Tag Archives: grace

The Dirty Little Secret That Engaged People Don’t Talk About: How I Realized I Needed More Grace Than Ever!

2 Sep
While our photographer captures beautiful moments, no one knows the story of how Mark repainted my nails right before this or how we were totally stressed out driving to Newport Beach that day, or the fact that parking was a nightmare...the truth behind the engagement pics! :)

While our photographer captures beautiful moments, no one knows the story of how Mark repainted my nails right before this or how we were totally stressed out driving to Newport Beach that day, or the fact that parking was a nightmare…the truth behind the engagement pics! 🙂

I recently read a blog from a friend, Stephanie May, where she made a terrific point about relationships that then turn into engagements. No one talks about how hard it is. I’m not complaining and saying “Oh whoa is me, I’m about to be married.” I’m just wanting to publicly recognize that being engaged and making no less than three major life changes at once is really tough. At times, trying to figure it all out, trust God, keep my physical, emotional, and spiritual needs in check, and enjoy the process is not nearly as easy as everyone makes it out to be.

 

When I was single watching others do this, I heard some horror stories and saw a few knowing looks exchanged between recently married couples that I really didn’t quite understand until now. But I’m starting to realize that engagement doesn’t equal immediate bliss, happily ever after, fun and games. It’s hard. It’s work. It’s trying at times. There are tears and frustrations, words that can’t be taken back, tension headaches, and at times I just want to elope to avoid all of these decisions!

 

I love Mark very much and I can’t wait to be his wife, his teammate, and the person closest to him who gets to witness first-hand who God is creating him to be. I seriously can’t wait! But the part where I have to plan a wedding living 100 miles away from him, figure out finances, and apartment shop with him has been trying. I’m not going to lie.

 

Before we were engaged, Mark and I would squabble about little things like where to eat or logistics of navigating a long distance relationship but mostly, we just enjoyed hanging out and being together. We had new adventures every weekend and while it was annoying trying to figure out the 100 mile distance, it wasn’t impossible. Now that we’re engaged, we fight about the usual stuff and everything else in between. Our words are sharper. We are more on edge. And although we’ve always both been very genuine about who we were from the beginning and we’ve been dating for 16 months, we’ve both wondered at times during this engagement process if this person we’re marrying is actually a total stranger!

Sometimes the word “bridezilla” takes on a whole new meaning to me, even though it’s really not as much about the wedding as it is about all of the emotions that go into quitting my job, moving 100 miles south away from my amazing community and friends, and moving in with a BOY! I seriously had a nightmare the other night about learning how to share a bed…

But before you swear off marriage all together or dismiss me as ungrateful, let me explain what good is coming out of this process.

I’m realizing how much I have to grow.

Every time I say something harsh to Mark, I feel it. I know it like you just know when you’ve done something wrong. It sticks with me, like a little pin. After awhile, the pins have built up and it becomes really uncomfortable. I realize how wrong I am, and how much I’m hurting the person that I’m marrying in less than 50 days. It’s completely crazy.

 

I think: “Why am I doing this? Did I REALLY just say that? When did I become so mean? Why am I so defensive? Mark’s not the bad guy! “(I’m so thankful that I was in counseling for so long so that I could learn some of these techniques). So when I find myself engaging in this process, I try to stop, take stock of the situation, ask myself what I’m really upset about, and breathe. Sometimes, it actually works. Especially when we’re face to face. Other times, we hurt each other, there are tears and then forgiveness, and I’m reminded again how much grace I need and how much I need to extend.

In these moments, Tim Keller’s book, “The Meaning of Marriage” comes alive and I recognize it when he says,

“Here is why you can say to your spouse who has wronged you, “I see your sin, but I can cover it with forgiveness because Jesus saw my sin and covered it.” It is because the Lord of the universe came into the world in disguise, in the person of Jesus Christ, and he looked into our hearts and saw the worst.  And it wasn’t an abstract exercise for Jesus– our sins put him to death.  When Jesus was up there, nailed to the cross, he looked down and saw us, some denying him, some betraying him, and all forsaking him.  He saw our sin and covered it.”

 

I start to understand my own sin. My own fallenness. And I remember that God loved me first, and out of that place, I can choose. Do I hold tight to my conviction that I am right or do I let go and love Mark where he is at? Do I say what’s on the tip of my tongue or stop and let that little jab stay where it should until I’m reminded that I shouldn’t say that to my future-husband who I love and am about to pledge my life to?

 

Ah the days when dropping my ice cream was my biggest concern! :)

Ah the days when dropping my ice cream was my biggest concern! 🙂

How did engagement do this? Is it the refining process? Is it a way that we’re tested before we make the biggest committment we’ll ever make to one person? I don’t really know, but I do hope and pray that on the other side of this when Mark and I are hanging out in our apartment after the wedding gifts are opened, the champagne has lost it’s bubbles, the dress is sold on Craigslist, and we are just us trying to figure out how to love each other well that we’ll look back on this time of testing and know that we are stronger because of it.

 

Until then, it’s time to find wedding bands, pick the DJ list, plan a move, get me a new job, and do our best to work together to navigate these uncertain waters. We will both have harder choices than these in the next 47 days. Will we choose sacrificial love? Grace? Words that will build up and not destroy? I hope to. I really do.

 

What Veruca Salt, That Guy Who Cut Me Off In Traffic, And My “I Want” Syndrome Have Taught Me About Love

23 Jul

Love is patient.

Wait until the clock strikes 12.

I’ve been reading a lot about love this week. It’s funny because at this prayer series we’re doing at church, we’re studying 1 Corinthians and I was asked to read 1 Corinthians 13 aloud to everyone in the group. I smirked.  This was a week after being inundated with everyone’s opinions about what “love” is everywhere I go. Through a new song from one of my favorite band’s (Stars), I’ve heard “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It.” Or, from another song introduced to me by Love and Respect Now, I’ve been pondering the question, how do we not idolize romantic love or the thought of feeling known in community? (Another blog to come).

Or, another idea of love from one of my favorite ministries, The Living Room:

“Love is more than words spoken from our mouths. It must be lived out in the patterns and actions of our lives.”

According to the Bible, to love means to be patient. I find that interesting that it’s mentioned as the first characteristic of love. Maybe because patience is so difficult for us?

Patient is: “bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.”

Two of my favorite kids wait in anticipation for a wedding ceremony their father is performing to begin.

Wow, I can honestly say I haven’t figured this out yet. At all. I want what I want and I want it now. I want people to know me, I want things to work the way I want, I want my boyfriend to read my mind, I want work to be fulfilling, I want to live happily ever after, I want my friends to think I’m awesome, I … I want, I want, I want. And NOW.  (On bad days, I’m kind of like that girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who wants the golden goose.) My “I wants” have become insatiable of late… More food, sleep, time with loved ones, meaningful moments, recognition at work.

Waiting isn’t easy, as I’ve mentioned here before. It’s tough and most of the time, I fail at it. But I’m learning. Last week in traffic I didn’t swear at all when I got cut off! It was a small victory, considering a few weeks ago I actually made my hand into fist and almost raised it yelling something about picking a lane and the fact that driving a Ferarri under 60 on the freeway should be illegal.

Who would want to hang out with this girl? Thus, learning patience is a top priority.

So what about this patience? What does it look like? Here’s what I think:

-It looks like waiting for an unfulfilled dream even if you doubt you can muster even a little seed of hope.

-It looks like being patient with a child that has overwhelmed you, when you’re tired beyond belief.

-It looks like trusting that although you might not be in your dream job, you can keep praying and actively looking without just jumping into something else without cause.

-It is not putting the cart before the horse in romantic love, letting a relationship grow and develop. Trusting that with patience, much will be revealed at the perfect time.

-It’s about not trying to have control, but instead giving ample time to those who might not go as fast whether that be in traffic or in life.

-Patience means hearing someone else out, not interrupting, not needing to be first. Having it not be all about me and instead letting others shine even when I have the bright idea first.

-Patience is sacrificial. It might mean not getting your own way. It could look like delayed gratification (another area I struggle with) or believing that something good could come out of the time spent.

-Patience could mean acceptance that things have not gone the way you’ve planned. Getting back up when you’ve fallen and trying again, knowing that you’re not quite there yet, but you’re getting closer.

-For me right now, patience means knowing that I don’t have all of the answers and that question marks are okay for now. It’s being aware of the fact that I’m in limbo in some areas. It’s not trying to force a false sense of closeness or intimacy with friends, family, community, or in close relationships, but instead letting them play out and being present to a greater reality that I am not in control.

If patience is an action, I may have a lot to learn. So in those moments when I feel the need to control or give up or move too fast or break down, I stop. I ask the question, am I being patient right now? And I remember that I’ve grown in this. There is grace for me. I’m not perfect. I don’t have to somehow master patience. But I can move closer to trust. And to a God who knows me and my impatience and loves me anyway.

What about you? Do you think love is patient? How has this played out in your life recently?  Feel free to leave a comment. 🙂 I’ll be continuing this series on what love is in the coming days.

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.

An Examination Of Perfectionism

21 Oct

A contemplative moment at 21

I have a problem.

I’m ready to admit it and begin a dialogue because at this point, I know that I’m not alone in this. I’m an overachiever. I’ve been this way probably since I was about eight years old. I can blame my parents (although they aren’t entirely to blame as they did the best they could at the time). I could blame the school system for telling me that I was smart and in effect pitting me against all the other kids in my class so that we became ranks and GPAs instead of 14 year olds. Or I could blame my peers but how would they have known?

However, I tend to blame myself most of the time. Someone once said that sometimes our greatest attributes can be our biggest downfalls. I am a smart woman who knows what it takes to succeed academically but as an effect to this day, I’m afraid of failure.

So how did it start? Somehow in my life I learned to equate achievement and “being productive” with being happy. I learned that by getting good grades and being “the best the I could be,” I would earn approval, accolades, and most importantly– love. On the surface that doesn’t seem that strange. In fact, productivity is encouraged in our culture. After all, isn’t America all about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps? It’s about getting  ahead so that we can provide for our families and grow into productive people who contribute to society.

But what if, in the process, we forget who we are? Or worse, never let ourselves learn?

I told myself when I was 12 that I would do whatever it took to get into Harvard. I remember because I wrote it in red pen (which I only used when I was serious) and I put it in a letter to myself. I set insane expectations for myself. I didn’t even really want to go to Harvard, I just thought it was the best school out there so I thought that would be a real achievement and people would love me for it. For as long as I can remember it was all about my grades and being involved so that I could get into college. When I was told by my high school counselor that I could get into the 5.0 GPA bracket and stand with most of my AP/honors friends at graduation if I passed the semester with only one B plus, I did just that. I returned only to find out that the counselor had screwed up and I needed an A- because I was .02 away. If only I had worked a little harder. I was devastated. Crushed. I ended high school on that sour note, disappointing myself because it seemed that I wasn’t good enough.

I realized at some point that Harvard wasn’t for me so I did the next best thing: I applied to 10 different film schools and decided on USC, the oldest and one of the most prestigious. I was upset that I didn’t first get into the actual film school, but after working diligently, I was accepted. I worked harder in college than I did in high school because that’s all that I knew how to do. I graduated and decided to enter into one of the hardest industries that people who fear failure could possibly get themselves into: entertainment.

Okay so here’s the problem: As an overachiever, I want things to fall into place and in my way. I’m not afraid to work for them but what if I’ve worked my whole life and come to realize that maybe overachieving isn’t what it’s all about? What if it’s about being and not doing? Loving people in amazing ways until it hurts? Giving hope to others? Loving yourself first? Sharing the love and spreading faith?

So how do I change my mindset now? How do I recognize that the black and white thinking I’ve always relied on may actually be hurting me? Yes, I’ve had success. Yes, people may think highly of me. Yes, I’ve achieved a lot. But I always feel like there’s more to do. I always feel like no one will ever be pleased. Worse yet, I believe I have to earn everything I get, including grace and love.

I’m reading an amazing book right now by a friend, Kristin Ritzau. It’s called “A Beautiful Mess” and it’s about self-care for a recovering perfectionist. I’m on a journey to start telling myself the truth about who I am and I refuse to any longer buy into the lie that I have to DO something and EARN something in order to be worthy. Where is the grace? If I have no grace for myself, how can I have grace for others?

It’s the process. Perfectionism. Overachievement. That’s a disease. They don’t tell you, but it is. And one day you wake up and realize that you’re not happy living like that. The things you bought into in high school– the whole “be good at everything, fail at nothing, and no matter what you do STAY IN CONTROL.” It’s not true. Life is unpredictable. It’s scary. It’s hard. It’s full of good and bad surprises.

Sometimes you end up where you never thought you would. I’m in process on the journey.  As part of my job, I hang out with high schoolers and they remind me of me. It feels like yesterday that I was that age. I want to tell my former self to not worry so much. To chill out. To LIVE LIFE! It’s not too late for me to tell myself that now.

One of the scariest and most freeing moments of my life. Letting go while suspended over a crazy drop with rushing water while canyoning


So I do what I can and I’ll let go. I might try to control things in a few minutes. My counselor says this is going to get easier–telling myself the truth. He said it’s like starting to work out after being sedentary for a long time. It’s going to hurt a lot at first. You might even faint from overdoing it. But the next day you won’t. The day after you’ll have more stamina. And it will continue…and so will I. I don’t expect to “arrive” but someday in the near future and celebrate that I am believing the truth and not succumbing to the be all that you can be (which is really do all that you can do) mentality.

Please leave your thoughts and comments about this. As I mentioned, I want this to be a dialogue.

-Melissa

 

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