Things I wish I had been told about dating

I’m about two months in to this adventure of dating — of being called someone’s “girlfriend,” a title I’ve never had before, of learning how to put someone’s needs ahead of my own, of checking with someone else’s schedule and plans, of learning how to communicate  – and I’ve found myself repeatedly asking married friends or friends who are further down the road than I am if certain things are normal.

Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention or maybe I didn’t want to hear what people had to say but I feel like very few people talk about the hard parts of being in a relationship. I’ve heard repeatedly about how hard marriage is, choosing to love someone every single day, whether you feel like it or not. But I didn’t expect that in dating.

I’ll go ahead and disclaimer this now, I am by no means complaining and I would choose this type of hard, fighting for a relationship, over the hard of being alone any day

Here are the 5 things I wish someone had told me about dating:

1) It will be hard. 

As someone who is chasing hard after Christ and in my later twenties, I have no desire to date casually without purpose. When the Boyfriend and I started dating we had several conversations about our intentions in relationships and what we believed the purpose of marriage to be. Because we’ve both walked many aspects of life, we know who we are individually and that has been foundational to our relationship. I know who I am in Christ which means I don’t have to figure that out while I’m learning who this other person is. Granted, he shows me new things (good and bad) about myself all the time but at the end of the day, I am at rest in who I am in Christ.

But that also means I’ve established personality traits and expectations and ideas about how things should be that he has no idea about. And because they’re “duh” moments for me, I forget to communicate them to him. And folks guess what, He Can’t Read My Mind!… I mean. what? I just thought he’d be able to! So when there is miscommunication or confusion we have to choose to talk it out and learn what each other’s expectations are. It isn’t always fun. But it’s always worth it.

2) Vulnerability means talking about your feelings.

Okay, this one was a shocker to me. I know this may seem a little absurd coming from me, the girl who feels like she’s got vulnerability nailed down, but I have learned that my original ideas of vulnerability are only half right. I had unknowingly defined vulnerability as sharing my story, my heart, my wounds, my life with someone. But I think I’ve assumed those things to be past tense. Because with the Boyfriend I’ve had to learn how to share my current feelings, which sometimes mean apologizing for things I’ve done wrong, or telling him when I feel needy or crazy and trusting him when he says he wants to work through those things with me.

Truly letting him see the rawness of who I am is scary. It’s scary in a completely different way from letting community see all of who I am. This man holds parts of my heart that a community doesn’t. The stakes are higher, the potential pain is greater, and yet the reward is unmatched.

3) It will change you … and that’s okay.

I’ve learned things about the way I react to situations, insecurities, and fear that I never expected I would. It’s made me run faster towards Jesus and examine traits about myself that I’m not sure I like. There’s so much talk in society about liking who we are and being with someone who accepts us completely. I like that in theory, but I also believe it’s okay to change parts of who we are to better serve someone else. For example, I am emotional and quick to react to things with my heart rather than my head. (another shocker, right?) I’ve always just assumed this is part of who I am and that’s the end of the story. Yes. I am emotional and that is one of my greatest strengths because it’s where my joy and passion and love and loyalty come from. BUT I also can learn to keep my emotions in check. To wrangle them and not let them decide the reality of my situation. And this doesn’t make me any less of who I am.

4) Sometimes you need to sort out your feelings alone and get over it. 

Sometimes you need to sit in your car and be grumpy and realize that whatever happened in the situation is a result of your expectations, your ideas, your plans, and your issues. Not his/hers. And sometimes the best way to love the other person is to spend ten minutes deciding that you’re going to get over it. You don’t need to talk about it. You don’t need to work through it. You need to acknowledge to yourself that you’re frustrated. Try to figure out what things are actually the triggers and at some point, if it benefits the relationship, bring the triggers up and talk through those things. Is he always late and it makes you furious? Does it feel like she’s criticizing you when she questions a decision? Sort through those emotions and figure out the real thing behind them. But sometimes, you just have to get over it.

5) Romance will surprise you.

I always assumed I would be one of those girls who would feel romanced by gestures and words and unexpected flowers and kisses in the rain. And yes, those things are wonderful. And the Boyfriend goes above and beyond in how he romances me. But one of the most unexpected things I’m learning as I learn to be in someone’s life is that the greatest romance of all is the way he pursues my heart.

You see, I thought I would need grand gestures and movie moments but I never could have known that a steady stable pursuit of my heart would feel like the greatest romance of all.

Because when he says he’s in, I believe him.
When he won’t let me off the phone after I’ve had a crummy day, I feel safe to fall apart.
When he puts my favorite fancy water in his fridge, I realize he thought about me in a small moment of his day.
When he prays for our relationship and that we would first and foremost pursue Jesus, I know I can follow him.
When he tells me he will do everything in his power to keep my heart safe, I want him to know all of it.

I guess I always thought that passion and romance had to come at the expense of stability and steadiness. But he has taught me the exact opposite.

 

This journey is unexpected and hard and beautiful and worth it. I am so grateful to get to experience this type of relationship and be with someone who wants to experience it with me.

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How I lost and found myself

It’s been…. awhile… since I posted.

Sometimes that happens because life is too much to bear. It is confusing and painful and stressful and disappointing. Sometimes that happens because life is busy. But sometimes it happens because life has been too good. And I’m afraid to write the words because I think I might wake up from a dream.

It’s been a year since I moved back to Colorado. Again. This time choosing to come back to my home, my family, my community, my mountains. I knew I was coming to a familiar place, one where I was loved and known and seen. One where I was safe.

This past year has been full of the highest highs and lowest lows.

There were weddings, babies, new jobs, exciting blog moments, love letters, and long unanswered health concerns finally made clear.
But there was also death, loss, sorrow, heartbreak, and disappointment.

I wrestled through promises and hope and anger and confusion. I shook my fist and swore at God out of my utter desperation. I’ve been a mess. I’ve been re-learning who I am in Christ and that my beauty doesn’t define me. I’ve pushed people away, begged for them to stay, and uttered final farewells. It’s been… a roller coaster to say the least.

It all came to a breaking point in the middle of February. I had a day where I literally thought I cannot do this anymore. I can’t celebrate another friend. I can’t pick myself up from being kicked. I can’t love anyone else. I cannot do it. 

It was a dark few days. Filled with anger and tantrums and frustration and tears. I wept in the middle of the night on my floor. I cried out into my pillow as the emotional pain made my bones feel like they were breaking. I tried to fake the smiles and coffee dates and dinners. I tried to force myself to choose joy and be happy. But I found that choosing joy didn’t always mean being happy. One can be found without the other. I tried to understand how to worship Jesus in my anger and confusion. I looked to the Psalms for guidance but I also looked away. I must confess I threw my bible across the room more than once and wrote angry words in my journal. A mixture of tears and raw words littering the pages.

I didn’t want to be around myself much less let anyone else be around me.

I had stuffed sadness and disappointment and hurt for too long and not dealt with the things that happened to me. The wrongs committed. The words said. The promises broken. I dismissed them and moved on and ignored the pain pulsing in my heart. Until one day it exploded.

And thankfully I had booked a trip to get out of town to be near family and sunshine. My wonderful cousins took me in and let me sleep 12+ hours a night. They let me talk or be silent. They let me eat queso and drink wine. They loved my heart and soul. They took the load off my shoulders for a few days so I could catch my breath. They validated my hurt. They told me it sucked and they were sorry and they didn’t understand why it happened the way it did.

So when I got on the plane to come back to reality, my shoulders felt a little less tense, the exhaustion a little less consuming, and the anger not quite as present. I felt the fog lift a little from my shattered heart. I saw flashes of the girl I am in the mirror. The light coming back into my eyes. The dimples starting to come forth to erase the frown lines.

I had accepted that if I was walking forward, claiming promises in the two most precious parts of my heart, I needed to expect the attack. That I shouldn’t have been surprised this was happening but that I wasn’t about to let my heart be stolen or killed by anything that didn’t deserve it. I decided that battle wounds were worth the victory of the war and I could keep fighting. I had to keep fighting.

And in the middle of all of this something unexpected happened.

A man showed up in my life who I never could have expected. Someone who pursued me better than I had ever been pursued. Who thought my quirks were fun and charming. Who thought I was beautiful and funny. Who loved the Lord more than anything else in the world. Who challenged me spiritually and emotionally. Who didn’t run away when I got a little bit crazy and tried to push him away. Who saw my gluten-free, low carb, high protein diet as an adventure and not a burden. Who told me I wasn’t too much. Who didn’t want me to save him or complete him or make him whole but wanted me to make him better, sharper, kinder.

And I instantly became smitten.

We never know what the future holds and I don’t know what my future is with this man but I do know that regardless of how long he’s in my life, he was a respite for this season. He was something given to me to know the love of Jesus in a different way. A drink of water, a crack of sunlight, a deep breath. He has been all of those things to me. A little bit of strength to fight for Papa’s best in my life.

So it’s been a year. A crazy wild emotional year. I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually not the girl I was last March. And for all the hurt and sorrow and loss I wouldn’t change the beauty of the refinement I’m going through.

 

Jonathan Charles Mueller

Almost twenty-three years ago, my mom brought home a blonde, blueish / greenish eyed baby for me to play with. I’m not sure why but we had nicknamed him “Blue Blue” from the start. I think maybe we thought his favorite color would be blue? Either way, the nickname didn’t last long. Because Mike was born barely a year after I was, I have no memories of him coming home or adjusting to life with a baby brother. But Jon? Jon I absolutely do. Even though I wasn’t quite 5, I remember feeling like a big sister to that tiny little boy. There are numerous pictures of me grinning ear to ear as I carefully cradle my baby brother.

Jon was a feisty little kid. He was loud. He liked to play games and tell stories. He always wanted to do whatever Mike and I were doing, much to our dismay. He loved sports and facts and most family dinners would consist of Jon telling our dad “Dad! Ask me about sports!” He would then know the answer the every obscure question my dad could throw at him.

He had this shock of white blonde hair and these beautiful eyes. Here he is at about two or three. There has never been doubt that we’re related. photo

He was full of so much life and fight and love. I don’t think any of us knew how much he would need those three things when he got older.

Because there are three of us kids, it’s always been a bit weird in division of siblings. Mike and I are really close in age and stage of life but Mike and Jon share similar interests. Jon was about 10 when we moved to Colorado and started in the public school system in elementary school. Different than both Mike and I had experienced. But Jon was likable and made friends wherever he went. He played all sorts of sports and we joked that he had real potential as a football player due to his barrel chest. He excelled at school, taking honors classes and starting his freshman year in a math class higher than the one I took when I graduated.

But things in our family got tough when Jon was a freshman. I was gone off to Nashville, starting my second year in college, Mike began his senior year in high school, one of the most popular and well liked kids, my dad was in the throes of keeping his company going, and my mom was helping care for her ailing father. Our grandpa took a devastating turn for the worse in the spring of 2006. After a successful surgery that made him well, he developed complications that left him in a coma without hope of recovery. It was earth-shattering for us, none more than our mom who was incredibly close to her father. So while these things were going on and my mom was back and forth to Arizona and Mike was getting ready for college and I was away, Jon got lost in the shuffle.

Right after our grandpa passed away, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. Our dad had gone to Arizona and I was home with Mike and Jon. Jon and I got into a fight one night because I couldn’t drive him somewhere so he ended up just leaving. I found out later that night was a trigger for his attempted suicides. Jon was young, only 14, and we all assumed his mood swings were typical for a teenager. But slowly it became more evident they weren’t.

After a series of circumstances, we found out that Jon had tried to kill himself and he was lost in an epic battle of depression. My broken hurting family shattered that summer and fall. Jon stopped eating, his anxiety got out of control, he couldn’t be alone, he was paranoid. He was spiraling out of control and we had no idea how to help him. That year I saw my parents stand up against the monster that is mental illness and refuse to surrender. They fought long and hard and with every last ounce of strength and then some.

The fall of Jon’s sophomore year there was an incident that resulted in my parents withdrawing him from our public high school. An incident that made me so mad I was about to fly myself home and kick some serious ass. But my parents decided to homeschool Jon and give him a chance to catch his breath and get well. We saw some people in the community pull away from our family and spread ridiculous gossip, and we saw other people in the community rally in front of our wounded family and protect us, protect Jon.

Slowly but surely Jon got better. One year later, he returned to the very school that had shunned him. One year after that the very school created a spirit award and named him the first recipient of it. To this day he’s remembered long after Mike and I ever have been by that community.

But what I’m most proud of? The reason why I’m writing this post? It’s because of the heart transformation Jesus did in him and the influence that has had on hundreds of lives.

Jon started getting involved with Wyldlife — the middle school branch of an organization called Young Life that we’re all part of — and he started mentoring junior high kids. Yes, he actually CHOSE to spend time with middle schoolers. As he got better he started realizing the power his story has. A story of darkness, despair, desperation all being triumphed by light, hope, grace, love. And because he’s the bravest person I know, he started to tell his story. Little by little, one by one, students who felt like they had no other option than to end their life, heard Jon’s story and chose to fight like he has.

When he went off to college he continued to work with Wyldlife. Giving his summers, after-school time, probably some study time, and everything else he had to the community in Boise. He went on student staff while finishing his degree and felt a very strong calling on his life to continue to work with middle school students.

We went to Idaho for his college graduation in December. I met dozens of people who know and love Jon. Over and over I heard them speak of the impact he had on their kids, their lives, their family, their walk with Christ and I was blown away by the force my baby brother is for the Kingdom. When I saw Jon walk across to get his diploma, I started crying. I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness and His faithfulness and how close we were to never having that moment. By God’s grace our family of 5 stayed a family of 5.

So, why am I posting all of this? Aside from the fact that I’ve always been insanely proud of BOTH my brothers, I decided to give Jon a little spotlight. When he graduated, he went to full time ministry with Young Life. This means he raises his own salary so he can hang out with and disciple middle school students. Like my little brother chooses to spend the majority of his week loving on the kids we all avoid. His area is doing a competition to get new donors and if they win they’ll get money for camp scholarships. Young Life spends the entire semester building up to camp so kids can have the best week of their life and meet Jesus while doing it. Donating to Jon is 100% tax deductible. If you’d like to donate to him, please shoot me an email Rachel.L.Mueller(at)gmail(dot)com and I’ll give you instructions on how to give.

 

And to Jon, this letter is to let you know how much I respect, admire, and love you. You are the bravest person I know. You are giving, gracious, humble, funny, talented, wise beyond your years, intuitive, caring, strong, and capable. I am so lucky to call you friend and family. I am so lucky to be your big sister, even if you outweigh and outheight me. You inspire me to love Jesus more. You challenge me to love sacrificially. You make me laugh. You bring so much joy to those around you. I couldn’t be more proud of you. I love you Little!

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Stop Telling Me What I Deserve.

Last summer I wrote a gentle letter to my community trying to offer words that can describe the pain of being single while the rest of your community moves on without you.  I was honest and vulnerable about the reality of how hard single life can be. I’ve also written about how demeaning it is when married people go on about their spouse not being their soulmate. 

Today I need to address another aspect of singleness. Bloggers, books, conferences, and how-to’s.

I stumbled across a blog and book by a young married couple telling me that real men don’t text. After reading numerous posts and excerpts from the book I started getting really angry. Because you know what? Their conversation only contributed to the shame culture that already exists around being a single Christian past 25.

The most infuriating thing about all of this is that these young married couples (in general) are deciding they are the experts on dating, relationships, and how to find your spouse. Why? Because they somehow “got it right?” Because they ended their singleness early on? Because they did things the way God intends?

So they go on and on about how a real man will pick up the phone and call. That I deserve a man who has his future figured out to some extent. That he isn’t really interested if he isn’t being intentional. That I need to wait to be pursued. That I shouldn’t been too much or too little. That it’s okay or not okay to ask where things are going. On and on and on.

Here’s the honest truth:

I don’t mind being asked out on a date via text message. I feel no less valuable or worthy of pursuit or special if he asks me to go out the next day or two days later. It doesn’t mean I’m always available but it doesn’t bother me if he does that! I actually feel LESS anxious if a man asks me out via text or email or whatever than on the phone or in person. I don’t like to talk on the phone. The chances I’ll answer your call or listen to your voicemail are slim. So by all means, text away.

I understand that these books and bloggers and conferences and every other freaking resource for single people are seeing a trend in culture that trust me, as a single woman, I ABSOLUTELY know exists. I appreciate that you’re speaking up and saying there’s a problem. But you know what you’re actually doing? You’re telling me I deserve something that doesn’t currently exist and telling me to wait for it until it comes.

You’re telling me to wait for your version of a fairy-tale.

But then if I find a guy who does text to ask me out or doesn’t pursue me as well as everyone thinks that somehow I’m settling for less than what I deserve. If I was a man, I wouldn’t come near the type of entitled women you’re telling us to be. I know my worth and value lie in the Lord. If I truly believe those things, I’m NOT going to accept a man who makes me feel less than that by his words or actions.

But YOU don’t get to tell me what the standard should be.

You aren’t lying in an empty bed. You aren’t alone at your grandpa’s funeral. You aren’t sitting next to an empty chair at Christmas. You aren’t constantly ignoring the ache of being alone. You aren’t wondering if you’ll ever even get the chance to be in a place in your life if you can have kids… because kids typically require a spouse. You aren’t navigating tough decisions on your own. You aren’t and you probably haven’t had to… at least for very long.

I still am.
We still are.

So you know you CAN speak to me about singleness? SINGLE PEOPLE. Or married people who lived through those many years of loneliness wondering if and not when a spouse may come. The people who sit or sat through family gatherings year after year watching more cousins and siblings find a life partner. The people who wrestle with desperately crying out to the Lord not to be left alone in this journey but if they are that He would be nearest of all to them in their alone-ness.

Those are the people that can tell me what I do and don’t deserve.