Does Jesus Fit in My Love Life?

{Guest Post By Sarah Mebasser}

If there’s one thing about romantic relationships I wish I had understood in my teen years and early twenties, it’s this:

My life was perfectly full without it.

I wasted so many hours daydreaming about what it would be like to have a boyfriend to share all these wonderful experiences, that I seriously detracted from the experiences themselves.

It’s been said that the moments we most enjoy are also the moments we most want to share with another. We’ve all had the experience of seeing something really funny or catching an incredible sunset or a perfect mountaintop view and wishing we had someone with us to share the joy of the moment. But the mistake I now know I made was thinking that I didn’t have someone to share it with—thinking that if only my perfect soulmate were with me, the moment would be that much more perfect. But what I know now is that I did have my perfect soulmate with me. And He was taking just as much joy in the scenery or the joke as I was.

Having been married for almost thirteen years now, I can say that laughing with my husband and sharing amazing sunsets and views with him has been lovely and fun and sweet. But as much as I love being with my husband, he still doesn’t meet that deep ache of loneliness that I felt when I was single and longing for a romantic relationship.

I know now that he was never meant to.

does jesus fit in my love life

The desire we feel inside for romance and belonging and the perfect communion of our soul with another—that desire can never ever be met by another human being.

This was a hard and heart-breaking realization for me. I believed that if my husband and I just worked hard enough at our marriage—that if we communicated well enough and understood one another’s love languages and sacrificed for one another—that we would find the fulfillment that everyone else seemed to be missing. But eventually I had to face the hard fact that no matter how many hours we spent talking and trying to understand one another, our relationship would never be able to fill the void in our souls.

Imagine how discouraging that was—I’d been waiting for years for the perfect man to come along and make all my fairy tale dreams come true, but here he was and it still wasn’t enough. I questioned if there was something wrong with me that made me perpetually dissatisfied. And I questioned if there was something wrong with him—if I’d chosen the wrong man, or if I should have waited till I was older, or if I should have never gotten married at all.

But after a few years of wading through these disappointments, I got a glimpse of hope. I slowly started to become aware that there was someone in my life who loved me the way I wanted (and needed) to be loved. Someone who enjoyed the things I enjoyed and laughed at the same things I did and just delighted in being together. And to my surprise, it was Jesus.

I had known him as a guide, a rescuer, a voice of wisdom. But I had not known him as the lover of my soul. I had not known how sweet life could be when I shared every moment with him—whether watching the stars overhead or walking the aisles at Target. I had forgotten that I ever wanted that kind of intimacy with someone—I’d buried it under busyness and responsibilities and relationships that were “good enough.”

But it wasn’t good enough. Not really. Not for me, and definitely not for Him.

So he reminded me that I had once longed for a perfect relationship with a perfect soulmate. And He was that soulmate.

I’m a better wife and mother and friend for realizing it. And I’m happy for the first time in a very long time. And I wish and pray that you may find this true fulfillment as well—not in a boyfriend or a girlfriend or a fiancée or a spouse or even a best friend. But in the One who loves your soul to its very depths and knows your longings and desires to fulfill every last one of them.

“You are my Lord; I have no good besides You….You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:2, 11

 

Sarah lives in the San Francisco Bay area, where she works as a part-time writer and full-time mother.  She is a Messianic Jew who loves to explore her thoughts about God, life, and truth on her blog.

What To Do When Your Friends Move Away

{Guest Post by Mark Casper}

 Like most people, I hate goodbyes.

Unfortunately, this past summer my wife and I had to say goodbye to several of our closest friends, all of whom were moving to other cities for new jobs and opportunities. It was particularly bittersweet for us, since our community was just beginning to come together in a really wonderful way.

What we experienced is not uncommon. Studies have shown that a person living in the U.S. will move close to 12 times in his/her lifetime. Especially for those of us who live in large, transient cities, losing friends is inevitable. So how do we deal with this issue, practically and biblically?

Feel the Freedom to Mourn and Lament

First off, it’s a deeply sad and peculiar thing when your community starts to move away. On one hand it’s expected (even my wife and I don’t see ourselves living in our current city long-term), but on the other hand it can catch you off guard.

When I first heard the news of our friends’ move I felt hurt, confused, and angry–both with our friends and with God. I felt as if an unspoken contract had been breached.

What? You’re leaving? But how could you?

God, why are you taking these friends away from me?

Laments and frustrations such as these course through the pages of the Bible. Just ask Job (Job 1:20-22) or the Psalmist (Psalm 13:1-2). It’s ok to mourn your friends leaving. It’s ok to be frustrated with God about it. It’s just not ok or healthy to stay there.

Preach the Gospel to Yourself

As the Psalmist does in Psalm 13, we must temper our laments (“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”) with reminders of God’s goodness and faithfulness (“But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”). We need preach to ourselves the truth of God’s sovereignty, mercy, and gospel of grace.

When my wife and I first moved to our current city, we only knew one person. Over time, God provided us with a wonderfully rich community. It was a pure gift from him. He did it once–do we not believe he can do it again?

Trust the Father’s Pruning

Let’s be honest: if we were writing our own stories, most of us would not include isolation, loneliness, or suffering (aka the part where our close friends move away). But Jesus tells us that the Father prunes those he loves, in order to make them more fruitful (John 15:1-2).

Pruning is uncomfortable. Pruning is painful. No branch would ever volunteer to be pruned. But because of the gospel, we can trust that even in the midst of difficult situations our Father is always doing something for our good and his glory. After all, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8: 32).

Move Towards Community

After our friends moved away, I was tempted to wallow in an isolated state of self-pity. Every day I didn’t get an invitation from a friend to hang out took me deeper into the hole.

My mentor in college had a saying that has stuck with me:

“Community will never come find you. You must go find it.”

Whenever our friends move away, we must not wait for others to take their place–for they will never come. Instead, we must continually seek out and cultivate new relationships within our churches, trusting that over time a new community will form.

Hope in the Gospel

There’s a great passage from Sheldon Vanauken’s poignant memoir A Severe Mercy. In it the author finds himself in a situation that feels all too familiar for some of us: he and his wife moved to a new city for grad school, formed an unbelievably rich community of artists and intellectuals, (including a deep friendship with C.S. Lewis), and then had to move away for a job opportunity.

Before he leaves, Vanauken and Lewis have lunch at their usual spot one final time. There the great professor and writer, who played an instrumental role in Sheldon’s conversion to Christianity, makes an astounding statement. Vanauken remembers it this way:

“Lewis said that he hoped Davy and I would come back to England soon, for we mustn’t get out of touch.

‘At all events,’ he said with a cheerful grin, ‘we’ll certainly meet again, here–or there.’

Then it was time to go, and we drained our mugs. When we emerged onto the busy high with the traffic streaming past, we shook hands, and he said ‘I shan’t say goodbye. We will meet again.’

Then he plunged into the traffic. I stood there watching him. When he reached the payment on the other side, he turned around as though he knew somehow that I would still be standing there in front of the Eastgate. Then he raised his voice in a great roar that easily overcame the noise of the cars and buses. Heads turned and at least one car swerved.

‘Besides,’ he bellowed with a great grin, ‘Christians NEVER say goodbye!’”

The gospel gives us hope that we will not only be reunited with our brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 8:11), we’ll also be united with God himself (Rev. 21:1-4). Therefore, let us weep when our friends leave, for on this side of heaven, all good things must come to an end. But let us not say goodbye, for a day is coming when we will all sit down at the table of our King together.

 

mark casper

 

Mark Casper is a writer and graphic designer who lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife. Find him online at markrobertcasper.com and on Twitter here.

 

The Art of Seeing What Isn’t There

{By Austin Griesinger}

My grandfather is an interesting man. He was a millionaire before he turned 30.

the art of seeing what isn't there

I’ve been working for him for the last 6 months. He’s spent his life doing just a little bit of everything. Everything from working for his father’s roofing company when he was very young to owning his own used-furniture store (twice). He’s run a realtor firm and now owns a hotel. We just began a venture to start a tourism program in Gonzales Texas where he is also the Chair of the Republican Party. So, yeah. He’s done some stuff.

In the last 6 months I’ve tried to glean as much knowledge and information from him as I can. Throughout his life he has made and lost several fortunes.

While I love learning lessons in business from him, that hasn’t been the most impactful thing he has taught me. Learning how to make money, how to make allies politically, and how to make a name in a small town are just a few of the great things he’s taught me. That said, the one thing that really sticks out is a principal that I began to take in subconsciously that he later affirmed for me.

One industry my Grandpa is currently in is that of “real estate.” I put that in quotes because what we are actually doing is not what most people think of when they hear the words “real estate.” He has owned different warehouses and other various types of properties for many years and is constantly finding ways to make a profit off them. Either by remodeling and then selling them, renting them out “as-is”, or just letting them sit until the property value goes up.

One such project is a house that a friend of his sold to him. We are in the process of remodeling and then selling the house at a nice profit (hopefully. Fingers crossed. Pray for me.) It’s during the early stages of this process that he has taught me this valuable lesson.

The lesson of not just seeing what something is, but seeing what it can be.

The fact is the majority of people only see what is. They see their surroundings in black and white or in 2 dimensions.

Learning to “see what it can be” comes naturally to some but for most of us it has to be learned.

When he taught me this principal of seeing what can be instead of just what is, he was teaching me about old houses and how to buy cheap and sell high. While that’s a fantastic lesson to learn it’s not the ultimate lesson to be learned.

Being able to apply this principal to others is the most valuable lesson.

When it comes to other people there are two popular trains of thought.
1) You make judgements about people.
2) You don’t make judgements about people.

This is a tricky subject. Making a judgement about someone isn’t wrong! The actions we take after making those judgment are what may be wrong, even if its just in our thoughts. Every second of everyday you are making judgments about little things like how good a restaurant is or how smart a cashier is. We do it all the time subconsciously. What really matters is what we do with those judgments.

So if you don’t buy into the second train of thought which is, “all judging is wrong,” then you’re left with the second option which is making judgements about people and things. The secret is to take that first option and add on this principal of not just seeing the as-is but the can-be. On of  the greatest displays of love is to help someone become the person they dream of being. To take them from their “as-is” and push them to their “can-be” and to eventually help them see it as a “will-be.”

Society will tell you that you simply have to just accept people where they are. Don’t try to change anyone, or you’re intolerant.

As Christians its our job to spread the good news, and sometimes that good news involves breaking the bad news to people who are in sin. We have the responsibility of seeing others who are in their “as-is” and helping them towards their “can-be.” We also have to realize that the only way to make it to the end of that road is with the help of the “I Am.”

9 Invaluable Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Life

{By Ellery Sadler}

Growing up with a fantastic dad changes your life. It changes the trajectory of your future. It’s almost Father’s Day, and in honor of my favorite man in the world, here are 9 of the lessons he’s taught me that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

the most important things my dad taught me

1. Attitude is Everything

One of the first pieces of advice I remember my dad giving me was, “If you have to clean, dance with the vacuum.” At the time, I just thought I had a super cool dad who could dance with cleaning tools, but now I realize his message was not so much about breaking out the dance moves as it was about attitude. Attitude changes everything. If you approach even menial or tedious tasks with an attitude of thankfulness, you can turn cleaning the house into a dance party. (It happens frequently at our house.)

2. Don’t Ever Try to Be Noticed for Your Generosity

My dad is one of the most giving people I’ve ever met, but he never talks about it. He has given so much away, and when people have tried to get his picture in the paper or his name on their donor list, he always refuses. Why? Because he believes that generosity doesn’t need recognition.

You know. God knows. That’s enough.

3. Climb Out of the Box. And Stay Out.

Don’t we all just love the box? I know I do. Comfort zones are so lovely and, well, comfortable. But my dad has been blowing comfort zones and stereotypes and boxes and preconceived notions out of the water for as long as I can remember. The discussions at our dinner table are sometimes shockingly deep or strangely counter-cultural or hilarious. Just plain hilarious. But that’s the way my dad thinks. He lives life from a different angle.

4. Your Mind is Your Money Maker

My dad has the soul of a visionary. He is an entrepreneur. A business builder. A mover and shaker. He’s always taught me and my sisters that our minds are our greatest asset. Don’t count on other people to figure out your life or give you the right job. Always, always do everything with excellence. Set yourself apart by doing more than just your part. Use your brain. And make your brain make money for you. He always says that you want a job that uses your mind as your skill, because your mind can always learn and grow and (in the immortal words of Taylor Swift) it never goes out of style.

5. Adventures Come To Those Who Make Them

My dad is the king of making adventures. That could mean making a raft out of tree trunks when we were little (where did those spare tree trunks come from anyway?) or riding semi-wild horses through the mountains of Colorado (which could be part of the reason I don’t love horses) or ‘purposefully’ getting lost in a maze of Venetian alleys (why do some people hang little witches over their doors?). Don’t wait for adventure to come to you, go out and find it. Or make it happen right where you are.   

6. Money Is Meant to Be Spent – Don’t Hold Onto it Too Tightly

While as I child, I did (and maybe occasionally still do) use this as an excuse for the money burning a hole in my pocket, the principle is very true. Anything you hold onto too tightly will own you, be it money or career or status or popularity. Money has a funny way of changing people, of controlling them. So never hold onto it too tightly. Keep it in the flow. Keep it moving. It is meant to be invested and given away and spent, not hoarded.

7. Don’t Be Afraid Of Thinking

Our world is so completely drowned in noise and inundated with nice, easy to understand sound bites of information, we forget to think for ourselves. One of the most valuable lessons my dad has taught me is to use my brain. Like, actually use it. Process information. Analyze details. Look at the big picture. Think through things for yourself.

For some, this comes easy. Some people are just better at thinking, I guess. Once the TV is off and the questions are asked, for some people, it can be hard to actually think. But your brain is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. So practice. Practice thinking.

8. A Man Needs to Be A Man

There is something special about having a dad that can fix literally anything, drive a boat like a boss, look fabulous in seersucker, build businesses from his brain, and be the kind of man you can both respect and adore. He’s shown me what a real man is by example. My dad has always made it clear that a man doesn’t have to fit a certain set of rules or have a certain amount of money in the bank to be a man – he just needs to be a real man. And what does that mean? It doesn’t have to do with looking like Captain America (although that is nice) or having a high power job or checking the right boxes.

My dad has taught me that a real man is a leader. He takes responsibility. He is the first one to show up and the last one to leave. He follows through. He is upfront and honest. He doesn’t back away from a challenge and if he gets into a mess, he handles it with integrity. He thinks of others first. He finds the humor in life and realizes life is about so much more than just him. He isn’t afraid to be himself. Most of all, he loves God and he loves others. That is a real man.

9. Go Big or Go Home

If there is one wonderful lesson I’ve learned growing up it is go big or go home. My dad has showed my sisters and me that it is good to dream big, and then turn those dreams into a reality. Want to start a business and become a millionaire? Go for it. Want to find a way to travel the world? Do it. Want to be president? Work for it. Want to change the world? You can.

Big ideas are only as good as the action you take to make them true.

So don’t be afraid to dream bigger than most people even think. As Leo Burnett said, “When you reach for the stars, and you may not quite get one, but you won’t get a handful of mud either.”

Also, laughter is good – very good. Never lose your sense of humor.

 

What has your dad taught you? Comment below!

 

 

 

How to Decline a Relationship Graciously

{By Samantha Roose}

Dear Friend,

I heard you are encountering a difficult situation and I wanted to share some rare advice.  Please read the following with grace and understanding, realizing that these are situations and thoughts I have stumbled upon.  I am in no way an authority on the following subject. It is merely my hope to present what I have found as I have sought the Lord. So, take what you can and leave the rest. I’m under the strong opinion that guys and girls can in fact be ‘just friends’.

However, what should you do when you learn that one of the guys whose friendship you greatly enjoy as ‘just a friend’ is actually madly in love with you?!

how to decline love graciously

It’s not a situation any of us look forward to or one that gets easier the more you walk through it.  However, it is an opportunity to glorify God and practice selflessness. In fact it is one of the most selfless situations I have ever encountered.

Here are some key points to remember:

1. Fix your focus.

Look ahead. Don’t avoid. Walk faithfully. 

I once heard a story about driving a race car.  A young man received the opportunity of a lifetime to drive a race car on a racetrack.  Coming around the first turn at break neck speed he turned the steering wheel but his eyes were riveted to the wall of the track speeding toward him.  Suddenly, his driving coach turned the wheel and shouted, “Look where you want to go!”  The car corrected itself. They were approaching the second turn. This time he turned the wheel and fixed his eyes far beyond the sharp turn. No near-death encounter this time.

Moral of the story: look where you want to go. Focus is everything.

When I want my dancers to leap higher I tell them to look up.  It’s simple and it works every time.  As I have walked through graciously declining attention I focus on two things: 1) how can I glorify God most; 2) how can I serve the young man best.  If your goal is to bring God glory and point the young man in your life to Christ that’s what you need to focus on.  Even if those things are your goal, but you’re focusing on not causing him pain you’ll cause pain anyway just like the “racecar” driver the first time around.  His goal was to get around the turn, but he was focused on not running into the wall.  Don’t look at the problem, or even attempt to avoid the problem.  Fix your focus on where you want to go.

2. Communicate clearly.

Don’t delay. Don’t sugar coat it. Be honest. 

As women we innately want to lessen the impact or significance of any pain we might inflict.  So, when faced with a difficult discussion or sticky situation we sometimes procrastinate, hoping that the attraction will fade away.  Other times we beat around the bush and hint at our feelings in order to let them down gently. However, men are programed differently than women and grasp onto any shred of hope we leave.  A good friend of mine once told me of a conversation with her brother.  She mentioned that if “blank” guy was ever to get in a relationship then she would know he was not her guy.  Her brother looked at her and said, “What do you mean?  There’s definitely still a chance.  Nothing is final until they are engaged and even then there is still a little bit of hope.”

My friend and I laughed over this story, but through it I realized when we do not communicate clearly with the young men in our lives we are not serving them or saving them from pain.  Instead, we are serving ourselves.  Clear communication is the most selfless choice we can make.  Honest and prompt communication although difficult is one of the best ways we can respect and honor the men in our lives.

3. Intentionally Affirm.

Be respectful. Don’t degrade. Speak truth.

Regardless of the situation gentlemen are children of God as such they deserve respect.  Graciously declining love does not include stepping on the men in our lives, putting them down, or shredding their masculinity.  If anything it is an opportunity to point them toward Christ. Do NOT take this as an opportunity to paint a picture of all the inadequacies you see in him.  Instead point out the strengths in your admirer. Essentially you are saying, “I do not want to be ‘more than friends’ with you, however you are good guy whom I respect and believe will do great things.”

Being respectful and encouraging with your communication is selfless. When you are admired “against your will” it’s tempting to tell them all the reasons why they aren’t who you want as “more than a friend.”  Guys lay a lot on the line when admiring a lady.  Your goal is to communicate that you are turning down their attention/affection, not them as a person.  Setting aside your frustration and acknowledging the young man as a child of God is selfless and brings God glory.

Finally, trust God.  Trust God with his heart.  Trust God with your heart. 

Trust God with you future.  And trust God with all the heart involved.  If you are being obedient and seeking God’s will and glory above all He will do exceedingly, abundantly, above all you can ask or imagine.  He is a faithful God who does work all things together for His children.

Simply,

Sisi

What are your thoughts? Have you ever experienced a friend wanting to be more than friends? Comment below! 

5 Things I’ve Learned from Getting Engaged

{By Samantha Nicole}

Drumroll, please. I’M ENGAGED, Y’ALL! Say what?!

Yep. Paul popped the question a little over three weeks ago and I said “yes”! (Well, I almost didn’t, but then he reminded me that I had to stop hugging him and answer his question.) There are so many emotions that have been swirling around in my little 5’3” frame these few weeks, and I’ve learned a couple of things from this experience.

what you need to know when you get engaged

Remember, I did just get engaged, so some of my comments in the following paragraphs may be super cheesy, just roll with it, OK?

1. You’re never ready.

Paul and I had discussed engagement on many occasions during the months leading up to his proposal. I had a pretty good idea that it was coming soon, but I wasn’t 100% sure when/where/how he’d actually do it. Long story short, I figured out what was going on the day he proposed. I was attempting to be really cool and all “act like you don’t know because you don’t want to ruin it”. I thought I was pretty chill about the whole thing … That is, until he actually pulled out the ring and got down on one knee.

I totally lost it.

My stomach has never ceased to be a stomach that quickly in my entire life. There was a solid mass of tempestuous tidal waves in my diaphragm and all coherent thoughts flew out of my mind. Here I was being all “cool” and “ready” and I couldn’t even calm myself down enough for him to “say things” as he so eloquently put it.

Lesson #1: don’t think you’re ready because, trust me, you’re not.

2. You don’t have to have answers.

Everyone and their brother’s second cousin’s aunt’s friend is going to want to know your date, your colors, your venue, the color of your dress, and who your bridal party is … Less than twenty-four hours after your engagement. Not even kidding. I was in no way ready for the bombardment of questions from people I even hardly knew. And guess what… I didn’t have answers. Paul and I didn’t have a date when we got engaged. But it doesn’t matter. It’s OK to answer that you don’t know, people understand. And then when you do know, you just get to be all giddily excited all over again!

Lesson #2: Have patience. 

3. Engagement is a magnifying glass.   

Remember that annoying thing your boyfriend did? Yeah, it’s going to be a million times worse when your fiancé does it.

Any communication issues to even the way he combs his hair are going to seem amplified. Just calm down and look at things objectively. And talk about them. Don’t just slide things under the rug. And if they keep getting worse, start premarital counseling. Now. Go call your pastor. Figuring out that you have issues that may not be able to be resolved or compromised upon while dating is bad enough, it’s so much worse after you’ve decided to marry that person. As horrible as breaking off an engagement can be, it’s way better than putting off something that could wind up undermining your marriage.

Lesson #3: Communicate well.

4. Becoming bridezilla is terrifyingly easy.

I’m a very laid back person who can catch balls out of left field pretty well. Then I got engaged and, all of a sudden, I wanted to be this raving wild woman who had to have everything done her way. Like, what?!

I found myself whining about the color “true red” versus “burgundy” and complaining about needing a venue NOW.

I had to take a step back and realize what I was doing. When I took a few moments to analyze my behavior, I was shocked! I’m not that kind of girl! I did a whole lot of soul searching in those moments and apologized to my poor fiance. Besides, letting my mom and future mother-in-law and my sister handle things takes so much pressure off of my shoulders.

Lesson #4: Don’t lose your mind, it scares people.

5. Be a couple.

Just because you’re engaged doesn’t mean you get to forget that your significant other exists and start dumping your life into tulle and frosting.

Take time to still do “your” things as a couple.

Read Scripture and continue to build your spiritual relationship as a unit, go out on dates, and have “wedding free” nights.

Remember that this is a stepping stone to a future of “oneness”. Your foundation has been laid, now it’s time to start on the walls. Build them neatly and securely together. Imagine how awful you’d feel if you became so caught up in the wedding craziness that you forgot about your marriage. Make time for each other, because after the champagne has been toasted and the sparkers die out, you’ll be sitting next to your brand new spouse. And oh how joyous that should be.

Lesson #5: Be the couple that you both love.

I’m sure I still have a ton to learn about being engaged, and I can’t even begin to fathom everything marriage will teach me! However, with the insanity of life falling upon me, I must bid adieu to all you lovely readers. I have been so blessed to have had this monthly ability to share my life with you, but I now have a wedding to plan and husband to invest in. I may pop in as the editor allows (hehehe!), so look for my new adventures occasionally!

And remember that “life is a mess and a miracle, so pick up a broom and dance.” – Jennifer Trafton

What are your thoughts? Comment below to let Samantha know how much we love her!! 

8 Things I Would Tell My 16-Year-Old Self

{By Ellery Sadler}

A few key things to remember during the complicated years of high school.

8 things i wish i had known at sixteen

1. Love is Later

Yeah, I know that crush has you on cloud nine or that girl who broke up with you has you driving with the music up loud. I know the tears are real tears. And the feelings are real feelings. But most of the time true love comes later than early teens. I’ve been there. It’s really hard and can be incredibly painful or incredibly amazing. But love isn’t just a fluttery feeling or a flirty text. Love is commitment. Love is faithfulness. Love is sacrifice. And that comes with maturity.

2. No Matter What God is Good

Life can throw anything (literally anything) you’re way. From the death of a family member to a best friend’s betrayal to a move across the county and through it all, God is good. It takes time to realize this, but while you’re going through a hard time just stick a note to your mirror or save it as your screensaver on your phone: God is good. Always. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

3. Relax, Life Isn’t A Race

It is so easy to be caught up in the race for success. Who has the best boyfriend/girlfriend? Who has the best summer job? The best resume? The coolest friends?

For me, the race was always in regards to writing. At 14 I wanted desperately to be a published author. At 16 I was even more desperate. And today, I’d still like to get published. But I’ve learned that excellence takes time. And I’m willing to wait. Even if I don’t get published till I’m 50 or I never get published at all, that’s ok, as long as I know I’m doing what God wants me to be doing.

Really, life isn’t a race. It’s ok if you take a little longer to finish school or become famous or write that book or take that trip or start that business. Life is meant to be savored – not wolfed down as fast as possible.

4. Challenge Yourself, Invest in Yourself

Don’t just glide through school. Don’t just slide along on the team. Don’t just read the required reading over the summer. Challenge yourself. Dig deeper.

If you already are the best on the team, that’s great. But be the best you can be.

If you already do great in school, that’s awesome. But learn the most you can learn. Don’t just study to ‘get by’. Study to invest in yourself. And as you are investing in yourself, you are investing in the people around you, because the knowledge you acquire can be passed on to them.

5. You Are Young

Maybe it doesn’t feel like it, but seriously, sixteen is not the new twenty-five. So it’s ok. Enjoy being young – invest in your family, in your friends, in your education. And embrace where you are in life. This is the time to be experiencing and enjoying – not worrying. Don’t take life too seriously.

6. Girls, Girlfriends Are More Important

When you are sixteen, a guy is not worth giving up a girlfriend for. Girlfriends come first. In 5 or 10 years when you’re married, you’re not going to have a group of super ‘close’ guy-friends. But you will want to have a circle of good girlfriends. Don’t ditch or backstab or ruin a friendship for the sake of some guy who will probably move on and out of your life within a year or two. Having good, solid relationships with other girls is one of the biggest blessings in life.

7. Guys, Guys Come First

While media, movies, and everything else may tell you otherwise – right now, guy friends are actually the most important  in your life. Girls are fun to talk to and fun to be with and pretty, but your focus should be on making good, solid friendships with guys. Create deep and meaningful relationships with other guys of all ages, especially older guys. You have so much to learn from older men who understand what it means to walk as a man of God and live with integrity. Invest in those friendships.

Of course, its great to have good friends-who-are-girls too. Just be aware that in the end, you’ll have one special girl in your life. You don’t need twenty.

 8. Forget Yourself

As the very wise C.S. Lewis said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” While this holds true for all of life, I think it is especially important during your teenage years.

A life worth living is lived for others. 

Don’t get so caught up in your own thoughts or your own self-made drama that you forget about the outside world. There are so many people who need a smile today, a hug in the hallway, someone to sit with at lunch. Listen. Open your eyes to the people in need around you and then have the courage to do something about it.

I think life was never meant to be a solo, introspective journey. It is a trip, an adventure. And adventures are best when they’re shared. Otherwise they’re just scary.

So lose yourself in bringing joy to the lives of the people around you.

Bonus 9. Learn to Laugh at Life

Life is hilarious. Learn to look for the humor and make sure your laugh-lines are always deeper than your fears.

What do you wish you had known when you were sixteen? Comment below! 

3 Types of Friends Every Christian Needs

{By Samantha Nicole}

I’ve been pondering friendship a lot lately. As a young adult, my life is still in its developing stages, and to be honest, I never really know what’s going to be thrown at me next.

It can be hard to deliberately make lasting friends and come alongside sisters-in-Christ.

how to be a good friend Christian friends

Recently, I was reminded of something my dad used to tell me.

“Every person needs three friends: a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy”.

No exceptions. Wherever you are, you should be striving to have those three people (big huge note here: of the same gender as you) in your life. They’ll fade in and out and morph over time, but they should always be able to identify them in some capacity.

You Need a Paul.

Nope, not my man this time. (Though, he’ll always be my number one “Paul” *wink*… Yeah, yeah, that was crazy sappy.) A Paul is someone who is a few steps “ahead” of you in your faith walk. They’re the person you find yourself turning to when you need advice or are confused. They’re normally a few years your senior and have more life experience than you do. Your Paul is someone you can be real with and who you trust to keep an eye on you and not let you slide down a dangerous path. Normally they’re the person that when your phone rings you either chat for hours about how God is working in your life, or you’re in tears of repentance after ten minutes… Or maybe that’s just me.

You Need a Barnabas.

Barnabas is your peer. This is probably the easiest one to identify. Who is that person who knows more about you than anyone else? They randomly text you to tell you they’re praying for you, you plan your vacations around their work schedule so you can hang out, and you can’t have a conversation filled with small talk because you’re just bursting to talk about all the things you’ve missed since you chatted last… Yep, that’s your Barnabas.

We also tend to have more than one Barnabas. They’re your best friends, the ones you hang out with on a Friday night. When you think of doing something fun, they’re the girls and guys that you call.

A Barnabas is a person who is in the same place you are in life.

You’re walking the road of experience together, whether that’s first jobs, dating, early marriage, and/or starting a family. They’re the close friends who push you to be the best at wherever you are because they’re trying to do the same thing.

And You Also Need a Timothy.

Timothy is the younger friend that you’ve chosen to invest in. For some of us, these are our siblings, for others they’re our sorority “littles” or the girl our youth pastor asked us to mentor. We’re the cool older friend who takes them out for frozen yogurt or to the Friday night football game. You’re there to encourage them and give them advice from a person who’s just one step ahead in life. You send them “10 Things to Remember Before Going on a Date” lists and pray for them when they have college application deadlines. You meet with them to pray and learn from each other. They keep you young and don’t let you use words like “slacks”, and they remind you what it was like to live with your parents. You’re their Paul, the person they look up to and contact for advice.

Each of these friends, our Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy, help to form us each day. They all add a piece to the puzzle of who we are. And they encourage us in our faith walk in three perfectly unique ways.

 

Who would you name as your Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy?

 

The Boyfriend/Girlfriend Perspective: 4 Ways to Improve Your Relationship

{By Samantha Nicole & Paul}

What if amid the diets and Bible-in-a-year plans we took a few moments to come up with ways to improve our relationships?

ways to improve your relationship

Whether you’re newly dating, engaged, or well-seasoned married folks, there’s at least one way you could improve your relationship with your partner.

It would be unfair to only write this article for the girls, so I’ve enlisted the help of a wise-beyond-his-years and super handsome guy to help me out … That’s right, folks, my boyfriend Paul is chipping in his two cents.

For the Ladies

by Samantha

1. Stop expecting him to be perfect.

There comes a moment in every relationship when you realize that the guy you’re dating isn’t always clean-shaven and chivalrous. He’s also going to say things that hurt you, and you’re going to want to flip out all over him. Just stop and breathe for a moment. Our men aren’t perfect, they never will be, but we’re called to love them as as Christ loves us, and we definitely aren’t without fault. Freeing your mind of the expectation of perfection will ease your stress and remove unnecessary pressure from your relationship this New Year.

2. Don’t go to bed angry.

Ever. Return his texts and call him back… Even when you’re upset. No one should ever have to lie in bed staring at the ceiling wondering what they did to ruin something wonderful. They deserve an explanation, even if it’s nothing more than “I need to think about this… I’ll call you tomorrow”. Sure, you may be rip-roaring mad and want nothing more than to drown yourself in a puddle of angry tears while eating gelato and watching The Notebook in an attempt to console yourself, but I can almost guarantee that he’s doing whatever guys do to relieve anger and frustration. (Hit things? Watch war movies? Eat mass amount of potato chips? I actually have no idea what they do. Paul? *wink*) Just a simple text letting him know that you need a bit of space could go a crazy long way. Take a breather and go back at it in the morning, but don’t go to bed without taking at least a few moments to help settle each others’ tempers.

3. Learn to cook his favorite meal.

Or how to make his coffee. Or what his favorite perfume is. Just one thing that says “I’m interested in learning what you like, and I want to show you just how much I care.” It may even be something you’re not necessarily fond of. For instance, Paul loves cream soda, I, however, am not a fan; but I’ll pick some up every once in a while just because it’s his favorite. It’s totally worth his excited smile when I carry the case in. Just one small moment of you deliberately showing your love for him could shine out from 2015 for many years to come.

4. Cut “always” and “never” from your vocabulary.

Using exaggerations just causes frustration. There are definitely days when it seems like he never listens and always leaves his socks on the bathroom floor, but saying that in the heat of the moment is only going to spark tempers. Imagine a whole year without you generalizing his faults; whoa, right? Let’s aim to be peacemakers this year, not a chaos causers.

 

For the guys

by Paul

1. LISTEN.

Guys, when she needs to talk, listen to her.  You do not need to worry about trying to fix the problem … if she needs your help she will ask you.  Learning to listen to Samantha is one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn during our relationship.  I always have an opinion I feel needs to be voiced and I try to fix every problem I encounter. But that’s not always what she wants.  Sometimes she just wants to talk … to verbally process a storm of thoughts in her mind.  So strive this year to be there for your girl by being willing to quietly listen when she needs to talk.  You will be amazed how much this simple act will strengthen your relationship.

2. Don’t go to bed angry.

Re-read what Samantha said to the ladies.  The same exact thing applies to us guys.  Do not slam that phone down before bed.  Even if you cannot resolve what’s wrong don’t go to bed on bad terms. Resolution will be easier when you can call a cease-fire and agree to discuss your issues when you are not tired.  While it may seem that you are letting a problem fester, agreeing to discuss your issues when you have had time to relax and process everything will in fact make resolution easier and will help you avoid issues in the future.  Learning how your other half handles arguments is the first step to resolving problems in a healthy and constructive way.

3. Do something special for her.

Have fun choosing one date to be extra special.  Pick out her favorite flowers and take her to a fancy restaurant.  I have so much fun making Samantha feel like the only girl in the world.  Girls love it when their guys make them feel special. Make opportunities this year to show your love for her in a special and unique way!

4. Study the Bible together.

Pick a book of the Bible to read through together and find times to talk about it either over the phone or a cup of coffee.  I think it is important to begin the habit of worshipping God together while you’re dating.  A healthy and successful relationship is aimed at God and as you and your significant other grow closer to God you will grow closer to each other.

What kind of resolutions would you make for your relationship in 2015?

 

5 Ways to Keep Love Alive This Christmas

{By Samantha Nicole}

In the past two years, I’ve learned that the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are the best and the worst of times for relationships. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

how to make time for your girlfriend or boyfriend at Christmas

The holiday season is an insanely busy time for all of us. Our weekends fill up with cookie swaps and advent services before we know it, and our nights are packed with ugly sweater parties and dinners with friends. And then there are all the different family members you just have to see before December 25th rolls around. It’s craziness, I tell ya.

Holiday busyness brings on a different kind of stress than what we feel during the rest of the year. It’s easy to lose touch with your significant other amidst all of the fun, but there are a few simple tricks I’ve picked up along the way that may help us all out. (And, yes, this is a reminder to me too!)

#1: Schedule.

The average American female spends twenty hours Christmas shopping each year. Twenty hours. With all that bustling around, how on earth do we plan to have time for romance? One word: schedule. Sunday night, sit down and pull out your to-do lists, calendar, and phone. Figure out when you have little bits of free time and let him know. I can pretty much guarantee that your schedules won’t line up perfectly, but there’s almost always one point in the week when you’ll both be free. Take that time to be “us” time. Just a few moments of quiet with your significant other, and just your significant other, will make a huge difference.

#2: Create a tradition.

Excuse my ADD for a moment, but all I can hear is the Fiddler on the Roof. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

The best thing that Paul and I have done over the last couple of years is create traditions for just the two of us. A tradition could be always going to the same breakfast place on Christmas Eve or creating an advent calendar to use each year or picking an event to attend together annually. For example, Paul’s school hosts a Christmas Gala each year where the men’s and women’s choirs present gorgeous renditions of seasonal hymns and carols. Each year since we started dating, I’ve met his family and driven up for a night of Christmas festivities. It has become one of our favorite evenings to spend as a couple with his friends and family. It’s nothing flashy or overly expensive, but it’s special for the two of us.

how to keep love alive when you're busy

#3: Spiritual recharge.

Christmastime isn’t only exhausting for our relationships, it’s also tiring spiritually. Taking a few minutes to step back and recharge with each other can be the perfect way to dig into the Scriptural meaning of this season and really embrace growing as a couple. Try reading the Christmas story together and focusing in on the relationship between Mary and Joseph. It’s truly an incredible reminder of how men are supposed to honor their significant others even amid circumstances that they don’t understand. Because of the era that they lived in, Mary was probably shamed by family and friends and had to walk away from everything familiar. Joseph trusted an angel and stood right by her side through it all. It’s one of the finest love stories of all time.

#4: Compromise.

All great relationships are built on a base of giving and taking. We want to say “yes” to everything, but that will result in packed out schedules and pure exhaustion. One of my favorite principles comes from Ann Voskamp when she said “Watch your nos and your yeses will take care of themselves.” You are going to have to say “no” at some point. Sometimes you have to sacrifice date night in order to visit with friends from out-of-town, and sometimes you’ll have to skip out on dinner with the girls because you haven’t seen your man all week. The key is to be willing to give things up in order to enjoy the moments that you do get to say “yes” to.

“Wherever you are, be all there.” Our friend Jim Elliot was onto something here. Embrace each moment you’re given and the compromising won’t seem like such a big deal. Life is what you make it. Decided to be joyful this holiday season, even though you have to miss out on some things.

#5: It’s just a season.

Sometimes Mom will win out or that freak snowstorm will get in the way of your plans. Your curling iron will break, he’ll be scheduled for overtime hours, your finals will be ridiculously stressful, and that perfect Christmas season you envisioned will seemingly be falling to shreds. Pick your head up. The craziness of the holidays only lasts for 32 days. You’ll be right back to normal come January 2. The beauty of Christmastime is in the moments we settle into. Create those traditions and embrace that few minutes of empty calendar space because you’re both still going to be standing next month.

Have patience with this season, and don’t let your frustration or stress interfere with the love you’ve built.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” ~Isaiah 9:6 (Emphasis mine)

What are your favorite traditions at Christmastime? Comment below! 

Sexual Purity: What is the Point?

{By Samantha Nicole}

Having sex before you’re married isn’t cool. It’s sin.

I got your attention rather quickly, didn’t I? I’m personally fed up with the mediocrity with which Christian young adults view sex, and I’m sure some of you are too. This is my defense for saving your sexual self for marriage. And, yes, I realize my bold opinion is probably in the minority here, and I don’t care.

what is the point of sexual purity

I’m a twenty-one year old female who decided at the age of thirteen to save herself sexually for the man she marries. At this moment, I’m still not wearing a wedding band, and I’ve held to my resolve. People were seemingly ok with my stance all throughout my teenage years; in fact, they condoned my choices and encouraged me in many, many ways. Even through my twentieth year of life, most people thought it was really awesome and supported my decision.

Then twenty-one hit and suddenly, I was the odd-ball out and everyone wanted to tell me so.

I could quote scripture after scripture that prohibits sexual immorality (Acts 15:29, Romans 13:13, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20), but I’m sure most of you are aware of them. In fact, I’ve even had some of you try to convince me that sexual immorality cannot be committed if someone isn’t married. Excuse me, but the actual definition of sexual immorality is “any sexual act outside of the marriage covenant.” Uh, guys, that means having sex before your wedding night. Stop trying to convince me that God wasn’t really saying what He said … It’s in black and white in every Bible. Why try and argue with God?

You know what’s really neat? God didn’t forbid me from having sex outside of marriage just to make me suffer. He did it so that I would be saved from heartache and memories. He asked me to remain pure so that I don’t have to deal with the emotional confusion and clouding that comes from sleeping with someone who I haven’t promised my life to.

Sex will never be a deciding factor when I stand across from my husband the day I make my wedding vows. My respect and admiration for my husband is compounded because of his choice to respect my desire to honor God in this way. By honoring my request and desire for sexual purity and denying himself for God’s glory, I have this crazy thing called trust. If he did it for me once, I can trust that he’ll do it over and over and over throughout our lives together. And get this, he can have that trust in me too! That whole “well, if he/she slept with me before we were married, who else did he/she sleep with?” question is a non-issue.

God is a God of love and mercy and peace in all areas of life. Holy, unadulterated marriage beds glorify Him in ways we unmarried folks cannot even begin to imagine.

Because of those two facts, we can rest in the knowledge that He will equip us to be sexually abstinent in Him throughout our unmarried years, and that He’ll continue to keep us faithful and pure into our marriages. He promises that any good work He begins in us He will carry to completion.

God will give you and I the strength and ability to sexually save ourselves for our spouses.

To all those walking this road, I know it’s rough, but I promise it will be worth it. And remember, you aren’t the only one. Stay strong!

 

An Open Letter to My Newly Married Self

{By Katrina Britton}

This past year, I’ve noticed a number of articles circulating through this website and others on the age-old subject of guy/girl relationships.  In particular, the majority of these articles have been written to express various opinions on the how-to’s (and how-not-to’s) of pre-marital relationships; the concepts of courtship, dating, finding and being “the right one.”

As one who has traversed this pre-marital path, and now walked alongside my husband for two and a half years of marriage, I would like to take the opportunity to address an oft-neglected aspect of life on the other side of the wedding.

To do so, I have written a letter to my newly married self of two years ago, expressing advice that I wish I had known back at the beginning.  I know I am not alone in the challenges expressed during this time because I have spoken with other married friends and come to realize that many of us could have benefited from a letter such as this.  I write it with other, soon-to-be-newly-married brides in mind … hoping that it will bless your life and your marriage.

an open letter to my newly married self

Dear Young Bride,

 

Marriage is a precious, wonderful, delightful gift, and the man you are marrying is a truly great guy.  I know you know this.  I know you have loved every minute of your courtship and engagement, and are over-the-moon excited to become his wife.  It’s only natural!  You’re confident that this is the man God has been preparing for you, the man you’ve been praying for all these years, and you’re deeply in love with him.

I know you are well prepared to become his helper in life, the keeper of his home, and the mother of his children.  My reason for writing you today is simply to prepare you for an aspect of married life that no one has ever really told you about.  I like to call it, “The Adjustment Period.”

The honeymoon will be a time of floating on cloud nine following a lovely wedding.  It is when you will have the freedom to be together in private morning, noon, and night with no interruptions, time constraints, outside pressures, or snickering spectators.  It is when you become “one flesh” as God designed, strengthening and solidifying your union by making it beautifully physical.

The adjustment period is what comes after the honeymoon.

For some, it will last a few weeks; for others, several months perhaps.  Whatever time frame yours endures, rest assured that it, too, is a natural part of your unfolding relationship.  Most newlyweds go through it, though few speak of it.  I’m still not sure exactly why.  Maybe because everyone around them expects their first few weeks/months of married life to be pure bliss and they feel that to express anything differently would cast their marriage in a bad light or cause people to feel concern for them when none is due.  Or maybe it is because, as time goes on, they settle comfortably into their “new norm” and forget about those first few weeks.  Or maybe it is simply because, for some, this time in their married life is private and not to be divulged to those outside.

You see, during the adjustment period, you and your new husband will have much learning to do.  Sometimes it can get uncomfortable.  Sometimes it can hurt.  But trust me when I tell you that you will emerge from this period a stronger couple and better off for it.

It is like learning any new skill such as riding a bike, ballroom dancing, or playing an instrument.  There are scrapes along the way, toes stepped on, and sour notes when you intended to play beautiful ones.

Dear, excited, young bride – don’t be discouraged!  It’s okay for these things to happen.  You will grow through them.

The adjustment period is when you and your man will learn to really be husband and wife, beyond the recitation of vows, the signing of a marriage license, and the joining together of two bodies.  You will be learning how to live with each other in the same house, the same room, the same bed.

You will be learning how to sync the ebb and flow of your daily rhythms together. 

You will be setting up a home together. You will be learning to cook for your man and figure out what he does and does not like from your kitchen.  You will be learning how to please each other…sometimes through trial and error.  Throughout this process, you both will be seeing new sides to each other than you have ever had opportunity to see before, simply because you are new to this living together business.  It’s normal.  It’s natural.

And let’s not forget about hormones!  Going from being a virgin to a married woman, your hormones are in for a roller coaster ride.  And when you get pregnant, those hormones will go through some more transformations.  Get ready for a lot of emotional ups and downs as a result!

Through all these major changes and new experiences, you will need truckloads of grace, patience, and unconditional love for one another.  Feelings will get hurt, often unintentionally.  Annoyances may pop up unexpectedly.  Tears might be shed … even though you are not one who is prone to crying.  It’s okay.  Breathe.

As you prepare yourself for this learning curve in your new life together, my best piece of advice is to let go of all expectations and to be thankful in every little way you can for this man you have chosen to marry. It has often been said that expectations kill relationships. There is so much truth to this statement!  If you are entering marriage expecting that everything will be as it was when you were courting/dating, you will be disappointed.

There is a big difference between being boyfriend and girlfriend and being husband and wife. Both seasons have their beauty.

Let go of the expectation that he will bring you flowers or write you love letters all the time.  Let go of the expectation that he will like everything you cook.  Let go of the expectation that he will be super impressed with how you organized the bookshelves while he was at work…when chances are, he may suggest a different way to categorize your expansive library when he gets home.  Let go of the expectation that he will automatically know when he’s hurt your feelings and apologize.  Let go of the expectation that he will take out the trash when you think he should.

Let it all go.

That way, when things like flowers, compliments, household help, and voluntary apologies do happen, you will be surprised, delighted, and appreciative.

In the meantime, cultivate a grateful heart that chooses to give thanks in all things, especially the little things.  When the hurts and annoyances do occur, communicate about them gently if necessary.  These conversations will be much better received by your husband than if they are shared by a wife whom he feels he can not please.  Your exercise in thankfulness will lend itself to a contagious joy!

Lastly, rest assured that this adjustment period will take a little time as you settle into life  together, but it will not last forever.  As I said before, you will emerge from it a stronger couple with your own inside jokes, smiles for each others’ quirks, special memories, and  a new depth to your relationship as you move forward in joyful unity.

Dear young bride, you are going to love being married to your best friend!  I promise! :)

Sincerely,

Your Older, Wiser Self

What do you think? Comment below!

5 Things I’m Looking For in a Husband

{By A Twenty-Something}

What attracts me to a guy?  What does a man look like that I want to marry?

Since I’ve been working, several people have asked me about my views on relationships and what I am looking for in a husband or potential boyfriend. There have also been more awesome guys in one place than I’ve experienced. All these things have caused me to consider what I am looking for.

5 things you need in a husband

As I have pondered this for the last several weeks I have come up with 5 things that I am looking for in a husband:

1) A man who is actively pursuing a relationship with the Lord.

He needs to be growing in Him, and excited to share about it. I will know if a young man is growing in the Lord by the fruit in his life. This quality to me is important because if the young man is growing as a result of his pursuit of God He will continually be trying to become better, serve the Lord, and lead a family to glorify Him.

2)  A man who cherishes and respects me.  

Respecting me shows his love for me, that he’s willing to put aside his needs and desires to provide and protect me. I will see these through the way he treats his mom, sisters, and the other women in his life.

3)   A man who loves to have fun and makes me laugh.

I want someone who is optimistic and positive. My favorite people to be around are the ones who make me laugh, bring out the best in me, and help me have fun. My personality does not naturally have fun, so I need someone to drag me into fun with him!

4) A man who is humble but confident.

Humble: takes advice, has mentors, is willing to change and consider other’s ideas.  Confident: makes decisions, leads, goes for it, initiates things, stands his ground when it’s important. In other words, a masculine man.

5)  A man who takes action and fights to the end.  

If a man is characterized by fighting for things that are important to him even when it seems impossible, it is more likely that he will fight for our marriage to work even when it’s hard.

I still believe that a man should be able to support a family financially before getting into a relationship, but I would put that under point 2.  If a man is truly cherishing a respecting a woman he is not going to enter into a relationship that he cannot see through.

The most important advice for a young man pursuing a woman: put God before her and put her before yourself.

what to look for in a boyfriend

Make protecting your relationship with God more important than your relationship with her or your hope of one.  Make protecting her more important than yourself or a relationship.

To put her first you must:

1)  Seek the Lord

2)  Get to know her and those around her without letting her know your hopes or intentions.

Essentially, you’ve noticed that she might be the one (you’re at least very interested), now you’re exploring the realistic possibility.  This provides some protection because you are able (hopefully) to discern whether or not you want to pursue the relationship further.  Instead of getting the girls hopes up as soon as you have interest you get to know her and those who love her to see if she really is who you think she is.

3) Go slow and honor her wishes.

Hopefully, as you have built relationships with those closest to her you have been able to learn what she is looking for and how you both can continue journeying toward Christ.  Please know that in some cases honoring her wishes could be a deferred intentional relationship or never pursuing such.

In the end, I don’t want to enter any relationship or marry anyone unless we can glorify God better together than we can apart.

What do you think? What are you looking for in a spouse? Comment below! 

When You’re in a Season of Missing

{By Samantha Nicole}

I caught myself doing it again. I searched Pinterest for “Long Distance Relationship Tips”. It’s officially fall.

Paul has been at school for over a month, and I’ve been teaching my new batch of raucous middle school students for just as long. Our lives are awesome. He’s a senior on a small, Christian campus working two jobs and living with one of the best groups of guys I’ve ever met. I’m living on the third story of a gorgeous Victorian and spending my days doing algebra and laughing with teenagers and studying my heart out in a range of topics. We’re both living pretty fantastic twenty-something lives.

There’s something missing, though.

long distance relationships

I first noticed it a couple of weeks ago when I was out with a group of my new girlfriends. We’d all gotten gussied-up and headed out for dinner on the town. And not to be vain, but I was feeling gorgeous. *wink* They were all commenting on their husbands’/fiances’/boyfriends’ opinions of their going-out attire, and I sat nodding and smiling along. I chalked it up to the usual I-just-miss-my-man doldrums and moved on with my night.

After a couple of weeks of new friends, new students, and new classes, I was really feeling like something wasn’t quite right. And then, one Saturday, I had a “lightbulb” moment.

A little background here: I work for a very small school. This year they decided to host their first ever Homecoming celebrations, and they started it all off with a 5K race. Folks, I don’t run. In fact, I kind of hate running. I’ll hike all day long and do crunches until I pass out if it just means I don’t have to run. I’m fit and can run, I just choose to avoid it like the plague. However, a couple of the other teachers had convinced me to come walk the course. Hey, why not? So, Saturday morning, I pulled on my sneakers, grabbed a water, and headed to the track. And then I ran. (I’m sure this is the point that I should talk about how I gave into peer pressure and everything, but that’s an issue for another time.) I ran the whole course, and I came in third place for my age bracket. Guys, I got a medal for my first ever 5K.

I smiled and got pats on the back and hugs and “You go, Ms. Axberg!” chants from my students; but there was a hollow feeling under it all. Paul had just missed out on one of my proudest moments. He didn’t even know about it until it was over.

 I miss Paul.

Missing may very well be the darkest emotion that humans contain. Oftentimes, it’s a physical pain that feels as though it may never heal and an emptiness that can’t be filled. It’s a black hole of memories and smiles and love. Cherished moments that accompany me to work, school, social events, and to bed. It takes up my thoughts, my energy, my desire, my life. I can let myself begin to live in an abyss of yearning for something seemingly unreachable.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The date marked on the calendar. The moment I wake up hoping to see. The days leading to it are the longest of my life, and every time it feels as if they’re longer.

The first sight. That smile that lights up my day no matter how dark the nights have been. That wave of emotion that pours over every piece of me. The overwhelming joy. The filling. The void that becomes so full it hurts again; but it’s a hurt I’ve longed for. Suddenly those lonely nights and despairing moments, all those “can I do this?” thoughts swirling around in my head, are but vapors and nightmares fading before the dawn.

There will be a day when Paul and I can randomly run 5K races together (ha!) and cook dinner and model “going-out” clothes.

But, in the meantime, I’m thankful for a love so strong that my heart breaks in the missing.

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-36, ESV)

What do you think? How do you deal with long distance relationships? Comment below! 

 

Guys, 7 Things You Should Do For a 1st Date

{By Kyle Griesinger}

As a guy, I know that planning dates is one of the most stressful things you can do.

It can feel as though there is overwhelming pressure to come up with something original, endearing, and charming, just like in a Hollywood movie. News flash: Hollywood movies have dozens of writers that think up those dates, and every part is scripted. And guess what? Your special girl probably doesn’t really care that much about whether it’s perfect. The thing that probably means the most to her is that you took the time and effort to plan something special for the two of you.

7 things to know before your first date

Nevertheless, planning a date can still be stressful! I mean, you really do want to come up with something that’s as special as she is. So here are some tips to impress your special girl:

1. Listen to her.

There is a reason this is number 1. This is the easiest way to plan a great date. When she tells you something that she likes, take note. That is prime date material! And don’t just pay attention to the big stuff. The little stuff is just as important, if not more important. If she says mentions favorite candy is Lindor Truffles then bring her some the next time you pick her up for a date. If she mentions that she loves roses give her a bouquet, or plan a trip to a botanical garden as a surprise.

When you pay attention to what she says and then incorporate it into your dates she will notice and it will mean a lot. Paying attention to what she says communicates that you value her and care about her opinion.

2. Don’t assume that dinner and a movie are always enough.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with dinner and a movie. My point is simply that sometimes you should do something more special than just a cookie cutter date night. It really ties back to tip #1. If you are listening to her, then you should know what she likes. Use that information. Also, consider incorporating things that are special between the two of you. Take her to that restaurant where you had your first date, or go to the place you first met. Any place or thing that holds significance in your relationship will make a very sweet date.

I am hesitant to suggest this because it should be done with caution but if you are farther along in your relationship it can be very romantic. Take her somewhere that is significant in your life. This is a really neat way to let her behind the curtain of your life and allow her to really get to know you better. Whether it’s taking her to the diamond where you played Tee Ball, or to your favorite state park where you used to go camping with your family. Letting her into your story like this can be powerful, sweet, and romantic.

3. Bring a token of affection with you.

Yes, its old fashioned, but it’s also incredibly sweet! Seriously though, it’s not that hard to pick up some chocolates or a bouquet of flowers before you pick her up. It’s not that expensive either! I mean, you’re going to spend 3 times as much to get the new halo game when it comes out! When it comes to what you should bring, listening to her should give you some clues. But if you really don’t know yet, you can’t go wrong with half-dozen or a dozen red roses.

In the old days tokens of affection were a big deal. They let the girl know that you were interested in her, and that you were trying to impress her! In today’s “disinterest is cool’ culture it is frowned upon to be perceived as interested and eager but those aren’t bad things! I’m going to let you in on a secret that I really shouldn’t have to tell anyone: girls like it when you’re interested in them. They like to be impressed and treated well. I know, shocker! But seriously, it’s sweet and endearing. She might look at you funny the first time but it will score you major points in the long run. For more old fashioned dating tips check out this article.

4. Don’t be afraid of embarrassment.

I know, the possibility that you will say or do something embarrassing can be paralyzing. But it’s really not that big of a deal. For example, once on a first date I accidentally hit a tree with my car. She still teases me about it; and, you know, it’s become a fun joke between us. On the other hand some people worry about embarrassing themselves so much that they just end up being awkward the whole time, and that kind of embarrassment isn’t fun for anyone.

5. Be there. In the moment.

Turn your dang phone off. Just turn it off.

You are on a date with a beautiful girl! Nothing annoys me more than seeing a couple on a date buried in their phones. What’s even worse is when the girl is talking, and the guy isn’t paying any attention. Don’t be that guy. But more than just turning your phone off you need to live in the moment. Enjoy the time you have with her. Give her your full, undivided attention. Isn’t she worth it?

6. Pick up the check.

Again, it may be old fashioned, but it’s a nice gesture. It communicates that you are interested enough to try and impress her. I am not saying that you should always pay for everything, or that girls should never offer to pay. Just as a general rule, I try to pick up the check as much as possible. In my opinion, you should always pick up the check on the first date.

7. Walk her home.

Well, perhaps not literally. Most, of the time you are going to drive to your date. So, you probably aren’t going to be able to walk her home. But when you get back to her house, don’t just drop her off at the curb. Park, get out of the car, open her door if you’re fast enough, and walk her to the door. It’s sweet and courteous. If you met up somewhere, walk her to her car and then go get in yours.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the article and found it useful. I would like to give you one more tip though, and this tip really trumps all other tips. In fact, I have no fear in saying that this tip could save most relationships. Here it is:

It’s not about you.

Yes, it really is that simple. If you can remember this one tip then you will improve all of your relationships. Relationships are always about the other person, about serving them, about putting their needs above your own.

John 15:13 (AMP) says “No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends.” Most people assume that this mean that the greatest thing you can do for someone you love is to die for them. And while I don’t necessarily disagree with that, I take a slightly different interpretation of it. To me it could also be said “Greater love has no man than this, that he die to himself for his friend.” To me, this verse means laying down your own wants and needs in order to fulfill those of someone else.

 

What are some of the best dates you’ve ever been on? Leave a comment and let us know!

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