Tag Archives: dating

New Beginnings…

14 Jun

Change can be good. Especially when it’s done with friends at your side!

It’s June.  Almost the summer solstice that I am about to mark yet again. I’m in a different space this year than last.  Rather than heartbroken, I’m giddy. Rather than stuck, I’m exploring.  Rather than holding tightly, I’m along for the ride. There have been so many changes over the past 10 weeks that I don’t completely know how to process them.

New JobPrayers answered. I’m on the brink of something really great here at my new job. Here I get to interact with a whole new set of people. I’m working for four men instead of two women, and that dynamic is definitely interesting. Rather than talking breast pumps and pregnancy, I schedule lunches and people in suits who want to meet with my 4 bosses. I dream in Outlook calendars rather than T-ball games. I work in one of the most well-known cities in the world versus a tucked away town outside of LA that doesn’t want to be discovered.  I drive through Koreatown, downtown, and midtown to get here. It takes awhile and I’m trying to get used to the drive.

But in the midst of this change is a promise. That I could be about to be a part of something bigger. Something forming in me since I was 15 years old and first started to date. That maybe all of these relationships that I’ve had, all of the gamut of emotions – the turmoil, the hope, the loss, the fear, the anger, the sadness, the deep love I’ve longed for, the letting go, the breaking off, the taking a breath, the serial monogamy, the years on my own when I really started to grow into who God has made me to be…maybe all of that will come to a much bigger purpose than I ever imagined. After all, I work at a company that is all about dating.  We’ll see. Like I said, along for the ride…

 

New Move– Not me, my parents. It’s sad to see your family leave. A year and a half ago, all three of them were here. We had automatic plans on Sunday holidays. At Christmas. Birthdays. While my parents aren’t going far and they’ve done this before, I can’t seem to help but think this is a sad end to a California dream. They are excited to move to AZ, but at the same time, I’m wrestling again with what “home” means to me.  More movement. More shifts. When I got so good at sitting still and listening, people around me, even my own body is being forced to move. To grow. To change and shift. It feels uncertain and yet I am reminded to trust, once again.

 

Taking pictures when you don’t have a photographer

New Possibilities – I’d be remiss to not say something in this about the change I’ve experienced in the last 10 weeks due to a special someone. J How do I even explain what it means to suddenly have someone in your life who wants to know you and grow with you in what you’re going through? In the midst of all of this craziness and change, I met a guy that I am quite excited about. Not because he’s the same, but because he’s different. From me, from the others I’ve dated in the past, and from some of the preconceived expectations that I’ve had for the next guy I would date.  He’s solid, he has a great character, he loves Jesus. He’s a Sunday school teacher and a welder.  He’s introverted, I’m not.  He’s funny, but gentle.  He gets me even when I have trouble getting myself.

 

It’s early, I know. I’m doing my best to take my own advice and date in community, take risks when I’m fearful , go slow and trust God with it all. After all, the timing in this seems too strange to be me trying to force a relationship.  I met him in April during my 3 day church-wide fast. I had just led a chapter in life group about trusting God.  And here’s the crazy thing: I met him on Christian Mingle, the dating site where I also now work!  I didn’t know I would meet him. I didn’t know I would get this job. I am just along for the ride and all of these new beginnings!  Thanks, God, for hearing my prayers during the fast. Things haven’t been the same since in so many ways and I’m thankful.

Dating In Community: What Does It Actually Look Like?

20 May

We’re all in this together…except when it comes to my dating relationship. What?! Why would I isolate myself from those who know me best?

The term “dating in community” has come up a lot lately both in my circle of friends, with my roommate, and as I’m reading more from dating experts.

What does it actually mean?

It sounds like a nice enough concept but sometimes it’s harder than it looks. True confession: I’ve made my home on Boy Island more than once and it’s only after I emerged during the breakup phase of the relationship that I realized that I wasn’t actually letting my friends and family into my relationship. Otherwise, had I let them in, they would have seen red flags months before and noticed how much I was changing and not being me in those relationships, and alerted me to that fact. Would it have made a difference? Maybe yes, maybe no, but it would have likely saved me time being in relationships that were not right for me.

As I watch my friends date and I go out on dates, I notice that there’s this tendency to close off from other people. At the beginning, this is normal. You’re getting to know someone, you’re in the “fun” phase of the relationship, and all you really want to do is spend time with the new person in your life. That’s fine. But after the newness starts to fade, some people (myself included) often make the mistake of staying in their little twosome bubble and not allowing friends and loved ones to be a part of the relationship. Please don’t mistake this: I’m not advocating that dating in community means that we need to tell everyone in our community our deepest darkest secrets or spend no time with our significant others without a third party present. What I’m noticing is this trend to separate off into couplehood quickly without completely understanding the ramifications of that decision. And there are ramifications.

From what I’ve noticed, when a couple becomes exclusively “a couple”, some tend to drift quickly toward co-dependency and then suddenly doing things alone seems impossible. Also, the stable networks of friends and family go by the wayside and often feel neglected and ditched when it doesn’t have to be this way.  If the couple would think about hanging out in group settings once in awhile, finding some close co-ed couples to hang out with (maybe even married people who they trust), getting to know each other’s friend networks…this might actually be healthy. Then dating in community would be possible and breakups might not be so completely devastating. (They are bad enough because of the fact when breakups happen, it’s like losing a best friend. But when you wake up and realize you’ve lost all of your friends, that makes the transition from couplehood to singlehood again even more precarious.)

The pattern I notice (and I’ve been this girl) is that once a girl and guy break up, a girl suddenly realizes she needs her friends but because she’s been MIA for many months at a time, her friends feel resentful that they now have to be there for her when she hasn’t reciprocated the friendship due to her relationship with her former boyfriend. Her friends, being rockstars, often begrudgingly help her through her breakup and then she sees how neglected they’ve been. Then she goes off and does it again. It’s a pattern. We all do it, to some degree because it’s natural to shift priorities, have less time, etc when you start dating. But noticing the pattern and committing to date in community could be a healthier way to date in the long run.

Dating in community to me means not becoming one of those people that gets so sucked into their one relationship that they neglect everything else. Work, friendships, family obligations, self-care time, spiritual time, schooling, and other things that fill your schedule shouldn’t just completely fall by the wayside as soon as someone starts to capture your attention. It’s a delicate balance. It’s definitely not easy.

I have several ideas of how to date in community. I’m by no means an expert, but I’m also a student in this respect, wanting to learn how to do it well.  But what I’m going to do in my next relationship is  to be open about it with various people and let them into the process through prayer, time spent with me and my significant other, conversations, and by asking for accountability in this area.

Sometimes love means having the ability to say to your friends, “I want you to help me date well because I lose myself in relationships. I need your eyes, ears, and knowledge of who I am as I do this.”

What will this look like? 

-Have my friends and family get to know the guy before I’m too serious and get to see us in the context of our relationship. Ask questions. Am I still me? How am I doing on my boundaries I set for my time apart from the new guy? How do I behave when I’m around him? How does he behave? Does he treat me well? So many times my parents have told me after the fact that they didn’t like the way I was treated by many of the guys I’ve brought home to meet them. And they were right. But I wasn’t at a place where I wanted to hear them because I liked my little spot on Boy Island and I didn’t really want to leave. That’s why when dating in community it’s essential that you…

Listen to the answers! If there are red flags, what am I going to do about those? If I’m staying in the relationship because I’m too afraid of the pain of a break up, I need to admit this to my friends and hopefully they will help me make the decision to end things irregardless.

Talk to married people, not just single people. They will help me know if this guy is a keeper and knowing marriage, they will be able to see things that my single friends might miss. Love my single friends. They know me so well. But getting a broader perspective is key.

Not succumb to pressure by others to make a quick decision but have fun dating and getting to know someone. It’s not helpful when people start throwing out the “M” word wayyyy too early. Not helpful at all. You can tell your community to “SHHHH!” if they are doing this to you. I’ve had to say that before to others.

-To Facebook or Not To Facebook? Funnily enough, part of dating in community has now become all about social networking. Do we share this info about our new dating relationship with our social networks and how? When? Trying to make a good decision about “going public” is huge in the context of dating in community. Thinking about and discussing this topic is important. I will blog more about this another time.

There’s a lot of other ways to “Date in Community.” Have you done it? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? I’d love to hear so that we can start idea sharing and help each other grow.

How Jury Duty Landed Me What Could Possibly Be My Dream Job Or Joy In The Midst Of Trial By Jury

4 May

I’ve often said that God has a funny sense of humor, especially when it comes to the events that play out in my life. For months I’ve gotten very close to some promising job opportunities, almost every time to have the door shut in my face. I’ve been on a quest to try to discover what it is that I’m supposed to do with my talents, gifts, and passions. Meanwhile, I’ve plugged away at work, trying the best that I can with the knowledge that I’m underemployed and could do so much more. So instead, I poured myself into my second job and out into volunteer activities – life group leading, counseling friends on relationships, and, sometimes reluctantly letting God test me in the areas of patience, joy, and trust. Throughout this time, I’ve been through some very hard seasons of growth. I’ve learned to let go of relationships that I had to realize weren’t working the way I’d hoped. I’ve had the rug ripped out from underneath me just when things were starting to get good. I’ve learned what sacrificial love looks like in my life (re-read blogs if you don’t believe me). I’ve learned how to date in Christian community, take risks, love when it hurts, and want the best for the people I’ve dated. And I’ve tried to be a voice in my community when it comes to loving people well, to date, and to breakup well (if it comes to that). It’s been quite a journey and I’m so thankful for those of you who have been on it with me.

But, despite all of these facts, I NEVER in a million years thought when I walked down to Courtroom O to report for jury duty on a civil trial that I would also be walking into my next job. How could I know that less than a month later I would say yes to working for a company that specializes in online dating and wants to specifically grow one of their websites aimed at Christians? Who could have guessed?! But God knew.

I met my Jury Duty Friend (who shall remain nameless for the time being because I haven’t asked her permission to be a part of my blog) the first day. Funnily enough, we got on the topic of online dating. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I had decided to join one of her parent company’s websites merely weeks before for trial (mostly because I realized I hadn’t been following my own advice that I’ve written about being actively available and taking the risk). We talked about that and joked that my one month membership was almost up. I joked about giving her my resume because she said she might know of a position opening up at her company… Little did I know that this conversation would bring me to accepting a job that not only will allow me to have a free membership to her website but will give me crazy opportunity to be influential in the realm of Christian dating and offers me so much beyond all that I would even dream for a job in terms of benefits, time off, perks, and bonus structures.

Now let’s get this straight. I’ve been vacuuming up pee water (the worst aspect of my current job). Now I will be assisting top executives and hopefully have a chance to write some of the ideas I’ve shared here to the Christian subculture at large. Who could have guessed? I’ll tell you who. God.

He knows me so intimately. What I need. What I want. Where I find my joy. Where I don’t. I’m not saying this job is going to be the end all be all, but when your book about sacrificial love and community has been on the back burner, when your blogging about the same topic has slowed, it’s nice to have the mission reinforced by getting a job where you will be paid to think about these things and to interact with people on the forefront of these issues. It’s nice to be reaffirmed. There’s so much more to say about this journey I’ve been on. I’ve been trying to discern where God wants me, agonizing over whether I should take another competing job using other passions of mine, and then watching the deal for this job just keep getting sweeter and sweeter. To have a great company want you is a glorious thing. When not vacuuming pee water, I’ve loved my time at my current job. In some moments, I’ve felt trapped in a web of my own making.

So here I go. On to hopefully give my ideas, share my wisdom, and love a whole new group of people. Who could have planned that? A God who knows me, loves me, hears me when I call, and makes the path of life known to me. I am so thankful. Here’s to new journeys, new growth, and to jury duty, a seemingly boring universally known-to-be horrible situation which most people complain about openly even though it is our civic duty and really, privilege , which I actually loved, and which completely changed my life. 🙂

An “I Miss You” Poem

17 Apr

Fade Fast, Sparks

I’m feeling awfully and pathetically poetic tonight.

I knew it’d come, though a few months too late.

You talked of destiny, feelings, and fate,

But forgot to fade fast enough to be out of sight.

______

While not shallow by nature, but deep, in fact,

I like silly things and waste too much time.

Is it naive for me to think of us as sublime?

Is it strange how easily I neglect what we lacked?

_______

You slip away too slowly, Snow on a cold spring day.

A sticky group of memories, bursting all over the place.

Chasms of quick color in the midst of white space,

Leave me at peace or come back for a permanent stay.

______

My world waits up for you only to be calmly neglected,

You never promised me much but a moment.

Rather than grasp the loss of you, I refused to own it.

It seems for extinguished sparks, I was particularly selected.

______

Waiting for this familiar war in me to finish,

I keep faith in the possibility that I wasn’t wrong.

I trusted deeply, broke completely, and finally sang an authentic song,

Left with a sweet hope that will never fully diminish.

True Confessions of an Online Dater

22 Mar

Online dating is like this.

My parents met at a mixer. It was in the middle of an apartment complex in 1974. Apparently there was dancing and drinks and my mom went up to my dad and said something like, “Aren’t you dancing tonight?” to which my dad replied, “I haven’t found anyone to dance with.’ Despite a few bumps in the road, they were married 9 months later on a farm (the same farm where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall got married) at a potluck where my dad wore a T-shirt. I’m pretty sure because they weren’t rich, it was a nice but really low key event, like most events in my family have been celebrated ever since.

Seems like a pretty cut and dry story. I’ve started to wonder why it’s not that easy in Los Angeles to meet people.

I suppose I have pretty high standards these days. I tell my friends that I could probably easily go to a bar and find some random guy to hook up with if that was my style and not against my entire belief system. But that’s different than finding a relationship that will last. A person you want to do life with through the good and the bad. Someone who shares the same faith and dedication to God. Someone who I can respect. Someone who treats me well and thinks I’m the bees knees.

Someone who hasn’t been in jail.

But considering how difficult it’s become to meet new people in this city, I’m sort of starting to half-wonder if arranged marriage is really the worst idea in the world. (I tell my married friends to set me up, and I hope they will!) But meanwhile, I’ve taken matters into my own hands.

Confession: In the past few years on and off, I entered into the world of online dating. There are good and bad things about this realm.

The bad things first: Forrest Gump’s mom was right: you never know what you’re going to get.

I’ve been on dates with everyone from pastors to former prisoners (I found out on the date after emailing and talking on the phone with this guy for two weeks). I’ve had amazing email conversations followed by dates that were less than stellar. I’ve done long distance only to find out that he didn’t want to move after all. I’ve gotten invested too quickly and been saddened when it didn’t work out. I went out with one guy only to have him not talk to me the entire lunch. I’ve met some duds. It’s been quite a journey. Hard at times. It’s important to be safe and tell people where you’re going. And several times I swore I would never go back to this world.

But then something happens and I remember the good:

I’ve also met some amazing guys who have taught me a lot about myself and encouraged me in my faith. I’ve learned to risk. I know how to have fun with strangers now! Not a lot surprises me (especially after the prison confession). Yet, I have hope for online dating. Why?

Because one of my good friends who was incredible met an equally incredible man through online dating and now they have twins and a baby on the way. I’ve seen success stories! I know that in a city like Los Angeles when I get stuck in the “Pasadena bubble” as I like to call it, there are a whole bunch of good, kind, amazing men wanting to date. And it only takes one. So the odds are in my favor!

You never know where you'll find love...

Part of this is an encouragement to all of my friends who are either online or who want to be. It’s tough but it can be great. It’s risky but it can be fun! I’ve been to the beach, miniature golfing, to some restaurants I would have never gone to, to the Gamble House, to movies I ended up loving, to “Wicked”, I went to Disneyland with a guy I met online, and I’ve met men that I’m not sorry to have met. I’ve made connections, found guys who were serious about their faith and living it out, and had some deep conversations. Online dating, while not the most ideal/easy way to meet someone, can actually give us a lot of perspective, wisdom, and hope. And best of all, new experiences and great/hilarious stories for parties if things don’t work out. 🙂

Caveat: Online dating is kind of like a part time job. If you’re not dedicated to checking your profile and replying and emailing people, it’s sort of a waste of money and time. If you’re too picky, you’ll never find out what you do and don’t like. If you judge too quickly or aren’t able to discern what you want, it can be a problem.

I still go to mixers/parties in hopes that maybe I’ll meet the guy that I have enough guts to ask why he’s not dancing tonight. But in order to be actively available, sometimes I have to put aside my hopes to meet the man of my dreams at church (although I’m still hoping for that) and log in to my online dating profile and remember, this isn’t my parents’ story. And putting myself out there while risky might just help me find an amazing guy to share life with. And isn’t that worthwhile? My friend with the twins and the Iron Man husband  she met online would say “YES!”

 

How Do I Stop Being Awkward Around The Person I Used To Date Or Around The Person They Are Dating Now Part 2

14 Mar

A sign saying "awkward"

Awkward has become a word that people like to throw around. “That’s awkward” is used for all kinds of situations ranging from a wardrobe malfunction to something blurted out at the wrong time. But I can say this from experience. Very few things are more awkward than having to stay in community with someone you’ve dated and then watching them date again.

As I mentioned in Part One, I’ve had this experience several times and it’s never been pleasant. But I’m at the point where I have to accept it for what it is and trust that it’s not always going to feel like this.

There will be a point when most of the awkwardness passes. 

A friend of mine has literally watched her first love date and get married while she remained single after they’ve broken up. I’ve seen her go through the grief and then actually welcome her ex-boyfriend’s fiance into our community through a difficult but loving conversation. It was insanely hard but that one conversation has shaped her character in so many ways and changed the advice she gives about this topic. My friend had to pray a lot before this conversation. And when she felt the nudge to go and talk to the fiance, she didn’t ignore it. She could have. But she chose to step into the awkwardness.


So that’s what I do. I step into my awkwardness every week at church. It’s just a given. The guy I dated has a new girlfriend. Do I run away? Sometimes, I have, honestly, when I’m having a less than stellar moment. It’s just been too much and I get all Prodigal Son’s brother and start asking the “Why not me? I’ve done everything right” questions. As a result, I’ve avoided parties that they were going to likely be at. And then I stopped doing that because especially in the case where it’s my good friends hosting the party, I don’t want to miss it! I’m a social person. What if I meet someone new at one of these parties? It’s not my job to own the awkwardness and slink away from it. It’s my job to acknowledge it and step into it.

My friend, Merlin, does the best "awkward" face of anyone I know!

Stepping into the awkwardness means a lot of things which I’ve narrowed down to three for the time being.

  1. Giving yourself a pep talk before you might encounter the awkward situation.  For me this has to involve prayer. Even if it’s a quick one just saying that I need strength and courage, I pray. I’ve found peace in these prayers and probably grown more in my faith when I choose to go into situations with people I’ve dated that many would think I was crazy for walking into.

The pep talk can also be done in a mirror, in the front seat of your car, with a friend, and as a reminder that the relationship wasn’t right. My ex dating again doesn’t say anything about my value. And then I tell myself the truth about who I am according to God, not according to the automatic negative thoughts that are swirling in my head at that moment. Without badmouthing the guy I’ve dated and the girl he’s dating now, I’m able to walk into the situation more confident than I might have been. When I forget to do this, all bets are off and I’m a victim of my own awkwardness with sputtered words, strange looks, and hurt feelings.

2. Grace for yourself. This is important! Sometimes you’ve just had a bad week and the last thing you want to do is see the person you’ve dated again just when you’re wound is starting to heal. Then you happen to see them and something inside of you is triggered and you forget why you broke up in the first place. Or you have a case of “sideways glancing” and you start to do a little romantic revisionist history and suddenly your relationship seems amazing to you again. This is when it’s time for a reality check. As one of my favorite books says, “It’s called a breakup because it’s broken.” Some days it will be easier to deal with his/her new relationship than others. Have grace for yourself but don’t lash out in anger or revenge in the process.

(Mostly tips for girls in this section) If you find yourself doing that, go hang out with a friend in the church bathroom for a few minutes. Or write down your issues in a journal. Or do some yoga or high impact aerobics.

Take a breather.

One time months after my breakup was long over, something was triggered. At church a song was played that just wrecked me. I was a crying mess. I had to run outside to just let it out, which I did. Luckily a friend followed me and just stayed with me there. This is permissible. When the guy I dated started to date someone else, I made sure to surround myself with good people who can give me a reality check and the love that I need to co-exist in community with him on a weekly basis.

3. Grace for him and her. 

This one is difficult. It’s hard when the person you’ve dated is now on cloud 9 and you’re trying to figure out how to love, honor, and respect them from a distance while being single and wondering why you’re not dating, too. In my worst moments, I cry about it. In my best, I smile at him and especially her when she passes. Once I introduced myself because we have many of the same friends. Another time  I was friends with a girl a guy I dated  decided to date and so we figured out a way to walk out how the whole thing was supposed to work.

Suppose I’m not friends with the new girl, why would I not be friendly to a woman who I consider my sister in Christ? Aren’t we supposed to all love each other? Despite the fact that our culture says that the woman who dates “our man” is a backstabbing-choose-a-degrading-term-for-a-woman,

Jesus says something different.

He says love those who persecute you, he tells us that we should lay down our lives for our friends. He never says that following Him would be easy. Laying down our lives means sacrificial love and in my context, that means being happy that the guy I dated who I once loved and who I let love me is happy. It’s wanting the best for him and his new girlfriend. I’m not saying this is easy but when is love ever easy?


I’m not saying that I’m ever going to be best friends with the guy I dated or his new girlfriend. That’s unlikely but future interaction considering our overlapping friend groups is inevitable.  Had we the opportunity, it would be nice for us to all acknowledge one another sometime. It would be nice to exchange a few words to know that we’re all still members of the same church. That we all want the best for each other. And for me and him, acknowledgment that I’m not just some face in the crowd. But that we spent time together learning and growing and discovering what it meant to love both within the context of our relationship and beyond it.

Final thoughts: I don’t think that love ends when a relationship ends. Rather it’s the opposite. I’ve found that when a relationship ends, that’s when the test begins.

Will I love this person well even though we’re not together? Will I treat them with dignity and respect? Will I refrain from talking trash about them to my friends? Will I decide to not welcome and actually discourage comments from my friends about her?

Because the reality is, those comments could be said about me or any of my friends. And we’re not backstabbing. We’re just girls who want the chance to date in our community, just like the girl that the guy I used to date is currently dating. We want the opportunity to see if one of the guys in our church could be a good match with us.

By giving him and her grace, I’m giving the entire community permission to date and breakup without judgement. I’m allowing for love to reign over my fears that I’m going to be single forever. I’m allowing for God to intervene in the hard places. I’m choosing, once again, to trust.  And that’s not only good for me, but for all of us involved in this crazy, messy, amazing thing we call community.

How Do I Stop Being Awkward Around The Person I Used To Date Or Around The Person They Are Dating Now? Part 1

2 Mar

standing out (Photos by Brian Hershey)

Okay here’s the reality. I have in no way mastered not being awkward. I’m not even sure the awkwardness is “supposed to” go away completely. I’m currently in the process of figuring out what it means to co-exist with someone I’ve dated in the same community when they have started dating someone else and I’m single.

I can say this, it is a lot easier when both people who used to date are dating new people.

I know that if I was dating right now, I probably wouldn’t be thinking nearly as much about this topic as I am right now.

Part of me feels really good about my circumstances because something about it feels as if I’m supposed to be here writing this. I’m at the same coffee shop where, a year ago, I was talking about dating in community with a woman in my church who was on the same page as I am. It was just the beginning of this whole process. I was learning how to grieve well, let go, and learn to survive the messyness of sacrificial love. And despite the messyness, my community has grown. I have grown. Maybe you’ve grown? Because of that, I’m not sorry to be sitting here.

being the bigger flower

Let’s backtrack so I can give a little back story.

I was immature and terrible  at breaking up and staying in community. The first time I dated someone in community, he ended up leaving the church where we both went, so I was let off the hook. I was sad about it, but mostly relieved. I felt entitled. I claimed all of our mutual friends for myself. Some of my friends questioned this but I was young and didn’t really understand breakups except for the fact that they sucked and that my pain seemed unbearable which made it the most important thing in my mind.

The next time I broke up in community I was a little older and it happened right before I moved to Washington DC for an awesome internship. I didn’t have to face the reality of the situation until four months later upon my return. That was a huge wake up call. I don’t remember the exact details except that I again tried to claim friends and they felt awkward about it. I didn’t understand that there didn’t have to be sides. It wasn’t me vs him and he wasn’t my enemy. We just both got to a place where we realized that it wasn’t going to work. We weren’t bad people, we were just bad together. But when he started bringing a girl around to all of the community activities we used to do together that all went out the window and I was totally devastated.

I took it VERY personally. I was single, he was moving on. I could not accept it. I tried to be in community with him and his new girlfriend but ultimately, I left the church for a breather and never went back. Not ideal. We later ended up reconciling and I apologized to both of them for my behavior. While we’re not  friends now, it’s not because I don’t want the best for them.  They ended up getting married but before their wedding I emailed him wishing him my best. If I saw them out and about, I probably would say hi and it would be fine. Again though, I had to go through quite a process to get to that place.

The most recent time that I broke up in community has been by far the hardest. But I’ve grown the most. This time leaving the community has not been an option. I have good, solid friends (pretty much family) that I wouldn’t want to leave. He is a leader in our community and won’t leave unless an act of God calls him away.

So I had to make a choice.

I either had to put my big girl britches on and learn how to do this gracefully OR  fight it tooth and nail and repeat my same mistakes. (This blog has been one of the ways that I’ve been able to process this.) And so we come to the awkwardness. I’m not going to sugar-coat this for you. Breaking up in community is probably one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to go through. In fact, I stayed in relationships way too long just to avoid it.

I. Hate. Breakups.

And not just mine but my friends’. My friends of friends. They just aren’t the way things are meant to be. It should be easier. But sometimes it’s just plain hard…and awkward. We’ll get into that in Part 2.

Stay tuned…

Post-Valentine’s Day Thoughts From A Guest Blogger!

17 Feb

During a conversation about Valentine’s Day, I joked with my neighbor and friend, Michael Gilley, that he had a lot of thoughts on the matter. I told him to write a blog about it. So here it is, Michael’s thoughts on Valentine’s Day:

The V-Day Invasion

A few days ago we celebrated Valentine’s Day and I have just one question: Why do we suffer this holiday year after year?

Who likes Valentine’s Day? Really? Who voted for it? I don’t know one person who really enjoys or looks forward to Valentine’s Day. As I prepared to write this post I thought about all the ways I disliked the holiday and all the ways my friends have been frustrated by it. Then, I began thinking about all the ways that married and dating couples also dislike the holiday. I finally arrived at a new realization: I don’t need to sell my annoyance to anyone.

Cupid got shot! (Melissa's caption)

Everyone already hates the day and everything associated with it. (I heard those little heart candies are actually made from chalk that ossifies in the heart slowly killing you from the inside out.) So why do we allow Valentine’s Day to live? I say we should all rise up as one and slay it!

Valentine’s Day is a day set aside for the remembrance of Saint Valentine. The problem is, nobody knows a thing about the guy! We’re not even sure he ever existed. There’s so little known about ol’ Valentine that the Catholic Church actually removed his feast day from the Christian calendar! On top of this, there wasn’t a romantic twist to his day until the poet Chaucer came along in the fourteenth century, and that’s not that surprising because he spun a romantic twist on everything to win French speakers over to English. It was only two hundred years ago that card producers began commercially selling “mechanical valentines” to men to give to their sweethearts. The rest is, as they say, history.

It cannot be denied that Valentine’s Day, like other holidays, is a commercial juggernaut. There are others who have written off Valentine’s Day simply for this reason. I on the other hand am not as bothered by this. What bothers me about the holiday is the constant, powerful reinforcing of the same story that strangles relationships and wounds individuals all in the name of love.

Valentine’s Day & Faith

 What do we disciples do when it comes to Valentine’s Day, or romantic relationships in general?

I suggest that we begin thinking of our relationships with one another as a story. What kind of story are we embracing? What story are we retelling? Is it the story of the Gospel or is it another kind of story? Does it grow from self-sacrificial love and mutual support or does it feed off of compulsion and expectancy? Does it begin with acceptance of the other as they truly are or does it start off with a messianic version of those we trust to save us?

People get hurt when romantic relationships are co-opted as a salvation from loneliness. (Loneliness, by the way, usually results from complacency more than isolation but that’s for another time and place.) The fact that the pain of divorce directly affects over half of the Western population ought to make this clear.

When we are consistently told the story of how we find our true worthiness and purpose in another person (be it a knight in shining armor or a damsel in distress) we come to rely on our grandiose fantasies of what that person can do for me. Should we be surprised when we wake up disillusioned, hurt, crushed, and with ossified hearts?

It’s usual to hear 1 Corinthians 13 read at a wedding. Unfortunately, that text doesn’t only apply to the love expressed between a husband and a wife. It’s much greater than that. It’s much wider than that. It ought to ask us how our relationships foster love for others.

Does it inspire in others patience, kindness, an end to envy, bragging, and arrogance? Does it seek the good of others and encourage timely forgiveness? Does it live to find out and bring injustices to light? Does it delight in truth telling? Does it tell a story of all things settled in God who sits on the mighty throne?

I must confess, the story I often hear (and too often hear from the church) is one that inspires in me anxiety, a sense of entitlement, victimizing the self. I want to think of myself and my needs. I want to forgive past hurts when I feel ready to release the grudge. I hear the need to think about my own plights before the injustice felt by others. I want to hide for fear that the other might find out who I truly am and end the relationship. I hear in the background the ticking clock of time and death.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a day of torture. Perhaps it can be a day to redeem, a day when we all — singles and couples — can come together to pray. We should pray for help in modeling the kind of relationships in love that is seen in Christ. We should pray that we will continue to resist the urge to place our hopes and worthiness in anyone other than God. We should pray for healing for those who have been hurt in the past. We should pray for forgiveness and hope to move on. But above all, we should pray for love.

Michael Gilley hails from Missouri but now lives in South Pasadena, CA.  He holds a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. He likes coffee, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Anabaptists,  and playing Cluno, a game that we made up with our friends.  There’s a lot more to him than this hastily put together bio mentions, but I wanted to publish his blog so it is what it is.

The Hike Where I Almost Died, The Risk That Hurt, Singleness, and Other Mini-Thoughts

29 Dec

Mini-thoughts On My Year – #1

At the end of the year, I often reflect on where I’ve been, hoping to find some commonalities, a story, maybe the imprint of God on my life. This year was no different. An unexpected year, to be sure. A difficult year? Yes, in many ways. But did I grow more? Did I stretch more? Yes. Yes I did. Did I impact lives like I’d hoped to? I’d like to think I did even if it wasn’t in the ways I’d originally thought. Did I love until it hurt? Yes. I can say that for sure I did. Did I come out unscathed? No. I have bruises and scrapes. My heart hurts sometimes from loving this much. Was it awkward? Yes. It is always awkward to love people. When it’s really love, I’ve noticed that it becomes a sacrificial act. And it’s intentional. I had to decide to love even when I didn’t want to. I had to step out. Do things that hurt. Forgive. Grieve. Laugh again. Risk again. Know when I couldn’t participate. Know when I had to push myself forward to take part. I had to trust. I had to examine. I had to let go. I had to spend some time in counseling. I surrounded myself with great people. I realized I have a long way to go. Still do.

Mini- thoughts On Singleness- #2

Note: The following is not a boo-hoo fest on being single. Just a few thoughts I’m processing.

The hardest part about risking and having it not work out is that you sometimes lose a friend in the process. That’s what I’ve noticed about dating. It’s a lot of fun to date and get to know someone else. I highly recommend it and think that it’s necessary and essential if you ever really want to be known. But if you do it right, you’ve gained a real friend when getting to know someone and saying goodbye to that person, no matter how long you’ve been seeing them, is painful.

This is especially the case around the holidays, as I’ve discovered this year. When you see couples and families and get Christmas cards with pictures all over them (which I happen to love, by the way 🙂 ) and you somehow hear every version of “Blue Christmas” ever recorded (the one from Glee is my fave this year!), or when you are just having a sad moment when you remember what it was like to not be alone, it does make it a little difficult for us recently single people.

BEGIN PSA- So this New Year’s Eve or even this next year, if you have someone to kiss or you have kids and a family, remember those of us who don’t and give us a hug. Invite us to hang out with you. I realized the other night when I was hanging out with one of my favorite families and my 5 year old friend was bejeweling my fingers and toes after painting them with hot pink Hello Kitty nail polish, that hanging out with families is so healing for me.  I’m reminded there’s more to the holidays than my blues. I’m thankful for how I’ve seen my married friends and their kids grow.  Hug us. Give us a call. Invite us into your lives. We won’t be sorry and neither will you.  END PSA.  

Mini-thought That Turned Into A Story #3

If I could encapsulate this year in an analogy, I would say it was like this hike that I took in the latter part of this year in Malibu.

The whole point of the hike wasn’t to get to the waterfall at the end, although that was a big part of it. I didn’t know where I was going. At first, it was just a street with a group of majestic mansions on it. It was a beautiful walk but did not resemble a hike quite yet. Little did I know what was coming. After the street, I trekked down through the grass, on a dirt path, through the woods. I got to this point where I literally had to crawl up a steep part of a jagged path. Then after I made it through that, I scaled a couple of boulders and pulled myself up. Finally came the rope. In order to climb up the side of this steep cliff, I had to use a rope and lean back while pulling myself up the side of a mountain. I was parallel with the ground. That took trust. Part of me didn’t want to continue.

After venturing past that and a lot of people, I made it to the waterfall. It was beautiful and tall. Unexpected.

Along the side of the waterfall was this branch that jutted out. Next to that was a slim that one could use, if they were crazy enough, to climb up, shimmying their way across a slippery, thin ledge up into the waterfall. It took a lot of faith, a few swear words, a whole lot of trust, and a few people to help me, but I wanted to climb up into that waterfall and make it back in one piece.

The water was cold even though it was an 80 degree day. It was pelting on my head and I was shaking, getting all of my clothes drenched as I muddied my arms and hands, clawing my way up through moss and slippery rocks until I stood erect in my triumphant arrival .

When I could finally stand and enjoy it, I realized something. I had to figure out how to get back down. I had made it up so part of me knew I could make it. But sooner or later, I would have to start down the waterfall the same way I’d come up. I was surprised when I was able to climb down. It took more effort than climbing up. A stranger literally had to prop me up. I took steps and then backtracked, not trusting where I was stepping. I almost cried. Part of me wanted to jump off although I surely would hurt myself in the fall. In the end, I made it  down to safe ground and I was proud. Proud that I had risked at all. Exhilarated that I could do something like that and not die.

Ever since that moment, I’ve wondered what else I could do. How else can I let myself be surprised? How else can I trust? How can I go through 2012 with more moments of triumph?

Risking in community

Mini-thought on Risk #4

Going back to my year, I’m surprised. Surprised that loss after risk didn’t do serious damage to me or to my friends. Yes it hurts. So much. But not as much as it would hurt if I hadn’t realized what I do now. I know more of what I want after I risked and it didn’t turn out. I am healed more from a past that sometimes feels like a bag full of rocks that I don’t want to carry anymore. As much as it has hurt and still sometimes hurts, the risk was worth it.

I Say Goodbye And You Say Hello – Dating, Letting Go, And The Messyness In Between

28 Nov

I sat there on that beach all alone, no one watching except for God.  I cried out and let myself breathe for the first time in weeks. Tears came streaming out of my eyes, my nose was running everywhere. I knew that it was finally time to let go. It had almost been a year. I’d held on too long. I’d told everyone I knew about cutting soul ties and how essential it was to the grieving process and yet here I was, still holding on to a ghost of a relationship. A “what could have been.” A “why didn’t it work?” A “but if only I didn’t do this.” And the more realistic thoughts followed: “Well we did fight a lot” and “I did spend a lot of time trying really hard to make it work.” Reality set in. It didn’t work. It hadn’t worked. He didn’t come back no matter how hard I prayed and maybe deep down I knew he wasn’t supposed to. And so, here I was, by myself on this beach a year later. I was okay. I really was okay. I’d made it through the worst thanks to God and the support of my family and friends. I’d grieved. I’d had a lot of conversations with people who loved me well through my sadness. I’d taken leaps forward and steps back. I’d survived awkward encounters and messy interactions. Our mutual community had loved us well as individuals despite it all. I’d respected him. I’d loved him from a distance. I’d acted out of what I knew to be true, not just my feelings about the situation and it served me well. And now I needed to say goodbye for once and for all.

I didn’t want to let go of my ghost, but it had become a safety net. Less scary than facing the unknown or letting some stranger I didn’t know into my heart just to wonder if it would happen all over again. 

Sometimes dating makes you feel like this. Everyone else has it all figured out and is enjoying themselves while you're standing in the shadows.


But here’s the thing about dating and I say this a lot. It’s risky. RISKY. Sometimes you just don’t know. You’re not sure if it’s going to end. You’re not sure even as it’s beginning. Somehow, some way, it just starts happening. It’s like a roller coaster. You don’t know where you’re at or where he or she is at. Some moments you’re floating on air and the next you feel like you’re going to throw up.

When you get to that point to where it’s time to have a conversation about your feelings, you’re afraid you could ruin everything. But that’s where the trust comes in. That’s when it’s time to realize that this “relationship” or whatever it is isn’t totally up to you. Yes, you can do your part and be open. You can be vulnerable and flirty and fun. You can give it a chance. You can enjoy the ride. But at some point, just as in the grieving process when I realized that I couldn’t do it on my own and that I needed help, I realized that too about dating.

Dating is a risk because there are no guarantees.

We like to create our little safe havens complete with security blankets and we hold on to the illusion that we are in control of our dating lives. We think that if someone says the right thing or does something in the exact way that we hope that somehow that will make the stars align and everything will work out just the way we want it to.  The reality is, we are in control of our own feelings and actions but that still may not equal a relationship working out the way we’d hoped. We can do everything “right” and it still may not work. All the good physical boundaries in the world can’t solve a relationship problem when the relationship just isn’t working.

So what then? My answer? Simply this: Let go. What? LET GO. It’s not up to us. It’s up to the loving and all-powerful, all-knowing God who created us and knows our stories better than we know ourselves. He can soothe our anxieties. He will calm our fears. When we don’t know what to do, we can look to God and he will help us remember to breathe again.

Dating can also feel like a balancing act. Kind of like this.

(Now a side note. I don’t want to come off sounding like a bitter woman who looks at dating as if we’re walking on mouse traps about to get set off if we take one wrong step. That’s not what I’m saying. I am saying it’s going to take courage to put yourself out there. It’s going to take you trusting God in the tricky spots when you don’t feel like it. It’s going to take getting out of your comfort zone and allowing yourself to realize that without the risk, you’ll be sitting home for a lot more Saturday nights wondering why you’re alone. I’m not saying that we’re all in charge of our own dating destinies, but in a way, I suppose I am. Are you putting yourself out there with people you don’t know? What about with people you do know who you may not have considered before now? Have you just written everyone off and become bitter? Nothing makes me more sad in the context of dating in community when someone has just given up and resigned that no one will ask them out or that no one will say yes and they just stop trying. That’s sad. What if you start to see yourself differently than that? What would that look like? Sidenote over)

So there I was. On the beach. Crying my eyes out. Knowing I had to let go but not really knowing how. And that’s when I started to write a letter to the guy I had dated. Well, if I’m being honest, it wasn’t just to him. It was to all the guys I dated who I’d never taken the time or who I had been to scared to let go of. Now I’d written the anger letter (never sent it). I wrote the sad letter (didn’t send that either). It was time for the goodbye letter that I’d written ten times without finishing. The one that I was afraid to think about because I knew it would mean that I would have to say goodbye for once and for all. But I knew I was ready. I wrote my letter. I cried a lot during it. I prayed, too. I asked God to take away the soul tie and break it. That didn’t mean that I would forget. I asked for forgiveness in the letter. I also forgave him for the ways in which he’d hurt me. Then I pictured myself reading him the letter. I addressed him. I talked to him during the reading of the letter. I cried. I told him why I had to let go and I told him how unbelievably sad I was that it hadn’t worked out between us. I even said something my very profound friend had mentioned to me when I was cleaning my room out to repaint it. I said, “I need to create space in my heart for something good to come into my life. I have to let you go to create that space.” It was the scariest thing I had done on the entire journey. Creating space for something good to come along. Trusting that there would be something else. Something better. I was trusting that God had something better for me than a life spent wandering in the desert for any longer.

Taken just days before a relationship I was in ended in 2005. Oh how glad I am now! And yet this picture, despite the meaning it used to have to me, actually reminds me of how God delivered me from that situation into others. Now I know He will do it again! He never lets go...

So here I am. Trusting again. That God is good. That he has something better for my future. Knowing that dating is risky, I still embark upon the journey. Because those sweet moments when you connect with someone through a look or have a new and unexpected adventure or learn to let someone into your heart again are worth it. Dating is worth it. It might be risky but it’s awfully fun and who knows who you’ll meet along the way? 🙂

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