Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Beauty and the Bible

1 Peter 3: 3-4:

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

Easy enough, eh? I've been thinking about this a lot lately, namely because I seem to have let myself go. Not like, sweatpants and no make-up and showering once a week, but comparatively so. 

Remember Vandy? (Most of you probably don't.) Vandy is an epicenter of fashion, and even looking decent requires at least a well-pressed sundress and a cute headband. Looking cute would require adding a matching skinny belt and some nice expensive sandals to the mix. I totally bought into the whole thing, while trying to not buy into expensive things. It was fun getting "dressed up" for no reason, and given that the weather is pretty mild year-round, I could wear my cute, flowy things all year with some black leggings and strategic layering. Maybe I did it because of peer pressure, maybe I was trying to look cute to attract guys, or maybe I just wanted to fit in--- regardless, I looked cute and felt really good about the way I looked.

Cut to May 31, 2011. A year of teaching first grade has beat the cuteness out of my wardrobe. No sense in wearing anything nice when you're just going to get covered in play-doh and snot. And with T busy and no real friends or social life, I no longer had any occasion to get dressed up. And I didn't really think this was a problem, as I was always kind of slob before Vandy and my beauty was on the inside anyway.

And then I realized this: When I look like a slob, dressed in the same ill-fitting clothes I've had since high school, I feel like a slob and a high schooler. And this does not, at all, help me to ease the transition into adulthood, feel motivated to find a better job, or even leave the house.

I'm almost 25! I should have real clothes!!! So, I bit the bullet and decided to go shopping. And you know what? I feel good about it. I feel good about having dress pants that actually fit well. I feel good about not wearing TOMS everyday (even though I do love them). I feel good about owning some basic staples that were not under $10 from an Old Navy sale.

And in thinking about the verse above, at first I felt kind of guilty about spending money and time and thought on making myself look better. But then I realized that in a different way, if I do more good, am more outgoing, feel more confident, dress more conservatively, etc, with an updated wardrobe, than maybe I am simply appreciating and honoring the gift God has given me of this life and this body.

Maybe that seems far-fetched, but I have just really been realizing lately how much the way I feel is tied to the level of effort I put into honoring God through honoring myself. I feel better when I do yoga, I feel better when I eat well, I feel better when I am well rested, and yes, I feel better when I am dressed like the person I hope to become rather than the person I was 2 to 7 years ago. And when I feel better, I can dedicate more thought and time to becoming the gentle and quiet spirit that the Lord wants me to be.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Some thoughts on Service

This will probably be short and likely scatter-brained as it's been a long day and my alarm clock is ringing in a few short hours. See, tomorrow I'm going to Alabama to do some disaster relief work in one of the many areas that are still reeling from the tornados that passed through exactly a month ago. I'm really excited about going... even though it means being outside in the 90 degree weather, sweating (although, let's be honest, not as much as I sweated at hot yoga this past Tuesday ha!), and probably lifting big branches and other heavy things all day. I've really felt a big pull towards service recently, and I guess I'm just excited to move in the direction that the pull is taking me!

W and I both have always had somewhat of a desire to serve people (W more than me, honestly), which is why we both spent a year-ish teaching inner-city kids, and which is also why we're both looking at careers in non-profits aimed at helping various populations in need. I don't think either of us really think about it that much... it's just kind of how things are to help us feel useful and sleep well at night. That said, I feel like God has laid on my heart recently the desire to bump it up a notch in terms of service. This is probably partway because it seems like all any of us see day in and day out is the massive need all around us. But, I think it's also because of another reason...

Lately, I just feel kind of weird and selfish about how un-attached I am. It feels very strange (and liberating, I guess) that I can just totally do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it, without consulting anyone or having to even care what anyone else thinks about it. It matters to no one else where I put my money, or how late I sleep in on Saturdays, or how many times I do or don't wash my car. It is BIZARRE... granted, I know at a certain level what I do affects others, but I think you know what I mean. While W is trying earnestly to feign love for carrots so that T doesn't feel bad about his new anti-inflammation diet... I am chowing down on Taco Bell, relatively guilt-free. And, while being in a relationship didn't have TOO much extra bearing on any of these things... being 100% unattached still feels markedly different.

This is especially true when more and more of my already married friends are now starting to have kids. Like, real, legitimate, inside-of-wedlock kids. And suddendly it feels like all the married people are like the "real" adults, who have big-time responsibilities and worries, and all of us non-married people are like fake adults who are in this perpetual state of college-y freedom and fun. And on the one hand, I kind of love it (I do feel like I'm having almost as much fun now as I did in college) but on the other hand it, again, makes me just feel weird and almost guilty, like it's not okay to be this unburdened and still be an adult. But what can I do? If I had the choice, I'd be married. I'd take on the responsibilities gladly. And yet, here I find myself.

Which brings me back to service... the only way I can really reconcile these feelings is to dedicate more and more of myself to service to others. If God is keeping me in this unattached stage for a reason, I'm pretty sure it's not solely so that I can selfishly live out my 20s in a young-adult collection of glory days. So, if I don't have the option of giving myself to someone specifically and to little hypothetical children... I might as well make myself useful in the meantime. This is not at all a new thought - pretty much everyone under the sun says that being single is the best time to be useful for Christ... even Paul haha - but just one that I'm experiencing in a new way currently.

I feel super blessed to have an AWESOME community of single friends and peers here who are also passionate about serving. And it's kind of cool because I'm starting to see (and enjoy) how serving really does make you feel like you and all of the others you work alongside are the body of Christ in the world. And that, in and of itself, gives us single people a place of belonging and almost family where we would otherwise potentially be floundering on our own. It's wonderful how perfectly God designs things, right!?

Anyway, just some thoughts. I'm sure when I'm several years older with (God willing) a wonderful husband and a few kids I'll look back at this time fondly... and with unbelief at how easy and carefree it was. So, let me use this time purposefully and joyfully, and appreciate it for the gift that it is.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Remember that last post of mine, by W, where I spent the whole thing talking about how I'm constantly afraid that something is going to happen to T?

Well, something happened.

During a trip to the ER on Sunday, T was diagnosed with a heart condition. Shouldn't be life threatening provided that he follows the doctor's protocol of meds and dietary changes, keeps his immune system up, and goes in for check-ups every now and then.

I've been doing okay, just like I said I would in the last post. And no, when I wrote the last post I did not have any idea that we'd be making a trip to the ER anytime soon. As a way to feel a bit of control during this whole process, I have taken on the role of T's caregiver/nurse/maid...wife?

The last few days seem to have been a period of pseudo-marriage. Because T is both sick and still has a job, and because I am not sick and do not have a job, it has been easy for me to step in and take over the reins in his care. Cue me calling to schedule a cardiologist appointment for am echocardiogram, working to get medical records faxed over from his pediatrician, scouring the web for appropriate dietary items, cleaning his apartment to get rid of germs that may re-infect later, picking up fish oil supplements, having his watch fixed so he can check his pulse 4 times a day, packing lunches so he can take low-sodium, non-processed food to work the next day... is this what wives do??

There is a part of me that is like, "Good grief! You've turned into a 1950's doormat of a woman! You're packing a brown-bag lunch for a fully grown man!" Another part of me feels proud that in these ways, I am doing my best to keep him healthy and working. Another part of me feels like I have nothing better to do anyway, and since he works ALL THE TIME, its nice to have a few ways to show my love since spending time together isn't an option.

And I feel blessed that since I don't have a job, I CAN do all these things and go with him to his appointment on Friday with my long list of questions that are much more important than T's main inquiry: "When can I drink beer again?"

It's funny how God works. His timing is always perfect, even when it doesn't make sense to us. He knew on Friday, during my last day of work, that T would start having chest pains the following day. He knew that my fear, when I wrote that last blog post, was about to be realized just a few days later and He gave me the strength to show that I will be okay no matter what happens. He has given me a new role and a new way to serve now that my teaching job has ended, and he's given T an available, supportive, almost-wife who can take care of the logistics of where we proceed from here while he's either sleeping or working.

If this is what being a wife is than I'm excited. Not because it's super fun caring for a sick companion, not because my worrying has gotten any less, or because I just love packing lunches, but because it's starting to feel like its me and T, on a journey together, trying to navigate this new road together, laughing and supporting each other to do what each of us needs to do to be our best selves so we can be the best for each other and the best for our Lord.

And that's what we're doing. Feel free to keep T and our relationship and my anxiety in your prayers. The future W household appreciates it!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Renewing the Mind

Well, unlike W, I thought it was easier and less confusing to put "by M" in the title, as opposed to having to open every blog with a sentence about who is doing the writing. Ah well. This is M, by the way. =)

Okay, so I've been doing a lot of mind-renewing lately. A LOT. I'm trying to figure out how to "do singleness" the right way. This is actually a lot of hard work mentally and spiritually because I'm fairly confident that, up until this point, I've only had experience doing singleness the wrong way. At least I know what not to do? Although, knowing what not to do does not necessarily mean that knowing what to do is just the inverse. Like I said, it's been a bit of work, and I anticipate it continuing to be so.

That said, I've really been enjoying the process so far. (Enjoying singleness?! WHAT!?!) It's been exciting to see the ways I'm maturing and growing... and even exciting, in a way, to be knocked over the head with these giant blind spots that I didn't even know I had. It makes me look forward to my next relationship (many months from now) because I can see already how I will go into it much healthier and much more whole. I can only imagine where I'll end up, say, 9 months from now in terms of how I approach the whole business. I'm really excited to see where God takes me and how He changes my heart!

As part of my mindset-shifting exercises, I figured that first it might be beneficial if I lay out the rules and objectives that I've outlined for myself for the dating fast. If I've missed any good ones that you've thought of or practiced, please share them! (p.s. These sound absolutely ridiculous... and they kind of are. But hey, it's easier to stay within boundaries once you've decided what those boundaries are, right?)

1) No dating - dating counts as a series of intentional one-on-one interactions with a member of the opposite sex that would lead to a DTR, or the uncomfortable feeling that a DTR is necessary.
2) Limited touching - For example, an arm grab accompanied by "don't step into the street! There's a truck coming!" is acceptable. An arm brush accompanied by "It was great to meet you!" is... not so much.
3) Limited texting - avoid texting members of the opposite sex for reasons other than logistical questions.
4) Limited facebooking - I will NOT go home and immediately facebook random guys that I meet. I will NOT facebook certain exes more than once-a-month checks to see if they still have facial hair and/or if they've gotten married yet. I will NOT stalk men on facebook if I don't know at least their a) last name, b) place of employment, and c) hometown. I will accept friend requests if I get them, and appropriately respond to communication (see rule about texting).
5) Maturity and honesty - I will be up-front about the dating fast to anyone that may inquire about my availability. I will be as mature and respectful as possible in the event I need to "let someone down"

1) Make and value my friendships - learn to find certain fulfillment in my relationships with friends. Recognize the pros of having friendships with women AND men (abiding by the above rules, of course!). Make new friends, specifically with the objective of finding some non-believers and befriending them, too.
2) Get involved - engage in my city! Try new things... take people up on their offers... learn spontaneity. Busyness = no time to sit and mope about singleness.
3) Love and be loved by God - switch my focus from studying God to knowing God. Live in His abundant love. Let God hold my whole heart.
4) Become a student of men - Observe!! Watch the guys that I interact with... what are the qualities that I find attractive? What are the qualities that I find unattractive? Who around me seems to have the most of each? Why?
5) Live the calling - use this time to further the Kingdom. Learn. Serve. Give. Live fully for Christ in a way that only singles can.

So there you have my rules/objectives! Although I don't anticipate this blog being just a place for semi-weekly updates about how the dating fast is going, I'll probably get back to these now and again to remind myself where I'm going with this. For those of you that I interact with frequently, please hold me accountable!

And now, just a few thoughts on how else I'm shifting my mindset...

1) How I approach marriage and married people. In the past (and let's be honest, in the present too, when I'm not actively trying to avoid it) I would see married people out and about, or at church, or on facebook and think something along the lines of "ughhhhhhh they WOULD be married. They WOULD be so cute and look so happy and be done with dating. They WOULD get to do all the fun things associated with marriage and have a sparkly ring too. LAME!" Okay, so let's just call it like it is and say that those thoughts are fueled by envy. And those thoughts are also fueled by some false beliefs: that now that these women are married their lives are perfect, that God is withholding this grand thing from me just out of meanness, that marriage is the ultimate goal in life, etc. Nothing about those thoughts is true or productive. So, I'm renewing my mind by choosing to think differently when I see cute 20s-ish married couples... "They are married... God loves me just as much as He loves them... God knows how much I want to be married... God is faithful in granting the desires of our hearts... I'll take this and all the other married people I see as a sign that God gives marriage to the great majority of people, and He'll likely give it to me too... just not yet."

2) How I view men. Okay, so I've pretty much never had straight-guy friends before right now. Seriously, like never. In the past, any males that I interacted with generally fell into one of the following six categories: 1) boyfriend. 2) boyfriend's friends. 3) boyfriend stand-in (you know, the one that's not technically the boyfriend but is for all practical purposes because you talk and hang out all the time but say you're just friends) 4) sister's boyfriend. 5) gay friend (I have many and I love them!) 6) potential boyfriend. So yeah, nowhere in that list is just the typical "it's a friend of mine who just happens to be a straight male." And frankly, I've discovered recently that I need a BIG mindset shift to even create a category in my brain for guy friends. Before now, any guy that I randomly met would either be labeled "potential boyfriend" or "non-potential boyfriend" and I would modify my behavior accordingly. Potential boyfriends got the flirty, touchy, facebook treatment that I'm currently trying to avoid, and non-potential boyfriends got totally rejected and ignored. HELLO MONICA... THIS IS NOT OKAY! I'm learning to value men as people just like I value women as people. I'm learning to see their strengths and weaknesses in the context of their humanity and not in the context of a potential husband for myself. I'm learning that in this bizarre way I was kind of objectifying and reducing them in much the same way my feminist heart gets sick about when they do it to us. YIKES! And so, as I mentioned above, I'm just trying to learn how to be around them, enjoy them as friends, and really observe how they act. Even ones that I would ultimately consider "non-potential" likely have some attractive qualities that I can at least note and then look for in others in the future. This probably seems silly or like so 7th grade to many of you reading this, but seriously... its a big change for me.

3) How I view God. I recently had a thought that God has been probably very jealous for my heart for these last several years. Here I am doing all of these things in my faith life - trying to be spiritually mature,and learning, and journaling and whatever... and all this time I've been simultaneously running around trying to frantically give my heart to whatever semi-qualified man I could find who would take it. I feel like God is like "Monica, why can't you give your heart to Me? Why can't I have it? Why don't you love Me as much as you love having earthly love?" Back to the image of Hosea and Gomer... truly. When I think of all of the time and mental/emotional energy that I've spent chasing after dead-end men or relationships... it's staggering. I'm trying to learn to just... stop it. To give my heart to Christ and let Him decide if and when someone else may get it. It's a really big adjustment though.

Those are probably the three biggest issues that I've encountered as of now. I'm not sure I did too great of a job explaining any of them... they all make sense in my head at least! The process of "renewing your mind" is one that takes A LOT of work. It's a process that I've only pretty recently learned; sometimes it's painstaking to systematically and continuously figure out and address those things in your mind that need renewed. I like to think of it like food that starts going bad if it isn't pitched and replaced at the appropriate time. Maybe that's a gross image? True though, the consequences are gross for us if renewing the mind never happens... I go back to Romans 12:2 - "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will." Lord knows my goal is to know God's will when it eventually does come to the question of whether some man is in it or not. As God is faithful, this renewing of my mind will pay off in when that day comes! Amen!

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Different Kind of Fear

It's W this time. I decided it was getting annoying putting "By W" or "By M" in the title so I decided not to. I didn't consult with M about this. She'll probably be mad because she is older than me and likes to be in control of everything, haha.

My thoughts about fear:

Fear is a close friend. Well, rather an "frenemy." You know, one of those things in your life that you know is awful for you, but it's just so dang familiar that you'd rather have it with you for comfort than get rid of it for health? That just sounded like a seriously dangerous thought-- the kind of things alcoholics or strippers might say about their bad life choices. It's also the sort of thing I'd say about eating Taco Bell, though, so don't take it too seriously.

Anyway, fear is with me pretty much always. Mainly, fear of something going terribly wrong. In the last 16 months of my engagement, and for what I am assuming will be a lifetime of marriage and eventually motherhood, this fear has transformed into, "What if something happens to T?"

As M and I have both lamented, it's hard finding the right person. She fears that she'll never find him, or that she'll be (gasp!) 26 when it happens. I have found him, and now I fear that I'll lose him.

M consistently and constructively challenges my fear by reminding me that by indulging this fear, I am putting my hope into something other than Jesus-- my fiance, my future marriage, my own ideas and desires for my future and my future family. And this is true. The fear is based on the idea that I would not be okay if something happened to T. This fear shows that I do not believe that the Lord truly is ALL that I will ever need.

Want to make things more complicated? Factor in my favorite Les Mis quote: "To love another person is to see the face of God." We who believe in the Lord Jesus and believe in his teachings must believe that we love others because he first loved us. Our love is an expression of His, and others' love for us is an expression of His love for us. In this way, I do not just fear losing T-- I fear losing the closest expression of God's love that I have known and felt in the tangible sense.

So, that's where I am with fear. Trying to remember that everything God gives us is an unmerited gift on loan until whenever He decides He wants it back-- whether its money, health, or the people we love most. Just trying to remember that a God who has been so gracious to me can continue to be gracious in ways that I could never anticipate, even knowing that He will, at some point, ask for his gifts back.

And that I will be okay when it happens.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Fear Factor, by M

I started my dating fast (or, as my brilliant friend Rachel put it, my “guy-atus”) in part because my church is in the middle of a series right now called The New Rules of Love, Sex, and Dating. Twice now, my pastor has mentioned that he suggests that some people need to take a year off from romantic relationships. Now, technically he said this to men who are addicted to porn... but let's be honest, I knew he was probably talking to the likes of me as well. The other reason I'm on a dating fast is because I broke up with Mr. Maturity three weeks ago, and, well... now seems about the best time as any to take a dating fast if I'm going to take a dating fast.

But, you see, there's a little problem that I've encountered with making the year-off commitment that my pastor suggested. Actually there are a few problems... one (which I'm honestly still praying over and trying to work out) is that I'm not quite sure that God is calling me to set a deadline for May 2012. I feel strongly that God is calling me to singleness now, and to a singleness fast for... I guess for however long He tells me to. But I don't want to set a deadline for myself that I'm not sure God is actually calling me to… and then try to call it obedience. Part of me thinks that not setting a deadline and forcing myself to actually be in communion with God about when my fast ends is potentially a better way. The other part of me is grappling with the second problem I've encountered... fear.

Let's be honest, part of this equation is that I'm just downright terrified of committing to singleness for an entire year. I know that this sounds absolutely ridiculous to some of you. However, let's remember that the last time I spent a full year single I was 17... living at home, watching The Real World Back to New York and AIMing under the name MMCheergirl. This was a LONG time ago. Moreover, let's also remember that, in a way, I've never spent a year single... ever. There's a reason why non-twins are called "singletons"... I've never been one of those. It's not lost on me that the likely catalyst for my serial monogamy in the last 7 years is that for 6 of them I've been more or less twin-less. Mal and I stopped living in the same city in 2005 and I've mostly been in a relationship ever since. I am scared of being alone because deep down, I fear that I can't be... I don't know how. I was socialized as a pair and I've spent all but three or four months at a time in various pairings ever since I was born. Heck, before I was born... like when Mal and I were actually one being. What's that called? A zygote? That's weird.

Anyway, back to the issue of fear. I mean, I think my fear is justified. It makes sense why I would have such legit terror over the prospect. (Not to mention that my future bro-in-law T just informed me that I'm hitting my peak at 25... who wants to waste almost all of one's peak year in a dating fast?!) However, I've learned something about fear recently, and it's the thing I keep coming back to as I turn this whole issue over and over in my head...

Sometimes, fear is best utilized to propel you forward… not turn you back.

Okay, now before I lose you here... I will admit that sometimes fear is a useful emotion that you should obey. God gave us fear so that we would have the sense to run from large, wild animals and creepy men in alleys (or bars?!) It is fear that keeps me from wearing my 5th grade, velvet gymnastics scrunchie out in public. It is fear that prompts me to eventually get around to checking my tire pressure. In the right context, fear is useful in and of itself.

However, in my faith journey, I've found that sometimes the opposite is true. Sometimes God gives us fear to move us toward that thing that scares us, and not away from it. Quick translation: when you're scared of something, mayyybe it actually means that you should do it. (Newsflash to men with a fear of commitment!) Seriously, though, here's an illustration:

I recently decided to get full-dunk baptized at my church here in Atlanta. It was a decision accompanied by fear. For those of you who don't know, being baptized at my church means recording a 2-minute video testimony, having it shown on two jumbotrons during the service, and then getting dunked (wet hair! No makeup!) one at a time, also on the jumbotron, before approximately 2,500 people. This is not your average file-into-the-water and save your applause until the end kind of deal. There are two to three people baptized at a service... it is A LOT of attention and A LOT of close-ups of your face. So, I found myself scared: what if my testimony sounds lame? I heard there are no cue cards! What if I get a huge zit the day I record it? What if I stumble over my words? OMG no mascara in front of all those people? I swear I will probably choke on the baptism water. Will people think I'm too thin and judge me when the wet clothes stick to me? Hair up or hair down? Etc.

I eventually decided I needed to do it because the fear served the useful purpose of betraying a host of spiritual issues that I needed to address. My fear revealed that I have insecurity, fear of judgment of man, legalism and performance issues, etc. It turned out that my very fear was one of the biggest reasons I decided to go for it. It forced me to put my issues to the test and choose the better way… the way Jesus calls us and the way I know I'm supposed to live as a Christ follower.

1 John 4:18 says that "perfect love drives out fear." To be honest, that never really made sense to me. I mean, I kind of got it, and tried to figure it out using round-about reasoning, but still had an inkling that maybe John was talking about abusive relationships or something. In my mind, fear and love had very little to do with each other. I never experienced much “fear” in my romantic relationships. Certainly the occasional frustration, hurt, and disappointment, but not really fear, per se. Rarely do we speak of them in the same context. Fear and faith, sure. Faith and love? Sure. Fear and love? Hmmm, not so much.

But now I'm starting to get it... I was experiencing fear over my baptism because I was participating in a love that is not Christ's perfect love. I feared letting two thousand people see me without makeup, because when I admit it, I love people's acceptance and sometimes praise about how I look. I feared messing up in my video, because I love keeping up the impression that I'm good at everything and that I never mess up. I feared being baptized in the first place because I love my parents' acceptance and didn't want to possibly hurt them by being baptized again (W and I were both sprinkle-baptized as infants – for the record, mom and dad were totally supportive).

…My fear was born out of the possibility of losing the very things that I unjustly love. Would I fear this (really, would I fear anything?) if I was truly in love with Christ and Him alone? I doubt it. Does wet hair and no mascara matter to the King of Kings? No. Does others' perception of my wet hair and no mascara matter if I'm delighted in by the King of Kings? Definitely not. So, my fear told me in a BIG way that my love is misplaced. The perfect love story that we have with God our Father leaves no room for fear. It is when we take our love other places (hello Hosea and Gomer!) that we open the door for fear to enter. Thus, in this context, fear tells us to stop being Gomer and start getting on board with Christ… Running towards the fear, and not away from it, is the answer.

And so... I'm working out that equation right now in my heart about the dating fast. Is my fear the result of my putting my love in a place other than Christ? I think probably yes. I do know that I love thinking I have control over my own schedule and time-frame. I know that I love the idea of this imaginary future husband I've created in my mind. Does that mean I should accept singleness for the arbitrary number of 360+ days set out by a fellow man? We'll see.

What it definitely means, however, is that I will be using this fear for a purpose - working on figuring out what imperfect love(s) are driving the fear IN and learning to replace it with the Perfect Love that drives the fear OUT. I have an inkling that the process will be fruitful… whether it lasts 6 months, one year, or forever (gulp).

I’ll keep you updated!

How I got here... by W

Well, my story is a little different. I am not on a dating fast... in fact, I'm on the fast track to ending my dating career once and for all when I marry my wonderful fiance in just 53 days! I could not be more excited.

Throughout my last 7 years of dating, I remember my mom making nostalgic sighs about how fun dating is. Yeah right. Being IN a relationship is fun. Finding the right relationship as not. Spending hours wondering how someone feels about you: not fun. Getting your heart broken: not fun. Pretending to like crab cakes so you don't look high maintenance during the prix fixe valentine's day dinners: not fun.

I remember reading a Jennifer Love Hewitt quote when she was engaged saying that when you get engaged, it's like joining a secret society of women under the unspoken mantra, "We did it." And maybe my mom feels like finding a husband was not an epic quest, but in this day and age, sometimes it feels like it.

Take M's list, for example. M is an intelligent, beautiful, loving, compassionate, humorous person. She has seriously dated 5 seemingly smart, motivated, quality guys, who in fact, turned out to NOT be husband material-- at least for her. In our era of the 50% divorce rate, text message cheating, internet porn, and women giving up more-promising-than-ever careers to be the housewife and mother, the stakes are high to find not just a great person, but the right person.

All this to say, I feel incredibly blessed that I have found T. Sparing you all the mushy details, I am grateful to have a fiance that is giving, loving, family-orientated, faithful to the Lord, who challenges me in the right ways and accepts who I am in spite of my quirks and faults.

But, this is supposed to be how I go to this point, so we'll start in high school circa 2004:

"The High School Sweetheart." March 2004-March 2007. I have nothing but fond memories from this relationship. We were each other's first kiss, and we dated for three of the most formative years of my life. While I made the ill-fated mistake of following this boy to the wrong college, which resulted in our break-up as I transfered to the RIGHT college, I have no regrets about the way I learned to love, compromise, and advocate for my own needs and dreams during those years.

"The Airport Dumper." January 2008-June 2008. Oh dear. This one gets his name because, after I spent a week at his house visiting him over the summer, he dumped me in the airport right before I went through security to get home. Cue tears and resentment. Things I learned: don't be with someone who you feel like you're not good enough for, don't be with someone who is still super attached to their ex, don't be with someone who is spending several months in a foreign country and dislikes long-distance relationships.
"The Winner!" Also known as T, also known as my future husband. T was my best friend throughout college-- he was the first one who I called and cried to after the Airport Dumper did his dumping. He was the one who encouraged me to write a 10 must-haves/10 deal-breakers
 list. He dated my sophomore year roomate. We talked about our respective relationship dramas and I felt no pressure to be anything but myself since he was "off-limits." ...Until he took me out for Valentine's Day in 2009 "as friends" and showed more care, concern, and love than anyone else I've ever known, much less dated.

After only 11 months of dating, T popped the question in front of our families and the cast of Dreamgirls on stage at the Cadillac Theater in Chicago. I said yes (duh!) and we've been engaged for nearly 17 months. This year has been incredibly difficult with T working 90-110 hours a week as an IB Analyst, the two of us living in different areas of the city, and me working to overcome my co-dependency issues that result from being a twin, but we are stronger and I am more sure than ever that T was made for me.

So, that's the story, minus the junior Olympian who picked me up on his motorcycle and used a foil-covered trashcan lid to grill hamburgers during our first date. But that's another story for another time.

Monday, May 16, 2011

How I Got Here, by M

I’m on a dating fast. For real. I’m on a dating fast of an undetermined length… not less than 6 months, not more (Lord willing) than a year-ish. I’m on a dating fast until I figure out how to be single the right way… and, really, how to date the right way. I am experiencing a mix of denial and terror about this. But, it really needs to happen, and not just for the sake of staying single to keep up the novelty of this blog. So, how did I reach this decision? Let me try to answer how I got here…

I suppose there are a lot of ways to answer that question. I got here because God appointed me to get here long before any of us ever existed. I got here because mom graciously carried two babies in her womb for 8 longggg (as she loves to remind us) months. I got here, to this blog specifically and writing about love and dating specifically, because I’ve taken a long, winding, and (sometimes) unfortunate path through a variety of relationships that have, well… ended. Some better than others.

To start my story, you should know that I spent the great majority of my adolescent years un-involved and un-attached. That’s a nice way of saying that until I hit 18 no one ever liked me. Now, at the time that was a pretty significant reality that burned some ideas into my head that have been hard to undo. Although, looking back, it’s clear that the issue was not that I was totally undesirable, the issue was that my attitude (what I like to call “the vibe”) made me undesirable. I was too busy, too closed off, too wrapped up in my own agenda to be remotely accessible to anyone. W will attest that this included my own family. ANYWAY, the moral of the story is that W spent high school getting more dates and more interest than I did… and I had my first kiss at 17 on the stage of The Music Man during that LONG musical interlude when Marian the Librarian and the Music Man himself meet a final time on the bridge and spend 90% of the instrumental interlude in full-on makeout. I digress.

Shortly after starting my senior year of high school, I finally got a boyfriend, learned how to be vulnerable, experienced my first real kiss at 18, and officially began the phase of my life that we’ll call “the dating years.” Currently I’m about 7 years in, and I can now confidently say that (for better or worse) I have made up for lost time both in the number of months/years I’ve spent in relationships AND the amount of ridiculous drama and happenings I’ve encountered. Frankly, one of the main catalysts for “how I got here” is that after my most recent breakup, enough people told me that I should write a book that I figured… well, why not at least start with a blog? So here I am. Feel free to come along for the ride…

The Flop (yes, that’s his alter-ego) aka the high school boyfriend. The first kiss. The flop itself (I’ll spare you the details but let’s just say it’s as floppy and sloppy as it sounds). We “expiration dated” until the very day before we left for college. Lesson learned: no expiration dating.

The Rebound. Twin #1. The longest relationship. The most convenient (we lived on the same floor of the dorm for 2/3 of the relationship). I was dumped on family vacation in Hawaii. Lesson learned: No more twins. Twin + twin = codependence.

The Class Clown. Long-distance relationship #1. 100 days apart on two separate continents. He eventually grew to love my dog more than me. We broke up approximately 91 times. Lesson learned: Break up once… and walk away.

The Narcoleptic. Twin #2 (didn’t I vow to say no to twins?). Long distance relationship #2 (didn’t I know how miserable it is?). Broke up with me by phone in the middle of my very serious job-health-life crisis. Did I mention the secret narcolepsy I discovered 4 months in? Lesson learned: No more long distance relationships.

Mr. Maturity. Good job. “Such a nice guy.” Courtship. Respected him until he let a 30 year-old woman move into his ONE BEDROOM apartment... with him. He didn’t understand why it was a problem for me. (Yes, mom, this really happened. I didn’t tell you because it was just too strange and embarrassing). Lesson learned: Non-committal is non-committal, no matter what you call it.

Those are the big ones… with a few other notable but far less significant “in between” guys, including the B-list Canadian rock star and the one we like to call The Hep (yes, Hep as in Hepatitis). Whew!

So yeah... That’s why I’m on a dating fast. I am spent. I am over it. I feel like I have binged on dating and now it’s time to detox. I hope to accomplish a number of objectives during this fast (which I am sure to talk about in much more detail in forthcoming posts) including:

-being better at making and having friends
-getting buff
-learning to enjoy cooking
-building trust and faith in God’s plan and not my own
-loving myself
-finding satisfaction in God’s love for me

We’ll see how it goes. Lord, help me be faithful!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Welcome to Two by Truth!

Hi there! Welcome to our blog!

The concept of this blog is to share perspective on how two 20-something women encounter life, love, and adulthood while abiding by the Spirit. Come along with us as we share our thoughts, ideas, and journeys with you! And now, to introduce ourselves...

M is a single woman living in Atlanta who attends Buckhead Church. She works for a nation-wide non-profit, and lives with two wonderful friends/ believers. She is priviledged to lead a small group of women in Bible study through Buckhead, and these women make up the great majority of her friend group in Atlanta. In her spare time, M enjoys going to see shows, spending time outdoors in Piedmont Park, reading reading reading, and getting pedicures.

W is a soon-to-be-wife living in Chicago who attends Willow Creek's North Shore Campus. She recently quit her job as a first grade teacher, and is counting the days until she is NOT living with two messy women/non-believers. She is currently trying to figure out how and where to find friends in this city. She is privileged to have her fiance T living here as well. In her spare time, W enjoys searching for a new job, cooking, going to Hot Yoga, and watching documentaries on babies and strange medical conditions.

M and W grew up in "the heart of it all"-- Central Ohio. M wants everyone to know that she is older by 5 minutes. W wants everyone to know that she is less high maintenance than M. We grew up with two loving parents, still married after nearly 30 years, and a talented and spunky younger sister who keeps us on our toes. We were raised Catholic, and shared parallel journeys of faith-- coming to Christ and non-demoninational mega-churches in college. M and W attended Miami University and Vanderbilt University, respectively, loved every second of it, and wish they could go back every day.

Please join us as we share our thoughts on topics such as honesty, courtship, boundaries, modesty, job searching, bills, male and female interactions, spirituality, and of course, singleness/dating/engagement/and marriage...and whatever else may pop up as the Spirit leads us. Know that we are NOT experts, we do not have all the answers, and we have been considered, by some, to giggle too much. We are two girls who like to read, like to learn, and are trying to do our lives the best way we know how. We hope at some level it may be interesting, entertaining, or relevant to you. We welcome your comments!

Until next time,
M and W