My Love Story….

My love story will be different…It won’t be a “married to my high school sweetheart” story. It won’t be a “rocky marriage and reconciliation” story. It won’t be a “happily ever after right after divorce” story. No, my love story will be different.

My love story will be learning about how much God loves me, even in the midst of painful losses and rejections. My love story will be learning to love myself in the midst of them to0. Learning to love myself even when made to feel unlovable. Learning to love myself after being torn down to a nub by men in my life. Learning that not all men and women are the same….

Right after my divorce, I fell hard for a guy. He gave me more attention that I’d ever received from my ex-husband. We dated over a year, but he refused to commit. So, heartbroken again, I knew I had to stop the rollercoaster of not knowing what he wanted from me. Cue the next few guys who wanted to marry me after our first date. And some even before. What was going on?!?

First guy turned out to be on parole for double homicide (his wife and another guy)! Next two had mental issues, so much so, that suicide was mentioned after ending things. The fear of God set in. What was a single mom with two daughters to do?  Just stop? Or keep trying, trusting God. I chose the latter……My love story will be different.

The only way I could trust God with my romantic life after these stories was IF I loved Him enough and trusted His love for me. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve cried out, thinking it won’t happen for me. It just can’t after these stories…The fear would be too great or the rug would be yanked out from under me, again.

I dated a guy who truly loved me, but we split over spiritual beliefs. I’ve dated a guy recommended by one of my best friends. I thought that he was my reward for standing up for my beliefs. That turned out to be false too and ever so painful and confusing all over again. What was going on?!?

The guy before has come back around. God spoke to his heart in my absence and it turns out our spiritual beliefs aren’t as different as we thought. Surprisingly, close. He knows all my fears, issues, and concerns. His love still rings true. God’s will be done.

My love story will be different….God will be my first love. My love story will be an open book of the love we share. I will run to Him when I hurt. I will lean on Him when I’m scared. I will share who He is to me. I will trust Him with my life. And, if it turns out that He just wants me all to Himself, my love story will be complete. I will live to please and honor Him all the days of my life.

 

 

Always a Risk…

A calculated risk is still a risk…One thing I’ve learned in the medical field is that we can only do so much when it comes to prevention. We can and should do what we can do, but nothing guarantees we won’t be born with a congenital defect, have a heart attack, arrhythmia, or cancer.

We’ve all heard the stories about people who contract lung cancer having never smoked a day in their lives and about the women diagnosed with breast cancer and absolutely no family history. I’ve personally scanned multiple young healthy patients who have had heart attacks. They exercise every day, maintain a healthy weight, eat clean, yet still…I’ve also scanned the 500 pound smoker who’s heart is as healthy as can be.

We should do everything we can as far as preventive screening and healthy living to avoid and promote what we can. But, just like every time we drive a car, we risk getting into a wreck. Every time we fly in a plane, we risk crashing. Every time we change jobs, we risk not liking it like we’d hoped. The same goes for relationships and marriage. They both run the risk of break up and divorce.

This is not intended to be morbid post, but a truthful one. I’ve also learned that although we can never be a perfect spouse, we can be a GREAT one and still get left. Our spouse can die unexpectedly or our own lives can get cut short. Because of this, do what you can in the process of picking a mate, pray fervently, ask for God’s help, make your list, be true to what you want and don’t want, and then try and trust. Trust that if the break up comes before marriage, He’s watching out for you and if it comes after, He’s still beside you. Yes, there’s risk, but you’ll never know unless you try and fly.

So, eat your veggies, stay away from tobacco, limit your alcohol, watch your weight, wear your sunscreen and your seatbelts, get your mammograms and teeth cleaned, lock your doors at night, and give that guy a try. The one who fits. The one who has what you’re looking for, but you’re too afraid to try or what people might think. Know that every relationship, romantic and otherwise, is a risk we have to be willing to take. Truth is, we can’t experience love without potential heartbreak.

The more I learn about relationships, the more proud I am of the risks I’ve taken. I’ve tried, I’ve lost, I’ve learned, I’ve let go, and I’ve tried again. There’s so much to be said for perseverance, patience, and priorities. It takes a lot of courage to get back up on that horse after getting bucked off, especially multiple times. But, you’ll have to get back on in order to ride off into the sunset one day…

What Have You Gained?

When we lose something, it hurts. Transition is hard. And, change is never easy. But, when we look again or look back, we can see what we’ve gained.

I suffered great loss with my divorce. Looking back now, I can see what I’ve gained after it. A closer relationship with Jesus and mounds of wisdom from the pain. I got to move back to my hometown and live close to family. My girls also get to attend church school. Neither of these would have been possible if we’d stayed married. I not only get to attend the church of my childhood, but also serve as a women’s ministry leader there. I also gained this blog as a source of healing, sharing, and connecting. Such an honor and privilege. All precious gains from a devastating loss.

Fast forward five years. This spring I lost a relationship that I thought was “the one”. He was recommended by friends, we knew many of the same people, similar church backgrounds, said he was looking for someone just like me. It ended, when that changed. Another heart wrenching, confusing loss.

Since then, what have I gained? Home renovations, a new job, a new puppy, a new sense of me and what I need in a relationship, a renewed set of standards, a whole new appreciation for a loving, honest, caring, consistent, family-focused, attentive man. Yet another opportunity to be with this type of man. A sense of pride for trying and a sense of humility for sharing. All gains from another bewildering loss.

Last night, my daughters started a conversation with me about how much they both wish I had a boyfriend/husband. They want this for me, even after all we’ve been through. They have both been open and accepting of each one of my relationships. By God’s grace, never rude or unwelcoming. Rather, hopeful.

My oldest daughter told me she just wants me to be honest with her. I confided in her that I don’t open up to her as much as she’d probably like because I want to protect her. I explained that I don’t want to get her hopes up or down anymore. Still, she insisted, just as I would with her in the same situation. So, last night we had a good honest talk. She agrees wholeheartedly with what I’m looking for and why it hasn’t worked out yet. She understands so much more than I give her credit for. She asked me to be honest with her, just like I’d want her to be with me in her dating years….I consider that conversation a huge gain and a blessing after multiple losses.

Dating in front of kids is HARD, but, I’m learning it can also be a tremendous learning tool. They know I have standards, the same standards I’d want for them. When the time is right, I’ll find the courage to choose love. But, I’ll need them met first. In the meantime, I will focus on my gains, opportunities, and adventures.

With GOD there is always a gain in the loss. It might be finding strength you didn’t know you had, it might be new friends, it might be more money, it might be more time, it might be more help, but it will always be more of Him. He wants to fill every void in our lives. With Him, we can trust that each loss still has His goodness written all over it.

The next time you lose something or someone, ask yourself “But, what have I gained?” Oh, how He loves…

 

Why wait?

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Why would God give us something that feels as good as sex and then ask us to wait? Once we get our first good hit, we’re hooked and looking for the next one. Reminds me of when my brother took his first bite of a Krispy Kreme doughnut. He said: “What do they put in these things? Heroin?” They’re good!

Our bodies go through all kinds of changes as we grow up. Sexual desires and feelings are natural in this process. And, when puberty ends, that’s just the beginning. God created sex for us to not just be fruitful and multiply, but to enjoy. To come together as husband and wife over and over and over again. Each time we do, we honor God with our bodies and our marriage.

But, what about before? Before I got married, one of my favorite things about a committed relationship was consistent sex. I enjoyed it with my boyfriend and felt little shame. We were “committed” after all. But, is that the commitment God desires? Our boyfriend is not our husband. Our boyfriend has not pledged his life to us. Boyfriends come and go. Husbands are supposed to stay. I realize now that this is God’s desire and definition of commitment.

Covenant love gets to enjoy sexual relations free of shame and free from the fear of parting ways. Sex is a gift that God intends and promotes for true commitment. These days divorce is so common, I can understand how even marriage can feel iffy in the “not parting ways” department. Mine was. This fact makes it that much more important to me to know how committed my future mate is.

In my mid 30s and back in the dating pool, the Lord spoke to my heart and I had the question for the first time in my life: “How do I date without sex?” “How do I have a relationship without it?” Is it even possible? I mean, what do we do instead? How far is too far? What’s ok, what’s not? How will we connect? How will our love grow? To me, that was all part of being and growing in a relationship. And, once I’d crossed that line, what was the point in not crossing again?

Then, the questions: How would I want my daughters to date? Wouldn’t I want them to know it’s possible? What example do I want to set? How does grace play in? I hadn’t held back since my teens. So, I thought I’d write to share my struggle with you. If it’s hard for you, I get it. I’m living it. And, I’d love your tips if you have any. This is new and very difficult territory here.

My best tips are communication and peace. Communicate with God. Ask Him for help and guidance. Have the “talk”. Let your dates know up front that it’s your desire to wait. If they bail, you know early! If they have the same desire, Hallelujah! They can and should help you. If they don’t, they’ll go elsewhere. Don’t expect it to be easy for them either. You will both struggle. But, it will be together.

Keep talking as your relationship progresses. It will grow in a completely different way. Let peace be your guide. If you have it, you’ll know. If you don’t, you may be going too far. Communicate again with God and each other. Because, there is so much more to it…

You are not alone. There are Christian singles out there with the same desire to honor God with their lives, hearts, and bodies. Both men and women. They are out there, but few and far between. It’s not easy. It’s not supposed to be. It’s so difficult in fact, that it may prohibit some from dating at all.

If you find someone who is willing to battle this with you, they are willing to fight for you. They know, like you, that in order to get to the other side with someone who respects themselves and desires to honor God is worth that wait.

Your willingness to communicate your desire to wait has to be stronger than the fear of embarrassment or rejection. In this case, you have to look at rejection as a blessing. The man who honors you, honors his Father in heaven. And, that’s the kind of guy you’d want for your daughters, right? A man who knows how to cherish, protect, and wait for what he wants most too. And, that’s you. A woman who knows her worth and God’s definition of commitment.

Your heart is the ultimate benefit after the ring. Add that to the other benefits and that’s a marriage to cherish!

 

Born to Pursue…

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I’d like to share some information that I’ve learned through the trial and error, excitement and disappointment, joy and pain of dating….things I wish I’d known the first time around. Better late than never.

A man will pursue what he wants most. Career, marriage, sex, power, God, hobbies, family, money. It’s a God given trait. You can tell what is most important to a man by what he prioritizes.

When he’s looking for a woman, he will pursue. When he’s looking for a wife, he will pursue. And, these can be two very different things. Same goes for us. What we may want in a man and what we need in a husband are two different things. Be aware, guard your heart, and date accordingly.

When a man catches your scent and starts to pursue, what is he picking up? Sex appeal? You may have a plethora of pursuers. But, be aware that sex may be all he’s hunting. The only way to know is to take it out of the equation. Money? A different type of pursuit. There are plenty of men who will spend and live off your money too. He needs to work. Looks? They will fade. We all age, even him. A good time? We all have bad days, sick days, sad days, hard days…..Will he help (love) you through them or bail?

How about spiritual fruit? A man drawn to the sweet smell of the fruits of the Spirit will be looking for yours. That’s a beautiful pursuit.

Work on your insides while you take care of your outsides. Outer beauty may attract initially, but inner beauty will become more attractive over time. To us too. Most of what we desire in a husband, they also desire in us. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. Ask God for a character that grows more beautiful by the year.

If you have the desire to marry, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for talking about it or looking for it. Not everyone has this desire, but for those of us who do, it is not wrong nor does it make you any less spiritual when you feel or express physical loneliness. That’s a healthy, God-given desire.

A huge part of what makes a husband a great husband is his awareness of how special his wife is. His treatment of her reflects that. These are my favorite marriages to witness. You’ll want a man who continues to pursue you, even married. One who gives, serves, plans, and thanks God for you. One who truly loves you for you. If you are the one chasing him and wearing him down to spend time with you or commit while dating, this is the precedent you are setting. Wait for the man who pursues you. Treasures you. Who views being committed to you as the privilege that it is.

When the dating crickets chirp, take comfort in the fact that you are released from the temporaries and more prepared for your permanent. It may feel lonely. You may think something is wrong with you. But, God is working in you and your future mate. Pray for them and know that you are already loved, already beautiful, and already being actively pursued. Jesus woos us. He waits for us. He is the perfect gentleman. That being said, Jesus doesn’t take the place of a living breathing physical partner. I know this. But, He does love you more than any living breathing partner will. Cry out in your physical loneliness and know that He loves you.

Love is sacrifice. Love is patient, love is kind……(1 Corinthians 13). Learn what real love is so that you can recognize healthy and unhealthy love when it shows up. Learn so that you can give and receive it. Grow in your relationship with God so that your fruits will flourish. This will not only help with future romantic relationships, but also with your kids, family, and friends.

The man who is pursuing a wife will pursue you differently. He knows what he wants too…and he knows it’s hard to find.

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. Proverbs 31:10-11 (NIV)

There are no guarantees in marriage. Uniting two imperfect people in holy matrimony is always a risk. I have learned the hard way and experienced much pain in the process. If I can help anyone avoid pain, that would be a huge blessing. I pray for wisdom this time. I pray for fruit this time. I pray for the courage to take the risk….again. Because I believe love is worth the risk. I plan to keep learning from and leaning on the One guarantee I am certain of and that is Jesus, my Rock.

 

 

How Will You Know??

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When the relationship feels comfortable. When there is peace. When I feel confirmation from the Holy Spirit that I can believe the words that come out of his mouth. I have been sweet talked and pursued before, but this time it will be different.

We’ll have similar beliefs. Similar passions for honoring and seeking God in our present and our futures. He’ll understand my pain because he will have lived through his own. He’ll be tender and understanding. He’ll love my smile, understand my tears, and appreciate my heart. He’ll look for hobbies we can enjoy together. He’ll want to know and love my kids.

He’ll be intentional, but not pushy. He’ll encourage me to follow my peace and convictions. We’ll study and worship together.

He’ll be clear about his plans and want me in them. He’ll be generous with his time, money, and attention. He’ll be a giver.

He’ll have nothing to hide from me. We’ll both be open books. We’ll share our struggles and lessons learned. Our friendship will be our foundation. Oh, how sweet that will be.

I’ve shared before that I’m not a fan of dating. It’s so hard, especially with kids watching. But, this relationship? I’ll be a fan. And, it will be fun.

I trust that God is leading and, if it ends, I will still know that He is leading and be proud of the courage it takes to put my true self out there…

 

 

Dating?!?!

beauty from ashes

I’ve never been a good dater. And, I’ve never been interested in “playing the field”. My “dating” past before marriage consisted of about 4 long term boyfriends. I must be more of a relationship person than a dater because dating does not come naturally to me whatsoever.

Nonetheless, it’s been three years since my divorce and  I do have the desire to remarry one day, so dating has to happen, right? Once again, God tells me to trust that He is working and that He will teach me along the way.

One thing I’ve learned through my dating experiences is that I’d rather hear crickets than be with the wrong guy after what I’ve been through. Maybe one day I’ll expound on this story, but in short, I’ll just add that I never knew the extent of what human beings are capable of until I went through my divorce and started dating again. It has literally pried my eyes open. Which was shocking, scary, and painful, but God knew I needed to know.

Dating is tough personally for multiple reasons. I’m a mom and I work full time, therefore I have limited free time. I want to be an example to my girls. I want to protect my girls. I want to honor God. I want to grow together in a healthy way. I don’t want to get hurt…..who does?  I don’t want to hurt others. I also don’t want to settle for anything less than real love. The counterfeit comes off pretty perfect at times. And, I have been fooled before, hook, line and sinker.

Because of all this, I pray for discernment and God’s will every single day. I ask Him to expose and remove the deceptions and distractions. I ask Him to cover me in His grace and wisdom and help me to enjoy the process, which is so difficult for me. I ask Him to help me!

Another thing I’ve learned is that the perfect man for us will not be perfect, and I can’t expect him to be because I’m not. He’ll have flaws, struggles, and baggage just like I do. But, we will be able to share these struggles with each other because……he’ll be a communicator.

We’ll connect. He’ll be a listener. He’ll make me laugh and smile. He’ll be strong enough to handle my sadness and fear when it flares up because…..he’ll be my friend.

He’ll love me in spite of my insecurities and my past. He’ll hold me just because he wants to. He’ll encourage my passions and love my love for Jesus. He won’t push me, he’ll relax me. He won’t rush me, but walk alongside me. He’ll know that love is sacrificial. He’ll pursue me. He’ll understand me and appreciate my personal weirdness.

He’ll pray for me. He’ll be proud of me and my story. He’ll love the Lord and want to follow Him all the days of his life. He’ll love us so gently and consistently that trust and peace will follow.

This may sound like a lot of pressure to put on a man, but I yearn to do the same things for him. To love him well and to love him anyway.

Blending two people and two families isn’t easy and I don’t expect it to be. But, I also believe that with the right partner, it can be beneficial and beautiful. And that’s what God specializes in: Beauty from ashes.