Christian Insight

Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Navigating Life and Love in the Modern Age by Ben Stuart [Book Review]

Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Navigating Life and Love in the Modern Age by Ben Stuart is  one of the most important books I’ve read this year (apart from the Bible, of course). This book gave me a lot to chew on. It definitely made me rethink how I approach my dating life and how I’ll navigate engagement and marriage.

Single: Devotion

During singleness, this is the time we really get to figure out who we are, what we want, and focus on using our God given gifts to glorify Him. It’s in the seasons of singleness where we really deepen our relationship with God. Where we are so dependent on Him we don’t depend on our significant others to fill in the blanks or voids for us.

Sometimes the most loving gift God can give us is singleness.

Dating: Evaluation

The next phase is dating. This is the part where we need to pay attention. Dating exists for evaluation. Dating isn’t mean to find someone out there to complete us, but we should pay attention to the person’s character. Stuart says we need both character and chemistry in order for a relationship to work.

You want solid, Godly character and fun, easy, chemistry.

Engaged: Union

Engagement is about union. It’s about bringing two people together in every respect (except sex … not yet!) Stuart says, engagement focuses primarily on the union of three key areas of our lives: Family, Finances, and Future. All three must be out in the open for the relationship to move to the next stage; marriage.

Ask questions so you can minimize friction in the first years of marriage.

Married: Mission

God designed marriage to be a picture of Jesus and a pursuit of Him. The strongest bonds are formed when two people live out their marriage on a mission together.

God designs a husband and wife to complement each other.

This book put so many things in perspective for me in how I’ll navigate engagement and marriage. Marriage is a big deal. If two people have common vision, their marriage will work. There are so many other details that need to be worked out before we get there though and this is why I appreciate Stuart’s wisdom.

I highly recommend this book if you’re single or dating.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. 

Social Media & Sabbath Rest

Recently, I made the decision to stop using my cell phone past 7pm. This also includes checking or posting to social media. I’ve been thinking about the reality of social media and how negatively being always connected affects us. At least how it’s affected me. After being depressed about a month ago, I knew it was time to change. Something had to change in my daily routine and this was definitely one thing that needed to be addressed. For now, it’s a break but I’m hoping it will turn into a habit.

Three years ago, I wrote about this. Most of it still resonates with me today but a lot in my life has changed. When I think about social media and what it’s used for nowadays, it was time for a break.

The reality of social media is sometimes it leads to false sense of reality. There’s a difference between sharing memorable moments and keeping memorable moments sacred. We want connection, but consider the cost. Screens shouldn’t replace our relationships. 

Most of my interactions nowadays are face to face and this is preferred. It’s more intimate. When I text, I try to keep it short. If I know it’s going to be super long, I call the person later or carve out moments in my day to confront them. So much can be misconstrued through texting.

Hard boundaries need to be in place with how we utilize technology.

About two weeks ago, the word “Sabbath” was repeated a lot in my reading.  After discernment, I knew I needed one day out of the week where I designated solely to rest. Saturday is my Sabbath. Self-care is so important, I can’t stress this enough. I’m thankful God really worked in my heart about the importance of rest.

Sabbath is a day of stopping. It’s one full day where we cease our activities.  God rested after His work and we are to do so too.

Between taking a break from social media in the evenings and having Saturday as a Sabbath, I feel better. Being still has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long while. Life needs space and God prepares us in our stillness.

Examine how often you’re connected and moving. Learn to be still and intentional with Sabbath rest too.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

The Most Dangerous Narcissist

Narcissism is a word that’s been thrown around a lot in my circle this year. Whether it’s close friends with their own experiences with narcissists or my own, I’ve given this a lot of thought.  Narcissists are abusive, manipulative, and deceptive. There’s nothing worse then a person who is all three and claims to be a Christian.

The most dangerous narcissist is a Christian one.

Before I begin, I want to clarify this post isn’t directed at any one person but a culmination of my own or other’s experiences. However, if you’re reading this and think it may be written about you, then reexamine your life and behavior. And if you feel brave enough, contact me and we’ll talk about it.

These five characteristics are all things I witness daily by people who attend Church regularly.

  1. Christian narcissists twist the Bible. Instead of using the Bible as a weapon against spiritual warfare, they use it to call out other people.  Churches, religious groups, pastors, even their own family. No one is safe. They claim they’re speaking truth, but really they’re airing their own opinions and puffing themselves up. There’s no way of understanding in their hearts, only a need to be right.  Proverbs 18:2, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Honestly, I don’t know everything about the Bible. I haven’t read scripture cover to cover but I know the Word of God should never be manipulated by man. We all interpret it in our own way but we should always ask God to give us His wisdom to understand before we go out and try to preach it. Our actions speak louder than quoting scripture ever will.
  2.  The silent treatment is a Christian narcissist’s “love” language. This is the preferred weapon of a narcissist. Pretty much, you’re invisible to this person. The silent treatment is emotional abuse and control. We deserve healthy relationships where both persons involved deal with their issues maturely. Narcissists don’t deal with their issues or any issues at all.
  3. There is no forgiveness in a Christian narcissist’s heart. They can quote scripture about grace and forgiveness but don’t extend either.
  4.  They have a history and pattern of broken relationships. Red flag, enough said.
  5.  They avoid confrontation. Accountability is healthy but Christian narcissists hardly ever allow themselves to be held accountable. And God help you if you try to confront and correct them in an area of their life where they’re not being Christ-like or hurtful. Ultimately, we’re all accountable to God, but Christian narcissists never take responsibility or own up to their own part of the conflict. They’re always justified in their own eyes.

It’s taken me about six months to examine my own life and actions. Earlier in the year, I was probably all five of the above at different times in a month’s span. Thankfully, God has done some hard work in me and my heart.  We’re all narcissistic in some way, but recognizing it and changing are two different things.

So, how do we protect ourselves against Christian Narcissists? I’ve given the below some thought and both have been confirmed. When God shows you something repeatedly, it’s not a coincidence and needs to be addressed.

The most important thing to protect yourself against Christian Narcissists is to create boundaries. Without boundaries we give the narcissists in our life permission to treat us how they want to. What isn’t told to stop will continue.

God wants us in relationships with safe people. Safe people are people we can connect with on a deeper level. In their presence, there’s no fear of rejection. We can speak truth in love to each other, confronting each other when needed. These are the keys to safe relationships and only work when guided by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Setting boundaries and having a safe support system isn’t self-centered, it’s our responsibility.

In your own life, pay attention to the people in it. Examine whether they have deep, meaningful relationships with other people. Gut level relationships, not shallow ones. The people in our life at gut level should know our personal history. If there are parts of our life that are left out, it’s not a deep relationship but a shallow one. There is no side life, everything is out in the open. This is a level of intimacy narcissists are incapable of.

In closing, I’m learning to navigate the relationships (work and personal) in my life carefully. Even with my safe group, there are still boundaries in place. This is healthy. We can’t avoid narcissists completely, but we can educate ourselves.

There are a ton of resources out there about narcissism, but as a Christian, the Bible is always a good place to start. Seek God and His wisdom regarding the relationships in your life. Ask Him to show you any error in you. It’s easy to point the finger, more difficult to focus on the faults in ourselves.

Through God and His grace alone, He will heal and change you.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

Slow Down

Yesterday, I was in a car accident. Got rear ended on the way to work. Thankfully, I walked away without a scratch and with minimal to no damage to my car. The impact of the hit felt far worse than it actually was. I’m thanking God for His hand of protection over me that day. It’s definitely undeserved.

Of course now, I’m in reflection mode because “Oh my Lord, I could have died!” has played in my head but for whatever reason, my life was spared and I still have purpose here. (Wow, can you be any more melodramatic, Julie?) It has me thinking about why God allowed it to happen along with other things that have happened in the past several months. As I look back, there’s been a pattern and it’s always involved my car. Then it hit me.

My car is an idol. 

I depend on my car to get me around. It’s my way of escape when things at home are almost unbearable. My Mom always tells me when things are rough at home and I can’t stand being here to go out. So, I’ve been following her advice for about a year now. Recently though, I’ve felt this pull inside me to slow down.

It must be God. 

I’m not going to say I’m perfect in this area, because I’m not. But I’m starting to scale back on a few things that were taking up my time and money. One of which became an idol too. I was blowing money on stuff and things and the only person benefiting from it was me. I love my freedom financially. I’m thankful God has always looked out for us and we’ve never gone without. Sometimes though we take His provision for granted and fail to remember everything on earth belongs to Him.

I love my car, but I love God more.

I know I’ve not acted like it for a while now, but I’m making the change to be different and do differently moving forward. With a lot of things, not just with money and my car, but with my relationship with God and other people. These are the keys to a richer life.

After my accident, the amount of love and support I received from friends close and far were appreciated and felt. You never really know how much you mean to people until something unexpected happens to you. It’s humbling and makes the bad days not feel so bad.

Sometimes the only way to get through the bad stuff is to confront them head on and to stop running. This is what we do though. We fill our lives with people and things instead of dealing with the hard work of figuring out who we really are. Why every relationship in our life is broken. Why we keep running into the same toxic people. Why we stay in the same broken cycle. Why we never really change, and the list goes on. These are all things I’ve had to confront in the past several months. Sometimes though it’s too much and getting in my car with the music loud is a lot easier than dealing with the junk.

My encouragement to you and myself is to slow down and be still. If you’re a believer, make God number one priority over everything else. Yes, even that.  You know what I’m talking about. Without Him, your plans will fail because apart from Him you can do nothing. That verse has carried me through a lot of decision making in my life and this time is no different.

The idols in our life don’t feel like idols at first. In our mind, we’re going about our life and business doing things that come naturally while claiming to give all the glory and praise to Him. And while God wants us to enjoy our life and live it to the fullest, everything always has to point back to Him. If there’s ever a moment when He’s put on the back burner, something has to change. We need to change.

We can’t do the things we love doing wholeheartedly without loving God first. Really loving Him. Not with our lips, but with our hearts. He is the source and strength of whatever we accomplish here. Change doesn’t happen in the hustle, it happens when we be still (slow down) and know.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

Patient Endurance

I’ve been depressed the past week and have only confessed it to a few people. Outside I look fine, but inside tells a different story. This is the first time in a very long time when my emotions have gotten the best of me and I feel absolutely deflated.

Normally, I can bounce back no problem. Lately though, things are different. I remind myself of scripture, I remind myself of God’s faithfulness, and that it’s okay to not be okay all the time. I feel more human than I have in a while, yet still feel that my faith isn’t strong enough to endure.

And then, God gently reminds me like He always does that patient endurance isn’t for the faint-hearted and can only be developed  through hardship. Not by filling the emptiness and voids with people and things, but more of Him. 

People and things are temporary, He is forever.  

Emotions are only temporary, He is forever.

This too shall pass.

There are no absolutes or guarantees in this life and it can really suck the life right out of you. But I’m learning to get to a place where I welcome the very problems I dread. God wants us to bring every problem into His presence with gratitude. He wants us to thank Him for our trials. In the past few months, I’ve been reminded continuously of His sense of humor even in the face of hardship. In other words, if God allows it, there’s a purpose for it. Usually, a lesson or an area of our character we need to confront. For me, it’s always the latter.

We can’t shrink back in hardship, we must stand firm. Every hardship God allows in our life have already passed through His hands and He wants us to persevere ’til the end.

I’m still not okay but it’s getting easier to face each day with a new attitude and renewed mind. When I feel myself slipping into those dark places, I step into His presence instead. I remind myself of His Word and it illuminates everything.

If you’re in a similar place, turn to someone when you’re in pain. I’ve had to admit to a few of my closest friends that I’m depressed. The one who is the strong one, the one who spends a majority of her life carrying others’ burdens. Admitting I was the one struggling with depression shocked those close to me because I’m always so together. But everyone has their breaking point and I’ve reached mine.

God reminded me the other day He weaves bright, golden strands of His glory into the most heart-wrenching situations. It may take a long time before the pattern or purpose emerges but this waiting builds patience. He wants us to rejoice in the pain. 

Blessed are all those who wait for Him and the one who endures to the end will be saved.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

Hello, it’s me.

Sometimes you need to take a break, dust yourself off and reset. Over half of 2017 is over and what a mess this year’s been. I’ve learned a lot, grown, and paid attention. Life sure has shown me a lot.

About six months ago, I wrote a few posts after another failed friendship with the same person who’s caused a lot of pain in my waking life. At the time it seemed appropriate to write about it but as time’s passed, I realize even though it was how I felt, my feelings didn’t need a platform, they needed a Savior. When we use our platforms to call out offenses or those who’ve offended us, no one wins. All I  did was reopen the wound, over and over again. This is what offense does. It reopens wounds trying to heal. God wasn’t being glorified by calling out the person. God’s never glorified when we call out folks who’ve hurt, offended, or betrayed us. Any hurt done is between us and God. Healing is His responsibility, not the offender’s. Justice is His, not ours. I’ve learned this lesson too late and I’m making peace with my decisions. I’m not going to delete what’s been said and written, but I will do better with my feelings moving forward. Platforms are good when used for right purposes. Whether your platform is a blog, social media, or something else, ask yourself, “Who’s being glorified?” If it really is God, He will be glorified, not our offenses and opinions. The most powerful weapon against fleeting feelings is prayer not a platform.

Something I learned earlier in the year is the deeper relationship, the greater the offense. In April, a friend and I had a falling out that lasted for almost a month. Eventually, we talked, we both apologized and things are fine now. When there’s a fall out, always seek reconciliation. How’s your attitude towards people who’ve hurt you? If your mind still repeats the offense, release the person to God moment by moment because forgiveness is a permanent attitude. Forgiveness is instant, trust is earned and reconciliation is possible when we’re willing to resolve our differences. Pride keeps relationships broken and at a distance. 

The thought of having real friendships seems rare but there are people in our life so important they surpass everything else.  They’re must haves, the ones you can’t live without. About two weeks ago, I had one of the worst days in a really long time and one of my friends asked, “Need me?” Those words changed the way I view every relationship in my life. When it seems the walls are caving in and things seem to be falling a part, a real friend comes in willing to rescue you from the storm. They don’t leave you out there to drown.  At least one person should come to mind.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I use it mostly to share and connect. However, over recent months I’ve seen it divide more than unite. I don’t believe people should necessarily fast from Facebook but I think it’s important to do a daily inventory of where we invest our time and attention. Last week Friday, I spent some time off the grid and it was nice. Life is an adventure meant to be lived.  It’s okay to take a break sometimes from routine and responsibilities.

As messy as my relationship with God is, I’m thankful He always makes Himself known. About a week ago, for the first time in a while I went on my daily walk alone. Something told me to walk a certain stretch of campus, even though I had the slight thought to go a different route. Instead I went the way His voice told me to. This is what faith looks like. Sometimes you’ll go a different way than the one God directs and it’s okay to wander a while, but eventually, you’ll need to turn around. Faith is following His voice even when the way doesn’t feel right. I’m glad I listened to His voice that day.

Over  the past few months I’ve learned it’s okay not to be liked or accepted. No matter what we do, there will always be critics. Yeah, I come off hard sometimes and can be a “ball buster” as a friend put it, but I’ll never apologize for doing the right thing. When we do the right thing, the Christ-like thing, we don’t need to explain ourselves. Never entertain people who are critical, walk away from them and their ignorance. 

All that aside and said, I’m very thankful for this space. I’m thankful for the ups and downs and for the people who have supported me during hard times because there have been more than enough over the past few months. 2017 has been a bad year. It’s all perspective though. It hasn’t been all bad, some things could be better but I’m learning to take life as it comes.

God’s plan for our life will never happen in a straight line. There will be many twists and turns.  Just because something works, doesn’t mean it’s right in His eyes. I walked my own path and did things earlier in the year even with confirmation, but eventually those things fell apart. Never let someone use you or manipulate you to do God’s will for their life, their way. Without God anything that seems to be working won’t last.  What we do His way builds a foundation of integrity and this is far more important than doing things because they seem or feel right. Honesty and integrity are key to a life lived without regret and they don’t need to prove themselves. This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year so far.

In closing, I’ve decided to write only when God leads it. Otherwise, there’s no point. It’s what we do when no one but Him sees us that truly reflects our heart and commitment to Him. Not our words, but by our actions are we truly His.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

Knocking down the old so the new can rebuild.

There is so much in my life and heart God is showing and reminding me of right now.The parts I haven’t liked or could do without are the ones I know where He loves me most.

When the old and familiar came knocking, it’s His gentle reminder to let the past go and rebuild.

Compared to how things were in December, I’m at peace now. I’m thankful for the different people in my life who make their love and presence known. They’ve had a tremendous impact on my life without words but with action.

Dragging my past into my present was a bad habit, but I knew going into 2017, God was going to do something new.  Though outwardly things haven’t changed, inside they have. We are new creations and God wants us to experience this truth daily. 

Rebuilding takes work and what sometimes feels like a lifetime. What I’m learning is having a strong support system is helpful. There are people in my life now with different personalities and gifts and I see how God is using them to help me rebuild my life.  I know I can’t change what happens but I can build new beginnings.

I won’t allow my faith to falter because of flaky people and fleeting feelings. 

My new beginning starts now.

 

 

 

 

Dating Tip #3: Accept the Truth

My eyes have really been opened the past month. I’m realizing what I had four years ago was safe. We spent hours talking, letting God confirm daily what He wanted from us and we obeyed. We didn’t waver at all from God’s will miles apart from each other. Until we were actually within a few feet from each other that’s when everything changed. It wasn’t a sudden change but over time things changed. Things were no longer safe, we were thick in the reality of what God was doing and each other.

Our relationship was kept off social media entirely. This should have been hint #1. He tried to tell me repeatedly when couples make their relationship public, you’re only allowing outside influences into an area they don’t belong. I believed this and so I agreed with it for almost a year.  Over the past three years though, he’s been very public with his past and present relationships. Three years ago, I took this as flat out rejection. Now though, I realize it was never rejection, it was respect.

The situation didn’t feel right any more. It felt right four years ago when we met in this space. It felt right four years ago when  we built on a foundation we both swore was stable. It felt right when he moved here because God told him to “Go.” It felt right because our situation was unique … so sacred.  Until it was no longer sacred and I pushed it away. I didn’t want anything to do with it any more. He was doing with her what he did with me four years ago. Our connection was no longer between us and he never loved me. He loved the idea of me but not the real me.

This truth has set me free.

I won’t lie, this truth hurts. Earlier this week I fought back tears and I did again yesterday morning. My pride doesn’t like to admit it and I’m almost slightly ashamed to type it, but I don’t know any other way than to be authentic with how I feel. I wanted it this way because I was scared. I was losing this person I created a life with for over four years even if it wasn’t consistent, it was still familiar …. it was safe. And just like that, enter another woman and it was gone. My heart couldn’t take it, so I bailed.

Every thing God places in our hands requires work. I worked pretty hard to obey the Lord in everything. This last time though, it was no longer about obedience to the Lord, but about guarding my heart … for good. I’m protecting myself from further hurt. It’s counter productive, I know but for now, it’s what’s right.

Accepting truth, real truth, isn’t for the faint of heart. 

God’s Word has continually guided and directed my steps since 2012. The only time my steps weren’t directed was when I tried dating in July. I prayed but didn’t wait for clearance, I jumped in. God knows our desire to be close to someone, He understands our desire for companionship. We say we aren’t looking for it, but deep down we really are.  Until Jesus is everything to us, until the reality of His presence is deep in us, in those deep, hidden places, we won’t be ready for the real relationships He has specifically designed us for. 

This truth is what I’ve settled in my heart, let it settle in yours too.

Understand though, I’m not good with relationships. I love people and when that love is threatened I tend to either hold on to it tightly or I let it go without thinking twice. In my dating relationship, I let it go. I literally ran away from it. But with Jeremy, it was different.

Twice in the past week, when I’ve gotten in my car to leave our song came on. The first time, I changed stations immediately because I was pissed. The other day though, I listened to it all the way through. He dedicated it to us when he was back home. He didn’t remember it though after we broke up. I was reminded why I held on so long. Love doesn’t give up. It doesn’t quit. Love always protects, trusts, hopes, and always perseveres. It never fails.  It takes two people who both love each other to make a relationship work. I was the only one in our relationship and friendship who loved the other person. For the first time in four years, I quit because love was never reciprocated and I realized it.

Accepting this truth is disappointing but freeing. The truth really does set us free.

The truth I’m accepting right now is knowing the Holy Spirit can work between people anywhere. It worked between us consistently for four years. It’s worked in my life consistently since I closed this door.  The problem is I tied my experience with the power of the Holy Spirit to a person instead of a Person. The Holy Spirit will work between any one with an attentive heart. A heart that is truly seeking the Lord, one who walks in the Spirit daily, and lays their life down for others. God first, family (children, mother, father, brother, sister, etc) second, everyone else last.  In that order, no exception. 

This last truth is what I keep at the forefront of my mind.

A friend reminded me last week it’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to cry for what’s no longer but not to live there. Don’t live in the memories but to keep moving forward in the Lord because He’s going to do something new. In the stillness, I know that new thing is already here. I’ve known it for almost two months. All those pieces coming together perfectly behind the scenes. There’s peace knowing God is control but even without His blessings and what He will give me, I’m secure.

Let me encourage you to do a few things. Let God love you back to life again before making commitments. Open your hands wide for what He gives you, but don’t hold on to it too tight. More importantly, follow Jesus everywhere. I’m not talking about physically or spiritually but emotionally and mentally.  When we’re truly following Jesus, He will take us through valleys of offenses we’ve never fully dealt with. It will be hellish. Instead of running towards the next feel good high, run to Him wholeheartedly. Running the race for Christ wasn’t for quitters, but for people who aren’t afraid to run and fight. And yes, sometimes for a season you have to run this race with only Him and alone. If you’ve never been alone for longer than three months, then there’s something inside you broken and you’re looking for other people to make it or you whole.

Don’t argue with this truth, accept it, and change.

Don’t hold on to your plans too tightly either. Even with prayer and reading Scripture, God can throw a curve ball into our plans at any time. Our plans, visions, and preparation are many, but “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)

I don’t know what 2017 is going to look like but I’ve stopped looking ahead. I’ve spent more time with family and friends during my holiday break. This holidays has been a little hard and not as joyful, but my joy is no longer in people, but in a Person. The one who never gives up on me and loves me unconditionally.

This truth is the only one I will accept forever, I hope you will too.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

 

Dating Tip #2: It’s Okay To Walk Away

Over three years ago, I lost who I thought was the love of my life. Over three months ago, I attempted to date again and failed. It’s hard to put in words what’s happened in my life over the past few months. Hence, why I’ve been quiet.

It’s hard to separate faith over our feelings, isn’t it? This is probably why I’ve struggled in my dating life and struggled with a person from my past reentering my life after a few months of silence. I knew the door would reopen itself, I just didn’t know when.

For the first time in almost three years though, I’m the one who walked away and closed the door permanently. It wasn’t because I was hurt or bitter, it wasn’t out of resentment or jealousy. It was about respect and realizing I deserve better. I will never deny my feelings for Jeremy or the connection we had through the Holy Spirit. I thank God every day for the lessons I learned and continue to learn through it and will do so until the day I die. This was a man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. A man who I love unconditionally despite the fact he continued to walk in and out of my life when he wanted and abandoned our friendship for other women.  This last time though, something inside me shifted. The light finally cut on.

The light of Jesus always exposes darkness.

We can have all the faith in God we want, we can love Him with our whole heart, but when we repeatedly hurt those closest to us and conceal and compartmentalize parts of our life, it’s not okay. No matter the reason, there’s no excuse for deception, major or minor. This doesn’t only involve romantic relationships but friendship too.

The desires of our hearts will never be met without Jesus. He has to be in everything. We say with our mouths God is in the center of our life and relationships, but is He really? I can honestly say, every time He was in the center of mine, the relationship wasn’t comfortable or easy.

A Godly relationship will help us confront difficult places. We should date and marry someone who not only helps us confront it but comes along side of us and helps us to be better. If you’re someone who doesn’t like confrontation, check your pride.

Jesus washed the feet of all 12 of His disciples, even Judas, the one who would eventually betray Him. Jesus laid His life down for His friends. I want the kind of relationships where we’re unafraid to lay our lives down for each other and the only way to have this of kind of relationship is when our natural self surrenders itself and dies.

In September, I walked away from an unhealthy relationship, one where my morals were continuously compromised. Last week, I walked away from a relationship that ended long before I finally had the courage to. The answer was there the whole time, but love is blind. Thankfully though, God’s love illuminates everything. I trust God’s plan over my feelings and trust the truth of His Word over fickle relationships.

God doesn’t want us in dead end relationships. He brings people together for a reason but both have to be in agreement with each other and ultimately God (Amos 3:3).  If there’s no agreement, it’s okay to walk away.

Know this, no matter what others say or do to us, God is still God. He is still the One who knows what’s best for us. We don’t. We never will. His ways are always better than ours. So, my prayer for myself and for you, is that we will always test everything according to His Word and pray for discernment. Be a person of integrity in public and in private. Love people. Really love them and let His love lead your relationships.

This past week I’ve learned the value of friendship and how important it is to have people in our life who genuinely care about us and who put others first. They think of themselves very little and always puts others’ needs above their own. They walk in love daily without realizing it.

We can only be lead by the love of Jesus if our lives our truly being led by Him. It’s okay to walk away from people who claim to follow Jesus but don’t love others the way He does. 

I’m still learning how to do the last part and with the help of God I’ll get there. I know my future relationships will be better for it and so will yours.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

Dating Tip #1: Head Over Heart

Honestly, I’ve been embarrassed to share my last attempt at a relationship because it failed. Though I knew in the beginning it would. Yet, like most people I stayed thinking it would get better and I would grow into my feelings with this person. Those feelings never happened and as I sit here almost two months later, I can say with confidence I will never allow my heart to lead this area of my life again.

For the first time in a long time, someone was interested. They noticed me, all of me. I saw them one day looking at me from across the room and it was like the whole world stopped. I noticed it but dismissed it at the time. This was about a year prior. I wasn’t paying attention to subtle hints someone noticed me. Stuff started happening though when I would go out. Men would give me attention and something inside me shifted. I felt confident. I felt wanted. This only fueled the desire in me to give dating and relationships a try. Though I told friends and Facebook I was content with my singleness, inside I was ready to put myself out there.  Of course, I prayed about it and rather than wait for God’s response, I rushed ahead.

This is where things got messy. I struggled with my relationship with this person and with God. I knew God was there. He reminded me every morning as I sat at His feet to return to Him. He was with me, but my heart was far from Him.

It’s a dangerous thing to move ahead of God in any area of our life and to ignore His warnings.  When I was reading the Word, I wasn’t allowing it to permeate. Instead I was glossing over the hard parts and remembering the good parts. Each time I found myself in situations where my beliefs and morals were compromised, I would hear God’s voice quoting scripture in my head. This was another subtle way He was trying to get my attention and draw me closer to Himself.

Scripture reminds us our hearts are deceitful above all else. I thought I loved this person but real love doesn’t fail. If I had used my head and not my heart, who knows what would have happened. I probably would’ve never dated and kept this person at a comfortable distance and only been their friend. I would have done a lot of things differently. But I can’t take it back and I’m not sure I would. It needed to happen.

Relationships are successful when God is at the center and are led by the Holy Spirit.  I’ve always known this but I allowed myself and heart to get distracted. Our hearts may have the right intentions, but our head and heart should remain kingdom focused.

It’s easy in hindsight to say all this but at the time things were different in my heart and in my spirit. I wanted what most people want; companionship. We were made for relationships but our relationships with other people should be an extension of our relationship with Jesus, not a replacement.

At the moment, I’m not seeking a relationship. I am, however, cultivating the existing relationships in my life with my friends, coworkers, and family. This is all an extension of me cultivating my relationship with God moment by moment.

My heart may have deceived me a lot in my life but I know when my heart is truly centered on the Lord, His character, His ways, and His wisdom, I’m not easily distracted by the desire for a relationship. Right now the only thing I want is more of Him.

It’s my prayer and hope we will all learn to seek and trust God in this area of our life above all else. That we will guard our hearts to the desires of this world moment by moment. Only God knows the true desires of our hearts. Allow Him to lead and guide you continually.

What I’m Learning About Dating

In early July, I tried dating. I dived head first into a relationship without asking God first. The “relationship” ended about two weeks ago and it’s taken time for me to get my thoughts together to write this. I’ve felt both guilt and freedom since I ended things between us. I don’t even know if we were ever really together but I know I took our situation to levels I swore I wouldn’t with someone I didn’t intend to marry.

It’s been easy sharing from my heart over the past three years how to navigate singleness and moving on from a broken heart. It’s difficult though when you’re the heart breaker. I’ve not only lost a relationship but a friend too.

That was hard to admit but I’m learning now more than ever to be honest about my shortcomings and not repeat the same mistakes in the future. In the next few posts, I’m going to share what I’m learning about dating and what I will do differently moving forward.

Without God directing my choices I would have stayed in a situation He clearly told me in the beginning to remove myself from. I didn’t listen and kept going down a path I knew would eventually lead to a dead end. I made that choice and I’ve taken responsibility for it both in asking God for forgiveness and repenting.

If you’re single like me, hopefully what I share here will encourage you to wait for God in this difficult area of life. I thought I was ready for a relationship after three years, but the truth is, I’m not and I’m finally okay with that.

Stay tuned.

We Need People In Life Who Take Initiative

For the past few years, my relationships with other people have felt lackluster. Lately, there’s only really been one person who has really been there for me. They take initiative without having to ask. Which made me think how important it is for us to have people like this in our life.

Most of my life, I’ve always been the giver in my relationships. Until recently, I’ve been thinking more about why I’m this way. I didn’t have a rotten childhood, but I know when I needed attention or affection from people I wanted it, I was met with rejection. When I was given attention, it wasn’t the right kind. It was only given to make themselves feel better in fleeting moments. The more I’ve exposed myself to the idea of a relationship and what it means, I know I appreciate when other people take initiative with the right intention and motives.

When people take initiative, it shows they care. This one is really a no brainer. We invest our time in things we love and care about. When people put forth effort into a relationship, it shows they actually care about the relationship and you.

I know my motives with my past relationships haven’t always been right. I thought if I did all the right things, they would love me more. But, we don’t need to work to earn someone’s love. Real love is freely given. What people freely give shows what they really care about.

I’ve always told myself I would never settle for less than I deserve, no one should. But God has been telling me something different lately. If I want others to be more attentive, loving, and to invest in our relationship, I need to do the same. I can’t expect from others what I don’t do myself.

Honestly, I’ve gotten lazy. Most of my meaningful relationships in life have fallen apart because I gave up. I stopped wanting to put forth the effort because the relationship wasn’t going anywhere. So, I did what most people would do. The moment there were inconsistencies, I walked away. I don’t regret it, but I’ve had to take a very hard look at myself and character. The truth is, relationships take work and the more I think about the kind of work it takes, I just want to be carried for a change.

In relationships, small things matter. When people take initiative in small things, when big stuff happens, they don’t freak out or bolt. How we handle small things says a lot how we handle the big stuff. 

I’ll be honest and say I’ve failed more lately at this relationship stuff than I have for most of my life. Knowing what I need from other people doesn’t always mean I’ll get those things. Which yes, can be very frustrating. But we can’t demand things from people. They have to give those things on their own. In the mean time, we have to give others what we  need/want from them even when it’s not reciprocated. This is what Jesus told me today and as much as I want to shake my head in disagreement and in pride, it’s His way and it’s right.

We need people in life who take initiative, but it starts with you.

How will you take initiative this week with the people who matter to you?

#heartcheck