up being the downfall of your marriage.

If you knew you had faults before, you will certainly realize the gravity of them when you get engaged. All of a sudden, you’ll realize that someone is COMMITTING THEIR LIFE TO YOUR CRAZY, MESSED-UP SELF. And you’ll wonder if you’ll be the one to ruin it all. As a result, you will go into self-improvement overdrive. When that doesn’t work, you’ll think that maybe you should just do them a favor and break the whole thing off.

3. You will wonder if YOUR PARTNER’S flaws and weaknesses will end up being the downfall of your marriage.

If you thought you were critical before, then you haven’t seen nothing yet. There’s something about the idea of “wow, I’m going to spend the rest of my life with this person” that sends you into obsessive, crazy mode. You will nitpick every single thing they do, and become familiar with the phrase, “you better not do that when we’re married.” When fixing your partner’s problems doesn’t work, you may even think that you should just do yourself a favor and break the whole thing off.

4. You will mentally size up anyone and everyone’s engagement/wedding rings.

No matter how breathtakingly beautiful your ring is, there will be someone whose diamond is brighter and whose band is more intricate. And even though you’ll claim that you don’t care about the size of your diamond and you think your ring is perfect, you will start to wonder if people are judging you based off of yours just like you’re judging them. But of course you won’t vocalize these thoughts because 1) you would break the heart of the man who spent all that money on it, and 2) who wants to be that woman who isn’t satisfied with the ring she is supposedly in love with? By the way, having these thoughts, I’ve realized, is not dissatisfaction. It’s insecurity. There is a difference.

5. You will feel like you’re already married, which only makes things more difficult.

I’m going to be frank with you: there’s nothing worse than having to say goodnight and retreat to separate beds when you know that in just a couple of months you’ll be in the same bed every night. When you get engaged, sleeping with the love of your life (and no, I do not just mean sexually) is no longer just a dream or fantasy to you; it’s soon-to-be reality. But just because it WILL be true doesn’t mean it is just yet. And waking up to that fact isn’t fun at all. You will not only hate climbing into bed alone, but you will even hate brushing your teeth, cooking breakfast, and going grocery shopping alone. You will be so fixated on the future in which you and your partner will finally be in the same home that you will begin to loathe your separate lives. AND NO ONE WARNED ME ABOUT THIS. Maybe people danced around it and said things to me like, “oh, you will want a short engagement.” BUT I THOUGHT THEY WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT SEX AND NOW I KNOW IT’S SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT AND IT SUCKS.

6. You will secretly (or vocally) loathe purchases that your partner makes with his money.

Because soon his money will become your money. And there’s no way you want to see all of your money going towards comic books, iTunes, and computer speakers. You want that money to go towards the nail salon instead. Did I mention that you’ll discover your fiancé’s abhorrence of credit cards is an actual PHOBIA that he will USE AGAINST YOU EVERY TIME HE SEES THOSE STUPID CARDS IN YOUR WALLET??? Just don’t get them if you think they might be an issue, folks. Dave Ramsay was right; money fights are real.

7. You will realize that you no longer like some of your ideas of being a thrifty bride.

Like when you look at wedding dresses in thrift stores and on Craigslist. Buying someone’s used wedding dress might be pragmatic, but it certainly is not all that romantic. The first time you try on a brand new wedding dress in an actual wedding dress store, you most likely won’t check another thrift store or Craigslist post again. You will also realize that just having a chili bar at your wedding, though cute for the Fall season, is not going to fill the stomachs of your family members and friends who drove eight hours or stood in line at an airport to see you get married.

8. People will make you feel like all you are is a bride.

Never-mind the fact that you have a ministry and personal goals and school and a blog. When people see you, the first thing they’ll talk to you about is the fact that you’re getting married… and then the conversation will end.

9. You will find the perfect wedding dress, purchase it, take it home, and then spend the rest of the time leading up to the wedding thinking about whether you should return it.

Is it really the most flattering one? Are you sure it doesn’t make my waist too large? But is it too fancy? Too big? Too plain? You will begin to doubt everything about that dress sitting in your closet, even though you felt like a beautiful princess when you first tried it on and all of your family members cried when they saw you in it. FOMO (or the Fear of Missing Out) will take over in ways you never realized it could.

10. You will realize who your real cheerleaders are.

You will find out whether or not your parents are really all that fond of your significant other. If they actually are (and thank God this is the case for me), they will shower you with more love than you ever anticipated. You’ll begin to freak out and think that maybe they just want to get rid of you. Why else would they be throwing so much money, advice, and free furniture at you? It might be shocking to see just how supportive your family is (and if they’re not, it could be equally as shocking to see just how indifferent or insensitive they are). You will also begin to realize which of your friends are cheering you on and which ones could care less as long as they get a seat on your big day.

11. You will accidentally turn into a Brideszilla in front of your fiancé.

Your fiancé will pretend to know what they’re talking about when it comes to wedding planning, and this will only piss you off. You will start to rant about how hard you’re working to make this day perfect while all he does is ask stupid questions and make dumb suggestions. “NO. JUST NO. STOP IT. I TOLD YOU LAST WEEK THE COLORS ARE CORAL AND NAVY. DON’T YOU LISTEN TO ANYTHING I SAY?!” will actually come out of your mouth in a very loud decibel. You won’t realize just how obsessive you are until it’s your wedding day on the line.

12. People will assume they are invited to the wedding when they actually aren’t.

I’ve never seen this happen in movies and I’ve never heard anyone tell me that this has occurred with them, but trust me — it happens. All of a sudden, the people you haven’t talked to since high school start commenting on your photos and asking questions about when they’re getting an invite to the wedding. This is highly uncomfortable, and besides just pretending I didn’t see these comments, I haven’t figured out a polite way to handle them so far.

13. You will fear coming across as narcissistic or self-centered when you talk about getting married on any form of social media.

You’re excited and kind of want to brag! Not in an “OOO, LOOK AT ME” kind of way, but in a “wow, can you believe that this guy picked me and we get to have a future together?” kind of way. Even though you will see many forms of “spotlight” statuses on Facebook (i.e. getting a new job or making the Dean’s List), you will become paranoid that everyone hates everything you post on social media relating to relationships, love, being engaged, or marriage. You know that saying, “you hate me cuz you ain’t me?” You will think this is actually relevant to you now. You will also think that you being engaged and posting about it is the only reason people are unfollowing you on Instagram.

14. You will consider running away and eloping just to spare yourself from any more wedding stress, not to mention the torture of the wait.

As time goes on, you get more and more fed up with all of these decisions you’re having to make and all of these months you’re having to wait. Who cares about guest lists and catering menus? You’re just ready to seal the deal and get on with it! Let’s elope and just start our lives together NOW! Grandma will forgive us, you frantically tell your fiancé as you grow more and more desperate to escape the engaged life.

15. You will ask Google wedding-related questions on a daily basis.

Such as “how to address Save the Dates”, “who pays for the honeymoon”, “how to tell someone to not bring a plus one” , “can my mother be my Matron of Honor” , “how to pick your bridesmaids” , “how to fake calligraphy” , and “do I wear my engagement ring on my wedding day.” Yes, I have had to Google every single one of these things. The Internet is an amazing place.

16. You will feel like you don’t fit into some of your social circles anymore.

Bible studies for singles or students just don’t seem to be tailored for you anymore, and even hanging out with single friends, even though you swore getting engaged wouldn’t change anything, doesn’t excite you as much as it used to. You will find that you relate to them less and less, and you will cling to the people around you who actually are in long-term relationships because you don’t feel like the odd one out around them. Yes, being engaged can actually be isolating, especially when you’re a twenty-something still in the throes of college.

17. You will be more self-conscious about how in shape you are for your wedding day than you are any other time of the year.

Even though you’re fine with your weight or your size for most of the year, the pressure to have the perfect body becomes way more real when you get engaged. You know that those wedding photos will be around FOREVER and you want to look hella good in them (or at least just have super toned arms since the whole strapless dress thing). As a result, you will fixate on exercising and eating right, which, FYI, DOESN’T MAKE YOU A GODDESS OVERNIGHT. In case you didn’t get the memo (because I sure didn’t), it’s going to take some time to break out of the sedentary lifestyle you’ve been in for the past four or five years. So good luck forcing yourself to run on the treadmill that faces the mirror and shows you just how awkward you look on that treadmill. Who do you think you are — a runner?? 

18. You will forget that God has always provided for you.

If you’re moving out of your parents’ home when you get married, you have both the excitement and fear of being out on your own. You’re imagining all of the things you and your spouse will do together while also worrying about how you’ll pay for those things. You’ll be creating budgets that you don’t know will actually work and you’ll be making financial plans that you don’t know will actually stick. And as you fixate on money and homes and material things, you will begin to see life more out of the lens of an anxious woman than a woman protected and taken care of by the Creator of the universe. You will forget that God has been there with you every time you’ve been alone and confused. You will forget that he has shown up in miraculous ways in your life, that he answers prayer. You will think that you have to do everything on your own. But you don’t.

. . . . .

My lovelies, being engaged can be an intense and anxious time. Besides the constant fantasizing of just how amazing your life will supposedly get when you’re finally married, there’s also the fear of the unplanned, unknown future. Both of these things can stifle your closeness with God if you’re not careful. This is something I’ve been experiencing firsthand and am hoping to encourage other women with if anyone is finding that they, too, are letting this chaotic wedding season take their eyes off the true Prize.

My last conclusion on this whole being engaged thing is that it isn’t as great as it looks in the movies or on Facebook, but that’s perfectly fine, especially when you think about how short of a period this is in the grand scheme.Years down the road, when Grant and I are wrinkly and grey, this season will be remembered as a blur. We will have graduated on to bigger things, like having children, buying a home, having a career, and seeing our family grow. So I’ve decided that while I’m in this “waiting period” called engagement, I’m going to try to relax and enjoy life as much as I can.

Whisper a prayer on my behalf when you think of me, please. I could use it.

And if you’ve learned any lessons from being engaged that you think other women could benefit from, please feel free to comment below! I know that I for one am desperate for more knowledge. I’m already building my long list of questions for our premarital counselor. Lord have mercy on him and on us. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but I’m ready.

When You Fear Getting Married to the One You Love

Photo by New Line via US Magazine (http://usm.ag/Vo6XgP)

Photo by New Line via US Magazine (http://usm.ag/Vo6XgP)

A few people have been hinting to me that I may be not as committed to marrying my fiancé in seven months as I claim to be. This usually happens right after they ask me how Grant and I are doing or what being engaged is like because I end up being honest with them. I tell each and every one of them that it’s weird and it’s hard and I’m sometimes scared.

Yes, I do fear marriage. And with this fear comes another fear — that my fear of marriage means I can’t possibly be ready to get married.

But here’s what I’m learning: my fear of marriage does not primarily stem from my lack of confidence in Grant to be my husband. My fear of marriage primarily stems from my lack of confidence in God to make a way for Grant and I.

Confession: When I first began dating Grant fifteen months ago, I was pretty sure we wouldn’t last. Grant didn’t open doors for me, he was too strange for my taste, he hardly asked how my day was, and he was a terrible kisser. I had my own issues, as well, including but not limited to my infatuation with my ex-boyfriend, my consistent insecurities, and my lack of trust in Grant’s commitment to me.

I honestly can’t explain why we kept going, why I didn’t break things off with him from the get-go. I guess I was just curious to see what might happen. I wondered if Grant could change (because of course, I was more selfishly concerned with him changing than myself).

And he has changed in a lot of ways since we began dating, but not because of my own power. Grant has changed because of his God-given strength and the hand of God in his life. Yes, I have played a role in Grant’s transformation (I taught him to kiss, after all), yet I’m not the one who’s made him into the man he is today.

After undergoing a lot of changes in my own life these past fifteen months, the same is true of Grant relating to my transformation. Grant has helped me believe in love again, but he has not been the one healing my heart. He’s not the one who has made me into the woman I am today. That work has been of God.

Now here we are, getting ready to commit our lives to each other, and I’m scared all over again. I’m wondering if Grant and I can keep changing enough to actually make this whole marriage thing work.

We are still so messed up — my insecurity and anger somehow feeding into his fear and passivity, and vice versa. Fight or flight kicks in. Sometimes I am still about ready to quit. So yes, when people hint that I may not be all that committed to marrying the one I love, they are absolutely right.

I am not committed to marrying Grant if it means that I’ll forever be this woman and he’ll forever be this man. This, to me, means a doomed marriage and a miserable life.

If there’s no chance of change, transformation, or growth, what good would “for better or for worse” be? We would never know anything better or anything worse. We would only know sameness — the same fights, the same pain, the same joy and love every single day. I don’t want that. My love for Grant at forty better trump the love I have for him now at twenty. I don’t want to make a commitment that only means reliving this season over and over again for the rest of my life.

You probably don’t want such a marriage either. We naturally crave growth and progress, no matter how much we love the person sitting across from us at the table.

With this in mind, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for me to sometimes come across as ready to jump ship; I am scaring myself silly by picturing a stale, unmoving, and unsatisfactory future! A marriage like that could be considered one of Dante’s layers of hell.

But here’s what calms my fears: my growing faith that God is a God of hope, renewal, and transformation.

And when I call to mind God’s provision in the past and remind myself of his promises in Scripture for our future, I am so ready to commit, I’d elope today.

I’m like Noah yelling at Allie: “It’s gonna be really hard, and we’re gonna have to work at this every day. But I wanna do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day.”

Noah can say this because he knows that people don’t remain the same. He knows that they’re going to have to work at being in a relationship every single day for the rest of their lives. Allie is going to have to let go of her fears, as well as her fiancé and her desire to make her family happy. And he knows that over time, they will both have to become different people because only then will they have a chance at a thriving future together.

“Will you do something for me? Please? Will you just picture your life for me? Thirty years from now? Forty years from now? What’s it look like? If it’s with that guy, go. Go! I lost you once. I think I can do it again if I thought it’s what you really wanted. But don’t you take the easy way out,” he begs Allie as hopeful, teary-eyed women everywhere root for them.

When I place my confidence in God, I once again become aware that the people Grant and I are right now are not the people we will be forever. We are being transformed into Jesus’ likeness “with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

As I become more God-aware in the context of our marriage, it doesn’t seem so frightening anymore. It’s still going to be hard, no doubt about that. But it sounds do-able, so do-able that Scripture actually boasts about it.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior… Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless… This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22-23,25-27,32).

God boasts in his design of marriage because it is like the beautiful relationship between Christ and the Church. And such a beautiful and sacrificial relationship can be a reality for wives and husbands, no matter how much a profound mystery it may be.

Grant and I want this kind of marriage for ourselves and we believe we can have it. Though we are flawed and doomed to disappoint, God is perfect and faithful to provide.

The transformation that’s required of us as a husband and wife is up to him (and he’s already begun the work). The finances we will need for our shared life will have to be provided by him (and we’ve already seen him provide). The faithfulness marriage calls for will be nurtured and strengthened in us through him (and as you can see, I still have some faithfulness left in me yet). All the glory really must go to God.

I’m not writing this post to defend my decision to marry Grant. I’m actually writing this as a reference and reminder for myself. When I am tempted to focus solely on who Grant and I are in this moment, I know I’m going to need a fresh dose of God-awareness. I have to remember that transformation is taking place and it’s only because of the power of God that we’ll ever have a chance of glorifying him with our relationship for the rest of our lives.

And if you’re thinking of marriage or working towards marriage, then let this be a reminder for you, as well. A beautiful, Christ-centered marriage can be a reality, but not because of your own hard work and merit. You will always fall short and your partner will always fall short. It’s only because of the goodness and power of God that a beautiful, Christ-centered marriage can be a reality.

And if all of this is true, you and I don’t need more fight or flight; we need more faith. 

The kind of faith that makes you look at your partner in the eye after they’ve failed you for the hundredth time and helps you say those three words, “I forgive you.”

The kind of faith that makes you bring your partner’s burdens to the feet of Jesus instead of just your own because you know there’s an enemy coming after your partner when you’re not even around and only God can protect him.

The kind of faith that knows that you are not responsible for the growth of your partner and God’s charge for you is to simply love them and build them up despite any frustration, bitterness, or pain.

The kind of faith that empowers you to love with more than a cheap, earthly, conditional love. The kind of faith that will sustain and protect you before your vows, as well as long after them.

I am praying and hoping that God grows this kind of faith in my heart, as well as Grant’s. Right now, I am also praying that he grows this kind of faith in YOUR heart because I know there will come a time when you’ll be scared, too. And when that day comes, I pray that you won’t listen to the lies and you will instead pursue truth.

The truth is that becoming the husband or wife you desire to be doesn’t happen overnight, and you won’t get the husband or wife you desire to have overnight either. Important, sacred things like marriage take time. God’s work takes time. Do what you can with what you have right now, but trust God to do the rest.

Marriage was his design; he will see it to completion (Philippians 1:6).

Bravery Is Sometimes Changing Your Mind

I have to admit something to you.

I’ve been cowardly for the past couple months. You wouldn’t know it from looking at me considering my new Facebook page for my blog, the investment I put into this site to make it my own, and the book proposal I’ve been steadily working on for the past month.

But I have been cowardly because I intentionally didn’t do something I felt God calling me to do because I was afraid of failing.

A few months ago, something began formulating in my head. A project of some sorts. I spent weeks planning it, praying about it, and contemplating it, and I felt the push from the Spirit to jump into it after returning from Clarkston. But when I did return, I became complacent and I pushed the project to the side.

I was scared.

I decided to do something more safe, like sharing cool blog posts and article once a week and calling it Friday Finds. It was a nifty idea, I thought. But it was only giving me more reason to hold off on the idea God was birthing in me.

And if that’s what Friday Finds is doing, then I don’t want to do Friday Finds anymore.

In fact, I’m removing Friday Finds altogether. I share a good majority of those links on my Twitter already. Friday Finds just takes up space on this blog that I could be giving to God and to this project.

I see now that I can’t keep writing about being brave if I’m not willing to be brave with this. 

So I am officially announcing my upcoming project, one that I think you’ll like and benefit from greatly. I believe this is something God’s been leading me into and I want Him to get the glory and credit in this.

More details are coming soon, I promise. For right now, I’m just going to give you a name. I know that if I at least do that, then I can’t easily back down.

I’m tired of letting my fears dictate my life. I know what is true. I know God’s sovereignty and goodness is true. I know His work in my life is true.

And my desperation to be brave is true, too.

If I really think about it, I have nothing to lose. And if this is where God is leading me, I have everything to gain.

COMING SOON:

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Suicide Headaches and Heartaches

Let me tell you something about my headaches.

I get these things called cluster headaches every now and again, and they’re called cluster headaches because they only come once a year and they often come in a large (and largely painful) quantity.

I wake up with them usually. And it takes me a minute to realize what they are, but once I do, I sprint out of bed for pills and a bottle of cold water. And then I have to run to the bathroom before the pills I just took and the water I just drank are puked up all over the floor. When I am able enough to get up from the bathroom floor, I put a Bed Buddy cold pack on my forehead and drag myself to bed. I usually writhe for a little bit, stop to cry and pray and scream and vomit and whimper. Light kills me. Standing kills me. Even sitting up kills me.

All I can do is just wait it out. Fortunately, cluster headaches don’t last longer than two hours. Sometimes they’re only fifteen minutes long. But the pain is still the same and I have that voice in my head that tells me this is never going to end.

Did I mention that cluster headaches have another name? Suicide headaches. Cluster headaches are considered one of the worst pains known to mankind and having them increases a person’s risk for suicide. Pleasant, right?

I’m explaining all of this to you because I had one this morning. The first one like this in a year. I probably could’ve expected it, but you always hope you never have to have one of those dreadful headaches again. This is my third year and it’s the exact same thing with the exact same thoughts running through my head.

Thoughts like I HATE YOU SATAN AND ALL YOUR STUPID DEMONS AND I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS BECAUSE I AM A DAUGHTER OF GOD AND I HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO SEND ALL OF YOU BACK TO THE PITS OF HELL IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST.

And then thoughts like JESUS, PLEASE HEAL ME. HEAL ME. PLEASE…PLEASE… PLEASE… PLEASE (and so on and so forth).

And then thoughts like LET ME DIE. JUST KILL ME. I CAN’T DO THIS.

And then thoughts like MY VOMIT TASTES LIKE GINGER ALE.

But you know what I think upsets me the most about these headaches? It’s not that they’re the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. It’s not that I can’t stand or sit up or keep my food down. It’s not that I’m wanting to die. It’s not that my boyfriend is seeing this happen to me and has to hold my tangled hair back from my contorted, puffy-eyed face.

What upsets me the most is that I KNOW I have been given authority to command my body to be better and I KNOW God is good and delights in healing His children, but I can’t seem to get either of those things to happen.

My prayers felt powerless coming out of my mouth as the pain remained and nothing changed.

I had absolutely no control.

And that’s a scary thing to me because I almost always am in control (or at least I think I am). I don’t have much of a say in what the world does, but I can manage my own life and my own body and my own health and what I say or do. If I’m sick, I can go to the doctor and get medicine to make me better. If I don’t like a person, I can tell them to leave me alone and walk away. If I’m feeling something too strongly, I can write it out in a blog post or in my journal or in a song.

But today was a day in which I just couldn’t control things. I couldn’t control these bastardly headaches and I couldn’t control these ghastly thoughts and I couldn’t control the demons afflicting me or the God I expected to save me.

THAT is what upset me the most.

And that’s when the thoughts turned into WHAT KIND OF GOD WATCHES HIS CHILD SUFFER THIS TYPE OF PAIN AND NOT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT? WHAT KIND OF GOD HEARS HIS HURTING DAUGHTER’S PRAYERS AND REQUESTS AND DECIDES TO NOT GRANT THEM? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO BE LEARNING? ARE MY PRAYERS NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU?

And I wish I could say that He gave me this awesome revelation or I was healed right then and there. But I cried and vomited and rolled around for some time after these things transpired. I am feeling better now, but the healing wasn’t instantaneous and I didn’t walk away feeling as good as new.

But is God still good? Yes.

Do I still have faith? Always.

Do these headaches still suck? You bet.

But do I get through them alive? Every time.

This is not a post about God being cruel. This isn’t a post about how He chose to not heal me when I asked Him to and how that was so utterly wrong of Him. This isn’t a post about how there’s suffering in the world and nothing’s happening about it.

This is a post on time. That one thing NO ONE can control.

God authored time. A clockmaker gets a clock to tick, but whether or not that clock is working, time is still moving forward as we continue to orbit. And God lets this happen because time is HIS and His alone.

Why did I get this headache on a Tuesday morning versus any other day of the week? I don’t know. Why does this happen year after year? I don’t know. Why didn’t my headache go away the moment I called out his name? I don’t know.

And I don’t think I ever will know.

Just like I don’t know why death has to come early for some people and why he waits so many years before giving us the things we’ve been earnestly praying for.

All I know is that God is good and He has been faithful to me even in my wondering and questioning and faithlessness.

His decision to not heal me of my headache instantly is not an indicator of a lack of power or goodness or love. It is rather an expression of his power and goodness and love. 

Why would I want to serve and follow a God who does everything I ask of Him the minute I ask it? If He did, I’d be engaged to a man I now know I didn’t have a chance of having a good relationship with. If He did, I would be knee-deep in a career I now know I wouldn’t enjoy. If He did, I would be the most impatient and faithLESS girl in the world.

Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for (Hebrews 11:1-2).

The ancients– Noah, Abraham, Joseph, the marchers of Jericho, and many others– were not commended for how quickly their prayers were answered. They were commended for how faithful they remained when there appeared to be no answers. And what joy they must have received when their prayers were not only answered, but God was given the glory! He IS a God of power and goodness and love, they must have exclaimed.

If everything was done their way and in their timing, things wouldn’t have been the same. We would not know such ancients, such faithful warriors and servants of Christ. We would only know quick-fix prayers, which may do good for the body but not for the soul.

My soul has been healed this morning because I am reminded that God is the Master of time and He is a good one.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God has power to do what he promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:18-22).

I want to be like Abraham. I don’t want to stare at unanswered prayers and questions with skepticism and halfhearted hope. I want to stare at God, my good and faithful God, and I want to not waver in my belief.

I am persuaded that God has power to do what he promised. And He could’ve given me supernatural physical strength to send that blasted headache away forever, but He chose to gave me supernatural spiritual strength for my soul. That strength is faith. And I don’t see Him as a bad Father for that. No, He’s a very good one indeed.

I am healed.

The Shame of a Woman

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Image by Enrico Policardo on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/kmMFi)

The saddest thing I’ve realized is that for a majority of girls (myself included), being a woman is characterized by shame.

We are ashamed of being women.

And that’s not something you would normally say so blatantly and directly. Some of you might not even agree that’s true.

But when you look at the things we as women are ashamed about, the things we fear and worry about, the things we beat ourselves up for, it’s clear as day that we are ashamed of being the women we are. Deep down we feel like we’re too messy.

We’re ashamed that we are emotional. We’re ashamed of how easy it is for us to get our feelings hurt. We blame ourselves for not being more secure and fear that the people in our lives are going to leave when they realize how impossible it is for us to find emotional stability. And so out of that shame, we hide our feelings. We swallow our hurts and wounds and sometimes let people step on us so we don’t have to share our pain and risk being seen as lunatics. We’d rather be hurt and find ways to get past it on our own than own up to the fact that we are emotional, fragile beings who need assurance and hugs. We don’t want to have those conversations that reveal just how insecure and emotional we really are.

We’re ashamed that we want affection. We’re ashamed of our desires to receive those sweet “good morning” calls, find flowers on our doorstep, and be told that we are beautiful. We feel like men will look at us funny or find us impossible to satisfy and so we let things slip and allow others to treat us the way they want to treat us. We’d rather cry to ourselves than let on to the fact we require affection, affirmation, and admiration to feel loved. We’re ashamed of how hard it is to feel loved as a woman. We’re afraid that we ask too much and so sometimes we don’t ask at all.

We’re ashamed of our bodies. We’re ashamed that our bodies are different from other girls’, the ones plastered all over Pinterest with the clothes that fit in just the right way. We’re ashamed that we can’t pull off a single outfit that the mannequins wear in Forever 21. We’re ashamed when we’re too modest and we’re ashamed when we’re not modest enough. When girls with smaller waists and a smaller chest wear the same things in our closet, they’re seen as cute while we feel slutty. Because of this shame, this feeling that we ought to have a better body and better appearance, we resort to envy, discreet dieting, and shopping splurges. We constantly have to battle the lies we hear when we’re looking in the mirror. How is that we feel so confident without makeup one day and then feel utterly ugly without it the next? We are addicted to add-ons and trends as a way of fighting the lies and shame we have to deal with day after day.

We’re ashamed of being women. We’re ashamed of being highly relational and emotional. We’re ashamed of the way we care about our appearance. We’re ashamed of our insecurities and fears and weaknesses.

And that shame is killing us. It’s destroying us.

It’s making us feel less and less like the beautiful daughter of God we are. It’s making us hide more and more from the people who NEED to hear the truth so they can better love us and understand us.

I don’t know how this shame can be combated besides through God’s truth. And I know even then, it’s a matter of a girl’s heart. If she doesn’t want to accept the truth or doesn’t know how, she can be stuck in this shame for a really long time.

But what’s beautiful is when a woman does have her heart open. It’s been wounded enough times to the point where there’s enough cracks to let the truth pour through. So here’s the truth just waiting to pour through:

You are a beautiful woman. You were never designed to live in shame. You are beautifully made. God knows your heart and delights in it. You are made in God’s image. You are made to have emotions and feelings. You are made to care about relationships. You are made to be loved and accepted and cherished. You ARE loved and accepted and cherished. You are worthy of being romanced. You are perfectly imperfect. Your life as a woman is not to be looked down upon. Your life as a woman is meant to be celebrated. You are a woman worth celebrating.

I love you, sisters.