Friday, September 23, 2011

Singles: There's Hope!

Scripture to reflect upon: Jude 20
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit (emphasis added).

Six years ago I felt so broken and so alone that I was convinced I’d never know love. Today, I am married to one of the most amazing men I’ve ever met and we have an incredibly bright two-year old son. But it took me thirty-eight years, three horrific marriages, and over one hundred broken relationships to find him. Through all the heartache, pain and suffering I endured, I never thought I, of all people, would know this kind of love and happiness. And I am confident that if it can happen for me, it can happen for you, too; and hopefully you won’t have to go through the hell I went through to get there! That is my ultimate goal for you, my single, hopeful friend!

The problem I faced from the age of twelve (yes, that’s when I started dating, believe it or not!) to thirty-seven was plain and simply…me! I was my biggest problem. I was my biggest obstacle that I needed to overcome. For too many years it was so easy to just keep blaming the world, blaming men, and blaming society, when in fact there wasn’t anyone truly to blame other than myself.

I spent the majority of my life calling guys: jerks, scum, dirt bags, idiots, and various other vicious names. I think I learned this early on from my mother. If she wasn’t saying it (and she was), she was projecting it all over the place. Men sucked. They never stayed. They always left. They always cheated. They always lied. They always…

My father left us when I was five. He left my mother for a woman he had already started another family with several years prior to the time of his leaving. My mother often left me home alone at nights as a young girl so she could go out and meet men. It wasn’t too long before she met my first step-father, and it wasn’t much longer after they got married when he began to beat her, and then eventually molested me when I was eleven. Regardless of it all, there were glimmers of hope that they would divorce, but then she would just end up getting back together with him, and the abuse cycle carried on for several more years. As a young girl, I just didn’t understand why she would put up with that, and it angered me to no end.

See, now right here we can stop this story and have a nice little pity party for me. It was my daddy who left me, and my mommy who taught me how to be abused. Sure. We could do that, because to some extent it’s partly true, but eventually…there is no one else but you who can be responsible for you and the choices you make. When you look in the mirror who looks back at you? Who makes the choices you make? Who decides who comes and goes in your life? Who is in control of you?

The horror stories of my dating, relationships, and married life are too many to mention here today, but let’s just recap my mother’s life and you’ve got it all figured out.

I didn’t see myself as worthy of love. I could tell you that I quite honestly believed no one loved me at all my entire life. That may not be true, but it’s not a lie to tell you that’s exactly how I felt for thirty-seven years.

I got saved a few months before I turned thirty. One of the reasons I gave my life to Christ was the mere idea of being loved by someone, even if it meant someone I couldn’t see or touch. Just the idea of being loved…that was enough for me. I wanted to know that, and God was faithful in making me feel a love I’d never known before. But eventually here on earth, we want to know physical love. So I returned to my old relationship patterns: looking for exactly the wrong kind of guys who would prove to me that they were all jerks, scum, etc. I was still saved, and I was still living for God, but even the Christian guys I was picking were no better than the “worldly” men I had dated before getting saved.

The truth was: Jesus loved me, but I didn’t. I didn't know how, or where to even begin.

If you’re like me, you’re a tough woman. (Unless, of course, you’re a man. Don’t worry, there’s something for you, too!) You are strong, independent, and you don’t put up with anything from anyone…unless it’s a guy you’re crazy about, that is. Unless, unless, unless. See, we have all these rules about our life: who comes, who goes, who says what, and what we will deal with and what we won’t...unless it’s a guy. And most people are amazed to learn about the type of men you date and how they mistreat you. They can't imagine such an amazing woman of your caliber ending up with such a loser like so-and-so. And sometimes, neither can you!

And men, you may be one of those “good guys” who keeps getting burned because the women you fall for are the ones who always end up with that loser so-and-so. They date you in the in-between, end up dumping you to go back to Loserville, and you’re wondering why they would ever choose someone like that over someone like you. Well, read on and be enlightened.

For the longest time I couldn’t tell you what the problem was. I just knew that I was basically dating the same guy over and over and over and over again. They never got better, they only got worse! So when 99 out of 100 men are like that, it’s all too easy to blame all men. But that’s 99 out of 100 men YOU choose to be with. And sure, we’ll quietly admit that we may be difficult to live with, but that’s not even scratching the surface. We don’t want to scratch too hard or too long, otherwise the scab comes off and we begin to bleed, and no one likes a bleeder.

I wonder how many women consider the relationship patterns in their life and begin to do some self-evaluation, and come up with the solution that maybe they’re the problem. (Big gasps!!) But a lot of women don’t want to do this. You don’t want to go there. That’s claiming that maybe something’s wrong with you, and you don’t want to believe that. Who does? I didn’t. I wanted to believe it was them—that was easy, although painful, but not nearly as painful as admitting I may be the problem. I just saw myself as this wonderful, fun, loving woman who just always happened to stumble upon rotten eggs. Why was I being so mistreated? Why did men always leave me? Why did they always cheat on me? Why did they always lie to me? Hmmm… All men must be bad, I remember hearing that somewhere early on in life. In fact, I recall a lot of people telling me that, and showing me that, too.

It’s something I believed from day one, and every time I heard it or said it to someone or even to myself, I was making it true for my life. By believing all men were bad, those were the kind of men I attracted. I may as well have had a big neon sign over my head blinking: “ABUSE ME! MISTREAT ME! I KNOW YOU’LL DO IT ANYWAY. I DON’T TRUST THE LOT OF YOU! SO HAVE AT IT!!” And if that visual is amusing to you, it’s not so far off. We may not have the blinking sign over our head, but we surely carry that idea with us everywhere we go and it hovers over us. That “idea” presents itself to the exact guy you can’t stand to be with, but somehow find yourself in a relationship with over and over again.

The good guys? Well, they don’t exist, so you won’t even see one if he knocks your big blinking sign down with a baseball bat, crashing it to the ground. You’ll pretend he’s not real, because in your mind, he’s not. You bought the lie and wear it very well. So you casually pick up the pieces of your shattered sign, glue it back together and hang it back over your head: Come and get me!

But there’s another side to all of this, and it goes along with the scripture I posted. How do you see yourself? How do you treat yourself? Are you always saying, “I always meet jerks,” or “I must not be good enough for good guys”? Oh, but you have that rough and tough exterior when a guy mistreats you, “I’m too good for this crap!” Don’t you? But somewhere deep down inside, in the core of who you are, you don’t fully believe that because you end up putting up with that crap anyway, again and again. “I’m leaving him for good this time!” Yeah, sure you are.

If you are subconsciously sabotaging the men of the world, what do you think you are doing to yourself? What are the lies you are telling yourself? What are the lies that the world is spewing that you don’t believe on the surface, but carry inside of you? You’re not thin enough to be loved. You’re not tall enough to be attractive. You’re not smart enough (or dumb enough) to find that kind of guy. You’re not. You’re not. You’re not. Or, you’re too fat. You’re too old. You’re too this, or too that. What’s your story?

Build yourself up…but don’t stop there. Have faith and pray. Start believing that you are worthy of love and good things. Pray to God and ask Him to show you your worth. Have faith in the goodness of people, even if you don't see it all the time.

ACTION PLAN: The world will treat you the way you treat yourself. So this week, take a good look at how the world treats you. That will give you an indication of how you may be treating yourself. Be kind to yourself. Speak good things into your life, even if you don’t believe it at first. Stop buying into the lie that all men (or women) are only one way, and instead start believing that there are good people in the world, but you just have to see them first and recognize their worth, too.

GO FURTHER: Stop looking for the time being. Give yourself some time to start focusing on you and recognizing your relationship patterns. Journal about the kind of people you’ve been in the habit of dating. How did they treat you? Were they usually the same kind of person? What’s the recurring story in all of your relationships? If you were to look past the exterior of who you are (the fa├žade), how would you describe yourself (be completely honest and don’t try to say/write things you think you should!)? What is loveable about you? What are your good qualities? What are your bad qualities, and how can you change them? Does your relationship with God play a role in your decisions about relationships? Do you ask God for His guidance? Do you know your worth to God? How do you think God feels about you; how do you think He would describe you? Remember…He loves you unconditionally. If you didn’t know that, then have an honest talk with Jesus. Ask Him to show you His unending, unfailing love to you. If you journaled these things, physically present it to God and ask Him to help you with those things. Invite Jesus into your life and let the healing begin.

Until next week…remember, I love you. Jesus loves you. You are worthy of love!

If you don't program yourself, life will program you! - Les Brown

Week 1: Ugh Lug Luggage

Scripture to reflect upon for Singles Saturday: Leviticus 19: 17, 18
“Do not hate your brother in your heart…Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

So now that you’ve taken responsibility for your own part in some of your failed relationships, it’s time to move forward in a much more positive way. This next step isn’t always easy, but it is essential for honest freedom and renewal. It's time to let go of that ugh lug luggage that's been wearing you down!

Once I got to the point when I realized I was a major part of the problem in my relationships, it was a bit freeing. But there was also a part of me that wanted to continually bang my head against the wall for being so dense and dull minded.

I never claimed that the past men in my life were entirely blameless for what they did, but I did take a lot of the burden off of them. I didn’t need to confront them, or call them up and apologize. That would have only opened a whole new door of abuse for them to tap into. Instead, I sat with God and handed it all over to Him. That meant forgiving people whom I believed weren’t worthy of such a thing. But God does.

Forgiving others isn’t really even about them anymore. It’s about you. And it’s about you and God. It’s about being free of all that extra baggage you carry around that weighs you down and wears you out.

Someone very close to me has carried an incredibly heavy burden of unforgiveness as a yoke around her neck for over eleven years. She refuses to forgive, but she also hasn’t accepted any responsibility for her actions or her role in the failed marriage. They have been divorced now for eleven years and she still continually brings his name up in a derogatory manner. She still brings up very specific incidents, and has even in fact distorted the truth of some very beautiful moments to better suit her hatred towards him. He has moved on. He is happily remarried and living an incredibly successful life. She remains so stagnant and so bitter that she barely lives life at all anymore. She drinks heavily, rehashing relationships gone bad from even as far back as forty years ago! She still mourns them, and still bitterly bites at their heels. Forty years! And now she lives alone…achingly alone.

Her story isn’t exclusive. I have another dear friend of mine who is living nearly the same exact way! Although I love her, I can’t bear to talk to her very much anymore. Her bitterness and resentments have crossed the line to self-absorbent self-pity and misery. How can you continue listening to the same sad, sorry stories for years and years that your life becomes insignificant to them? Nothing else matters but their bitterness.

That is what unforgiveness does. When you hang onto past angers, past situations, and past hurts, you become lost in them. You will never heal and you will never move on. You will never find the right person, because you will always be seeking out the same exact person who hurt you in hopes of righting a wrong. “I’ll make it better this time. This time I’ll change him. This time I’ll fix it. This time will be different.”

These two incredibly wonderful women have chosen to remain angry with people who have moved on. They not only hate the men who hurt them, but in doing so, they end up hating themselves, too.

There is most certainly a time for release and anger. Absolutely! But make sure it's not destructive to you and others. I spent about two years being aggressively angry after my last marriage failed. I made a lot of enemies in the process, lost a few friends along the way, and even lost an amazing high-paying job because I  couldn't focus on anything but my anger. I lashed out at anyone who crossed my path. I decided to cut myself off from the world and be angry there, where it was safer for everyone. I drank, I broke things, I cried, I screamed until my throat bled. I eventually even gave up everything I owned and moved far away from him.

Although it was necessary to feel what I felt and to release it somehow, I could have released my anger sooner (and in a much healthier way), but I had no idea how to do that. I was too lost in the anger and pain. I hated myself during that period. I hated who I became. Hated who I had been. And eventually just hated me in the process. That’s the prize of being the winner in the blame game. Congratulations, you win! And by winning, you end up being the real loser. But had I not escaped my hate by taking responsibility and forgiving myself and others, I would still be wallowing and rotting away like my two dear friends. They haven't yet given it up. They are still cut off from the world, thinking it's safer there when it's not...not anymore. But it's so easy to get stuck there.

Imagine if Dorothy never went back to Kansas and instead just stayed in Oz. She would have never learned her lesson. She ached to get home, and so should we. Although Oz was nice, she was still running from her demons that needed to be faced. The witch would have continued to hunt her down, but Dorothy fought to get back where she belonged.

If you don’t fix this problem, you will never be healthy enough to find love. If bitterness and resentment is eating away at your soul, you are drawing the wrong kind of people in your life. If you don’t love yourself, no one else can or will either. And if you don’t love yourself, how in the world do you think you can love others? You may not even think you don’t love yourself. But what do most of your thoughts consist of: Anger? Bitterness? The past? Past hurts? Is your past slipping too close into the present and possibly the future? Are you so angry that you just say, “I’m done!” but try to continue anyway?

ACTION PLAN: Ask God for forgiveness for the choices you've made. He is faithful to forgive. Then tell yourself that you are forgiven; that you forgive you for the choices you’ve made. Tell yourself that it’s okay now, because things are going to be different. You are going to be different. You are going to make better choices. You are going to be healed and healthy.

GO FURTHER: Forgive others. Tell God, out loud, who you forgive and why. Tell God you are ready to move on from your past and you accept His healing. You never need to look back, because you can be renewed and freed by forgiving yourself and forgiving those who hurt you.

Now consider your past (and those in it) as literal baggage. Pack it all up (cry if you need to), zip up the suitcase, and wheel it straight to God’s feet. Got that image in your head? Good. Now do it. You don’t need to carry the past around anymore because God took it for you. He will happily discard it. Let God embrace you and feel His comforting arms around you as you are released from past pains and heartaches. (And from this point on, if you are hurt by someone, make your load easy and pack less pain.)

Pray for those you have forgiven. Ask God to heal them, too. Ask God to reveal how they hurt others, and then ask God to renew them, too.

FACT: Jesus said: “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:4). God forgives you, so you can forgive yourself, also. Forgiveness isn’t about “them,” it’s about you. It’s about setting you free to love again.

Week 2: Expect Nothing

Scripture to reflect upon for Singles Saturday: Psalm 17:3 (The Message)
Go ahead, examine me from inside out, surprise me in the middle of the night—You’ll find I’m just what I say I am. My words don’t run loose.

How many of you often find yourself saying this to your friends: “He (or she) was so nice in the beginning. I just don’t know what happened…”? I bet a lot of you have said this more than twice throughout your pursuit of a relationship.

Now ask yourself how many people may have actually said that about you! You’re probably thinking, “No way! I am who I am.”

Well, that may be true, but we are usually never who we are when we first start dating someone…unless you date without expectations. Only then will everything change for the better!

When I first met my husband Jared, I wasn’t quite sure what I thought of him. I was tossed between being attracted to him and being repulsed by him. (Sorry, sweetie…not that you didn’t already know this story.) Because we worked closely together for fourteen hour days, we had become friends. When he eventually did ask me out, I accepted but had no expectations that anything would transform out of it. The way I looked at it, he was a nice guy who I enjoyed talking to; if nothing came out of it I had a nice time with a good friend. Simple enough. Simplify your dating life like this.

The truth of the matter is, because I had no expectations about where it could or would go, I didn’t need to go out of my way to try and impress him, or hide things from him. I also didn't expect anything from him. I didn't put any high standards on the date. To be quite honest, I just didn’t care if something came out of it or not. This was an absolute first for me.

I have always tried to be outgoing, witty, clever, or cute, but most of the time I just hid the best parts about who I was so I wouldn’t be looked over so quickly. You know what I’m talking about. The things you believe: your faith, your politics, your past, your hopeful future. You don’t want to scare them off, right? Well, what if the person you are with is serious about you and truly wants to know those very things about you? Will you lie or hide behind some excuse or persona, only for the truth to be revealed after you’re married and they end up asking you, “Who the heck are you!?”

This is where a lot of relationships fail. We try so hard to be something we are not in hopes that it will make the other person like us, that we end being nothing like we really are. We eventually then become an absolute stranger after a few months into the relationship. You begin to ask yourself, “Where did this person come from? I don’t remember him/her being like this, or liking that, or disliking this.” You could go years into a relationship and say, “I never knew that about you…” And you begin to wonder who you’ve been with all those years.

Jared tells our story differently. He had really liked me, more than friends, for quite some time but was never brave enough to ask me out. So when we went on our first date, he had already known some details about who I really was, which fascinated him and placed a desire in him to know more. He was not afraid to ask me about my political or spiritual beliefs. He wasn’t afraid to ask me about my past marriages and relationships. And guess what? He wasn’t scared off by my honesty, either!

Jared needed to see the real me almost immediately. I really liked him after that first date, but I wasn’t going to pretend to be something I wasn’t in hopes of stringing him along. When the real me appeared, that’s usually when most guys disappeared! But Jared knew up front who I was and what I was all about. He, too, had no expectations, especially about hoping I’d be perfect. Jared loved me specifically for my flaws, because it made me real and unique.

The problem most singles have these days is this dreamy idea of the other person, and it usually involves them being perfect (whether you admit that or not, it’s true). No problems. No past. No drama. No conflicting ideals or principles. The fact of the matter is we all have those things! We will never ever ever agree 100% on every little thing. And if you are open and honest right off the bat about who you are, where you’re going, what you believe, and what your dreams are, you will know instantly if this person is good for you or not because they won’t be scared off by it…at all! And if that’s the case, then ask your date the same things you want to know. All too often we think we shouldn't know so much during those first few dates, but I believe (and have been proven correctly) that you absolute must!

Why start out a new relationship—even if it’s your first date—under false pretenses? Why begin something pretending to be someone you’re not just to impress the other person? When you do that, you will almost certainly end up three months later telling all your friends, “He (she) was so awesome in the beginning…” All the while, you, too, had started to be real and let your guard down a little and before they knew it, you had changed, too.

Expect nothing on a first date. This leaves so much room for you to be real, to be honest and to be confident. When you have no expectations, you release yourself from the heavy burden of trying too hard, or needing the other person to be something they may not be, either. Stop expecting people to be who you want them to be, because you just may find out that you like them just the way they are. I know I did with Jared.

ACTION PLAN: It’s important that YOU know who you are before you can begin telling others who you are, too. This is the perfect time to get to know you! Try thinking about it like this: what would you like to know up front about your future date/partner? Now ask yourself those very questions. Be prepared to openly and honestly express who you are because anything less is really a lie that you are trying to sell to the other person. Don’t be afraid of who you are, either! Be proud and confident. Know why you believe the things you believe, and make sure they are not cookie cutter answers, or words or phrases that the rest of the world uses. Be unique and stand above the crowd. I promise you this: your date will either absolutely hate you, or be completely enamored with you. And if the date doesn’t work out, then so be it! It’s better to know up front whether they can handle the real you or not.

Think back to previous "first dates." What were some of the things you did to impress your date that were out of character for you? Did you ever lie about your beliefs in hopes they would like you better? Were you ever ashamed of who you are, or your past, or what you believed in because you thought they wouldn't like you?

Now consider this: what kind of expectations have you previously put on your dates? Make a commitment to expect nothing, good or bad, and you will see immediate results.

GO FURTHER: This may sound a bit out of the ordinary, but give it a try and see how it goes. Sit down with your best friend and ask them what made them want to be friends with you. Then tell them that you want to practice being yourself on dates by using them as a sounding board. Tell them who you really are without hesitation, and find unique ways to ask them who they are.

After you’ve revealed an honest piece of yourself to your date, don’t ask them, “So did that just turn you off? You want to take me home now, right?” That shows a sign of weakness in who you are. It says to them that you need their approval to be who you are, and you don’t! Don’t ask for acceptance. They will either give it to you, or not.

FACT: Expect nothing...except God.

Week 3: I'm Too Sexy for my Shirt

Scripture to reflect upon for Singles Saturday: John 5:39-40 (The Message)
“You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.”

God took me directly to this scripture today for a reason. What are you missing? What is it that you overlook in hopes of finding the right person? Well, sometimes you overlook the very thing you are searching for: love. You may be asking yourself how that’s possible, but I can honestly tell you that some of your old patterns include the type of people you choose and don’t choose. (Men, I’ll be relaying my experiences from a woman’s point of view, but you may be doing this same thing with women.)

We have bought into the lie the world tells us that good guys are boring. (Hey, I’ll take boring over abuse—ANY DAY!) Bad boys are really bad boys who will treat you badly. There’s nothing alluring about that. There’s nothing attractive or sexy about it. Unless you need and desire drama and chaos, bad guys will bring you nothing but heartache and trouble you never asked for.

Bad boys are usually the hot, gorgeous guys standing across the room oozing sex appeal. These guys usually have one thing in mind, and it’s far from a relationship. These hot sexy guys know they are good looking and can get anything they want from women and take full advantage of it. These are the guys who will tell you, “I’m not looking for anything serious,” but you think you can change their mind. They are the kind of guys who tell you they love you, but end up leaving you when the next best thing comes along. They are always looking for the next pretty face, because they are the ones who get bored easily. They may not be boring—far from it, because drama, the chase, the hunt, the lust is always seemingly exciting—but they get bored quickly! They think too highly of themselves to settle down. They think they deserve better than you because they are just way too good looking to just choose one girl, so they create immense chaos in a lot of women’s lives with games and mixed signals.

I recently told you that I was tossed about how I felt about Jared. He lacked that certain something I had always looked for in a guy…oh yeah! he wasn’t a bad boy. He was a nice, polite, considerate, sensitive guy. Everything I always overlooked in men. He was the type of guy I always turned into a “friend.” You know the one, “He’s so nice and he treats me so good, but I just don’t feel that way about him.” The problem with this scenario is that you just don’t feel that way about you! You just don’t want to be tied down to someone who’s nice and comfortable. You prefer the battle, the chase and the chaos. But why?

Let me tell you the absolute truth: the good guys—the ones that the world convinces you are boring—are willing to offer you the very things you’re looking for! The good guys are the ones who will go out of their way to treat you like a lady. These guys will adore you and love you honestly, completely and faithfully! They will not stray, because it’s in their DNA. Listen, you keep saying there aren’t any good guys out there, well I’m telling you that’s a lie. But you keep buying into it. All your friends keep saying it, and you, yourself, just can’t stop telling the world that there are no good guys out there. Hogwash!! He’s probably standing right in front of you and you don’t even know it. You are too busy looking for something in someone who will never be willing or able to give you what you want, and this poor guy who is sweet, romantic and sensitive is wondering why in the world you even consider the losers you seem to date. He sees the worth in you that you don’t even see in yourself. That’s how genuine he is!

I nearly canceled my first date with Jared. I just didn’t “feel” it, and all my friends kept saying, “He’s kind of odd, isn’t he?” And of course when our friends start filling our head with things like that, we almost immediately want nothing to do with someone based solely on their opinion. Because we had also developed a friendship, I had a hard time imagining being with him romantically. Of course they thought he was odd…he wasn’t like other guys. He was a gentleman, and in this day and age, that’s considered “odd.”

I’m glad I didn’t cancel that date. I’m glad I went into it with no expectations. I’m glad once I got there I allowed myself to enjoy his company and was open to all the lovely romantic gestures (opening the door, letting me walk in before him, buying me dinner, giving me cab money to get home). He truly put together quite a first date that wasn’t incredibly impressive in terms of what we did, but he showed me that he had been listening to me for months. My likes and dislikes.  He thought of everything, because he was thoughtful. Does that make him boring or odd? Why does the world want to convince us of that, and why do we believe it?

I soon discovered that Jared was hysterically funny, and I loved that I could just be myself around him without worrying that I’d scare him off. See, hot sexy guys aren’t into being silly, that’s beneath them, so we tend to not let our own hair down around those guys for fear they will find us ridiculous instead of adorable. But when the nice guy comes around, he’s probably already seen you for who you are and admires all those silly things most bad boys would be turned off by. In fact, it’s probably those very traits that most men left you for that the good guys are drawn to and will cherish about you forever.

Dating Jared, I also realized some things about me, too. Finding the love I’ve always wanted made me realize that I enjoyed the drama-free life. I didn’t need the chase in order to feel worthy. I didn’t have to fight for Jared’s attention. I didn’t feel the need to have drama in my life in order to believe my life was exciting. I discovered that I didn’t need to raise my voice in order to be heard. I found out that my flaws are enduring, and a life without arguing was comfortable and relaxing. I never walked on eggshells with Jared. He never gave me any reason to believe I had to.

ACTION PLAN: You need to change your perception about good guys. It’s time to stop believing the lie that good guys are not your “type.” If you are looking for an honest, secure, loving relationship, you HAVE to consider a good guy. He may not look the way you expect, or behave the way you want him to behave. He may not even carry himself like those hot sexy guys do…but there’s a reason for that: he’s not cocky or arrogant, he’s honest and sincere. Get over your expectations of what your perfect person is supposed to look like or act like, and allow yourself to be open to new types.

Be open to the “odd” guys, don’t stick yourself in a box, and don’t listen to your naysayer friends, because just like my friends with Jared, they were regretful they never looked his way. Those very naysayers eventually used our relationship as a guiding point for what they hoped to find in a man. And maybe you haven’t seen my husband, but he’s pretty hot and sexy! But when we first met, he didn’t look like that. He was a bit shy and dorky, I won’t lie. But a good woman can make a shy, dorky man into an incredible hunk overnight! When we started dating, he became so confident and happy that he carried himself that way, and suddenly all the girls at work were going ga-ga over him. But you know what? He didn’t let that get to his head, because he remained true to the core of who he is.

GO FURTHER: Have you overlooked a good person because you just didn’t “feel” it? Why not give that person a chance. Get over all of the obstacles in your mind. Get over how they “look” and stop being shallow about those types of “qualities”. Imagine had I done that with Jared! I wouldn’t know this kind of happiness and love, and I wouldn’t have our son, and this amazing, wonderful life. Quality is on the inside, not on the outside.

FACT: Bad boys, or hot sexy guys, will only bring you heartache and trouble. Good guys are far from boring. They are the key to your happiness.

Week 4: Save Yourself

Scripture to reflect upon for Singles Saturday: Hebrews 13:4 (The Message)
Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.

Do you honor marriage, or are you standing in agreement with the world that marriage doesn’t work? I’m going to break this down into two segments: marriage and sex. First let’s look at the institute of marriage.

I hear a lot of people say—and I was guilty of this myself—“Why get married, it never lasts.” I will confess to you three reasons why my three marriages didn’t work:
1. I knew before I got married that they were not right for me.
2. All three times, those relationships had one or more breakups prior to the marriage. A sure sign it was not meant to be!
3. I was more worried about what other people thought if I called the wedding off.

Now let me give you one more reason why the majority of marriages don’t last: most people get into marriage with the idea that they can easily get out of it. Marriage doesn’t work because we tend to go into it with an already defeated attitude. Marriage will never work that way. Ever! If you are anti-marriage, then I suggest you also become anti-dating and become celibate, too.

Not a lot of people, Christians alike, believe or live scripturally when it comes to sex before marriage. It’s very rare that you’ll hear me say this, but for one second, let’s just take God out of the picture. Sex before marriage, even if you believe that there’s nothing “naturally” wrong with it, has many harmful consequences that last a lifetime:
  • As a woman, you could get pregnant even using birth control, and this is where most women need to make a life-altering decision of whether or not to keep the baby. A high percentage of women have abortions every year for the main reason of not being “inconvenienced” in their lifestyle or careers with an unwanted child. And if you know you don’t want a baby at all right now, especially out of wedlock, I suggest you don’t have sex. Period! I could explain the long-term (even lifetime) affects of having an abortion, but that’s a deeper topic than I care to delve into today. For men, they feel trapped, and either leave or try to do the honorable thing by getting married, and most of those marriages won’t work either.
  • More than likely, down the road, if not almost immediately afterwards, you will regret your decision to have been sexual with a particular person.
  • You may contract a sexual disease. Need I say more?
  • If you are using sex as a means to get someone to like you, and they end up leaving you or using you merely for sex, you have done two things: you have debased yourself and your reputation, and you will eventually feel so hurt and betrayed that the baggage will become a burden that you carry throughout future relationships. You will begin to see the opposite sex as merely users, and your trust in others will diminish.
  • Sex is an act of emotion, not purely physical. This is especially true for women. Women were created to be emotional, compassionate, and loving. Even if we try to be “care”less about sex, it will seep into our soul, our spirit, and eventually our heart. We cannot escape sex as an emotional act, which is why it was intended for marriage.
  • Every time you have sex with someone outside of marriage, you are giving a piece of yourself away for free. That means you also lose a part of you. You will eventually become broken, and nobody wants a broken person as a spouse, right!?
  • Men don’t want women who have been around the block, around the town, or around the country! Men may try to push you to have sex with them by using the words, “I love you,” but trust me when I tell you that they hope to marry a woman who has been with no one else before them! They see these women as "good girls," and serious men are looking for good girls. If a man is solely looking for a girl who can “do the splits,” he’s not a serious contender for marriage.

Many of you may be thinking, “This is hogwash. I’m human, and I have needs. I could never save myself for marriage.” Let me remind you that God gave you a spirit of love, power and self-control (2 Peter 1:7). It can be done, and I’m living proof of that.

I lived an incredibly wild lifestyle, and I regretfully admit that it was a lifestyle of promiscuity. It's shameful how many sexual relationships I’ve had. Everything I just stated above is true, and if you’ve been living a sexual life outside of marriage, you know it to be true, too. To say I lived most of that time in my life depressed is an understatement. I can’t tell you how many times I was betrayed, abandoned, or mistreated by those I “gave myself” to. I’ve also suffered awful consequences to my behaviors that will haunt me for the rest of my life. So after my last marriage failed, I made a commitment not only to God, but to myself (to honor me), I decided I would be celibate until I was in a Godly marriage, even if that meant it never happened.

I dated here and there; I even dated a man who was sweet, thoughtful and kind. I was very up front with these men. I made it clear from the beginning that I was not going to have sex at any time during our relationship, because I was saving myself for the man God had for me.

I can’t tell you what a great tool this is to see what kind of person you are dating almost right off the bat! Most men will just leave right away—and that’s great, because then you know exactly what they had in mind for you: nothing good! Other men will try to break you down with words, dinners, sensual kisses, etc. But if you stand firm, again, you’ll know their true motivation for being with you. If they can’t take it because they “have needs,” then they are not worth your time or energy. And that right there will be your first sign that they are not the right one for you!

On the other hand, a good person with sincere motives to be in a lifetime commitment will honor your request to also see if you are right for them. There are other ways to be intimate, and I don’t mean “sex with your clothes on”! Jared and I would just quietly lie next to each other, not facing each other, and just enjoy that peaceful comfort. And actually, it was during that time when God entered our relationship and made His presence known. And that’s when we knew that we were meant for each other. We knew God had connected us for a lifetime.

God moved in my life when I stopped moving. When I made the commitment to myself and to God that I would honor sex in the manner it was designed for, God wasn’t going to let me suffer long years. You don’t have to tell the world, “I have needs,” and act upon them. God knows your needs. He designed you, sexual organs and all. But God also wants to know if you will honor Him, honor His Word, and honor marriage, which means honoring sex, too, and ultimately if you will honor yourself.

ACTION PLAN: There is NOTHING wrong with saving yourself for marriage. In fact, you will be thankful that you do. It will save you so much heartache and trouble. Take the time today to talk to God about what you want and don’t want in a relationship. This will get the process in motion. I can guarantee that the top things you’re looking for doesn’t involve hot, passionate sex. If I know your heart (and I don’t need to, because God does!), you are sincerely looking for someone with great qualities and a good character. Sex is just the bonus prize.

With that being said, pray 2 Peter 1:7 over your life, that God gave you power and self-control! Ask God to help you make this kind of decision that may seem difficult at first, but will be such a blessing in the long run. When you make a commitment of this kind, God knows you’re not messing around. He will take you seriously, especially if you are following the last 4 weeks’ advice and suggestions. God will honor you! 1 Samuel 2:30, the LORD declares: Those who honor me I will honor

GO FURTHER: Separate yourself from the rest of the singles out there who are all too willing to throw themselves away with useless acts of sex. Stand out above the rest of the world by making a commitment to save yourself for marriage! You know who will honestly honor you? The person you’ve been searching for all this time! And I promise that you will feel so much better about yourself; and ultimately, when that right person comes along, you are going to be so happy you saved yourself for them…and so will they!

It’s time to decide what’s more important to you: sex, or finding the right person for you for a lifetime commitment?

FACT: Sex is temporary, but marriage is forever!

Week 5: Worms

Scripture to reflect upon for Singles Saturday: 2 Timothy 3:6-7
They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.

Who were the worms that Paul was talking about? The treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. And then he warns: Have nothing to do with them! (2 Timothy 3:4-5) These are the kind of people that are lurking about, seeking out “weak-willed women.”

Now as a woman, you may be thinking, “Um, hello! I’m not weak-willed.” Okay then, let me ask you this: What kind of guys do you typically date? Do they mistreat you? Do they cheat on you? Do they call you names? Are they abusive?

As a man, do you fit this bill? If so, it’s important to know that you will be rejected and your folly will be clear to everyone (vv. 8-9).

I once had a conversation with a woman who was heavy set. She was ga-ga over a guy who ended up leaving her for another woman who was not only unattractive, but much, much larger than she was. She was confused and wondered how in the world he could want this other woman over her. It’s simple really.

There aren’t many heavy women in the world who have a lot of self-confidence. They tend to compare themselves to the world and realize they are already a loser in the eyes of society. I don’t agree with this, mind you, but most women, even regardless of their size, feel this way! And when we feel lowly and feel ugly or fat or dumb, we become weak-willed. Now I know many women reading this are still thinking, “I don’t think that way about myself!” Really? I mean…really!?

I bet you can find at least five things about yourself that you would physically change if you could at this very moment. You probably wouldn’t even hesitate: I’d weigh 30 pounds less. I’d have curly (or flat) hair. I’d rather have blue eyes than brown. I’d be taller. My nose would be smaller. My skin would be clearer. I’d have less wrinkles. I’d have a toner butt or thighs or stomach.

But what the world sees isn’t only our physical appearance. These “kinds of people” that Paul was talking about are all over the place, and they are hunting down women who are scared of getting hurt, or worry about if they’ll ever get married or have children. In the spiritual realm, your true self is visible. The dark spirits of these types of men are searching for a spirit that is weak-willed: hurting, aching, needy, vulnerable, anxious, eager, depressed.

I spent so many years aching over some of the harmful choices I made in my life. Trust me, when you carry that kind of guilt around, it’s impossible to be strong-willed. It’s impossible to feel good about yourself. You could be the most beautiful woman alive, and you’d still feel yucky about yourself. And you see it all the time. Look at how many gorgeous women are cheated on, abandoned, or abused verbally or physically. You often sit back and wonder how they got the short end of the stick. Well guess what? Others may be wondering that about you, too. You just haven’t wised up to the fact that you are in fact weak-willed. You don’t want to admit it. You don’t care to see that something’s just not right inside; and until you do, you will continue to be prey for these vultures.

I want to share a personal story with you about my ex-husband. He was an ex-con. He had been into a lot of bad stuff and served time in some of the worst prison systems in the country. When we first started dating, he played the love card with me right off the bat. For one thing, he knew that I ached for it, not by anything I told him, but by what my spirit was projecting. Then he proceeded to tell me that he had never felt that way about anyone before and really never even told anyone that he loved them. I believed it! Because as a weak-willed woman, I was also gullible and eager to hear those types of things. It made me feel special and unique.

After we got married, his dad brought over a box of his stuff. Now I won’t lie, if I’m skeptical of someone, I have a tendency to be a bit of a spy. So spy I did. I went through the box and ended up finding some old letters from a girl he had written to when he was in prison. The words I read sent me on a downward spiral. She was smart enough to tell him that they had only been writing each other for a few weeks, and how in the world could he claim she was “the one” for him. She went on to say that although she cared for him, she didn’t feel the kind of love he was announcing to her. My heart dropped to my feet. I thought I was special. I thought I was the only one he felt this way about.

When I confronted him about the letters and what she wrote, this is what he said…get ready for this. He told me that when you’re in prison, you play the “game.” You tell girls things they want to hear so you can get them to send you money or food or cigarettes. “You do what you have to do to get what you want,” he said coldly. It was just a matter of fact for him. He had no remorse, no guilt, nothing! This girl’s feelings meant nothing to him, because all that mattered was what he could get from her by telling her what he thought she’d like to hear. Lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive. Without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good (vv. 2-3). They are the kind that worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women.

I wish I could tell you that I had left him after that. But that was just the beginning. He physically abused me. He brought drugs into our home. He attacked my son, Josh, on several occasions. He verbally assaulted me on a daily basis. And all in the same breath, he’d tell me he loved me. He also, much like my friend’s story, left me for an unattractive, heavy woman once I was no longer willing to put up with his abuse. And that wasn’t the end either. Because these kinds of men “gain control” over women like us.

I lived in constant fear of him even after he moved in with his girlfriend, because he would sporadically knock on my bedroom window in the middle of the night, expressing undying love for me and insisting he was sorry for all the hurt he caused me. As a weak-willed woman, I believed him and found that I could no longer trust myself with him.

I’m not ugly by any means. I don’t consider myself to be fat. But none of that matters in the larger scheme of things. My past haunted me. I allowed things into my life that I shouldn’t have, and eventually that made me weak-willed. Men of a low caliber are drawn to women like that whether they are drop dead gorgeous or butt ugly. They don’t care. All they care about is what they can get from you, how they can abuse you in the process, and eventually destroy you. That is their spirit, and they are ruled by it.

My weak-will had nothing to do with my appearance. It had everything to do with my longings and disappointments in life. That’s what the spirit world sees, and that’s what worms are looking for. So…what makes you a weak-willed woman?

ACTION PLAN: Deal with your past! Make amends with God. Pray 2 Timothy 1:7 over your life every single day, numerous times throughout your day: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (fear), but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. Allow God to show you how special you are. Ask Him to reveal how He sees you. Ask Him to show you how much He loves you! Pray for a healing in your spirit world. Pray that you project only good things and ward off the worms that are seeking weak-willed women.

GO FURTHER: Speak it out loud! You have got to get into the habit of telling your self and your mind how beautiful you are, how intelligent you are, how disciplined you are, how strong you are (in Christ, mind you!). Your mind doesn’t know fact from fiction. It’s time to reprogram your brain with the truth! You (or others) have filled it with misconceptions and lies about yourself.

Pray daily: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and make my spirit right again (Psalm 51:10). Do you even understand what this scripture could mean for you in terms of healing your spirit and the kinds of people you will start attracting? You need to grasp this concept. Grab a hold of it and don’t let go! Make this scripture your own. God is faithful to heal you and create in you a pure heart and make it so you are no longer bound by the chains of being weak-willed, but rather, have a spirit that is right and in alignment with the Lover of your soul.

FACT: If you are drawing men to you that mistreat you, you may be a weak-willed woman without even realizing it.

Week 6: In and Out of Love

Scripture to reflect upon for Singles Saturday: 1 Timothy 6:6
"Godliness with contentment is great gain."

Let’s just get one thing straight: Love changes.

You hear it all the time: “I just don’t love him (her) anymore. We fell out of love.” Fell out of love?

The problem the world faces is this idea that love is supposed to always be passionate, roaring with animal attraction and steamy romance. Yawn. I’m tired just thinking about it.

Stop living in the delusional glitzy Hollywood world where love equals passion, or vice versa. The reality is that passion fizzles, and when it does, so does the “love” you once felt…because it wasn’t real.

Real love means you can stand to be around each other when it’s not steamy and the passion subsides and all that’s left is just the real you. Face to face you still like each other. You don’t mind that he picks his teeth after eating. You don’t mind that she applies her lipstick at the table. Those little quirky things don’t matter. But if you fell in love because of the passion, those quirks will one day irk you beyond belief. Those teeny tiny things they do will drive you to the brink of insanity. They will cause riffs and heated arguments, and the next thing you know, you’re telling your friends, “We fell out of love.”

The relationship I have with Jared is one of the best anyone could ever ask for. When you are truly in love, the little things don’t seem to be so big anymore. You realize that peace is better, and they are more than an idiosyncrasy. You see their worth in their character and how they treat others, specifically you! When you jump into a steamy romance, you allow no room for emotional engagement. It’s purely physical, and that leads to nowhere quick.

Love has a course to take. Psychologists will try to tell you that the stages of love begin with romantic feelings, then progresses to physical attraction and then emotional attachment. I, on the other hand, find that incredibly unhealthy and think they have it all backwards.

I think what’s most important is to be emotionally attached to someone first. That means creating a friendship. Getting to know one another. Creating a bond. Now some will argue that once that takes place they can’t move past the idea of “dating their friend.” Who better to date? A stranger? Really?!

A lot of women say, “I couldn’t imagine kissing him. It would be like kissing my brother.” I thought the same thing of Jared. We were friends and I thought he was a bit awkward and geeky, totally not my type at all. I remember after he initially asked me out, I began to imagine kissing him and I nearly gagged. I just couldn’t see it working out well.

Our friendship intensified on our first date. We were able to communicate without being watched by co-workers and customers listening in. After hours and hours of wonderful conversation, I began establishing some romantic feelings towards him because I was becoming emotionally connected. At the end of the date, we didn’t sit and make out until the sun came up like most people do. He walked me out, got me a cab, opened the cab door and I gave him a sweet peck on the lips, thanked him for a great night and was on my way home.

On the ride home, which was about a twenty minute cab ride, I didn’t get all googly about what had just happened. I didn’t start putting all these expectations on it, either, by beginning to plan the wedding and pick out bridesmaids. I liked the guy. He was super sweet and generous. He was thoughtful and considerate. I had never had a date like that before. It would have been easy for me to fall head over heels right away, and a lot of people do after that first night, not based on anything solid, but merely on physical attraction.

If someone were to ask you how your first date went with someone, the first thing to come up would be, “He was so gorgeous! I couldn’t believe how good looking he is.” Bam. You’re done.

Being physically attracted to someone is important, but too many times that’s all we look for. Instead of finding out who they are, what they are all about, what they believe and why, we jump right to the looks department. Looks fade. Trust me. And when looks fade, guess what? So does your love for that person.

So the first stage of love needs to be friendship. You have to develop a genuine “affection” first. This will begin to build that emotional attachment. I found that Jared’s character made him incredibly gorgeous. I didn’t quite see him that way until after I got to know him better. And although I wasn’t entirely sure if I was physically attracted to him in the beginning, I knew that he was a great guy and I wasn’t going to let that hinder me from having a good relationship anymore.

Most people get involved too quickly into physical relationships. They skip right over friendship and start getting busy. There’s a total lack of communication going on here, and that kind of relationship will never end pleasantly, as I discussed in a previous blog, Save Yourself. Once all that physical attraction begins to wear off you’re left with nothing else to hang onto. You find yourself awkwardly trying to find things in common, or to talk about, and it leaves you incredibly dry and wasted. The “love” you felt was raging hormones. It was lust. And so many people get the two confused. When you confuse lust for love, you’re always going to end up getting hurt, because lust fades and always try to quench its thirsty spirit.

After the physicality of the relationship wears off (I pray after you’re married, mind you), you may find yourself going to bed without even kissing each other goodnight. It has nothing to do with how you feel about the person, you’ve just become content and satisfied. That’s when the good life begins. That’s when comfort and joy settles in. That’s when you truly begin to look at things and say, “My life is great.”

Jared and I have a pretty routine life, and we’re pretty happy about it. After Tavin goes to bed for the night, we go upstairs and settle in for the night. We sit and read, or watch TV, but most of the time we find ourselves discussing our day, politics, God, Frasier, science, football…anything! To some this may seem boring, but to us it’s heaven on earth. We live for those moments.

Don’t you enjoy hanging out with your best friend, just sitting around talking? I love it. And Jared is my best friend. I can tell him anything and know that I’m safe. I am forever in the presence of my best friend, laughing, joking, confiding, and comforting. All the things a good friend should do.

If you’re looking for a sizzling romance that lasts forever, you are going to be sadly searching for a long, long, LONG time. It doesn’t exist. Romance, yes. Sizzling, no. And to me, romance is contentment and pure satisfaction with where you are at all times.

ACTION PLAN: Rethink love. Rethink how relationships evolve. Stop looking at the world as your influence on how to be in love. When you enter a new relationship, look at it as a new friendship instead of a blossoming romance. Once you do that, you won’t have to force romance to happen, it will just come naturally.

GO FURTHER: I’ve said it before and I can’t stress it enough: save yourself. Be faithful to yourself. Have respect for yourself. The temptation to leap into a physical relationship is everywhere, but you are stronger than that. God gave you a spirit of “power, love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

FACT: Lust will never turn into love, and it will always disappoint you in the long run.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Single Savvy

That's can be single savvy. Follow along each Saturday as I freely give you the advice I wish someone had given me 30 years ago.

If you're skeptical about me and my suggestions, and you wonder why I feel I have the authority to tell you like it is, please read the page, Been There, for more information on who I am and what I'm all about. on the lookout for a new post each week, starting this Saturday, September 24th.

But first...please read the page, Essentially Eve, and find out just how loved you are by God.