It’s Time to Act Like a Bride.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Tomorrow I begin (what I’ve decided is) my late twenties. Which is terrifying.

I never thought I would be where I am at this age. I never thought I’d be childless, single, working outside of the music industry. I just couldn’t have imagined it. In fact, if you hear weeping today it’s probably my 21 year old self. But what I’ve decided is that I would not trade this moment for anything else.

Because this year, especially the last 10 weeks, have made me into a better version of myself. A version that loves Papa more and trusts His heart and is settled.

This summer, one of the things the (ex) Boyfriend and I talked about was plans for my birthday. I was so excited, even then, to think about celebrating with him. For the first time in many years I couldn’t wait for my birthday. He let on that he had already been thinking about it and preparing for it. So as I’ve moved further away from that awful terrible day, I find my days are so much easier. Except when I bump into things we had planned. Like my birthday. Thankfully, there are only two other things we had planned other than this week. So even those begin to wrap up.

I’ve been aware of the space in my heart and waiting to see if sadness creeps in. But so far my heart continues to look forward with hope. And on that note, I want to share something with you all about my thoughts on future dating.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I have lots of thoughts on the notion of pursuit. Is it okay for a woman to pursue, why aren’t men pursuing, if he doesn’t pursue me but says he likes me is this a relationship… etc.

Pursuit is a tricky thing.

I think there is a fine line between letting a man pursue you and letting a man know you’re interested. And now I know there are even more rules for pursuit when you’re in a relationship. I think the majority of pursuit belongs to the man; but in relationships we women need to do our fair share of pursuing as well. It just looks very different.

That was one of my favorite things about the speed at getting into a relationship with The (ex) Boyfriend. He pursued me well and quickly and made it clear he wanted to date me and only me. I then felt safe to pursue him back. But he did the chasing in the beginning.

He did the texting and the calling and the date-planning. Eventually we settled into a rhythm and I began to pursue his heart as well. I wanted to know his favorite color and his hopes and dreams. I started to plan occasional dates and be the first to text. He still led, mostly because he’s a strong man who thrives in leading, but I felt like I got to come alongside of him and make it more of a partnership.

I understood what we were doing and I was happy to learn this new role. A role I had never gotten to play before. When we broke up I remember sobbing at the thought of starting the dating process all over again. Because the truth is that I’m fantastic at pursuing but terrible at being pursued. I like everything out on the table, knowing what I’m getting in to, not letting there be any room to wonder or assume. Which absolutely could be a control issue. I’ll own that.

But it makes me feel safe.

Being pursued is scary and not something I get to control and risky.

So you know what my counselor said when I told her I was excited to open my heart up to love again but had overwhelming anxiety at getting to know people and waiting to see if they picked me?

She said, “Hey. Guess what. It’s time to start acting like a Bride. It’s time to let HIM run down the aisle to YOU. Let his heart be so overcome and so drawn to Christ in you that He chases you down. Stop trying to prove to a man that you’re worthy of love. He needs to prove some things to you now.”

And guys, she’s 100% right.

Sometimes I forget that I am the beloved. I am precious. I am seen. I am known. I am loved beyond my wildest dreams. I am worthy of pursuit.

Now hear me out, there is a fine line, ladies, between knowing our worth and acting entitled. Being confident of these things does not allow us to walk around like we are God’s gift to men. But it does allow us to trust that Papa desires earthly pursuit for us the way He pursues us.

Sure, I have different fears now that I did before. I have a few more battle wounds and a couple of scars. But I also have a confidence in what I want and who I am. The thought of falling in love again doesn’t scare me. The waiting scares me. The potential rejection scares me. The starting over scares me. But once again my counselor reminded me that I am not who I was the last time I did this. Now I have the tools to face fear and anxiety and uncertainty.

And I also know what it feels like to be pursued.

And that makes it more than worth it. Because it’s a beautiful thing.

My prayer lately has been that a man would be so focused on Papa and hearing His voice that my name is whispered into his heart. I’ve got friends who want to set me up and online dating options and maybe even a friend or two as potential options. But what I want is the Ultimate Matchmaker to softly say my name to someone who wants to build the Kingdom with me and is crazy about Papa. The rest of it, well we can figure all of that out together.

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How to Find Neutral Ground

I woke up in the middle of the night with fire burning my throat. I tried to swallow and felt the old ache of infection making it unbearable. Hours later when I finally crawled out of bed, I just knew.

So I dragged myself to the doctor and after a negative strep test, he figured out I had a double ear infection, sinus infection, and throat infection. One probably caused the other with my throat being the last casualty to the crud ravaging my body.

But you know what? I wasn’t entirely surprised by this. I was actually surprised I didn’t go down sooner. My body reacts to intense amounts of stress by shutting down and you could say this summer has been full of it. Since the break-up I haven’t wanted to be alone much. The silence magnifies the emptiness and my head plays tricks on me. To keep myself from being alone I’ve found ways to fill every evening and every weekend and lots of tiny spaces in between.

Last week I felt my heart wrapping this whole experience up in a little bubble. It was trying to find this ground between love and hate. A neutral territory if you will. It hasn’t known how to do that or where to look. And I must admit that I’m not good at neutral territory. Love and hate and anger and sadness and raw emotion are things I can put words to. I can identify them and process them. But neutrality? Neutrality feels like a betrayal of the past 7 months. Like saying it didn’t matter.

I’ve had alot of time the past 48 hours to be alone. In fact, that’s all I’ve been. Alone. And it was much less scary than I thought it would be. Memories would surface and I wouldn’t block them out with noise or coffee dates or happy hour or dinner or hiking or runs or anything else that might distract me. I let them breathe. I let them come to the surface and exist and then like bubbles in the air, I let them pop.

But here’s where I’ve still been struggling.

As a Believer, I don’t get to hold a grudge. I don’t get to be angry and upset and wounded forever. I don’t get to become a victim or make someone a villain. I don’t get those things because those things are left at the Cross. And if I hang on to those things I tell the Cross it wasn’t enough.

So I know I must forgive, and forgiveness has come only through Strength not my own, but what about the rest of the pieces? What about the memories and the moments and the jokes and the stolen glances and the hopes and dreams? Where do those fit in this messy story I am part of?

The truth is —  breaking up is hard.

There’s another person out there who is the only other person who shared life with me. He’s the only one who was with me when we got stranded in a parking garage or let me vent on the phone about my terrible day. He’s the one who danced with me in the kitchen after refusing to let me throw myself the pity party of the year. He’s the one who stroked my hair as we watched fireworks light up the sky and the one who made me laugh with his stories of growing up antics.

He’s that person.

But he’s also the person who shattered my heart and left the pieces on my bedroom floor as he walked out of my life. He’s the one who caused unspeakable pain and enormous amounts of tears. He’s this person who came into my life and painted it different colors only to decide he wasn’t a fan of painting anymore.

So I swing back and forth between love and hate. I’ve been desperately trying to find the place in the middle. The place where he is someone who left an impact and made me happy. The place where I can maybe tell a funny story about him or us without the fear of longing creeping back into my spirit. The place where I can untangle myself from the life I wrapped around my heart.

The place where I breathe and laugh and smile and hope.

That’s the place I’m trying to find.

I’m no good at breaking-up. I hope I never become good at it. But what I do hope I become good at is looking back through a filter of grace. I hope I become good at choosing to see the moments I needed and the way Papa changed my life and the woman I am today because of it all.

So a double ear infection, sinus infection, and throat infection made me finally face my fears. They made me learn to be alone with my thoughts and my memories and they forced me to find neutral ground. They forced me to brush off the dirt, stand back up, and start over again.

They forced me to look forward with hope and vulnerability and love.

And maybe that’s why my body needed to shut down, so my heart had the capacity to let go. And letting go feels really really good. Even if my throat aches and my ears throb and my nose is stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey. I feel more like myself again. I feel like the better version of who I am and who I was made to be.

 

The Red Dress That Made Me Believe in Love

It was the very last day in February and it was warm. Unusually warm.

During my lunch I ran up to the outdoor mall to scope out a rumor I’d heard about a shirt on sale at a store I rarely shopped in. Sure enough, the shirt was exactly what I wanted, half off the sale price making it affordable. Hoping to keep my shopping luck alive I scanned some dresses.

And then I saw it. A red dress. About 1/4th of the original price. I picked it up and glanced at the size. A size 6. Way smaller than anything I had put on my body since approximately the 5th grade. But I stared at it and thought, what the heck.

I stood in the dressing room, with the dress zipped and twirled around.

It fit.

To be sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, I took a picture to text to my friends, giggling the entire time. My jeans wrapped around my ankles, pale winter legs, a large pink bandage from my day before skin surgery, and messy hair thrown into a ponytail all put inside a tiny red dress.

its a 6 i texted  and $20. 

The responses I got were crazy jealous and encouraging. So I bought the dress.

I stepped outside the store and headed back to the car. I remember the feeling of the sunshine on my face so vividly its like I could be there now. I remember the moment because that was the day after I had met him. I remember hoping for future nights of dancing and date nights and conversations and laughter and dreams when I was wearing that little red dress. I remember hoping for love.

I kept that dress in my closet for months waiting for the right occasion to bring it out. I never found the perfect night to wear it. So it stayed on the hanger, tucked in between practical and glamorous. Waiting to be worn but never screaming at me to choose it.

The other day my eyes wandered to that dress. I pulled it out and scrutinized from top to bottom. Wondering what to do. Usually in the morning I’m rushing and grabbing and pulling and hopping on one leg and searching for a missing shoe so I pay little attention to what is in my closet. But because I had never worn it, I didn’t have any real memories to tie it to. It was a dress I put hopes and dreams into but in the end the reality turned out very different. But that dress never entered reality.

The tags still hanging off the side, I pulled it back over my frame, this time without the bandage or jeans around my ankles but still with a messy ponytail. I walked into the hallway to assess if it was worth keeping and in the background I heard a love song come on my iTunes.

Typically this would result in a frantic rush to change the song and blast angry Taylor Swift lyrics but this time I let it play out listening to the words with different ears. Ears that had heard whispers of love and whispers of heartbreak. I heard the ache and the longing. I heard the risk and the fear. I heard that love was worth it.

After a bit, I slowly unzipped the dress, hung it up in my closet, and climbed back into my familiar clothes. The clothes that have carried me through the last 7 months. The clothes that have soaked up tears and echoed with laughter. The clothes that have felt the distance of loneliness and the warmth of being held. The clothes that have made the long journey with me.

But something in me shifted when I put that dress back on.

I started to listen to love songs again.

I started to hope for dancing and laughter and dates and dreams.

I started to believe in love again.

All because I put on a red dress.

Why Getting Dumped Made Me Climb Mountains

Moving forward has felt, at times, unbearable.

There have been days and nights I’ve curled up in bed and cried out for the life I had planned and dreamed of and hoped for. I lay with my head on the pillow as the tears course down my face matting my hair into tangles. I replay the good moments, the bad moments, the in-between moments looking for clues and answers and maybe a chance to re-do. I beg my heart to tell me he loved me, that this wasn’t all for nothing.

But then morning comes. I stare at my reflection in the mirror finding traces of the girl I was and the woman I’ve become. I wipe away the sorrow and take a deep breath. These moments where I’m afraid I can’t breathe become less and less with each passing day. They still exist and they might for awhile, but it doesn’t make me afraid. It doesn’t make me want the life I had. It only makes me know that my heart is mending and healing and it works. It longs to love again. It doesn’t want him, it wants what it was able to do when I was with him, what it was created to do — to love.

At first I couldn’t imagine getting through days and nights without him. It felt impossible, insurmountable, inconceivable. Like climbing a mountain. A mountain I had failed to climb before and no desire to try. But the beauty of time is that it gives you clarity. The days become a little less fuzzy and the pain slightly less all-consuming. You laugh again and make plans again. You turn a face of hope towards the rising sun instead of wishing for the night.

And then one day you wake up and find you’ve climbed the mountain.  The one that seemed so daunting and unattainable. You don’t know it but every time you laughed and dreamed and hoped and planned, you took a step up the mountain. If you had looked down at how far you could fall or how high you had yet to climb it would have deterred you, made you turn around and give up. But by Papa’s goodness, He kept your eyes fixed on the trail, looking for little markers to keep you certain of your path. Reminding you that yes, this is terrible and you can’t breath and sometimes it takes awhile to find the next marker but inevitably you see it and climb towards it.

So when I woke up and realized I had climbed the mountain I knew it was time to take on a few more mountains. This time I was choosing to climb them. And this time I was climbing them for me. Because I needed to be strong. Because that’s what you are when you stand at the top of a mountain with your legs burning and your face chapped by the wind and your lungs gasping for air. You. are. strong.

Right after my first summit.

Right after my first summit.

Last week I decided I needed to climb 10 mountains before the end of the year. I decided to share the mountains with you all because you helped me climb the first one. You might have to help me climb these ones but I’m willing to let you. I’m hoping you’ll let me help you climb mountains too.

Here they are:

10) This one is sort of a secret because you might be the recipient. But let’s just say it involves me learning not to be selfish with things the Lord has given me.

9) Run a 5k or a 10k. (Tentatively planned for Thanksgiving Day. Want to join? Let me know!)

8) Cook at home four times a week.

7) Set up an account for voiceover websites. Many of you know I do voiceover work for churches and nonprofits. I’ve had several people tell me I need to put together a demo reel and put it up online. So I’ve decided to do it. Eek.

6) Blog more consistently. I know I know. I make this promise often. And I’ll keep making it until I don’t have to make it anymore.

5) Date. I don’t know if that means a new relationship or just going on dates, but I can’t let myself be afraid of love. Because Love is Worth It. So, know any nice men that want to go on a date? ;)

4) Finish my book proposal.

3) Get back on the Low Carb train. If you need more info on why I do that, read this.

2) Discipline my finances. I won’t go into much detail on this but my goal in the year is to have a certain amount in savings and a certain amount paid towards debt.

1) Summit a fourteener. You may recall I attempted one last year and tore my knee in the process. This year, with a little help from a knee brace and three friends, I climbed a mountain and let my feet dangle off the edge of the world. If you want to read more about our adventure check out my friend Jackie’s blog. We’ve known each other since FIRST grade! Whoa right?

See that arrow? That is where the car is parked. Where we started and ended.

See that arrow? That is where the car is parked. Where we started and ended.

These are the mountains Papa has set before me. Mountains I need to climb. I thought I would climb some of those mountains with him but on Saturday Papa showed me I needed to climb them on my own. Because I am strong. He has made me strong.

If you’re interested in climbing mountains with me until the end of the year use the hashtag #climbingmountains on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I’ll be blogging, picture-ing, and tweeting when I climb mountains and I would love to be part of yours.

 

So what do you say? Want to Climb Mountains with me?