Still single

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I turned 35 yesterday. Depending on who you talk to, some will say I’m getting old, others will say I have my whole life ahead of me. For me, the numbers signify how many years I may have left to have kids someday. It was never my intention to be single at this age. I thought for sure I’d be married with five kids… at least two… at least married. I’ve come close. My early 20’s were part of my timeline and I was dating a cute guy who was in the military. While some can get married that young, we were too young. We didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t know yet who we were. But being young wasn’t our only problem. My faith was his faith and as much as we cared about each other, we had different priorities. Different values.

Could we have gotten married and made it work? Yea, I think so. But just making it work doesn’t sound so appealing to me. That can’t be why God created marriage.

The following years were a wheel of rotating dates, rotating guys, no real commitment. I was so hopeful, so naïve. But how could I commit to someone I can’t see myself marrying? The truth would always reveal itself sooner or later. For me it averaged within 3 months. We’ve become so accustomed to wearing masks, afraid to show each other our true selves for fear of rejection, that we never really get close to anyone. And by the time we’re ready to peel back the layers it’s already too late. None of these guys were right for me anyway. I had to end things with the ones I knew weren’t right. And for the ones I wasn’t ready to let go of, God allowed them to reject me. And when they came back, because they always seem to come back, I had already received the closure I needed to move on. It’s crazy to think how something you thought you wanted so bad is the same thing you are thanking God for protecting you from.

When 30 hit, I was certain my time was right around the corner. So certain that I allowed myself to get into the most abusive relationship to date. Thankfully not physically, but sometimes I can still see the effects. I had never seen abuse, so I wasn’t able to recognize it until I was already in too deep. By the grace of God, I was able to leave. It’s crazy to think about the things you put up with if you think they are leading you to what you desire and crave.

Could we have gotten married and made it work? I don’t think so. I would have lost myself in the process.

As I reflect, it’s hard not to look at these relationships as failures. Wasted time. Empty promises. Pain. Hurt. And let downs. But isn’t that what dating is designed to do? The only alternative is to get married, and that outcome would have been so much worse. I can’t be the wife that gets married to check off a box.

I’ve sometimes worried if maybe I’m too much for some guys. They know they’d always come second to my first love, Jesus. Maybe I’ve pushed guys away. Maybe I’m too passionate about politics, making a difference. Too crazy. Too outgoing. Maybe my blog scares them away. I’ve been told to stop wearing my purity ring. I’ve been told to lower my standards. That I’m too picky.  I’ve been called a holy roller. Too intense. Too much.

But the truth is, if I have to change who I am, I don’t really want to be married as bad as I think I do. I just want to be me. The me that God created me to be.

So I wait.
Wait for peace.
Wait for clarity.
Wait for no doubts.
And maybe that day never comes.  

I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever get married, but what I do know is Jesus is worth it. He is worth having all my hopes and dreams. He knows what I ultimately desire and I trust Him. As time passes, it can be easy to question or allow doubt to creep in, but God knows my heart. And my heart belongs to Him. It always will.

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5 questions to ask yourself before committing to a relationship

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I have a hard time committing, I’ll admit it. But part of the reason is it’s hard for me to commit to someone if I don’t see a potential future with them. The break-up process is a painful one no matter how it happens, so if there are ways to avoid that, you better believe I’m all about it! In an effort to minimize heartbreak and stay focused on what matters most, there are five questions you should ask yourself before committing.

  1. Would I want my kids to be like them? This question allows you look beyond the outer layers of attraction and excitement and really see a person’s character. Are they kind? Loving? Giving? Value humility and purity? Do they show respect and honor? Or are they rebellious? Rude? Selfish? Or easily angered? It is so easy to be blinded and want to nurture infatuation feelings, but the truth is, the person you marry will have a significant amount of influence over your kids- and you! You want to trust that they will be a good role model and train up your children in the right direction.
  2. Would I want to be with them if we couldn’t have kids? This is a hard question to ask but a much needed one. As I started to get older, I started to question whether or not I should attempt to compromise on my standards for the sake of not letting my best child-bearing years pass me by. And then I realized how horrible this thought process is. And I also realized how many people I know who did get married because they wanted kids so badly and are now divorced. While kids are a blessing, having kids with the wrong spouse can be detrimental. Furthermore, there is no guarantee on even getting pregnant so it is vitally important to be with someone you would want by your side to help you through that process should it happen. The person you commit to should be a commitment for life, someone you want with you through all the good and bad.
  3. Am I growing closer to God or further away? There are people that will come into our lives that you will help and mentor, others that are acquaintances, and others that’ll challenge you to be the best version of yourself. The person you commit to should fall into the third category. This is why it is imperative for believers to be equally yoked with other believers, those who will help them with the temptations in this world. You want someone who will pray with you, call you out, and support you. If the person you are with is pushing you in a direction of compromising your faith, morals, and/or values, it is not a good sign.
  4. Do I feel more myself around them? This is oftentimes why people say the best relationships start out as friendships. You want to be able to be your true, authentic self without fear of rejection or judgement. Some people have a way of calming our insecurities, while others heighten them. If your relationship with someone starts out with a date, do your best to alleviate the pressure of a looming relationship no matter how old you are for the sake of building a stronger foundation should things progress. A relationship built on attempts to impress will not be able to withstand the challenges of everyday life. Furthermore, when you are with the right person, the pressure to perform should diminish as their passions and words ignite your passions and words, resulting in a fire lit deep within your soul. This is not something you can force, and no checklist can accomplish this.
  5. Do they love Jesus more than me? This is crucial. So many people seek someone who will love them most, not realizing the need for loving Jesus most in order to adequately love you. A love for Jesus will naturally result in love for you because it will become part of who they are. Jesus is love so a love for others is a natural result. When someone seeks to love outside of these parameters, love then hinges on who you are, your actions, and their feelings toward you, thus resulting in an unspoken pressure to perform. This environment is the breeding ground for insecurity, with no true stability. Someone who is able to love, honor, and respect God will be able to love you the only way you truly desire to be loved.

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

2020 Vision with a Heap of Hope

2020 visionIt’s funny how I always pick a word for the year and then God seems to change it right before the new year starts. I love being open to see what He might have in store for me. I first started picking a word for the year back in 2017.

  • 2017 Intentional
  • 2018 Pray & Finish (finished my PhD this year!!)
  • 2019 Release (picked consistent but God kept putting the word release on my heart)
  • 2020 Vision with a Heap of Hope

I wanted to pick the word Hope because I wanted to understand this word more. I was going to say a dash of hope but it’s going to be more than a dash. These are the things I hope (should I be using this word here?:p) to dwell on this coming year and see God shows me.

  • What does the word hope actually mean?
  • What is the difference between hope and expectation?
  • What is the difference between hope and faith?
  • How can you hope for things if you don’t know if it’s God’s will- God’s best?
  • Should I show and share my hopes boldly and vocally?
  • And if so, which ones?
  • And if so, what if they don’t come true? I know God is a good God but I worry about hurting other peoples’ faith sometimes and that’s something I would never want to do.
  • What if I hope for something and then feel disappointed?
  • What should I hope for?
  • Should I hope for specific things? Broad things?
  • Can I be too specific? Too broad?
  • Is it possible to hope for things I shouldn’t?
  • And if so, what are those things?
  • What if I hope for things that aren’t necessarily bad?
  • What if I don’t know what to hope for?
  • Is it okay to not hope for things at all? If you don’t set expectations, you’ll never be disappointed… But…
  • I may be too scared to hope.
  • Why does it feel easier to have hope for others more than myself at times?
  • List all the verses with the word hope.
  • Write the word hope in other languages.

Now you can see why I wanted hope to be part of my word for the year. But the word Vision also came to mind… for obvious reasons:) And then I was talking to a pastor about the word vision and how he was going to do a sermon related to how 2020 vision doesn’t necessarily mean you have perfect vision, rather you have the right focus. And I really just want to have the right focus- on God. I want 2020 vision to see God clearly, who He is, in all His beauty, power, and love. And in turn, I want to see people the way God sees them. I feel so many of the things I struggle with would improve if I was able to see people the way God does. Perhaps be more patient, loving, forgiving, compassionate, understanding, I could go on. But I think as I grow more in my relationship with God and see clearly, He will allow me to see others the way He does. And that’s really what I want.

From a practical standpoint, there are a few things I am doing this year to help with this journey.

Throughout my journey of scripture and prayer, my goal is to pursue Christ more intimately and fall in love with Him even more. This is really all I could want. All that really matters.

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No Guys in 2018 Turned into No Guys in 2019

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And honestly, I’m not even mad about it. Taking a year off of dating in 2018 was one of the best decisions I made, and I don’t think I realized how much it changed me until I went through this year… alone.

I think after 2018 was over, I thought God was going to miraculously dump my guy in my lap. Like “Hey Sarah, great job- you are now worthy of the husband I have for you.” Haha silly me. I think I’m still learning the appropriate and delicate balance of setting expectations too high and clinging onto hope. I know God is a Big God, but I also know sometimes He shows up in different ways than my brain can imagine, than my heart is expecting. And I’ve learned that it is those moments that some of His best gifts are revealed.

January actually started off hopeful as I began talking with an attractive Christian. I was excited for our first date… our first date that never happened. He was what Matt Chandler would probably refer to as a “good Christian boy,” not a great godly man. And I’ve had my fair share of guys that attach themselves to the Christian label with no true intentions of following Christ. My hope of meeting a guy at the beginning of the year quickly vanished. My single life had become much more appealing to me, now that the quest for the husband-to-be had not taken up so much head space. I was focused more on my calling and the purposes God had for me. It wouldn’t be until August when I would have my first official date in almost two years. And what would start out as a heart full of hope, would quickly end in disappoint yet again.

Paul knew everything to say to allow himself to enter my heart. He said and did everything I wanted to hear. He started to lead me to believe he was the male version of myself. After our first date, we had set up another and then he wanted to see me even sooner. He pursued. He was intentional. He was everything I thought I wanted… until he wasn’t. The problem was while he said and did everything perfectly, it was never really who he was. He came on strong and fast until I let my guard down and as soon as I did, he vanished. He left. It was as if I was just someone to conquer. He withdrew and when I questioned him about it, he just said he thought he moved too fast and wanted to take it slow because he was scared. I made the mistake of believing him and held on. Little did I know at the time his words were code for I’m just not that into you. The “I still want to go on dates and get to know you but just not like the world dates” equated to never hearing from him again. I think what hurt the most was feeling betrayed and lied to. As if I wasn’t worthy of the truth. I trusted him. I had believed him. It just made the whole process more painful as I tried to make sense of everything- and worse, attempted to justify his actions. It was one of those “I’m going to gaslight you and then call you crazy” scenarios. I had been down this road before. I knew better. I was mostly mad at myself at this point.

I began to question how something that I thought felt so right in my spirit was so wrong. Can I not trust myself? But I think God has taught me that it’s okay if I can’t trust myself because I can trust Him. And maybe that’s where He wants us; maybe that is what I was supposed to learn. I had thought as long as I had the Holy Spirit in me, I could almost know all. But maybe that removes the intimacy in a close, much needed, dependent relationship with God. Because at the end of the day, God protected me- just like He always has. He protected me from something that wasn’t for me. And while I’m mad at myself for not knowing, I take comfort in having a loving Father that’ll step in even though it is painful in order to protect me from further, worse pain. As painful as that was, it’s so much better than being partnered with someone who is less than God’s best for me. There is beauty in the grace, beauty in the growth.

I left our weird non-relationship of marriage and future talk with all the hope I once had completely crushed. It was as if I went from validating my hope to no hope at all overnight. In that moment, I quickly wanted to recoil and build my walls right back up again. This is why I hate dating. But I haven’t. I’m just more careful with who I let it. Ironically, while this situation should have left me hopeless, it left me more hopeful. Sometimes God removes people from our lives that He knows we wouldn’t remove on our own. How comforting. I know the one God has for me would never hurt me that way and whoever I end up with doesn’t deserve to reap the consequences of lies and behavior sown by guys prior. I’m sometimes amazed at how quickly I am to trust again- some may call it naive, but I think there’s an innocence and purity in starting fresh. Surprisingly, Paul was a faith bump for me. A way for God to say, to show me, Paul maybe wasn’t everything he said he was but there are others who still believe in the same values I do. While Paul turned out to be nothing like me, there are others who are. And though I may have had my heart broken a few times, I’ve learned a broken heart still has a whole lot more love to give than a cold one.

I don’t only date virgins

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I never realized how many people would assume I only date virgins. I think when I say I’m looking for someone like myself it could be easy to make that assumption. Except when I say I’m looking for someone like me, I’m referring to my heart- I’m not really concerned with someone’s present outward acts or their past behavior. Because I know their past may not be who they are today. And I also know certain outward acts come from a place of varying motives. So while I desire someone that is chasing after God whole-heartedly and currently obeying His commands out of a heart of humbleness, I understand that some people may carry forward labels from their past that aren’t as easy to remove as the sin that once weighed them down.

I think one of the most beautiful things to hear is someone’s testimony- of how God has worked in their life. We’ve all been dealt different hands- some people making the most of bad situations, others making the worst of good circumstances. But when you really spend time with someone, you start to discover their heart. Their motives. How they think. What truly matters to them. How they view the world. And most importantly, how they view God.

And I’ve realized the most important thing I’m looking for in a guy is someone who is completely sold out for Jesus. This is where I would feel most free, most alive, most myself…

Has God freed them from their bondage? Is there a light in their eyes, a fire in their soul? Are they a new creation? Because I understand the power of what happens when Jesus wipes the slate clean. I know what it means to be born again. And I know a person who has been completely set free would be nothing but an asset to the desires I hold deep in my heart.

In a heartbeat, I would date someone with a bit of a past, who has realized the depth of his sin, has truly repented, and is fully pursuing God out of a humble heart of love now. This type of guy is much more attractive to me than the one who grew up in the church, became part of the church culture, checks the boxes of “dos” avoids the boxes of “don’ts” and struggles with the internal wrestlings of knowing about God but never really experiencing God. Doing what he knows he should do without the heart motivated by love, but rather duty, selfishness, acceptance, or fear.

Some of the worst guys I’ve dated have been virgins.

Virginity is not synonymous with purity.

He was still a virgin, but talked about sex a lot in a derogatory manner.
He was still a virgin, but thought porn was fine.
He was still a virgin, but thought he could push the limits as long as no one knew.
He was still a virgin, but only because he feared the disobedient consequences.
He was still a virgin, but only so he could check that box.
He was still a virgin, but somehow thought that made him entitled.

The acts seemingly pure, but the heart as dirty as can be. You see, the issue is, a lot of the virgin guys I’ve known were somehow missing the mark. While I am looking for someone who is saving themselves now for marriage, I understand not all of those people will necessarily be virgins depending on their testimonies. And I’ve come to realize that while loving God will move someone to save sex for marriage, you can’t assume that someone’s virginity is motivated by a love for Christ.

When we read the stories throughout the Bible, we see how God views people. We see His heart. We see how God transforms people and uses them. Calling out those who follow the law devoid of any real love, esteeming those with a broken and humble heart- pursuing God, not just His laws. And that’s how I approach dating. Virginity may be an outward sign of physical purity but I’m more concerned with the purity of his heart. And I think God is too.

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Photo by Mahkeo on Unsplash

 

When you find what matters most, you realize none of the other stuff ever really mattered

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Love is a funny thing. It’s so simple, yet so complicated in today’s world. We interchange the word love for other words such as lust, infatuation, like, and obsession. Everyone attempting to love based on what they’ve been given, with half the time people never experiencing the true love of Christ. It’s no wonder we are so messed up, so broken. But when we strip down the layers, love is such a pure and beautiful thing. It allows us to feel joy in pain, freedom while committed, and peace in the midst of hurt.

I’ve had my fair share of checklists throughout my dating life. Some silly things I was willing to compromise on- it’s okay if he doesn’t have blue eyes too, alright? Other things held a little more weight like attraction, similar interests, passion, and preferably someone a little crazy and outgoing like myself;) However, what remained at the top of my list was an unadulterated passion for Jesus. Someone who was in love with Him the way I was so I could share my most intimate thoughts and purest desires and he would understand. A kindred spirit.

My dating life was a revolving door of random guys who met part of my so-called checklist:

Super good-looking and says he is a Christian.
Passionate about politics and goes to church.
Life of the party and is willing to wait until marriage for sex.
Super smart and reads his Bible.

Never really finding my top priority, only variations of it. Lots of cool “Christian” boys, not a lot of real godly men. Under the justification of nobody being perfect, I was left wondering where to compromise. But as I’ve gotten older, there is one thing I’ve learned:

Compromise on everything but my top priority.

Because when you find what matters most, you realize none of the other stuff ever really mattered. You realize the vulnerability and security that follows finding someone whose heart is exactly where your heart is- in Jesus’ hands. These are the ties that bind- these are the ties that last. And there is no explaining it because it supersedes any type of emotional attachment this world creates.

It fills your spirit.
It allows you to feel safe.
It lights up your soul.
You grow more into who you already are.
More into the person you desire to be.

Wait for this.

Because I’ve realized perfect on paper doesn’t even really exist- jobs change, looks fade, families break, and life happens. Nothing is consistent except who people are deep to their core. It doesn’t matter what their family is like. It doesn’t matter their job or how much money they make. It doesn’t matter where they live or what their schedule is like. It doesn’t even matter what their interests are. I had my checklist, but why? There are too many things to keep up with and I certainly can’t account for everything- nor do I want to. That’s not my burden and God didn’t create us to carry that weight. I think sometimes in the process of focusing on our checklists, we may miss out on the only thing that matters.

We are so quick to identify and label people based on what they do, rather than who they are. The soul isn’t just part of what I’m looking for- it is everything I’m looking for. When you find what matters most, that’s a love worth pursuing. A love worth risking for. Because Christ’s love is life giving and when that’s expressed by someone, it trumps all else. You realize it’s their soul that impacts everything you thought you ever wanted. How they will react if they lose their job, what they’ll do if you end up on life support, and how they’ll handle everything life will throw at you over the course of this lifetime.

So throw out that checklist and feed your soul. Only then will you be able to recognize when you’ve finally found what has mattered most all along.

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Love is [NOT] a choice

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“Love is a choice.” This message is preached throughout both the secular and Christian circles, consistently and constantly. It’s promoted as a good thing. Something that shows commitment. Dedication. Value. And I think what we are really wanting is for people to choose to stay committed to what they already made a choice on. It’s an easy line to go to when someone is trying to rationalize lost feelings, the desire to cheat, the desire to leave, the emptiness they may feel inside. While these may be good intentions, focused on making the best of decisions made prior, let’s get the terminology right:

Actions are a choice, but love is not

There will be times when you are annoyed or frustrated and you choose to act lovingly and nice. Other times, you may choose to act hateful or angry. These are the choices we are making. But who we are to the core has already been determined by the choices we made about the type of person we want to be. For Christians, it’s becoming born again and having God’s love fill us. For non-Christians, it’s having whatever god you choose to worship, to lead you. And sometimes that means we are our own gods. But these are the choices we make that impact the love we have to give. Whether it’s real love, self-love, true love, selfish love, or selfless love.

When we experience Christ’s love, His love becomes our default. It can’t go away. It’s not something you turn off or on. It’s who you are because it’s who He is and He is now inside you. This love can be scary, cause pain or hurt, but it’s never a constant choice or burden. While the repercussions of loving may be hard to deal with, love in and of itself is easy. You can’t help but to love, it’s who you are naturally now. Something just changes. It did for me, at least.

True love results in commitment, but commitment doesn’t always equate to true love

I think it’s easy to almost interchange these words. “Marry the one who stays” was a recent blog post I read. Again, I see the intent but something else is missing. Love is more than a commitment, more than a choice. It’s not the will and decisions that are our moral compass, it is our heart- and in turn, it’s our heart that results in actions. Not the other way around. Love is so much more than an act, a commitment, or a choice. It involves these motives deep down. And if we get honest with ourselves, we can see there are a lot of good acts out there rooted in selfish motives. That’s not what I’m looking for.

I’m not looking for a commitment. Commitment may keep a body there but it won’t fill my soul. When I’m weak and need someone strong that’ll have my best interest at the forefront of his mind, a commitment won’t give me peace. I don’t often hear what I desire preached. Not because it’s impossible, I just think it’s rare.

I hear this all the time-
“How did you know he or she was the one?”
“I decided.”
No, I’m not buying it. Because then you can decide they aren’t- or maybe you will decide they are for the rest of your lives. I don’t know. I just believe there is a stronger force there that supersedes our will and decision making abilities. I desire something so much more than a decision. I need something deeper, stronger, something greater than this world has to offer. I don’t want my future husband to choose to love me. Because I don’t think that is true love. I want him to simply love me because he can’t not love me.

My hope is that you’ll search your heart. You’ll seek love, true love with pure motives, from the source that is love. So you can see for yourself how love is so much more beautiful than a choice.

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