whether or not Your lips move

You speak to me

Harmonious Relationships July 27, 2010

Just now I was reading 1 Peter 3:8, which says followers of Christ are supposed to have unity of mind, or as some translations put it, be “harmonious.” I don’t know about you, but a lot of times it can feel like we’re not even singing off the same page of music, let alone singing in harmony!

I struggle a lot when I realize I have a difference of opinion, taste, or thought than a friend. I like peace and really dislike arguments. I struggle even more when I realize that there is someone in my life that just doesn’t like me and isn’t all that interested in being friends.

This verse helps me feel a little better, though. Harmony is all about complementary notes and often what notes aren’t played are just as important as the ones that are. It doesn’t mean you hate the other notes. It just means they don’t need to be played at this moment in time.

I wonder what life would be like if I applied this to my everyday relationships. I could take some stress off myself with trying to “play every note” all at once–that probably ends up sounding like a great big mess. Instead I can focus on this chord here, and this one here. So these individuals aren’t interested in interacting with me on this. That’s OK. Maybe next time. So this person doesn’t want to hear my thoughts on this subject. No problem; maybe just bad timing.There might be certain topics or people that I just need to let take a rest.

So maybe it’s OK when we don’t all agree on something. As long as we are being sympathetic, loving each other, and being kind and humble, maybe we can work out the significant differences and just let the rest fade.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 3:8 (NIV)

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit…
1 Peter 3:8 (NASB)

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Dealing with Loneliness May 28, 2010

This is a repost from my other blog, Keep Him or Dump Him?

On this blog we talk a lot about being the kind of women we know we can be, and not settling for anything less than the best in our relationships.

If you’ve been on that journey for even a short amount of time, you’ve probably come to realize something. It’s a lonely way of life.

It can get lonely when you feel like surely you must be crazy for holding out for the “right” guy. You might have even been called “too picky” and told you need to lower your standards. Nobody’s perfect they tell you. And you know this, but you also know that you are worthy of the deepest love and respect possible in a relationship with a guy. And so you continue to hold on to hope as best you can.

It can get lonely when you see another girl partying and hooking up with few consequences, while you continue to wait. She seems to have so much fun. But you know that even if her body isn’t showing the effects of it, her mind and emotions are taking a beating that she may not be aware of—or that she just isn’t equipped to acknowledge. Somewhere along the way she was tricked into thinking that this is the way it is done, this is who she is, and this is how it is supposed to be. It can be very tempting to want to try her way of doing things. It can also be very tempting to set yourself up on a high horse above her. Instead of judging her or joining her, you decide to love her and be her friend.

It can get lonely when you’re the last one of all your friends to be in a serious relationship. You find yourself surrounded by couples and feel like the third wheel. You may even begin to scrutinize yourself and think there is something wrong with you. You feel like you have to choose between bitterness of soul and just accepting reality. You fight the temptation to just go out and find any guy willing to fill the void in your life. But you realize that when you draw your strength from God, you can think a little more clearly and try to keep your eyes on what’s really important.

It can get lonely when you are being pursued by men that you know are totally wrong for you. You get tired of always saying no. You might begin thinking that you should just go ahead and take what you can get. You might start thinking that God is holding out on you and this is what you have to choose from, so why not just go for it. But you are reminded that God has good, exciting plans for your life and choose to focus on that instead—even if it is a daily battle to do so.

I speak from experience on all of this. “But Ashley, you’re a happily married woman now, and therefore I am going to stop listening to you.” (I remember totally tuning out married women’s opinions at one time in my life, too.) Yes, but I have a very good “emotional memory” and remember very, very well the way it felt to be alone.

I didn’t always handle my loneliness very well. Often I was very immature about it. I’d avoid friends who were in happy, healthy relationships because it just put a spotlight on what I didn’t have. I would totally ignore the advice of happily married women because my jealousy painted them as being totally out of touch with the real world and what it was like to be single. I manipulated guys for their attention and affection to fill the void in my heart, but didn’t understand that this was what I was doing.

Finally I found a decent way to deal with loneliness. I guess that after a while I just got tired of being miserable. I started taking a good look at myself to evaluate who I really was. It was painful and not fun. And—you guessed it—it was still lonely! But I was at least learning to be a little more content with it. I had a lot of alone time with God because I didn’t really have much of anyone else. I ended up reading the Bible a lot, journaling a lot, praying a lot. And after a few months of it, I realized that I was becoming a different person. And I kind of liked her.

I need to point out that just because a woman is married, it doesn’t mean she is never lonely. Loneliness has more to do with your soul than your relationship status. It comes and goes, often staying longer than we’d like. But sometimes a little loneliness is OK. When we are dealing with it in appropriate, healthy ways, it can be a tool that helps chisel us more into reflecting the image of God.

What are some ways you have dealt with loneliness?

 

Are all men liars? January 29, 2010

Filed under: healthy relationships series,sex — Ash @ 11:45 am
Tags: ,

Once when I was in college, as a joke at an open mic night I read Psalm 116:11, “I said in my haste, ‘All men are liars'” to prove that even the Bible said so. All the girls had a pretty good laugh at that one. The guys, not so much.

I just ran across a fascinating article from USA Today. An internet survey of 1200 guys revealed some interesting things about guys ages 15-22. (I would be interested to see the same questions asked of older guys!)

Cool:

  • 45% said they were virgins. (Way to go, guys!!!)
  • 78% agreed there was “way too much pressure” from society to have sex.
  • 53% said they had had a conversation with a parent about preventing pregnancy.
  • 66% said they could be happy in a serious relationship that didn’t include sex.

Yikes:

  • 45% said they were virgins.
  • 53% said they had had a conversation with a parent about preventing pregnancy. 
  • 60% said they had lied about something related to sex.
  • 30% lied about how far they have gone.
  • 24% lied about their number of sexual partners.
  • 23% claimed not to be a virgin when they were.
  • 57% of sexually active respondents said they had had unprotected sex.
  • 51% said having sex before marriage was acceptable in their family. 
  • 53% of guys said having lots of hookups makes them popular, but 71% said it makes girls less popular.

So basically, ladies, you can’t always trust what a guy is telling you about his sex life right of the bat.  One of the survey respondents implied that some guys will tell you whatever they think it is that you want to hear to make you feel special. And how about that double standard concerning hookups??

I know none of this is coming as a surprise to you. But what can we do?

Instead of bashing them and assuming men are all alike, let’s find some ways to send a message to them loud and clear: It’s not OK to lie about your sex life, guys. You don’t have to lie to a girl for her to like you. If you’ve got some mistakes in your past and really think she could be “the one,” tell her about them. If you are inexperienced and you think she needs to know, be honest about it. Contrary to what VH1 wants you to believe, virginity really is cool. Also: you shouldn’t have to lie to one another in order to be “the man.” If those guys are really your friends and worth being around, they will support you in living a life that honors God, yourself, and women–your future wife and daughters especially. 

Ladies, this means you’re going to have to treat yourselves the way you want to be treated–and don’t settle for less. Be smart and ask good questions of the guys you date. Have high and reasonable expectations. Be careful about the way you present yourself–not just in the way you dress, but in the way you act and talk, too. I’ve always heard it said that people can tell a lot about who you truly are by what makes you laugh and what makes you cry. Be aware of the message you are sending guys as you interact with them. Be careful about how much “flirting” you do, including “innocent touches” and hugs. Truth is, girls, when it comes to guys you have WAY more power than you may think you do, and that is something to be wielded with much caution and respect. You’ve got to be diligent in this area because men are extremely fragile when it comes to their sexuality. You can emasculate a guy with one sentence. You can make him fall in love with you with a single glance. I have seen this over and over, girls. I was completely clueless on this front for many years and left quite a trail of broken hearts. Don’t do the same! 

So, are all men liars? Maybe, maybe not. But let’s do what we can to help change the direction our world is going. Start a movement!

 

in the meantime, not alone January 12, 2010

I just had to share this with you!!! 

I just finished listening to one of my favorite Bible teachers. She pointed out something that really spoke to my heart. Check out the following verse:

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you … Blessed are all who wait for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18)

The words “longs” and “wait” are both translated from the same Hebrew word. 

Think of something you are waiting for… something you keep praying about, something you keep asking Him for… You’re longing to see this thing happen. 

God is, too. 

He knows what He has up His sleeve. He knows the plan inside and out. He knows all the exciting twists and turns. He knows just how this thing is going to play out. It hasn’t escaped His notice. He’s working it out. He’s making all the preparations. Every time you trust Him it makes Him even more excited for the coming moment–the moment when all will be revealed, all will come together, all will make sense, all will be just as it is supposed to be.

God is longing and waiting for just the right time. He’s waiting right alongside you. You’re not alone in this “meantime.” 

 

what a girl wants January 8, 2010

Several years ago, I spent several months doing some hard praying, thinking, and soul-searching. I had finally escaped a six-year, off-and-on relationship and had decided that I’d rather be alone the rest of my life than with the wrong person. I was beginning to conclude that I should never settle for less than God’s best in any area of my life. I was starting to trust that God really had my best interests at heart and wasn’t holding out on me.

During this process, I began a list. Oh, the dreaded list. Some of you are cringing right now and about to close your browser window. I ask you to hang with me for a minute here.

Many girls’ lists are made up of things like “tall, dark, and handsome” or “drives a convertible.” There’s nothing really wrong with those things, but I want to challenge you girls to look at “the list” a little differently.

I’m kind of laughing at myself right now because it is going to sound like I’m telling you what to do, and that is just silly. But I seriously have seen this work in my own life and in other girls’ lives, too. Guys, you might get a little ticked off at me and think I’m telling all these girls to be insanely unreasonable. I ask you to spend some quiet time searching your own soul, and see if maybe you want to be the type of person I am going to describe.

I need to be clear, girls: there is no perfect guy. I know you’ve heard it a thousand times, but you really need to let that sink in. No matter how many of these qualities he has, he will eventually do or say something that hurts you. He’s human. He needs grace just like you do. Keep in mind that the things I’m about to list may look different than you thought they would. They may come in a package you didn’t think was “your type.”

You know from my other posts in this series that I don’t support unhealthy levels of intimacy (physical, emotional, or otherwise) early in a relationship. So many of the character qualities in the list below SHOULD be demonstrated in a guy BEFORE you get into a relationship with him. These things will be evidenced in his other relationships as you get to know him in a group setting.

And as you are reading through this list (and add your own things based on  your personality and God’s leading), you need to evaluate yourself on each point and ask yourself how YOU are doing in becoming the person God wants you to be. It isn’t unreasonable to look for a man who is compatible with you and who has these character traits. It IS unreasonable to think you should be with him while not taking the time to prepare yourself for a man like this.

Okay. Without further adieu.

THE LIST

  • A spiritual leader. He loves God; he is someone you can look up to and learn from spiritually; has strong convictions based on God’s Word. He takes God seriously and challenges you and others to love God more each day. He prays about everything and obeys God’s direction. He forgives and extends grace whenever possible.
  • A servant leader. He loves others in practical ways; he seeks to be more selfless in his actions; he takes initiative; he is generous. He has a positive attitude.
  • A worshiper. He wants to give God his best in every situation; he lives out what he says he believes; wants to give God a good name. He wants others to know and love Jesus the way he does.
  • A hard worker. He has a good work ethic; he is a hard worker but not a workaholic; honest with finances and responsible with money. He has goals for his career and life.
  • Has integrity. He keeps his commitments and does what he says he will do; he treats all women (and men) with respect; he is real and authentic; he is honest. He is not on a search for power and he does not manipulate people.
  • Level-headed. He can handle a crisis; he knows how to argue without fighting; he is able to responsibly handle an emotionally-charged situation; he speaks the truth in love.
  • Humble and flexible. Things don’t always have to be his way; he doesn’t flee at the first sign of trouble. He can admit when he’s wrong and isn’t afraid to ask for forgiveness. He works to make things right and will try to resolve conflicts.
  • Has good friends. He is committed to a local body of Christ followers; he has meaningful relationships with other men; has accountability in his life. Those closest to him will encourage him to be the man God wants him to be.
  • Passionate. He has healthy ambition and direction; he has a vision for the future; he is confident in who he is and his gifts. He is fun to be around and you share many common interests.
  • Communicates well. He listens well and can interact with people who are not like him; he takes care with his words. He isn’t always complaining and he isn’t a bully!
  • Family-oriented. He can interact well with children; he is a team player; he is a “coach” rather than a “dictator;” not afraid to take the lead. He can see the gifts in others and encourage them to use them. If he already has children, he maintains an appropriate relationship with their mother (based on the circumstances) and you are ready to be a stepmom.
  • Sexually pure. He respects women as daughters of God and sisters in Christ; he does not attempt to interact physically with women inappropriately; if he has been sexually active in the past, he is currently demonstrating his commitment to saving sex for marriage. He has healthy boundaries in his relationships with girls. It has to be said–he won’t ask you for or expect sexual contact of any kind. He’s not a player!
  • Emotionally whole. He is mature and steady; he shows progress and commitment to overcoming significant weaknesses in his life; he knows who he is in Christ; he can handle his anger appropriately. He does not have an active addiction to drugs, alcohol, porn, etc. but is self-controlled.
  • Affectionate. He expresses his affection appropriately; he understands what his “love language” is and seeks to know others’ love languages; he is not afraid of intimacy and is willing to invest himself in a relationship. In a committed relationship, he cherishes the woman as a gift from God and is willing to sacrifice for her.
  • Has appropriate family relationships. He respects his mother but she doesn’t control his life; if he does not have a healthy family he seeks to interact with them appropriately and with grace. (Ideally, if you come from a divorced family, it is a blessing to be with a guy whose parents are still married.)
  • Looks good. You’re attracted to him; he sees his body as God’s temple; has good hygiene; he takes care of himself physically and seeks to be in good health. He does not, however, place inappropriate emphasis on his physical appearance.
  • You have compatible weaknesses. In the areas you are weak, he is strong. In the areas he is weak, you are strong. It is important to have a lot in common, but weaknesses are not one of those things.

I hope that this has helped you begin to know what God’s best is for your life in the area of relationships. Guys, I know this is a tall order. But you have what it takes. Is there a man you know who fits the description above? Ask him to hang out sometime. See if you can start to learn from him how to be this kind of man.

Girls, he is out there. If God has called you to marriage, it is not unreasonable to be looking for him to be like this. It doesn’t only happen in fairy tales. The hardest part is going to be the waiting. Don’t sell yourself short by settling for less than God’s best.

I wish I could be having this conversation with you over a cup of coffee (or more often in my case, spiced apple cider). Please tell me your stories!

 

cougars January 6, 2010

I had a really interesting discussion at dinner tonight. A friend shared a story about her teenage son who just graduated from high school. Apparently a woman at their church (who has three kids of her own), fully aware of his age, gave him her phone number and told him to call her sometime. And this happened AT church. She even wrote her number on a prayer request card.

Obviously there are so many things going on with this situation that it’s impossible to discuss them all. But in recent years I’ve really been fascinated by this “cougar” trend. It’s been explored in movies, reality shows, and sitcoms. Normally a woman is considered a “cougar” if she is 40 or over and seeking out men at least 8 years younger than she is. “Pumas” are women in their 30s–“cougars in training.”

I like to try to understand people and put myself into their shoes. I know I could easily be just as susceptible to doing something “crazy,” too. I wonder if these women are fulfilling a part of their lives from the past. Maybe they didn’t feel attractive to guys when they were in middle school or high school, and so they are “reliving” that desire with much younger boys. Or maybe they never quite grew out of the way they related with boys at that age. Maybe older women are going for much younger boys these days because of the lack of father roles in their lives. For a long time everybody would say girls look to marry guys that remind them of their dads. I think a lot of women got tired of hearing this because they wanted to be with someone who was anything BUT like their dads. So some end up looking for WAY younger guys so they can “train” them to be what they want them to be, instead of dealing with unresolved emotional issues.

And, our culture seems to think it’s hot for a young guy to be with an older woman. Just look at all the movies that have this theme in them (American Pie series, etc.) and popular songs (“Stacy’s Mom”).

But I don’t think it’s just “older” women who are “cougars” these days. I’m often shocked at the way even young girls are with boys. The girls do all the pursuing. They seem to look for guys who need rescuing. In our society’s efforts to empower women, I really feel like we’ve gone quite a bit too far in this area. I’m looking around and seeing a lot of unhappy girls and women–single and married–who have taken pursuit into their own hands.

Call me old fashioned, but I really believe ladies should back off and give guys a chance to be the ones to pursue. Yeah, that means they have to man up and take initiative and not sit on their rears expecting the world to come to them on a silver platter. But honestly, deep down this is what they want. They want to have to man up. They want to have what it takes to make a woman truly happy (this will take up a whole other blog post). They want to have to fight a little for it. But many of them have no earthly clue.

What say ye, ladies? What can we do to change things around? Or do you think things are okay the way they are? What’s your story and experience?

 

what i did while i was waiting May 23, 2009

I’ve had a few requests to do a post about what to do while you are waiting to find a person who could potentially be your future mate. I’d like to share part of my journey with you.

I tried for seven years to “make it work” with someone that I really thought was the person I was going to marry. We were very off and on, and I attempted to date other guys when we were “off”. I was always insecure in the relationship (and in myself), always questioning, always making excuses for his behavior. I spent a lot of time being bitter against happy married couples (especially those that had been together less time than I had been with this guy). I passed up a lot of opportunities, such as to travel overseas or study in an exchange program, because I was afraid to leave him behind. I believed that this was my one chance at happiness, and that if I left it I would be alone forever.

So, for part of my waiting time, I put myself through a lot of pain and passed up a lot of amazing opportunities because I was codependent and didn’t really trust God.

When I cut the ties to that relationship, I entered a whole new world. I had to get to know myself as ME and not “me and ___”. I moved back home, didn’t really have many friends in town, and my work schedule didn’t allow me to have much of a social life at first. So I spent most of my free time reading the Bible, healing, journaling, reflecting on my mistakes and successes, creating goals for my life, and making my “dream list” of qualities for a husband. I wanted to try things I hadn’t ever done before. So I began the process to become a missionary overseas. I looked at buying a house. I focused on building into relationships with other females. I became the lead singer of a rock band. I basically decided to try to thrive and not just survive. It was very lonely at times, but I’m so eternally grateful that I relished every moment of it.

Another thing I did during my waiting time was decide that I would rather be single for the rest of my life than with the wrong person in an unhealthy relationship. This was a huge step for me since I had come to really depend on other people for my self-esteem, self-concept, and such. But I came to realize I had lived enough of my life that way and was sick of it. I wanted something better–I wanted God’s best for my life and I promised myself that I would never settle for anything less. This was a scary commitment but I don’t regret it for a second, and I truly believe God will honor anyone who makes it.

During this time I did go on a few dates, thankfully with really awesome guys that loved Jesus and were extremely gentlemanly. They helped me see that a relationship can begin, progress, and end in a healthy manner, without completely tearing each other’s worlds apart. (One of them ended up marrying a good friend of mine!) I think this was an important step for me in my waiting time. I had good boundaries and protected my heart, while also allowing myself to be open to pursuit in an appropriate way. And while I had lots of girly conversations with my best friend about guys, I was able for the most part to keep my head on straight and not allow the “search” to be my reason for living.

So I guess to sum it all up, I would say that I tried to set my eyes in the right direction for the rest of my waiting time and was determined not to settle for less than God’s best. It wasn’t easy and I am certain I failed in some areas. But in the end I don’t have any regrets, even about the painful parts, because they are what helped me become the person I am today.