Tagged: relationships

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.

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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).

When Your Man Isn’t Healing You

Image by marguerite petite via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/8JJZxu)

Image by marguerite petite via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/8JJZxu)

It’s a typical romance: the girl was betrayed in her past, deeply wounded at the hands of another man. She wonders if she’ll ever be able to believe in love after having her heart broken in such a devastating way.

Then she meets a man who’s different from all the other ones. He’s willing to pick her up, restore her heart, and convince her of the reality of true love. Through his faithful love and kind words, she learns to trust again.

And they live happily ever after.

Oh, how I wish this was the way it really worked.

It’d be so lovely to be able to say, “Yes, Grant has healed me. I was betrayed and deeply wounded. I lost all trust in men. I lost all trust in love. But he came into my life and showed me that love is good and still real. He patched up my broken heart and all that was wounded is now as good as new.”

But that’d be a boldfaced lie. Because Grant doesn’t have the ability to heal me. No man does. The lies I believed before falling in love with Grant I still am having to fight today. The wounds I received before him are still not fully healed.

And he’s tried. He really has. He puts forth such gallant efforts, consistently pursuing my trust. Sometimes it even feels like progress is being made. But because he lets me down and makes mistakes at times, like every human on this planet, I end up back at square one.

Fearful. Untrusting. Deeply hurt. Empty and broken.

Recently I’ve had to be hit in the face with the fact that Grant can’t heal me. I’m having to learn that I’ve been doing things all wrong. The things I believed deep down about love and the purpose of relationships have been wrong. They must be wrong. Otherwise, what is God’s offer of healing good for? Why have a heavenly Savior you can’t necessarily see and feel when you can have an earthly savior who seems to do it all and more?

There can be no such thing as an earthly savior.

I trick myself into thinking that all I’m doing by looking to Grant for the things I need is “learning to love again,” but the truth is, I’m trying to make someone make me whole. I’m trying to get somebody just as weak and broken as I am to save me from my weakness and brokenness.

I can’t deny that Grant was my “rebound.” He knows it full well. I had only been out of a relationship for two months when I began dating him, and it’s no surprise I brought a ton of baggage with me. I didn’t give myself the time to properly heal. I didn’t bring my wounds to God and let him take care of me.

Seeking Grant during this time of hurt and heartbreak was a mistake — a mistake I don’t regret because of God’s powerful grace and ability to bring good out of all things, but a mistake nonetheless.

Does that mean my relationship with Grant is wrong and deserving to be cut off? No, it doesn’t. It mostly means we have a whole boatload of problems we both have to deal with — problems that I’ve wasted so much time bringing to his feet instead of Jesus’.

Here’s where the freeing truth comes in (because this does sound quite like a downer, doesn’t it?).

I can’t find healing from Grant, but Grant can help me find healing in God.

He can encourage me to seek the healing I need through his ability to point me to the Cross. He can fight for me with prayer when I’m feeling weak. He can hold me with his strong arms when I feel like collapsing.

Yes, he can do all these things and more, but he cannot heal me.

And if you’re a woman and all of this sounds to you like the most obvious thing in the world because you’ve been told in Christian nonfiction books and countless sermons that men can’t heal you or fulfill you, then good for you. Maybe you really do have it all figured out.

But maybe not.

I thought I had it all figured out, too. If someone had asked me, “Do you think Grant can heal you or fix you or fulfill you?”, I would’ve said with no hesitation, “No way.” I’ve read and heard the truth about man’s inability to make a woman whole many times. Heck, I’ve read Captivating from cover to cover twice in a row.

But there’s a difference between knowing it and accepting it.

No matter how much I knew this hunt for healing from any other source but God would be pointless, I didn’t want to believe it. I still thought there was hope. Doesn’t it sound so romantic to be able to look into the eyes of the man you love and be able to say, “I believe in love again because of you”?

A year later, I finally am accepting that it really doesn’t work that way. After a year of trying to get my act together and pushing Grant more than he ever deserved, I’ve realized that Grant hasn’t fixed a single thing about me. There’s still a whole ton of brokenness. If anything, I’ve been broken even more.

Please don’t mistake what I’m saying. Grant is an amazing partner who loves me very much. It’s my skewed idea of what a man’s love can and should do that has led to much disappointment, hurt, and anger in our relationship. It’s because of the lies I haven’t been consistently running to God with that I sometimes believe Grant is a poor lover or untrustworthy partner. What else is this broken, silly girl supposed to think when she hasn’t fully grasped the truth she needs?

The truth is I have been allowing myself to look to Grant for things that he has no ability to give. And I’m sorry for the hurt I’ve caused in his life because of it.

I’m sharing all of this because I think I’ve finally begun accepting what I so long denied: No one can be responsible for my healing except for God. He’s the only one who can complete the work. He’s the only one who can restore my broken heart.

And maybe you need to be reminded of this truth today, too. Maybe this thing that once seemed so common sense is starting to feel more like a foreign concept to you. Whether you’ve noticed it or not, perhaps you’ve been clinging to a man in hopes of being healed in his arms. Maybe this is the first time you’re hearing from another woman that THIS DOESN’T WORK.

The truth kind of sucks sometimes, doesn’t it?

Yet there’s hope that we will finally learn our lesson and bring our wounds to God for the healing we so long for.

What does this look like in a realistic, applicable way? For me, it looks like not running to Grant for answers or comfort or support before I run to God. This is hard for me to do. It really is. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve woken up from a nightmare and instantly called Grant without realizing. It’s become instinct. But Grant can’t do much from the other line. Sometimes he tells me stories to get me to relax or he’ll pray for me or remain silent as I try to fall back to sleep, but this has become a habit that isn’t beneficial for either of us. I’m keeping him from his sleep and I’m not allowing myself to fight forces of evil on my own.

I’m a daughter of God who has the power to cast away nightmares and all manifestations of darkness, but I’m not choosing to wield that power.

This also looks like not putting such heavy expectations on Grant. I somehow have come to believe that the only way Grant can love me and pursue me is if he’s perfect. This is the saddest, most debilitating belief I can have in our relationship because it makes him feel so inadequate. He tries so hard, yet can’t compete with my idea of what romance and relationships should look like. He has wounds, too, you know. My nagging and complaining and arguing only make his wounds deeper. It’s not his job to cure me of my insecurities. And when I make it his job, I only add onto his.

I’m a daughter of God who has access to a perfect, loving Savior, but I take my expectations and demands to a man who can’t meet them.

I must surrender my desire to feel secure in a man’s arms. This sounds like a beautiful and lovely thing to desire, but it does more harm than good. Grant isn’t always going to be there when I need him. He has work and things to do and a life to live. Oh, how I loathe when he has to tend to other matters. I cry and throw fits at the thought of taking care of myself while he’s gone. And I know this sounds pathetic, but please understand that any pitiful actions I partake in stem from my crippling fears instilled in me from past betrayal and heartache. I’ve told everyone before and I’ll say it again: I’m messed up. I’m in the long process of being healed, but I’m still messed up.

Instead of searching for security with Grant, I should be searching for security with God. He’s the one who will uphold me when no one’s around. He’s the one who will comfort me when I am alone.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:26-27).

Instead of waiting for Grant to heal me, I should be waiting for my true Healer to do his work. Jesus is the one who paid for my sins with his shed blood. He defeated death and darkness. Does this not include the lies that afflict me and the hurt that tries to hinder me?

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken (Psalm 34:17-20).

When I accept these truths, I will finally be able to love Grant in the way I should have been loving him all along: patiently, kindly, without pride or selfishness or grudge-holding. And then Grant, too, will be able to love me in the way he should have been loving me all along: protecting, trusting, hoping, and persevering.

I’ve been hindering his ability to love me with my faulty expectations and demands. I’ve been hindering my own ability to receive his love and protection and comfort. I’ve been trying to fill my God-sized desires with a human-sized love. But how much freedom will be had between the two of us when I am able to receive healing from the superior source!

I’m a work in progress, I know that full well. Yet I am still a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10) and a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and I know the wounds I have don’t have to be so powerful in my life anymore. Not as long as God’s in control (and I let him be).

Take heart, my dear lovelies, if you’re anything like me. God is working in your life. He desires healing for your heart. Bring your God-sized desires to God alone. You and I are meant to love and be loved here on this earth, but we can’t afford to forget the source of it all.

We are meant to keep our gaze fixed heavenward as we walk hand-in-hand with the companions God brings into our lives.

When You Get Engaged

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.

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When You Wish You Had a Reset Button

Photo by Irene Kane via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/oAc2up)

Photo by Irene Kane via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/oAc2up)

There are mornings I spend just wanting to climb back into bed. I want to start over and pretend like the past few hours of my life didn’t happen. Either I made a mistake or I wasted time, and instead of coping with it, I let it affect my attitude towards my whole day. Nothing seems redeemable in my eyes, like my morning is a casserole in the oven too far burnt to save.

The other day, I told my therapist about this problem of mine, and she naturally had some wise things to say.

“Perhaps you need to create a reset button for yourself, something that you physically do as a declaration that you are starting your day over. Instead of sitting in your failures and shame, you can “hit” the reset button and choose to start over instead of letting those things affect your whole day,” she told me.

I went home kind of excited after that, not because she told me how to solve all of my life problems, but because she gave me something to do. I now had something to work towards and aim for. My task-driven personality thrives off of these things.

So I did what she said.

I pondered what my reset button would be for a couple days and I settled on showering. Yes, I decided taking a shower will be my reset button. It will be my way of cleansing myself of all my morning impurities and mistakes. Any time I feel like I got off on the wrong foot, I’ll step into the tub as one person and step out of the tub completely different. Genius, right?

But then there are times that doesn’t work. The wiring in my brain won’t let me let go. I know I should be able to move on, but the perfectionist in me is screaming lies about my potential and my worth. How do you fight that? I’m twenty years old and still feel like a five-year-old cowering in the corner when they’ve done something wrong.

And this is when I need to cry out those pocket prayers, the four-letter sentences you reserve for times of desperation. Lord, I need you. Jesus, please help me. Save me from this.

Sometimes I feel God’s presence immediately, but more often than not, I have to wait for it. Because I have so many doubts and anxieties, it takes a minute for the reality of the supernatural to sink in. And every time, I’m surprised. Wow, God! You showed up! Of course He did. He does that, you know. But you can’t tell that to the girl sniffling on the couch who just got out of the shower and feels like she’s out of options.

I had the privilege of preaching to the middle schoolers at my church this past Sunday. After working with middle schoolers for over two years, I’ve seen my passion deepened and my gifts strengthened in ways I never expected. But when I’m given an opportunity to speak to them as more than that obnoxious girl who plays all the games on Sunday morning, I sometimes hesitate to take up that offer. I get scared of not having anything to say (as always, though, I find that I do have things to say. I’m a writer, for crying out loud!).

I gave a sermon on Sunday about being thankful and how thankfulness is preceded by hope and followed by worship (check out Hebrews 12:28). I went home pleased and exhausted. As soon as I reached my bed, I collapsed into it and didn’t wake up until two hours later.

But when I did wake up, something wasn’t right.

A storm was raging outside my window and something was raging inside my heart.

I was angry and upset with Grant (for reasons that don’t need to be discussed) and I called him to communicate these feelings to him. After an hour of arguing and whining and yelling and interrupting, we reached a point where the silence between the two of us was deafening. I’m holding my phone, fuming. He’s holding his phone, frantically trying. We’re miles apart in both distance and understanding.

And the shame washed over me.

Here I was, arguing with this man who loves me so much more than I give him credit for, and I just preached to a room-full of kids on thankfulness. I felt like the fakest faker in all the world. I preach God’s Word and can hardly live it out.

And even after realizing the fault in my attitude, pride was holding on too tight for me to just let it go. Four-letter sentences could probably fix this, but I could hardly muster one word.

So I thought one word instead. The smallest pocket prayer.

Jesus.

And as I was laying in my bed and holding my phone, still fuming, and he was laying in his bed and holding his phone, still frantically trying, something happened. Orange shone through my closed blinds. My room was glowing all around me. I turned over onto my stomach and peeked through the blinds behind my bed, and what I saw rendered me speechless. The storm that had been raging as we were arguing was gone, and what was left in its place was a beautiful sunset. And let me tell you, this sunset was beautiful but also eerie. Everything was tinted orange. I had never seen anything like it before.

“Grant, look out your window,” I whispered to him through the phone.

“Why? Are you there?” He asked.

“No, just look.”

I hear some fumbling and then silence. He’s speechless for a second, too.

“Everything’s orange,” he said.

“I know.”

“Wow.”

And just like that, the cold exterior around my heart melted.

“I love you,” I whispered.

“I love you too,” he said back.

Tears started falling down my face as I again recognized the beauty of this man I have in my life.

And I again realized the beauty of God’s presence after what felt like a never-ending, raging storm.

That’s silly, Jessie, you might be tempted to say.

I know it is. I know it’s silly to put so much stock into one orange night. Just like it’s silly to put so much stock into showers and metaphors and reset buttons.

But when it comes to God, I don’t want to put anything past Him. I don’t want to say He can’t show up and change things.

I’m sharing this because it helps me. I write to process and I like to share what I write so I’m not alone. But I’m also sharing this because I know that things I write has helped people feel less alone, too.

So this one goes out to the perfectionists, the ones too hard on themselves, the ones wishing for reset buttons and life-sized erasers. Sometimes your reset buttons will work, but sometimes they won’t.

And when they don’t, I pray (literally praying right now) that you allow yourself to accept the grace only God can give. The grace to be yourself. The grace to move on from mistakes. The grace to let go after arguments. The grace to again set about practicing what you preach.

I need that grace. I know that come morning, I’ll probably need it just like I do many other mornings. I know that there will still be many days I leave my house feeling frazzled and disappointed. But there’s grace for when I’m feeling inside-out on those upside-down mornings.

And there’s grace for your mornings that are like that, too.

When Your Relationship Comes Before God

Confession: I do this thing where I end up looking to my boyfriend to fill me instead of looking to God.

I’m comfortable telling you that because I’m finally realizing that I’m not alone in this struggle. For the longest time, I’ve been afraid to show anything about my relationship with Grant that could be contrary to the good image of our relationship that people probably have in their minds.

But I know now that my failure to always put God first in my relationship with Grant is not the same as having a bad relationship or being a bad girlfriend/bad Christian. It just means I’m a normal human being who still has a lot left to learn.

For the past couple days, I’ve had to ask God to forgive me for letting Grant consume a majority of my time and energy and focus. As I was setting apart more and more time to build my relationship with him, I was neglecting to use my time to build my relationship with God. I justified it for some time by telling myself that if Grant and I are working towards marriage, then we must pour all of our efforts into this to make it the best and most godly marriage in the whole wide world.

I forgot that I’m already in a marriage, a beautiful union with Jesus. He is my first love and my Husband. My relationship with him is the reason I even get to enjoy such a great relationship with Grant. 

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 (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Grant and I have been reading through Proverbs both together and on our own this past month. Never before have we realized so much wisdom is packed in this book! Proverbs is even where we found the passage we decided to adopt as our vision for our relationship.

By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures.

The wise prevail through great power,
    and those who have knowledge muster their strength.
Surely you need guidance to wage war,
    and victory is won through many advisers (Proverbs 24:3-6)

We want to build a relationship that’s built and established by wisdom. We’ve made our fair share of unwise mistakes (before each other and with each other) and we know now more than ever how valuable wisdom is when you’re merging two lives together. Just like this passage says, we want our “house” to be “filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

What made this passage even more meaningful to us is when I stumbled across this verse:

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).

By JESUS our house is built and established. Because of JESUS, our rooms can be filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

This is something we’re having to remind ourselves of again and again. It is too easy to neglect God when you’re madly in love. But let me tell you something truly amazing: God makes sure our relationship is not all rainbows and roses. I believe that stumbling blocks are put in our way and those stumbling blocks serve as reminders that God is the one we need above all else. These stumbling blocks may come from satan, but because God works all things for our good (Romans 8:28), He knows how to use our temptations and failings to pull us back to Him.

I’ve experienced this in the past couple of days. I’ve been spending a lot of time with Grant and not as much time with God, and I’ve been longing for Grant to be there for me in times of sadness and fear more than I’ve been longing for God.

Thankfully, Grant is also a human being who still has a lot left to learn because when he tries to fix everything and be my everything, he fails. This shows me just how insufficient his love is to satisfy my deep longings. That might sound sad to some, but it’s actually a very humbling, beautiful thing. It’s during these times when I’m pulled back to God (after sulking and wrongfully blaming Grant, of course).

I feel bad for putting Grant above God, but I know that the guilt or embarrassment I feel during these times do not come from God. Instead of guilt, there is abundant grace.

My relationship with Grant is not sinful against God or something to be condemned; it’s being shaped and molded by God, something to praise Him and look to Him for.

This morning as I was reading Proverbs, I found this passage that summed up the truth I’ve been needing to hear:

Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God (Proverbs 30:7-9).

I don’t need poverty or riches. I just need my daily bread.

In other words, I don’t need to break off my relationship with Grant because of my mistakes. I also don’t need to stay in this habit of being consumed and obsessed with him.

I need God’s all-sufficient grace.

When I have too much of Grant, I “disown” God and forget how good He is. I neglect to spend time with my first love, my Husband.

When I don’t have Grant at all, I end up stealing all of Grant’s time and attention and focus. I dishonor Grant’s relationship with God when my neediness results in greediness. I dishonor God himself, the One who’s been right there with me with arms wide open as I’ve chased after a man who can neither fill nor satisfy my heart.

Yes, I need God’s all-sufficient grace. I am so thankful that He pours such grace upon me every single time I turn my eyes back to Him. And what amazes me is how that grace carries over into my relationship with Grant. Only this time, our relationship is healthier and back on track. We are building that house again. Or rather, Jesus is building it and we’re finally letting him.

I love Grant, but I love God more. I need Grant, but I need God more. I want Grant, but I want God more.

This is where I’m at and this is where I’ll always be. I might forget for some time, but grace carries me back. What a beautiful life I have with my beautiful God — my first love, my Husband. And I’m so thankful that God has allowed Grant to come alongside me and share in this beautiful life with me. We get to spend our lives looking up to heaven together and I can’t think of a better way to enjoy this relationship with the man I love.

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Grant and I have been together for a year and I’m still falling more in love with him all the time! This man pursues me, fights for me, and serves me like no other. Grant doesn’t like this picture very much because he’s used to only seeing serious pictures of himself, but I love this picture because he just looks so HAPPY. Not everyone gets to see him this way, and I am thankful that he’s chosen me to be the woman who gets to see him and know him better than anyone else. He’s my best friend! I can’t help but thank God for Grant — not just because of what he means to me, but because of the man he is.

What I Didn’t Know about Guarding My Heart

Photo by Tatenda Nyamande on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/cdb8tW)

Photo by Tatenda Nyamande on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/cdb8tW)

This morning I began thinking about what it means to guard your heart. I hear it all the time, I’ve seen it in God’s Word, I know it’s what is expected of me, and I’ve been told that men have something to do with it. But I have to admit I’m just as clueless about what guarding my heart means as I am clueless about what the heck is going on in Lost.

So I did what I do every now and then when I want to get a better understanding of something God has said. I went back to the roots. I looked up the Hebrew translation of “heart” from Proverbs 4:23 (above all else, guard your heart), and what I found was enough to get me thinking long and deep.

heart = inner man, mind, will, understanding, thinking, resolution, determination, a seat of appetites, a seat of emotions and passions, a seat of courage

My heart is complex. I knew that already. And God must know it, too, because He sees it better than anyone.

But I didn’t know guarding your heart could have so many connotations. If my heart is all these things: understanding, resolution, emotion, passion, courage… then how can I guard each of them? Apparently protecting this complex heart of mine means a lot more than what this verse in Proverbs first lets on.

For so long I thought guarding your heart just meant protecting things from coming in. Now I see it also means protecting some things from coming out.

I say this because it’s so obvious how my heart has been very much at play in my relationships. After all, my heart is where love is found, like my love for Grant (forgive me for putting so much emphasis on my relationship with Grant, but this is where I’ve been doing a lot of learning and growth this past year). Many miscommunications, disagreements, and fights that I have with Grant are stemmed from something inside of one or both of our hearts. For me, it’s usually fear, insecurity, fleshly passion, or lies.

If I’m not guarding my heart, those things can come spewing out and hurt him. They have many times. I realize now that satan wants my heart to be unguarded because it gives me the opportunity to throw this crap up all over Grant (which he surely doesn’t need or enjoy). Satan wants me to feel like “anything goes,” like it doesn’t matter what I feel or how wrong I may be; I HAVE to act on them and force them onto the poor guy sitting across from me. I let those suckers control me and make way into my relationship. This makes the enemy very happy. After all, his goals are always to steal, kill, and destroy.

The only time these harmful things inside of me are rightfully coming out is when they’re being laid before God for him to deal with. My deep insecurities do not benefit Grant. I don’t want them spilling out before him because they only bring destruction to us. And Grant is not and never can be the true healer of my wounds. That doesn’t mean just letting them stay there and hiding what is really going on, though. I MUST bring my deep insecurities to GOD so HE can bring destruction to THEM. And the same goes for all else that is wrongfully taking place in my heart.

But here’s the other side to guarding your heart: there are things that need to be protected that are good.

My resolution, my determination, my God-given passions and emotions, my courage… these are beautiful and worthy of being protected. I must fight to hold onto these things and not let the enemy distort them or misuse them.

And because Grant has taken up the task of guarding my heart, it means fighting the enemy’s attempts to steal, kill, and destroy alongside me.

It means standing up for me when I feel too weak to get up. It means praying for me and declaring truth over me when I’m facing attack and lies. It means continuing to pursue me even when I argue that I’m not worth pursuing. It means pushing me to believe again when I’m losing my faith or trust.

This isn’t something that is necessarily laid out in God’s Word. There’s no manual for exactly when and how a man should fight for a woman’s cause. But we are given a why: because Jesus fought for his Bride. Men are charged with the task of treating women with that same love and ferocity.

Guarding my heart is a task I myself must face, but I am thankful that I do not have to face it alone.

This is what I gathered from my morning venture into Proverbs, and I know I need to continually bring this to God for better understanding and application. I’ve been too careless with my heart too many times. I’ve seen the catastrophic effects. But PRAISE JESUS that I’m healing and my heart is being restored. I am being renewed through intimacy with God. And that growing intimacy with Him only enhances my intimacy with Grant.

Show me how to guard my heart today, Lord.

This is my prayer. And this is what I’ll keep praying, what I’ll keep waiting expectantly in. My heart is loved too much to be left unguarded. It’s too precious to be ignored.

And this isn’t just true for my heart. It’s true for yours.