Reflection on Helen Keller (from October 19th)

I believe that life is given us so we may grow in love, and I believe that God is in me as the sun is in the color and fragrance of a flower-the Light in my darkness, the Voice in my silence. -Helen Keller –

Abba, there are times when I grow weary

Of seeking to understand and feeling misunderstood

Of loving without being loved

Of knowing without being known.

But I push ever forward God

Because I know of no other response

That would honor your love, your mercy,

When I am fully known only by you.

Help me, Abba, help me.

I don’t know for what I plea

But you do, and so I ask

Help me, Abba, show me.

I am but a child, wholly ignorant,

I give you my heart, my life

To do with as you wish

For nothing and no one is so good as you.

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Dating Part II

I am beyond thankful for the responses I received to my recent blog on (Christian) Dating (link to read). I wanted to do a follow-up to address some of the items that came up in discussions, calls and texts. I also wanted to thank the men who reached out about introducing me to some good Christian guys. I love it, I’m thankful for it, and I hope this kind of networking continues not just for myself but for the many wonderful single ladies I know. Let your matchmaker self free, friends.

First, I get that it might have sounded personal when I listed “How awesome I was,” and perhaps even that, “I was upset with my own singleness.” I’m actually the happiest I’ve ever been. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to a relationship, but I don’t feel this great emptiness or anything. I was merely using myself to illustrate a point: I’m pretty cool in some ways, and not a single Christian guy has ever asked me out. And this is the same story of friends much more beautiful and amazing than me. I didn’t have approval to share their stories, so I shared mine. Part of that is sharing that sometimes, even when we’re in a good place, we can feel discouraged and ask ourselves if the criteria we are using in dating is right (for example, Christian).

That being said, I have been on a long journey to understand what kind of guy I should keep my eye out for, and I have taken many other women on similar journeys. I got a whole lot of “Amens,” and “I’m glad someone finally said something,” from so many ladies regarding the lack of boldness from men, but I want the gentlemen to know that I recognize that this is a two-way street.

To be blunt, there’s a whole lot of ladies that discount a man long before they ever make it to a date. There’s something to be said about being equally yoked, but there are some I know that seem to think the man should BE Jesus (but taller, and obviously financially sound, with a good career but, you know, has work/life balance, takes care of himself, loves kids and God…).

Here’s the list of things I OFTEN hear from women (before we spend weeks or months on the list):

Their MUSTS

Financially stable

Taller than me in heels

Takes care of himself

Likes to Travel

Plays ___________

Loves God

Loves kids

Good career

Owns a car/house

Good teeth

Nice Eyes

Full Head of Hair

Healthy

Intelligent

Charismatic

Thoughtful

Handy-able to fix things

Funny

Affectionate

Pursues me

Close to his family

No kids

Not divorced

Dresses well

Likes to dance

Plays an instrument

Active in the church?

My list of MUSTS (currently)

Has a growing relationship with God

Has male friendships (some Christian)

Kind/Compassionate

Sense of humor

Active (nothing major; can hike/camp)

A Little Adventurous

Ready to be in a serious relationship

Depth of Conversation

Enjoys community

Has some kind of vision he’s working towards

Substantially shorter, but no physical attributes. Why? Time to be a little bit uncomfortable but say something I think is necessary. I’ve dated a lot of very different types of guys, and (before I became Christian) I was intimate with some of them. One thing I learned is this: if you’re both motivated to have good sex, you have good sex. And it keeps getting better. This might SOUND crass, but my point is that sex with almost anyone can be good, and if you’re having good sex, you become more and more attracted to the person. So I’m not as concerned about the physical embodiment of the guy… hair color (or lack of hair), height, size, etc. Also, I become more attracted to a person based on their brains and personality (or if they are fixing a car or doing plumbing… weirdly attractive). This is a startling idea to some people but it’s true. So, let’s consider my list again:

My list of MUSTS (currently)

Has a growing relationship with God The trajectory of a man, where he’s been and where he’s going, are far more important to me than mistakes from his past or where he is presently.

Has male friendships (some Christian) I’ve dated guys who have no guy friends, or no friends at all. It’s very telling of their ability to maintain relationships. And guys need guys; I can’t be your everything. You need a community of brothers to do life with too.

Kind/Compassionate I’ve dated cruel and/or apathetic men. Although I’ve healed from it, it’s a vulnerability for me. I need to see that he will consider me in his decision making and behavior. This is a fruit of the Spirit I need to see manifested in his character.

Sense of humor Sex is great and a gift from God, and I hope to have a lot of it in my marriage, but there’s a lot of time we will need to spend together NOT having sex. And I want it to be filled with laughter. It’s so important to me and it’s such a great place of closeness and joy.

Active (nothing major; can hike/camp) I want us to be active together, and model an active lifestyle for whatever family we have.

A Little Adventurous I don’t need a rock climber or skydiver, but I also don’t want to have to pull teeth to try new things, and I want someone who will continue to push me to try new things too.

Ready to be in a serious relationship Because I’m not 22 anymore.

Depth of Conversation Its actually just super sexy to me. A guy who can hold a convo about something meaningful? 😍 Work on a motorcycle at the same time and you’ll have my heart forever.

Enjoys Community Likes people and understands I need more people than just him to be happy. Is cool with building community in our home.

Has some kind of vision he’s working towards I’ve dated men without vision and it sucks. Because it’s so important to me, it becomes a point of contention. They don’t need to know what they want to do for the next 40 years or be career obsessed; they just need to be moving towards something (also, it’s kind of sexy).

My list has changed a lot the last couple years and I’m confident it’s not perfect. It’s what feels right for me. Mine didn’t used to have the things I listed for what I heard from a lot of Christian ladies, but there were some misguided items. Really dumb things like “at least 2 years older,” “a bit of a bad boy,” “eyes that make me melt,” or “plays guitar or drums.” But spent some time in prayer and reflection looking at what I NEED vs. what I WANT. And let’s not discount the importance of sex. After looking at the Bible, as well as seeing how wrong I was getting it doing things my way, I decided to stop having sex and save all that fun for my future husband. But if the guy has the attributes on my list? I think I can be pretty confident we’re going to have something pretty stellar. Because we’ll make sure we do.

In summary: guys, I hear you saying you’re trying to be Christian brothers, etc. but coffee is coffee. Just get to know someone and be clear about your intentions. That’s really all there is to it. Girls will appreciate it and it’ll save everyone a ton of time. And both guys and girls should examine every item that’s on their list and ask themselves if their really using the right things to recognize “the one.” Because we could all be missing out on something AMAZING for a really unimportant reason.

A Moose’s Love

They take me into a clean, sterile room with a weird cat picture hanging up. As I make light conversation he hears my voice through the door, down the hall and in another room. I can hear his cries. Louder, louder. I feel his panic, his pain. He’s calling for me and my heart is breaking. I think of my mother’s stories from when she would drop me off at daycare and she would stand outside and listen to me cry and cry. And her heart would break.

They finally brought my Moose into the room and his tail beat against the wall, the cabinets, myself, the vet technician. He was so happy. When we didn’t start leaving he sat as close to me as he could and cried, shoving his head into me. The vet comes into the room and Moose leans deeper into me, finally collapsing on the floor and wrapping his paws around my foot, his head around my leg. So much love.

She tells me he’s got torn muscles in the knees of his back legs, the ligaments on the outside building up to compensate and limiting his mobility. They’re arthritic. His front right leg has a mass in his shoulder that would usually spark a discussion about the benefits of amputation, if it weren’t for his one good leg which is showing wear in the shoulder because it’s bearing the weight of the other 3 legs. He’s weak. He’s in pain. If anything happens to any one leg, the other 3 aren’t strong enough to support him anymore. Which is why he collapses. Which is why he is crying.

She gives me some meds, and we order some allergy medicine for him to be delivered. We leave and he’s so happy. I get the ramp out and he uses it without a fuss; he knows he can’t get in the car anymore without it. On the way home I cry. Quite a bit. I pour so much of my love into my sweet boy. My protector. My companion.

I think about how the depth at which we love is the depth to which we might feel pain, sorrow, grief. I momentarily doubt it being worth it. And then I look at him and my heart overflows with compassion and affection. Our eyes meet and I see his pain but also his love and I know that whatever happens, he has lived a life in which he has been well loved, and taught me how to love in the process. My dear, sweet Moose. How different life would have been without you.

Israel and Relationships

So we’ve got this group of singles, of which I am part, heading over to Israel for a couple weeks. There’s been a lot of excitement and anticipation around it, and for good reason. This is the longest and most consistently I’ve ever prayed for anything, and I’ve now had several people who have spoken over this trip that maybe “relationships” will come out of it. Please don’t misunderstand me in what I say (I would be so happy for whoever it is), but I worry that these words will seep into hearts and distract rather than encourage.

I know that we are going on an awesome adventure. We will walk where our God walked; we will pray where our God prayed. We will learn from a man whose walk in faith resembles that of Jesus’ far more than the modern Christian does. And herein lies my point: this is an once in a lifetime chance to know God in a unique and intimate way. If it is His will to bless people on this trip, by all means, may the Lord move hearts. But I pray that the idea of a potential relationship would not be so distracting that it comes at the cost of intimacy with God.

So my prayer is this: “Abba, should it be your will to bring new relationships to life in Israel, I pray that they would be relationships that honor you. I petition you, Lord, that the blossoming of that relationship would increase the intimacy they know with you, Adonai, and that it would serve as a testimony to you. I pray that you would guard hearts that need guarded, that you would bring them life and comfort in discovering your character. Above all, I pray that we would all love you, the Lord our God, with all our hearts, souls, minds and bodies; and that we would also remember to love each other. Your will, Elohim, and not ours be done. Amen.”

My Man, Father Mike

Father Mike has been dropping wisdom bombs in my life for a while now (via video; we’ve never met). I’m not Catholic but the wisdom he shares cannot be denied.

Loneliness can drive us to make really bad decisions sometimes; we fill our time with distractions, things and people to avoid being alone with ourselves. I think there is a difference between being alone and being lonely; the way we approach each of these can have a tremendous impact on the path we take in life.

Vulnerability

I went on a camping trip with some friends a couple weeks ago, which I wrote about at that time. I wanted to dive a little deeper into part of that trip; to be vulnerable regarding what I experienced in that moment now that I have processed it more fully.

A few days leading up to the trip God was REALLY driving home being vulnerable and I was feeling so frustrated because I felt like I had grown a lot in that space. For a little background, I’d also been having some lung problems because of my allergies for about a month. All this happened leading up to me on a hike in Hocking hills. We were going to do a 3 mile loop but some of my friends wanted to add another loop (ultimately around 7 miles). I tried to dissuade them but I didn’t want to look weak in front of people I really admired so ahead I plowed, not mentioning to them that it already hurt to breathe. My lungs felt like fists clenching tighter and tighter, and this continued for maybe two hours. I got to the point where I’d lean my body forward and force my legs to respond by catching me. I continue to try to act like everything is okay. Mask the pain. I told myself, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Then, suddenly, no more air. I see my friend beckoning to me and I can’t speak. I gasp and still, no air. A young couple passes me by and I make eye contact with the woman and wonder if she can see my panic.

This is the first time during the entire hike I actually begin to pray. It’s suddenly so quiet. I look up in awe at the tall trees surrounding me and I see spots of light dancing around me and I ask God, “Is this really my time? Will I really die from lack of oxygen surrounded by the very things you created that make oxygen? My God, where is your breathe of life now? I don’t have it. Help me, Abba. I need you.” Tears swell in my eyes and I’m torn between my plea to God and my desire, still, to hide my struggle so that my friends don’t see my weakness.

Suddenly, there is a woman in front of me, the one who had walked by before. She says something about also getting asthma attacks and my brain responds, “Yes! Asthma attack! I’m not dying.” I imitate what she does, following her instructions and slowly, deliciously, air begins to fill my lungs. And as I breathed in I felt not judgment but love from God, paired with what could maybe be described as a mildly disapproving sigh.

After a short rest and a very slow final climb, we made it to the parking lot. As I reached the car all I wanted to do was cry. To break down. To acknowledge the moment and all that came with it. But I locked it down, pulled it together. I laughed and ate Mexican, occasionally wondering if my friends now saw me differently because of this experience and if they would like me less because of it.

As I prayed about it later I felt how silly God thought it was that I would rather LITERALLY run out of air than tell my friends my lungs hurt. That we had talked about this and because I put my fear of rejection ahead of God’s call to be vulnerable with my community, I had to suffer and he had to send someone to teach me how to breath. Later I was talking to someone and they remarked at how lucky I was; that they had known of several people who had died from these kinds of attacks. That they were dangerous and should be taken seriously. It was at that moment I remembered a text someone had sent me at the end of May describing a picture they’d received for me:

…a picture of you rowing a boat with these really wide oars that were like fish fins so you had to do a lot of work to row but when you did you went far. He felt the Lord was saying you were in a season for the next eight weeks of heavy work but it would propel you far. Then on the oars he saw 1) 2) and 3), like there are three areas of focus and a small 4), like maybe you could do a little in 4) but 1.2.3 were the focus. The words behind those were self, health and safety…

I realized how much I had endangered my safety with my unwillingness to be vulnerable. After the trip I went and got allergy medicine and an inhaler and it was amazing the difference this made to my health and even my attitude! And so a big area that God has impacted through this is my health and safety, in learning to listen to my body better and to take care of it. But the third that came with it is my ongoing struggle with rejection.

I shared this struggle with my small group as well as with my co-workers, a moment of sharing my current “mess” that felt both exhausting and encouraging. I have known for a while that my greatest desire is to feel known, and not just known but to still be loved when I am known. This is also the thing I most fear, and the thing God has been working with me to overcome these last few months. Because of my background (particularly with my two longest running relationships), I have this undercurrent in my heart that whispers, “If they really know you, they won’t love you. People don’t stay for people like you.”

I know this probably sounds like a super depressing place to be but it isn’t, it’s just hard. I can continually remind myself that I am already known and loved by a King who adores me, and that if I remain authentic to my God and myself, then the rejection or acceptance by others will not influence the love I have for myself. And so, I am in this eight week season of working on the self, health and safety. Self, that I would become even more free of rejection and the ways that it influences me, making me an emotionally healthier person and leader. Health, in that I am learning to listen and respond to my body and what it is telling me. And safety, not that I would begin operating out of fear but rather that I would truly appreciate how fragile life is and what a blessing it is to be able to experience the moments I do. Lastly, within all these things I need to seek God and listen rather than believe that I can do this on my own.

Encountering Mystery

I had spent a very, very long time trapped in a space mentally and emotionally which felt like complete hopelessness and loneliness, clinging to a tiny shred of hope. It was like the glow of a single, twinkling Christmas light in what felt like an otherwise black abyss. I had started going to Crossroads about 10 months before, and a series of events had made me curious enough to begin asking, “Is there a God? And if there is, is God good? Who am I to God?” This ended up with me landing in India, going to some of the darkest places I could imagine, and challenging this God to show up.

I experienced a moment there that I will never forget. Crossroads partners with several homes in Mumbai and Kolkata, India, that rescue girls and women from sex trafficking. I was in the first group that went to Kolkata and we spent one of our days there putting on a day camp for the girls. We sang, we danced, we played, we taught each other songs and we also did some crafts. One of the crafts was to make a beaded bracelet or necklace. The different colored beads stood for things that were important to us or things we wanted. Examples would include hope, friendship, love, wisdom, etc. I was making a bracelet with one of the girls when she noticed the beads I had chosen to use. “No, no, no. More love.” I was confused, and asked her what she meant and she smiled and laughed at me. “You!” She pointed. “More love,” she said as she pointed at my bracelet, which barely included that color at all. She then proceeded to dismantle my entire bracelet and fill it with the color of love.

My heart broke in the most wonderful way possible in that moment, like walls around it were crumbling. It was as if all the darkness I felt like I was covered in turned into a liquid and puddled at the bottom of me and suddenly, the world seemed to be made of color. Of light. This child who had been through so much could see the very thing I felt I lacked but that I so desperately longed for and she piled it on, unabashedly. She taught me to worship as we sung, “Rejoice in the Lord, always, and again I say, Rejoice!” I was overwhelmed, I was baffled, I was in the process of becoming. If this young girl who had experienced the true darkness of mankind so fully could worship God, could call out for love with a hungry heart, than certainly there was something special happening here. Some kind of extraordinary goodness that could say, “Even in this place I will give you joy. Even in your suffering, you will know love. Loneliness is a lie because there is a God that loves you and is always with you.”

It wasn’t the first time or the last time that I encountered the Mystery of God, but it planted a seed of faith so deep inside of me that it successfully took root. I began a steadfast pursuit of this God that comes close, who moves in our lives today. While I’ll never fully know or understand God, I feel called into this Mystery that is. I get a sense that not only am I welcome to explore the character and nature of my God but that my desire to know God brings joy. When I begin feeling alone or discouraged, I look back on this moment and I remember how God used the ordinary to speak about the extraordinary and I rejoice.