Tag Archives: relationships

It’s Not About The Pants!

25 Oct

I got the opportunity to guest blog for “A Beautiful Mess” awhile back. Many of you read it, but I thought I would post a link here in case you missed it! Thanks for reading!

Read it HERE!

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The Kiss That Changed Her

1 Jul

I submitted this story to a writing contest and got “Runner Up.” I wanted to post it on here, so my regular readers could enjoy!

The Kiss That Changed Her

Her seventeenth summer, as she pinpointed later, signified the transition from girl to woman. So desperate to give away the last piece of her childhood, she fully and defiantly embraced what the world had been telling her about boys and decided to kiss one she didn’t know. She chose her catalytic moment and her companion carefully. He was a nice Jewish boy from New Jersey while she was a WASP from the suburbs of a Midwestern city. He was taking AP Spanish and a slew of other smart sounding classes in the fall and they bonded over milkshakes at a local soda fountain on the Fourth of July. She met him at a summer program where kids from all walks of life became students in various artistic disciplines. He was smart and had a radiant smile that completely cemented in her a strict requirement of straight teeth for the rest of her dating career, long after he was a distant memory. He was sweet and smooth. She was awkward and unsure but loved the attention.

It started with a movie screening. The entire group of students in their program went to the local mall, off of the university campus where they were living to see the latest summer blockbuster. Something about little green men. She didn’t pay much attention because she was too busy plotting how her life would change forever with one Kiss. To be sure, she was idealistic. To a fault. He had shown interest. She related well to him and yearned to see his smile up close. After careful maneuvering and plotting with a new friend eager to see some relational fireworks before the real show that evening, somehow she was sitting next to him. Would their hands brush? Would he notice her playing with her hair and smiling out of the corner of her mouth? Would their eyes lock? Would he have enough gumption for a seventeen year old to make his move? She wondered this throughout the movie, not really watching it, instead sneaking short glances at him. His eyes crinkled when he smiled, making him look like an old happy man. His dimples came out, a surprise moon cresting on the horizon. His eyes laughed. He smelled like Old Spice deodorant and whatever cologne seventeen year old boys employ to gain the attention of young girls. It was working. He had her attention.

It wasn’t until later, when they finally found some time alone to escape to the local Burger King where it was rumored that people got robbed where she really got to know him and decided that by the fireworks she would have her Kiss and her Change. He made small talk. She didn’t know much about him but his JCC shirt intrigued her. She wondered why the East Coast had JCC’s and wondered why she didn’t see them in the suburbs where protestant churches were on every street corner. By the time they made it to the soda fountain next door, he had flirted but didn’t make an attempt to hold her hand. Conversation flowed. He smiled easily. Any minute now.

When they arrived back at the soccer field where the requisite Fourth of July BBQ was taking place there was only one option for both of them: Soccer. She hadn’t played since she was ten. She hoped it wouldn’t show. He was a natural, moving in and out of the opposing players as a knife slides through hot butter. His technique, impressive. Her interest, piqued. They played for hours until it was time for a photo. A picture together made these few moments a memory. Time for charbroiled hot dogs, potato salad, and Coke. Too many people, not intimate enough. Night was falling soon.

It wasn’t until they made their way to the lake fill for the fireworks when she knew the Kiss might actually be a realistic possibility. She procured a blanket and lingered back, keeping him well within her sites. What a plotter she was for seventeen! He took the bait and caught up. They were both sweaty but the cool air off the lake was washing away any signs of finished soccer games. They were a world away. Suddenly it was just the two of them. The rest of the gang had gone ahead. He didn’t want to be with them and surely she did not, although in her cocky seventeen year old mind played out a fantasy. Suddenly having all the girls see her with him would have allowed her to finally put to rest her fears of inadequacy with all the boys back at her suburban high school. But who needed high school when she was playing the role of “student” living out life at a university near a lakeshore on the Fourth of July when fireworks were about to begin?

He sat down gingerly, a momentary blip in his confidence. She saw it and breathed for the first time all day. Was he as nervous as she was? As cute as he portrayed himself to be, he must have kissed a lot of girls, right? No matter, she was on a mission. She sat down next to him. Too close? Too close. She moved away immediately, nervous. His hand was next to hers. There were murmurs in the crowd as one firecracker popped, echoing above the lake sending streams of light streaking across their faces. The anticipation was killing the crowd. A wave of cheers. His pointer finger brushed the top of her hand. Electricity. She stopped breathing. Was this really happening? Just as she had planned? No. Way. She wasn’t that girl. Things like this didn’t happen to her. How? Music. Someone turned on a radio. John Phillips Sousa. As the piccolo played, her heart raced along, in synch. He looked at her. She stole a look, expecting to see the side of his face. Her palms were sweaty. He kept his eyes fixed on her. It was getting darker by the moment. She couldn’t quite determine the emotion behind his warm brown eyes. Excited? To kiss her? Really? He leaned in closer, revealing that boyish grin. She couldn’t help but smile back. Intoxicating. Little girl no more. The moment she had been waiting for.

The fireworks began.

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…

Yes He’s My Ex, But He’s A Person First: Possession Issues

2 Jul

We label people. We do. And then we define what their relationship is to us. My “best” friend. My “ex-boyfriend.” We do it when we want to quickly explain how someone fits into our world and more importantly, how they “belong” to us. I don’t believe that anyone ever really belongs to us, though.  We can buy into the whole “Jerry Maguire” line of “you complete me” but I don’t believe that creates a healthy picture of what a relationship is supposed to look like. The moment we start thinking that we need someone to complete us, we get into trouble. The moment we start seeing someone we once shared a relationship with as “belonging to us,” we really become stuck. Then we begin to think we own them and their choices. We think they owe us something and we have, through our language of possession, created a tie that doesn’t need to be there.

I learned about this issue of possession the hard way. Several years back, I believed that one of the guys I dated could only be defined to me and my friends as just that: “my ex boyfriend.” In doing this, I made it known to all of my friends that they should not befriend him and could not “choose” him over me. If I’m honest, I hoped that they would want to forget about him all together.

While I understood that they had a friendship with him outside of me (because we were all part of the same community), I expected them to drop that as soon as he became “my ex-boyfriend” out of some kind of loyalty code that I had made up in my head to equal “friendship.”

The problem with that kind of thinking is that it isn’t fair. It is actually VERY selfish. I’m not proud of those years when I believed in this odd code of conduct and I even almost lost one of my friends over it. I thought her loyalty should be to me after the breakup because to me, my hurt was so heightened that I wanted him to hurt as much as I did. I tried to hurt him by attempting to claim all of our mutual friends for me.  By creating that unrealistic and unfair expectation, I forced my friends to choose. It put them in a completely awkward position. I was not wanting the best for the guy that I had dated or for my friends and in the end, I lost.

Luckily, I learned through this that we are not called to “possess” people with whom we are in a relationship.  Through controlling behaviors, unrealistic hopes that we can change a person, or through physical ties that connect us to a person too soon and too deeply, we can begin to believe that we can “lay claim” to a person and call them “ours.” But what if the relationship doesn’t work out? Then where are we?  Suddenly this person that I thought was “mine” was out of my life completely. The loss was devastating. I had over-shared and put too many expectations on a guy who was just a human and not capable of giving me everything I needed because I believed that he would complete me. (I’ve found the only one that can do that is God and so it became a situation of misplaced hope.)

In the end, we do not own someone who we dated and we cannot expect our friends to completely drop the person just because we are desperate for someone else to share in our pain. I am saddened and appalled that I ever believed that my friends were only real friends if they stopped talking with the guy that I dated in favor of me. When you break up, it’s not about sides. It’s about people who once shared something, hopefully learned a lot, and have decided that they are not the best for each other. It should be okay for people to part ways grieving but also wanting to want the best for the other.

In a call to maturity, I hope for a community where people can date, break up, and remain in that community cordially, while wanting the best for one another. I won’t allow myself to get stuck into a place where I have to “claim” people out of some belief that I own my friends. I won’t buy my friends’ loyalty to me in some power play intended to thwart the happiness of someone I once shared time, love, and hope with. That is not who I am or who I would want to be, especially as a follower of Christ. Surely my commitment to following Jesus, which informs all of my decisions and guides me even in my darkest of days will also inform me of how to love, even when it hurts and even when it is costly.  It is in that place of love that I learn that Jesus wants me to love my enemies, especially if in some way I’ve twisted it in my mind so that my “enemy” is now  someone I once loved…someone I somehow started believing was not a person with feelings and a soul but rather whom I too easily and selfishly labeled: “my ex boyfriend.” In the place where I can let go of labels and remember how to love my friends, the guys I’ve dated, and even myself, I find a new kind of freedom that I have never known.

Asking The Hardest Questions Of My Life…

18 Apr

We have this magnetic pull when we are in new relationships that keeps us engaged and excited about them. It almost overtakes us and suddenly most things pale in comparison. Our feelings become paramount and we go to what one of my friends calls “Boy Island.” (Or “Girl Island”). I’ve lost many a friend to “Boy Island.” I’ve gotten shipwrecked there myself one or two or seven times. Sometimes if we’re not careful, we become other people if we don’t set good boundaries early on in a new relationship. It can consume us and become a false god, in a sense. It’s very easy for this new wonderful thing in our lives  to become our lives. We’re filed with hope and a sense of amazement.

But, this is a critical time when we need to learn (myself included), that we mustn’t hold too tightly to a person.  Otherwise, we’ll become prone to thinking of that other person as “ours” which results in us thinking we own them and that they belong to us.  It’s common in our culture to call things “my.” After all, we have our cars, we live in our houses, we have our roommates, we walk our dogs. These things belong to us in one way, shape, or form.  But if we grab on for dear life, if we connect too deeply too quickly with someone and then we lose that person, what are we left with? I’ll tell you from experience: Heartbreak. Loss. Sadness. Tears. Emptiness. Vapor.

What would it look like if we did things a little differently? What would it look like if we thought enough of ourselves to BE ourselves in relationships? What if we didn’t hide from vulnerability? Or if our problem is over sharing to the point of “too much information”, how would it be if we held back and didn’t dump on someone all the time? What can we do to ensure that we date in a healthy way? How do we honor God in that? If we break up, how do we have a good goodbye? How do we co-exist together and still move on if we both share the same group of friends? How do we grieve well? What do we do with the “Whys” of why it didn’t work? How do we not blame ourselves? How do we TRUST that this is bigger than all of us? In the messiness of relationships, how to we behave towards our friends, community, family, and those who we don’t end up marrying? Ultimately the question is: How do we love well and what does that look like? Not ten years from now, RIGHT NOW!? 

I’m currently doing a deep study of myself and my friends and community on these very issues. I’m asking hard questions. I’m wondering how to better love my friends as we walk out singleness, date, get engaged, and get married. I’m on a new adventure and I hope to use this space to write about it. I’m only speaking of the tip of the iceberg here. I’m going to be asking really hard questions. Many people will likely disagree with my answers to these questions. I’m preparing. More is coming. This is my epiphany. This is sacrificial love. This is the gospel. Or as some have called it, the REVOLUTION. And as I learned tonight in a God-confirming and powerful way, this is what love does.

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