Monday, March 16, 2015

What I Learned About Relationships From My Dating Life

{Preface: After I wrote this blog post about 14 things I love about my husband, Nick, I got great feedback from some of you! Because of that, I wanted to talk more about relationships. This time though, I'm opening up about what I learned during my past dating relationships.}

Let me be totally honest with you, in college I was pretty desperate. Not so desperate as to go after anything that moved, but desperate enough to be interested in practically every cute and appealing boy that crossed my path. And usually I liked multiple boys at the same time. Many multiple boys.

I hadn't been allowed to date in high school. I had liked boys, and a few times they had come over to my house to hang out with me and my family, but I had never been on an actual date. Thus, during freshman year of college, my desire to date was out of control. This continued for years because, honestly, I hated being single.

Sometimes desperation or desire, and misplaced priorities, cause you to seek relationships that you really shouldn't enter into. I bought into the "Disney princess" lie that I should be seeking a perfect handsome prince to come along and sweep me off my feet. Then life would be wonderful and we would live happily ever after. So I looked for anyone who would fit within my shallow priorities, hoping magic would happen.

Honestly, looking back I don't really know what I was doing. I wish I could've just stopped worrying about being single long enough to actually enjoy it. But feelings of rejection from my high school years plagued me and for whatever reason, I couldn't let it go. I made plenty of mistakes, and over time I eventually learned the lessons I needed to learn.

1. A relationship won't complete you. You can know this all day, but until you believe it, it won't make a difference. You have to learn who you are as a person, believe the truth of who Jesus says you are, and become complete in Him. No person can ever make you whole. Sure, a person can bring some happiness to your life, but they can also bring sorrow. If your identity is in a person, eventually things will crash and burn and you will feel hurt and disappointed. Because let's be honest, we all make mistakes, we all screw up, we all do things wrong.

2. A relationship doesn't give you value. You are valuable exactly as you are for who you are. You already possess all of your value, you cannot be given more. People or things may lie to you, telling you that because of how you look or what you've done, that you are somehow less. But these are lies. The truth is your value cannot be taken away, nothing will change the fact that you are immensely valuable to God, to the world, to your family, to your friends. Don't let the lies of others distract you from the truth. (For more on your value, read this post.)

3. Don't allow someone to pressure you to compromise your standards. Some people are really good at being manipulators. They can twist their words and make you feel bad for sticking to your standards, even though holding onto your values is a good thing. If the person you're dating is willing to make you compromise something, even if they claim it's "out of love," they are NOT the person for you.

Set your own boundaries and standards for a relationship before you get into one. If the person you start dating can't respect your boundaries, then they don't respect you and are just using you to get what they want. It sounds harsh, but you need to get out of that relationship and not give that person any more of your time. The right person for you will never try to pressure you to do anything compromising for any reason, whether it may sound valid or not.

Side note: If someone has done something to you that is wrong, you need to end the relationship--if you are still in it--and also tell someone about it immediately. If you are being hurt, abused or mistreated in any way, please talk to an adult you trust. Don't try to make sense of it, rationalize it, or make excuses for the abuser. Abuse in any form is wrong and should not be allowed to continue.

4. The best relationships are built on friendship. Romance and feelings are always nice things, but they're not solid. Feelings change over time, which is why many marriages end in divorce, when people think they have "fallen out of love." The truth is, love is a choice, not a feeling. So rather than building a relationship on the shifting sands of feelings, you need to build it on something solid.

Friendship is a great place to start before beginning a romantic relationship. You get to know the other person for who they are as a person, not who they are presenting themselves to be in order to impress you. You can learn how to be good, loyal friends to each other, how to have each other's backs, how to support each other, and how to be there without expecting anything in return. You will learn how to communicate well, how to understand the other person, and how to stick with them through the hard, icky times.

Why does all that matter for a relationship? Because life is full of pain, low points, hurt, icky times, failure, and changing feelings. A friendship foundation helps you learn how to weather the hard times with loyalty, and it teaches you how to stay together even when you're not feeling it. Because, I'll be totally honest with you, sometimes in marriage, you don't feel it. It's not always romantic and wonderful, because real life is what you walk through together and real life is hard. So, do your future relationship a huge favor and start with friendship.

5. Learn from every relationship mistake. We're all human, we're going to make mistakes, it's a part of life. Don't beat yourself up about it, but don't live in your mistakes it either. There was a period in my life where one bad relationship choice led to another and eventually I was living in a festering pool of mistakes. I thank God that He forgave me called me up out of it because it could've gotten a lot worse. I ended up taking a six month break from even thinking about dating in order to get myself back on track mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

My advice to you is if you have made a mistake, or if you haven't yet but in the future if you do, do your best to learn from it. Take some time to think about what happened, why, and what you should do moving forward. If you're a writer, I recommend journaling about it. If you need to, seek forgiveness. Ask for help from God, and someone in your life you trust. It's so freeing to be able to talk openly with a friend and allow them into your life to help you.

6. Look for someone who truly loves and seeks Jesus. I saved the best for last, and really everything fits under this one important point. We have lots of Christian-y catch phrases for this one. Like the one about a woman "being so lost in God a guy has to seek Him to find her." Whatever. The main thing you need to be looking for is a person who has a solid and growing relationship with Jesus. That relationship will affect everything they do, in a really great way, and thus affect your relationship with them. It's the one and only way to have an amazing relationship. And trust me, with Jesus at the center, it will be amazing.

I'd love to talk with you about relationships, anything in this post, life, or whatever. If we see each other in real life, come talk to me. Otherwise you can shoot me an email.

Friday, March 13, 2015

#FightBodyShaming: Replacements

[The background: This is the fifth post in my series, #FightBodyShaming. Check out all of the previous posts on this page if you missed them. I so appreciate the feedback and support I've gotten for this series. Together we can help each other combat body shaming.]

In my very first post in the #FightBodyShaming series, I talked about replacing lies with the truth. It's one thing to cut out lies, it's just part one in a two-step process. The second step is to fill that hole with the truth. But, lies aren't the only thing that need to be replaced.

I keep hearing this quote, "Comparison is the thief of joy." That statement cannot be more true, especially for the area of body shaming. How many times a day do you look at someone who you think looks "better" than you and compare your body to his/hers? How often do you feel inadequate when you measure yourself next to someone else's standards? How do you feel after you compare?

After I compare my body to someone else's, I usually feel pretty lousy. I feel inadequate in so many ways, and start wishing I could change my appearance. I don't feel good and I certainly don't feel joyful. But, for as bad as I feel doing it, it's really hard to stop.

Comparison is another thing that can't simply be cut out, it has to be replaced. I think the best thing to replace comparison is thankfulness. Thankfulness ushers in truth and joy as it causes us to consider the good things that are present in our lives.

The thing with thankfulness is, it doesn't come naturally. Comparison comes naturally, but we have to work on thankfulness. Thankfulness takes time and effort.

So here's my challenge for us: each time we compare or start to compare, I want us to thank God for at least five things about ourselves. Yeah, it feels really weird to do it, but it's so great at the same time. It helps us shift our focus from what we think is wrong or needs to change, to what we have and should be thankful for.

The Bible tells us lots of things about how God made us and sees us (check out this post for some verses). We are each a unique part of His creation that He formed individually to be special and one-of-a-kind. He values us more than His own life because He sent Jesus to earth to die and make a way for us to be with Him forever. (More on that here.) How can we not thank God for who we are because of Him?

I challenge you to start by thanking God for the things you like least about yourself. Each part of you serves an important purpose, even the parts you don't especially like, so you can find something about it to be thankful for. Don't ask God to change anything, simply thank Him, and allow thanksgiving to transform how you view yourself.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hebrews: The [Really] Good Stuff

Over the past several weeks I have been studying the book of Hebrews through IF:Equip (part of the IF:Gathering). I felt like it was a total God thing that they had selected Hebrews, because it was a book I was planning to study once I got done with what I was currently reading through.

Let me just tell y'all, Hebrews is rocking my world. Some days my mind is struggling to keep up with everything that is packed in its passages. Some days I want to cry because I am so in awe over the truth found there. And some days, like today, I just have to say something about what I'm reading.

The author of Hebrews spends a lot of time talking about the old covenant, the laws, the priests, the rituals, the sacrifices. I think he writes so much about it so that we can understand what the new covenant through Jesus' death means for us. It means no more continual animal sacrifices to atone for sin, no more performing dead works under the law, no more separation from God and the Most Holy Place.

Jesus submitted to the will of God the Father, He went to the cross as a sinless, perfect sacrifice. His death did away with the need for animal sacrifices because it was sufficient to cover the sins of the entire world for all time. In one death, Jesus atoned for all sin, He broke down the barrier of the Most Holy Place, and thus allowed us to approach God freely. And through His resurrection three days later, Jesus defeated the power of death.

To have a relationship with Jesus means you are sanctified through His death, once for all. You are no longer under the power of sin, you are no longer distant from God. You can walk in the fullness of your redemption now, today, and forever. You don't have to continue working to earn forgiveness through deeds, you have been completely and totally forgiven. And you now have a direct relationship with God and the freedom to approach Him at any time through Jesus.

"This covenant I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws on their hearts and write them on their minds, He adds: I will never again remember their sins and lawless acts. Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin." [Hebrews 10:16-18]

[If you are interested in studying Hebrews too, I highly recommend using the IF:Equip study. You can start with Hebrews 1 by clicking this link. Once you finish day one, there is a link at the bottom to move on to the next day in the study. Each day consists of a passage of Scripture, some journaling prompts, and a short video clip.]
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