Monday, June 27, 2011

Taking a Step Back

Sorry that I (W) have been MIA as of late. My wedding is in 12 short days, and we have been busy here on the home front, alternatively known as "Wedding Central." We have been re-printing programs, making trips to the venue to drop off decorations, writing to-do lists and calling vendors... if you've ever planned a wedding, you know how it goes.

That said, something I often do to help me feel more grounded and in control is reading. As you might have guessed from our various posts, M and I LOVE to read. We typically read spiritual books, memoirs, or, as M mentioned in her last post, books of the self-help variety.

As the wedding has inched closer, I have been given a myriad of books on the topics of marriage, love, and commitment. I have delved into nearly all at this point, and rather than feeling reassured, I leave each book feeling more nervous and terrible that ever.

Why? Because each book just solidifies how HARD it is to be married, how much can go wrong, and here are the 4 (...or 12) things that you absolutely must do without a doubt to make sure you never get a divorce.

Simple enough, right? It is until you read five books that all have 12 suggestions and all of a sudden you spend hours laying in bed at night thinking how your fiance T is going to subconsciously ruin your marriage because he doesn't know the 4 Horsemen of Conflict (Criticism, Concept, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling) or how to love you in you love language (words of affirmation) instead of his (gift giving).  And then you wonder how to bring up all of these super important, definitely need-to-know pieces of marriage advice to said fiance without being ridiculous. I literally wondered how many post-it notes I could stick to the fridge or mirror without seeming like I am not-so-subtly trying to change T out of the bad person that he simply must be since he hasn't studied up on marriage.

I imagined tailoring the notes I stick in his lunch box. "Hi sweetie! Have a great day! Also remember that Henry Cloud says one of the greatest gifts we can give one another is the gift of honest confrontation!"


After this mania reached a head last night, I decided I needed to take a step back. I needed to realize that these marriage rules are guidelines, that they are pieces of advice that have worked for other people but that may not work at all for us, much less all of them all of the time.

I needed to remember that T and I have been great so far, keeping our promises of truth and transparency, trying to put each other's needs first, and showing grace to for our respective faults. Why do I believe that when we get married next week (!!!)  all of sudden I need to protect us against what feels like an impending downfall of who-knows-what that can only be avoided by adhering to marriage best-practices from a who's-who's of Christian leadership.

It's exhausting. And that's why I'm taking a step back. So I can view T on our wedding day as an imperfect person who is trying his best of keep us together and love me the right way, rather than as a man who is bound to get tripped up in the riptide of relational downturn simply because he hasn't read the books.

I think we'll be fine. And then, if I need to, I'll consult the books. But only if we need to.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Secrets of Adulthood", by M

W got me a book for Christmas this year called The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. Before I continue, two things you should know about W and me are 1) we love reading memoirs and self-help books and 2) We have a funny habit of buying each other books as gifts, but we always read them before we actually gift them. It's become a fun little twin-birthday tradition, I guess! For reasons unbeknownst to me, however, W gave me this one without "previewing" it first... perhaps because she was busy teaching, planning a wedding, acclimating to a new city, etc? Who knows. Anyway, I've been reading it recently on my lunch break at work and have enjoyed it.

The book is a memoir on the author's year-long experiment known as her "happiness project." She did TONS of research, crafted an extensive plan, and worked really hard for 12 months at trying to become a happier person. She also kept a blog, which you can check out at if you want!

I always think it's interesting to read self-help-esque books that are written to be secular. Not to say that they are any better or any worse than decidedly Christian books... It's just always intriguing to me to see and think about all the myriad ways people try to better their condition, exclusive of religion and faith. While I do think that some of these tips and tricks are helpful and productive (trust me, W and I have used many of them and are big proponents of therapy, too) in my experience, they still always fall a little short. Perhaps it's like putting a bandaid on a cut that's infected? Sometimes we try to remedy the symptom without actually going to the root of the problem. I digress.

In the book, the author shares a big list that she created of her "Secrets of Adulthood"... and I just love it! It's pretty self-explanatory, I guess. Here's what she shares are the top things that adulthood has taught her; she also mentions that by living by these principles, she was able to feel less guilt, less pressure, etc... and more happiness as a result:

-People don't notice your mistakes as much as you think.
-It's okay to ask for help.
-Most decisions don't require extensive research.
-Do good, feel good.
-It's important to be nice to everyone.
-Bring a sweater.
-By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished.
-Soap and water remove most stains.
-Turning the computer on and off a few times often fixes a glitch.
-If you can't find something, clean up.
-You can choose what you do; you can't choose what you like to do.
-Happiness doesn't always make you feel happy.
-What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.
-You don't have to be good at everything.
-If you're not failing, you're not trying hard enough.
-Over-the-counter medicines are very effective.
-Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
-What's fun for other poeple may not be fun for you - and vice versa.
-People actually prefer that you buy wedding gifts off their registry.
-You can't profoundly change your children's natures by nagging them or signing them up for classes.
-No deposit, no return.

Those are all good thoughts, right!? Even though I'm barely into adulthood, almost all of those totally resonate with me. And I can see how living by these "secrets" does grant some freedom... for example, I shouldn't need to feel pressure to enjoy things that are fun for others but not fun for me. No more guilt about it!

So I got to thinking... do I have any secrets of adulthood to add to this list? I can come up with a few. Some of these are my own creation, while others are blatantly stolen from women and men far wiser than I.

-God's way is always the best way.
-If you're going to do it, do it right.
-Bring a snack.
-Find "your people." Not all people are your people.
-Carry spare change.
-We are all in progress.
-Your GPA and college major are shockingly irrelevant for many, if not most, professions.
-Practice setting and keeping boundaries.
-Nothing is more important than your health.
-It's okay to be lame.
-Be your best advocate.

Do you have any secrets of your own!? Share them with us!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Relationship Resume, by M

Every time I write a blog or a journal entry, I’m tempted to start it off with the following “Whoa… I can’t believe it’s been so many days since I updated!” Well, actually if you would read through my journal, or if you frequent my personal blog, I probably do end up saying that 8 times out of 10. The days go by so quickly! This go round, time really did escape me for a while… I was busy all weekend with my wonderful mom and sister, who were in town for my baptism! (More on that later…)

But in terms of the days going quickly, I’ve got to say… time is currently speeding by much quicker than I’d prefer. For one reason or another, I find myself feeling like I don’t have enough time to do anything recently… let alone everything. Those people in my day-to-day life have heard this concern from me a few times over the past couple of weeks. I just feel swamped. Spent. Tired.

So I’ve been trying to process why I’ve been feeling this way. Part of it is because I’ve been really busy at work. Part of it is because I’ve had a couple of other “side projects” going on that were time-consuming and not part of the normal routine. Part of it is because I’ve developed better friendships now that I’m not MIA spending time with a boyfriend. But really, none of those things totally account for why I’ve been feeling the way I’ve been feeling. I’ve been thinking, praying, and talking to W about it, and I believe I’ve come to a conclusion… I’ve been subconsciously building a relationship resume.

Seriously, a relationship resume. Now before I define that, let me back up and say that this really boils down to a control issue. I LOVE control. I LOVE the security that I feel when I’m in control of things. I self-identify as type A, kind of anal retentive, control freak status (mental note: don’t share this on dates lol). But it’s true… and this little relationship resume-building thing is just one way to try to trick myself into thinking I have control over something that I really don’t. My brain has played this game before in other incarnations… it’s tricky how it all works, really.

Okay, so here’s what happened… recently, I started filling up my schedule like crazy, a noticeable increase in activities occurring post break-up with “Mr. Maturity.” I’ve started taking on a bunch of pretty worthy things, under the guise that I just wanted to do these things because I can (singleness responsibility, in a way) and because I want to (out of love and obedience to Christ). I figured I’ve got the time, I’ve got the ability, and it’s better than sitting around thinking about being alone… so why not?

Well, next thing you know I’m working two jobs (okay, that wasn’t new), leading two ministry environments, volunteering every other weekend, taking classes, attending retreats, making goodie bags for the homeless, praying for the prisoners, etc… and it’s just TOO MUCH. I feel like my wheels are spinning constantly, I’m juggling too many things and always letting something drop… it’s exhausting. Bad news.

So then, how did I get here? Because all of these things in theory are great, super worthy endeavors. As Christians it’s supposed to work that the more we pour out in service to others, the more fulfilled we feel. So why am I so drained?

Enter the relationship resume. If I take a hard look at my motivation, I discover that the foundation of my thinking goes something like this: “…of course you should pray for the prisoners. God obviously wants you to be with those in prison… it’s in the Bible…” which swiftly turned into a thought like this: “…if you want to be a good catch for a good Christian man, you’ll up your chances by praying for prisoners…” (Or loving on some kiddos. Or taking a class on Hindu theology. Or rebuilding homes destroyed by the tornados. You get the idea.) Yikes. It is scary and super unattractive to admit that my thoughts went there. But in the spirit of honesty, they did… whether I admitted it to myself at the time or not.

You see, I figured that if I could just build up a great enough “relationship resume,” I would ensure that some great guy would find me attractive and want to be with me. I mean, really… who could say no to a woman that does all of these great things for the babies, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned? Right!? Or so the fallacy goes. It gave me a false sense of control over the situation… like there was some direct correlation between me singing with toddlers in Sunday school and being married in the next 2-3 years. It’s so obviously not true, but yet it gave me some false security and comfort anyway.

I clearly understand now why all of these activities are draining… they need to be done for Christ with the right heart and the right motivation, or else it just becomes one more burden. And I’ve realized, too, that my litmus test can’t just be “if the Bible says to do it, it means I probably should.” If I check the Bible on any of these things, I’m confident that it would condone all of them; it is unlikely, however, that it would condone all of them at once. So, once again, I need to hand back over the control… and that means picking a few things that I can really commit to, adding a few more things to the list of “what I don’t do,” risk disappointing a few people in my life, and just trust God that I don’t need a 4.0 GPA in singleness to be attractive to someone.

It’s tough. I pray that I can just loosen the reins and let God have it… all of it… in regard to my love life. Clearly I’m not there yet. I’m learning every day how much of an issue this is for me, how distorted some of my thinking has been… I’m almost shocked to discover how deep some of these issues go for me. It’s intimidating, but I know that I’m moving forward and Christ is with me. Praise Him for that! Time to throw out the relationship resume... once and for all!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pride and the Concept of "Should"

It's W today, although I am currently in Atlanta, sitting on M's bed while she does her hair. Didn't I mention in my first post that M is more high maintenance than me? Regardless, it's good to be here visiting my favorite twin sister and to celebrate her "full-body dunk" baptism as Sunday! We were both baptized in the Catholic church as infants, and maybe she'll graciously write a post here about why she is choosing to be baptized again as an adult.

But anyway, back to the topic at hand. Pride. Let me start off by saying that in general, I like to think of myself as a humble person. Sometimes I think I am so humble that I am actually rather self-depricating and self-defeating. I am eager to praise others, I am quick to admit mistakes, and I am one of those people who says sorry too often for things that aren't worth apologizing for.

I was convincted about my pride, however, when I recently went in for a job interview.

In a sense, I'm super excited about the job. I love kids. I love art and music and singing and dancing. I love the idea of teaching parents how to support their child's gross and fine motor development, language acquisition, and social and emotional health. I like working with people and not sitting at a desk and having co-workers that are my own age. I think the idea of incorporating my teaching experience into a setting that is not high-pressure and that is focused on fun could be fantastic. I feel really encouraged that I could help kids develop the skills that they need before they go into school, so that some other first grade teacher out there can actually teach and not spend all of her time trying to make-up for years of skills that kids didn't get when they were in their first major formative developmental stage.

In another sense, I find myself being hesitant to tell people about it. I didn't want to tell my teacher friends, my business-world friends, or even my own dad about it because I felt like they would think it wasn't good enough, that I was too good for it, that I SHOULD be doing something more meaningful, more intellectual, more requiring-of-a-$200,000-degree.

Ding, ding, ding! Pride meter on HIGH.

Do I think this way because I feel like I owe it to someone (God, my dad, myself?) to have a high-paying, super exclusive job? Do I feel like I am not being a good steward of the gifts I've received-- mainly my intelligence and my prestigious college education-- by working in early childhood education instead of non-profit or PR?

Yes and no. I only believe these things if I buy into the idea that anyone can be a teacher, that anyone can take care of kids, and that there is no special talent or training needed to do so. And me, of all people, should believe that this isn't the case. I've seen it first hand! But the idea is so pervasive in our society, this idea that working with kids is a less-than career, that it still makes me feel a little ashamed that I'm not doing something "better." That I'm not doing what I could, or even worse, SHOULD be doing.

The concept of "should" is a dangerous one. It implies judgement, most often on our own choices and how we feel they intersect with the desires that others have for us. My therapist said that "should" needs to be eradicated from my vocabulary. That there are a million choices that I COULD do, and that no one choice is better than any others so long as I am making a prayful, adult, and non-harmful choice for myself and others.

But it's still hard. It's hard when others have expectations of what we should do. It's hard when the desires of our hearts do not align with society's measures of importance and prestige. It's hard when the Lord asks us to be humble in the face of what we believe we deserve, and what we believe we can do for His kingdom.

I don't know yet if I'll get the job. But I do know that it is my duty to make people feel good about however they are contributing to society and the economy, and to take a step back from judging others about what they "should do" in comparison with what they end up doing.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Freedom, by M

I was on a "sex panel" my senior year of college. I'm not sure if that story ever got back to my family, so heads up mom and grandma if you're reading this! But really, it's a true story. One of my majors was Communications, and I chose to pursue a focus in how the mass media represent gender and sexuality. I loved it and thought it was SO interesting... although it did occasionally get a little awkward when I'd go home to my great, Christian roommates and have to explain why I was carrying an armful of books about Playboy, for example.

ANYWAY, I ended up taking more than a few classes in gender and sexuality studies, and that, my friends, is the first step to ending up as a featured member of a sex panel. See, one of my classmates was putting together this panel for one of her other classes, and she was looking for a variety of different panelists. Knowing that I likely was one of the only wait-until-marriage types that she encountered in her classes, I offered myself up as the resident Christian-abstainer (ha!) in case they wanted one. Turns out they did, and next thing you know I'm telling 400 strangers about my sex life, or lack thereof. It was... an experience.

I went into it kind of intrigued and a little nervous... but honestly, not expecting to be that surprised. You see, my other major was Theatre, so I pretty much surrounded myself with lots of people who had a variety of different experiences, orientations and preferences. I was up front with my friends about my choices and Christianness and they were up front about their choices - which were often, highly contrary to mine. I loved it and felt very much like it was my mission field. I miss it, honestly. But anyway, the panel was made up of two abstainers, a straight guy and girl, a gay guy and girl, and one guy who identified as bisexual. Two of the other panelists were my friends... the gay ones.

So I went into the panel with this grand idea that God was going to use me to reach these 500 people in attendance. I just knew that the whole point of the panel was so that I could tell all of my peers about the better way that can be found in Him. And, you know what, I hope that He accomplished that. But, God is funny sometimes. What I didn't anticipate is that God was planning to reach me through the experience as well. I learned a lesson that day that I definitely didn't see coming, and it's been one that has stayed with me and shaped my faith journey ever since.

You see, sometimes it's easy to think of God as this giant buzz-kill. Even as a Christian I've entertained a fleeting thought that life would've just been easier if I could go along doing my own thing and then accept Christ when I'm like 90. I mean, it's tough sometimes! It's called the narrow way for a reason, I believe! And sometimes we look at all these rules that God sets out for His followers and it's just... lame. Sometimes it seems like God is withholding just for the point of making Christians into lame, prude, not-fun-having people. Not cool.

And we've all heard the arguments before... "God just wants to protect you." "He lays out these rules because He loves you." "Trust us, it's a better way for His chosen people." But honestly, sometimes those arguments don't quite cut it. It's easy to see how in telling us not to behave in drunkenness that God is protecting us from injuries and unplanned pregnancies, sure. It's easy to see how in telling us not to lie and cheat and He's saving us from spending our whole lives in jail. BUT, really... most of us probably wouldn't have ended up with unplanned babies or in jail anyway. So, what about that?

But, as I sat on the sex panel and listened to the other panelists share their stories and experiences, something struck me like a brick. I listened to the straight guy talk about his 20-30 partners and how he "prefers to just not share that number with his current girlfriend." I listened to the bisexual guy talk about his semi-annual visits to the health center to get tested for STDs. I listened to the straight girl talk about her experience as a one-night stand, and on and on. And while each of the panelists talked about these things with what sounded like confidence and unconcern, it occured to me that each of them were carrying some BIG burdens, whether they realized it or not. I heard in their stories A LOT of shame... fear... guilt... anxiety... brokeness... emptiness. Why else would the guy not tell his girlfriend if it were not for fear or shame? Why else would the girl keep looking for fulfillment in one-night stands if it were not for emptiness? It was like this lightbulb went off for me.

Sure, God tells us to abstain from sex, drugs, drunkenness, lying, cheating, etc because He'd prefer to keep us out of jail and to keep children inside the marriage covenant. But, His commands are so much bigger than that. He wants to keep us free from guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, brokenness, emptiness, etc. He designed us to be free from those things. And HE realizes that things such as casual sex and drunkennes result in those damaging emotions and experiences, even when most of us can't see it... even when most of us can argue it away that that really only happens to people who "have a problem" or who "are desperate." It was crazy to me that the other panelists didn't even realize the burdens that they were carrying because they had just gotten so used to the weight of their load.

God desires freedom for us. We were designed to live and to love freely... unhindered by the mess of sin. And so God's rules and laws are meant to try to catch us before our human nature would inevitably trip. He knows that we are mostly blind to the symptoms of the problem, so He tells us to just avoid the problem all together. And sure, maybe that's a buzzkill. But, let me tell you, I have never felt such freedom as when I was sitting on that panel and realizing what my obedience to God had spared me from. I praised God that day, and still do, for using the sex panel to stamp into my heart the truth that "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." - Galatians 5:1

Thursday, June 9, 2011


If you know me (W) at all, then chances are you have heard me:

1) Recommended that you read a book by Henry Cloud
2) Begin a sentence with the phrase, "Well, Henry Cloud says..."
3) Express my sincere belief that Henry Cloud changed my life

Let me be clear. I do not know Dr. Henry Cloud. I saw him speak once via satellite screen, but that's as close as it gets.  But I have read many of his books (more than any other Christian author), and I do swear by what he writes. He is both a pastor and a clinical psychologist-- what could be better? A book that is both Biblical and self-help all in one? Fabulous!

The main message of his books is that most of our "issues" (anxiety, depression, addiction, helplessness, selfishness, jealousy, etc) boil down to boundaries problems. Basically, that somewhere along the line we have stopped taking responsibility for what is ours, have tried to put the responsibility on others, or have accepted responsibility for stuff that isn't ours.

The quote that I keep coming back to is, "If it were not for you, I would be_________." Fill in the blanks. Who is the "you"? What do you think you would be?

If it were not for T and his crazy work schedule, I would be more emotionally stable. 

If it were not for my kids' ridiculous behavior, I would be working as a teacher next year as well.

If it were not for M, I would be in the top-10 of my graduating class.

How often do we say stuff like this? I don't know about you, but I say it too much. And what it shows is a lack of setting and respecting boundaries about what belongs to me. All of those statements after the commas? Those are all things that are within my control regardless of whatever the person in the front half of the sentence is doing.

The fundamental belief that must shift is the idea that other people make us do and feel things. That others make us feel mad, or sad, or guilty, or happy. In fact, the healthier way to view our interactions with others is to believe that their actions affect us a certain way and that we choose how to respond-- and that we must be responsible for how we respond, no matter the action that incited the response. If I punch a hole in my wall because a friend ruined my favorite sweater, who is responsible for fixing the hole? I am. And while this is easily illustrated with this tangible example of anger and its consequence, the idea of taking responsibility for the negative effects of our feelings regardless of what others have done to invoke them is foreign and hard.

As I enter into the season of my wedding (it's one month from today!!!!), I have been thinking a lot about boundaries. It seems that before Christian couples get married it's all about the physical boundaries-- where can we go, what can we do, what are we trying to stay away from? Yet there is little attention paid to the same three questions in reference to mental and emotional boundaries. The more I think and read, the more I believe it is vital to communicate these boundaries verbally and strictly, just as much as with the physical. Because if I am being responsible for my actions and feelings, than the best thing I can do is be upfront about the actions that make me feel certain ways so that others can be cognizant of their own actions and feelings as well.

It's scary for some reason. It feels weird to say. And maybe it all goes back to the concept in M's post, that we as women feel like we're both too little and too much, and that if we expressed to the people we love how their actions affect us that maybe they would love us a little less.

But trust me, Henry Cloud is (almost) always right. Try it once with something small, like "Hey M, when you say you're going to call and then you don't, it makes me feel frustrated." In doing so, you'll feel better about owning your own feelings, and will work toward preventing the kind of passive-aggression, anxiety, and dormant feelings that we can sometimes harbor.

And that, folks, is your Henry Cloud inspired lesson of the day.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What the Bible Doesn't Say, by M

I just love W's previous post... it's such a fresh breath of reality, right!? Why does the world tell women that we're never quite good enough at anything, ever? (Shoutout to Captivating by John and Stasi Eldrige for the thought that women's biggest fear is being simultaneously too little AND too much - I agree. I think the world sends us this message all day every day).

W's post is a perfect lead-up, too, to what I was already planning on writing about today! (Sometimes that just happens when you're twins, I guess!)

Okay, so here's the deal: I am absolutely blessed to have been given some pretty AMAZING and FANTASTIC Jesus-loving women to surround myself with. Seriously. I recognize this fact and give thanks for it My mom, grandma, sisters, mentors, and friends are the cream of the crop, in my humble opinion! I feel beyond blessed to get to observe them, and at times, be a part of their lives as they live out Christ's calling and witness to others in a beautiful way. The amount that they've impacted my life and my walk with Christ is hard to even fathom.

That said... I've been wrestling with a thought lately that I think is relevant here. I’m surrounded by all of these fantastic women and I catch myself sometimes wondering… worrying… thinking "wow, this or that is so phenomenal about this or that woman… I’m not sure I have that. I’m not sure I AM that…" It’s so easy, SO EASY to fall into the temptation to compare or envy when you have such awesome people in your life! However, it’s so potentially dangerous to do that. And the tricky thing is to try to find a healthy, God- and self-honoring balance. I’m not sure I’m quite there yet.

On the one hand, these emotions are useful up to a point. It’s probably a great thing to recognize qualities and character traits in other people that I find to be "biblically attractive" (haha I totally just made that phrase up, but I like it! I might trademark it!) Meaning, traits that I find to be attractive in light of what the Bible tells us we’re supposed to do and be. So, I see the women in my life being "biblically attractive"… having patience, having joy, being fruitful (with their lives lol not just meaning ‘having children’ ha!), just loving the Lord, etc and it can be convicting. It’s probably a good conviction; it’s likely a call to help us realize that none of us have arrived, and that Christ yet is perfecting us daily, and some of us have strengths that others are waiting on and vice versa.

But then there’s that other hand… the one that sees these great things in these great people and tells us that we’re lacking if we don’t have them. It’s the lie that says we’ll never be as good as this person, never be as attractive as this person, never be wanted as this person may be wanted, never be loved fully, until we figure out how to be this and that which we are lacking. It’s clear that these are lies that are NOT from God… however, how often do we believe them? How often do we look to our left and right and see women that have what we don’t have and are what we think we aren’t and we just feel… defeated? We compare and we envy and we may even allow resentment to grow in our hearts towards God and towards these women if we’re not careful. I know I’ve been there.

So what gives? Where is the line that tells us where these emotions stop being helpful and start being hurtful? How can we know in which areas Christ is planning on changing us for the better and which areas he’s purposefully made us just like we are?

I mean, I’m not totally sure. But, I do have at least a jumping-off point… scripture. (haha big surprise there, right!?) In order to try to maintain a healthy viewpoint on this issue, we need to know exactly what is attractive to God, not man. We need to know what God loves about us and in us, and not concern ourselves with anything else. We need to know the character of Christ to know how God is likely to mold us and how He may not. So what does the Bible say?

"...The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness." Galatians 5:22

The famous Proverbs 31 wife:
10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, 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" 1 Peter 3:3-4 (I think W just mentioned this one?)

Etc. Which means two things... God is pretty explicit about the things that He thinks are valuable and attractive. There are a definitely some things listed above that are awesome and wonderful and worthy of emulating. However, there are also many things that are NOT listed above. So, here are just a few examples of what the Bible DOESN’T say.

-Thou shalt play sports
-The wife of noble character cooks more than 5 recipes well
-Honor your body by shaving your legs daily
-And so God created man in his image, and woman in the image of Gisele.
-Assertiveness is pleasing to me
-Spontanaeity is the key to eternal life
-Lovest animals as I have loved you

Etc. In other words, I think that means that God's okay with the great majority of those "things I don't do." And THAT’S OKAY. In fact, that's awesome!

It means, when I look at other women and note to myself "Wow, she really loves cooking and is much better at it than me" … I need to check the thought that comes next. I need to make sure that what feeds my next thought is true conviction and not false comparison. It’s easy to go straight into "AHHHH she’s going to be such a better wife than me and OMG I’m going to be alone forever and everyone’s going to realize that she’s a better catch and I’m sucky at being a woman and so on and so on…" However, the real capital-T Truth is that those are all lies. The truth is that God undoubtedly knows that He created me without this inborn love of cooking, so it’s possible (dare I say likely?) that He created a man for me that won’t be too bothered by it. It's true that my worth as a woman, an heiress of God, is dependent NOT on my ability to cook more than 5 things. Isn't that a relief!?

So, my thinking about it is this: if the envy or the comparisons lead us closer to God and closer to a Christ-like character, then I say go ahead and use that conviction for good. However, last time I checked, I don’t think Christ did all that much cooking OR looked like Gisele… so I think, otherwise, it’s more beneficial to know the truth and rest in the knowledge that God created each and every one of us exactly as He wanted us... and for the great majority of us, He also created someone else exactly as He wanted them FOR us.

And if that means that I don’t ride roller coasters or that I avoid onions like the plague… that’s okay. If that means that 90% of the men I meet are turned off by those "things I don't do"... that's okay. (Gulp). If Jesus is okay with it, I’m okay with it. Besides, if I'm becoming more like Jesus every day, and my future hubby is too (God willing!) those "things I do do" should be shining far brighter than the absence left by those things I don't.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Things I Don't Do

I (being W) had the privilege of attending a fantastic women's event at my church on Saturday. Shauna Niequist spoke, and read a few selections from her most recent book, Bittersweet. It was a great event, and I learned a lot about change and how to accept the sort of change that is inevitable in our lives.

My favorite part of the session was when we were discussing one of her essays entitled, "Things I don't do." As a women, she has struggled along with the rest of us in trying to do everything all the time and be excellent while we do it. She reached a breaking point one day when she realized, to her horror, that she had actually written,"Do everything better," on her to-do list. Haven't we all felt like that? Like we are not doing enough, and that what we're doing is not as good as it should be?

At this point, Shauna decided enough was enough. If she was going to be a woman of God, if she was going to do the things that she wanted to do, the things that God called her to do, than she needed to decide on those things that she was NOT going to do. Things that she was not going to waste her precious time on, and things that she was not going to continue wasting energy feeling guilty about.

She encouraged the rest of us to make our lists. To think about the things in our lives that are not necessarily bad, but that we've come to believe are good and that for us to be good, we must do them. Here is my list:

Things I Don't Do:
-Straighten my hair
-Ride public transportation
-Buy organic
-Bathe every day
-Math without a calculator
-Wear heels

My list could go on and on. The purpose is not to list our faults, but to realize that these things are not faults at all. That it is within our right to wear what we want, to eat what we want, to exercise (or not) how we want without feeling guilt or pressure or less of women because of it.

To realize that we can't do it all, and that to try to do it all (when "all" means doing things that are unimportant to us anyway) puts us at risk of not having enough time, mental space, or energy to do what we want to do or feel called to do.

What's on your list? What do you not do?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Dating Covenant by M

Yesterday, my dear friend E signed a dating covenant. (I know you're reading, E... hope you're okay with the shoutout! ha) Well, pretty much I forced her to create and sign the covenant and she was a really good sport about it. The rest of the small group girls signed it, too, to act as witnesses to make it official. The whole experience was alternately educational and hilarious (what does one include in a dating covenant? "Thou shalt not date douchebags"? Sorry for the language, mom, if you're reading this...)

Seriously though, it was a good exercise and it got me thinking that I could do well to make a dating covenant for myself. And since I have a few (hopefully?) loyal readers on here, I figured that sharing with you all would be a great way to ensure accountability. Now, we just have to settle on what the consequences are for violating the covenant. E was given the fate of joining the few of us who go regularly to watch about 2 dozen rambunctious and aggressive toddlers at a local women's shelter should she break the covenant... Trust me, it's a threat that I believe will not be taken lightly! If you all have any good ideas for consequences for me (no more Oreos? Forced to eat ONIONS!? EEEEK!) let me know!

Okay, so the dating covenant was broken into three sections: unacceptables, non-negotionables, and standards. There may be some overlap here, and I guess that's okay. Here goes:

Unacceptables (Inspired by the exes and horror stories of friends)
1. He cannot look to me to be his strengh
2. He cannot be torn between his family and me
3. He cannot have a raging mental illness (sorry if that makes me a bad person. Been there. Can't do it.)
4. He cannot consistenly choose his friends, job, car, gym habit over me
5. He cannot be dishonest.
6. He cannot cheat.
7. He cannot intentionally surround himself with scantily clad women (photos or otherwise).
8. He cannot be addicted to drugs (including cigarettes) or alcohol.
9. He cannot be secretive, shady, or otherwise evasive.
10. He cannot be a twin. (ha! Really though...)

1. He must be a real, active, growing follower of Jesus.
2. He must want kids.
3. He must be honest (both in relation to me, and just as a character trait)
4. He must be kind (to me, to his mother, to wait staff, etc.)
5. He must taller than me (hmmm let's be real, this matters. Although, Jesus could throw me a curveball... who knows?)
6. He must be hard-working.
7. He must be respectful of women.
8. He must be a good communicator.
9. He must have a curious heart (this one's hard to describe... I guess it means that he must like to learn and grow, even if that doesn't necessarily mean through school or reading)
10. He must be "biblically qualified" to be a husband (more on that in an upcoming post!)

Standards (Some of these courtesy of the brilliant book He's Just Not that Into You, by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo)
1. I will date a man only if he is worthy of being spiritually followed.
2. I will date a man only if he has pursued me.
3. I will date a man only if he prioritizes spending time and getting to know me.
4. I will date a man only if he is sure he wants to date me and talks about it explicitly aka I will not date a man who is non-commital!!
5. I will not date a man who makes me feel undesirable.
6. I will not, under any circumstances, spend my precious time with a man who has already rejected me.
7. I will date only a CLEARLY good, kind, loving, respectable man.
8. I will date a man only if he believes in and is proactive in setting appropriate physical boundaries pre-marriage.
9. I will date a man only if he is honestly approved by my family, close friends, and other godly counsel.
10. I will date a man only after earnest and significant prayer leads me to believe that I should.

That's a lot to think about at one time! I think I will print it out and stick it somewhere visible so that I can internalize it. Can you imagine when I go on a date sometime in the future... what if I busted out this huge list in the bathroom... or worse, at the table!?! haha A new movie: How to lose a guy in 10 minutes! Really though, most of this should be self-explanatory and already internalized. Although, given my track record one could think otherwise. In any case, I think it's good to write it all down and involve people in creating accountability.

In a way, I suppose this doesn't even matter at the moment because it's a dating covenant and I'm not dating. However, something I've been enjoying recently is playing a little game called "the red-flag game" (if I'm feeling judgmental haha) or alternately "the standards game" (if I'm feeling optimistic). It's the same game either way... meet a person, observe their behavior, and decide where they fall on either the red-flag scale or the standards scale. It's fun because I'm not necessarily interested in anyone I'm playing this game with, and it can even be people who are already taken (watchout T! haha JUST KIDDING. That's weird). It's good though because I can recognize traits that I like and don't like about people without being invested in the outcome... it makes for a much more objective reading. I think this covenant will help me get even better at this observation exercise... which, in theory, is refining my "picker" as Patti, the Millionaire Matchmaker, would call it. And, hey, I'm all for not making another stupid choice... so bring on the covenant!