Christian? Check!

Some people have checklists that they use to evaluate their objects of affection. However, these checklists rarely exist to weed out prospective relationships; instead, they help us to justify our feelings.

A range of traits can appear on these lists, from “sense of humor” to “super cute” to “plays an instrument”. Whatever we feel our ideal mate would be, we put it into our list.

If you’re a believer, one term that makes it on the list at some point is “Christian”. We wouldn’t want to be unequally yoked! But how much weight does this item truly carry?

“He’s a Christian.”
“I think she believes in God.”
“He goes to church sometimes.”

All we need is for our sweeties-to-be to give some indication that they could classify as “Christian”. Then, we can check it off of our list and delve into relationship bliss.

However, I would argue that “Christian” shouldn’t appear on a Christian’s shopping list for a holy hottie to spend their life with.

Am I advocating for Christians and non-Christians to engage in dating relationships? No. I’m advocating for purpose and thought behind our expectations. I’m advocating for standards instead of justification.

Instead of finding a cute guy or girl who seems to have what we’re looking for, and clarifying later that they’ve been to church…

Expect the fruits of someone who puts God first in their life.

It comes down to priorities. Do you want someone to push you towards Christ? Someone who won’t only listen to you, but will appeal to a higher power with you? In your hopes of finding your life mate, do you hope that they will love the Lord their God and honor Him in all they do? Or do you hope that they go to church?

I not only hope that they are rooted in the church, but that they are rooted in Christ. That is what we need, even if we don’t understand why we should want it. It’s so much easier to just say, “Yes, they’re a Christian,” especially when we feel lonely. Despite that, I hope you’ll join me in making this conscious decision, even if it feels difficult. I promise you, you’ll appreciate it later.

 

I Get It.

I understand it, now. The loneliness. The emptiness. When you feel as if you have no one, and you just want someone to call your own. The mental pressure to call a friend by more-than-a-friend terminology, to flirt, in hopes that maybe…just maybe…they’re lonely too. Maybe they want someone to call their own.

It definitely isn’t healthy. It isn’t good to be or to feel alone, but wanting to use possessive terminology for another human being isn’t good, either.

I suddenly empathize with the silly relationships I see all over Facebook. After four days, the two say they’re in love. I’d usually raise my eyebrows and wonder how they know what that means, since I don’t and I’m the same age. Now I know that I can’t really judge their feelings, but I know they want to be in love. They want it to be real.

Loneliness is a powerful feeling. It takes the level-headed and plunges them into the feel-sorries and the if-onlys. I can only imagine what it does to those who are naturally led by their emotions.

I’m glad I’ve never had to experience the results of a lonely decision. The worst I’ve done is go outside, spread a blanket onto the lawn, and lay there in my own misery. I’ve never dealt with the aftermath of a proposal. The joy of having someone to be your someone can only last so long. Suddenly, they’re not only yours, but you’re theirs, and they are more than happy to point it out.

What would it be like to be trapped there? Maybe you want to escape. Maybe you say to yourself that it’s better than being alone. Maybe the possessives don’t bother you a bit. I’ve never been there. I hope I never have to visit.

You’re never truly as alone as you feel. Even if all parts of you ache with the feeling of being alone, you aren’t. There are people who you hardly speak to who would be shocked to know how alone you feel. They care.

If they’re like me, they really don’t want to see you get into a pointless relationship with that guy just because he said that he loves you. It isn’t worth the heartache.

I empathize now. I get it. I understand. I know what it’s like to acknowledge that yes, you feel lonely; yes, you could probably date him; yes, that would make you feel less alone.

Remember, despite what you feel…you are never alone.

Sense and Sensibilities

I often see myself in fictional characters, especially older, timeless ones. Most prominently, I see myself as Jo March from Little Women (which I know is a common sentiment among young girls, but for me it’s true). However, in the recent months, I’ve also recognized myself in another character: Elinor Dashwood.

It has been almost a year since I listened to Sense and Sensibility, and I don’t remember if I felt any particular similarities to this character at the time. I do know, however, that I am sensible and logical, nearly to a fault.

In the same way that Marianne Dashwood is quite emotionally driven, many of my friends are engaged in relationships and are incredibly emotional. They process with their hearts and feelings, jumping into situations that make me ponder whether they were thinking at all.

On the other hand, I don’t even know what to say to them when they describe their situations to me. I have no ability to comfort them in their distress. My brain simply tells me that this shouldn’t be a problem in the first place.

I think through things logically. I use reason to understand feelings, and am sensible enough to know when I’m not truly being reasonable. In matters of the heart, when my friends are sighing over haircuts and eyes, I’m cataloging memories and evaluating them.

It makes me sound heartless when I am not. I am a very emotional creature. When someone upsets me, it may take me hours…days…weeks…months to speak to them again. However, these grudges usually dissolve when I reason with myself.

It is a strange battle I strike in myself as my heart sometimes aches, and my brain chides its shortcomings. A fight between deep emotions and “You know better.”

I can’t imagine what it would be like to operate fully in my emotions. I don’t know what I would do without my logical reasoning. Is this why so many teenagers are engaged in silly, thoughtless relationships? Is this why they claim to love each other? Is this why hearts are broken when these bonds inevitably break?

It seems that sensibility needs a slap of reality every now and then. Then again, nothing but logical evaluation is no way to live.

Baskets of Figs

As a believer who is living for God, our existential questions are answered. We know where we came from and where we’ll go when we die. We have knowledge from the Bible that we may not understand, but we have faith in and trust. However, this doesn’t keep us from asking questions. The most prominent question we can ask is, “Why, God?”

Things happen that we don’t understand. We deal with unbelievable loss, sorrow, and hurt. Why, God? Why did this happen to me? Where are You in this?

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” It is easier said than put into practice. Committing your heart to someone else is scary. It goes against our sinful nature, filled with pride, to not lean on our own knowledge.

This brings me to the baskets of figs.

The book of Jeremiah is filled with the rebellion of Israel and Judah. God’s people turned away from Him. They turned to their sinful nature, worshiping false gods and behaving despicably. As I have read through Jeremiah, I have recognized myself in the pages. I have recognized our society.

Then, we arrive at Jeremiah 24. It describes, through the analogy of figs, how God preserved His people. There were good figs, and there were bad figs. The good figs represented those who were exiled to Babylon. The Lord said in verses 6 and 7, “I will watch over and care for them, and I will bring them back here again. I will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them hearts that recognize me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly.”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but being exiled from my home country does not sound like care and protection. I see being ripped from everything I had ever known. Sent to a place that does not understand me. Torn from the land promised to my forefathers. Broken. Shattered.

Why, God? Why has this happened to me? Where are you in this?

Isaiah 55:9. God’s ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We cannot understand His plans, and we are instructed to reach out in faith and to trust Him. Even when we feel as if we are being stripped of everything, God is in control.

Read Jeremiah 24. Be reminded of God’s sovereignty and favor. As we wrestle with why He has allowed something we cannot comprehend, remember he orchestrates all things for our good. Romans 8:28. Just as He called His people into exile to preserve them, He has called you into something too great for your understanding.

My Hiking MVP

We went hiking this weekend. I was excited, since it was my fourth time around on the path. My second time leading someone blindfolded. I’m not very good at hiking. This year, especially, the incline had me incredibly out of breath. Before we left, I communicated to the leader that I wasn’t feeling well. My stomach was causing me pain, along with my hip and my ankle. However, I made it to the top, and the view was breathtaking.

The way back was rough. Last year, I was the last one up the hill. The previous time, I was last. I didn’t want to be last again, but I remember that final stretch to be horrible. Something found in my nightmares. A terrible upward segment to the end.

This year was no different. It was awful. I lost my partner only five minutes on the return journey. I was clutching my water bottle like a lifeline, and only allowing myself to drink when I absolutely needed it. A number of people passed me.

And finally, when the back of the line had reached me, and I pushed myself harder, I found myself surrounded by a small trio of friends. One girl in my level, and two others I’d had as campers.

My friend engaged me in conversation. I shared my testimony first, and then we discussed college and our futures. The conversation kept my mind off of my pain, and distracted me from what felt like a never-ending walk.

As we drew closer to the end, she and I decided to pretend the woods were actually Narnia. At the time when the White Witch had just begun to lose her powers, and the snow had melted, and the beginning of spring was peeking through blossoms. As we passed some white flowers, we imagined they were snow blanketing the ground.

I don’t know if I would have finished without her. Looking back, it was her talking to me that kept me going, and I so appreciate her willingness to walk with me.

A Daily Dose of Crushing Reality

I’m struggling a great deal right now. It’s senior year. This is the year that I have to determine what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.

And I know what I want to do. I want to write. I want to pen novels, create characters, weave stories. Share these works with kids who will look at them with wonder. This is my passion. I’ve been developing it all of my life.

All I want to do is find the next step in developing that. High school graduation is synonymous with college, so I’m trying to find a school that will provide what I need to grow as a writer. I want to have a better understanding of creative writing, as well as grammar, usage, and mechanics. There are other skills I want to develop further, such as public speaking and video editing.

However, a few days ago, I was effectively hit with the crushing reality that I cannot survive on my passion. Not only have all my research efforts been inconclusive, but I’m unable to live on writing. By the time I’m out of high school, I will have published five, if not six, published novels. But they aren’t popular by any stretch of the imagination. Three of them are works of a child. Three show marked improvement, but no one reads them. No one enjoys them, except a select few people who know me.

I have another series I’ve been developing for a year. I’m anxious to write it, to share it with people. Yet, I won’t be able to survive. I don’t possess the funds to traditionally publish them.

Now, I’m forced to consider other options. Other things to do with my life.

Can you even begin to understand the crushing frustration of knowing what you want to do with your life, and wanting to improve yourself; yet there is no opening for you to do so? And then you are forced to decide what you will do with the rest of your life; something that you aren’t passionate about?

It would be different if I didn’t know what I wanted to do. If I didn’t have something I am incredibly passionate about and have seen myself pursuing for the rest of my life.

But I do. And I instead must put aside my greatest passions and look for something else; all for money, and having enough to live.

I have cried more than four times this week. There is so much anger and frustration pent up inside of me. I’m furious. I’m disappointed. I’m heartbroken. I’m disgusted.

And I have no idea how to help myself.

Drawing the Line

This post isn’t offering answers; only questions. It has come to my attention, at the ripe ole age of seventeen, that there are certain divides in our culture. And to be honest, I don’t really understand how to Biblically resolve all of them.

Take teenage dating. Within the Christian faith, there are many opinions on this issue. Some say it’s fine, and to date around to figure out what you want. Some say not to date at all, only to court. Some read a book which called for us to kiss dating goodbye, and others say God will tell us who to marry, so don’t worry about it. Where should I stand? Where does God stand?

Say I pick a side on the teenage dating debate. Now I have to decide what I think about physical contact. I know Christians who won’t even touch each other. Some save their first kiss, while others make out with each other. Some hold hands, others hug, and still others set different boundaries. The only thing Christians agree on is don’t sleep together. So where should I stand? Where does God stand?

How about this detour: Harry Potter. For some of you reading, you just squealed with delight. Others gasped in horror. I was brought up to believe it was bad, demonic, witchcraft. Those things are bad, so stay away. Yet, I know so many Christians who love Harry Potter. Where am I supposed to stand? My friends are not evil for enjoying it, as far as I’ve noticed. They are good, sweet, loving Christian girls. But if Harry Potter is so bad, how can they watch it? I watched a Harry Potter movie just a few days ago, for the first time. I enjoyed the characters, the plot, the political themes I saw. Yet my parents were disappointed in me. How can these two opinions exist, between God-loving people? Where am I supposed to stand?

There is no general consensus on any of these things. We could bring together all of my Christian girl friends, and we would disagree on almost all of these. We all think and believe different things! How do I stand with God, and where He wants me, when I can’t even find agreement between friends who love Him, too?

Where do we draw the line, as Christians? As those who fear the Lord? Those who believe differently, are influenced by different denominations? How can we come together and agree with one another, because the Lord says so?

I’m just a seventeen year old girl who wants to serve God in what she does. I would never wish to inadvertently do something He disproves of, because I love Him. I have a feeling that He will be teaching me a great deal about line drawing in the future.

What about you? What is your opinion on Harry Potter? Tell me what you think, and why, in the comments below. You have no idea how much I’d love to hear your answers.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

My dad turns, um, older than he was last year, this Wednesday, so I thought I’d list off some of the things I appreciate about him.

1) His patience.

My dad is a really patient guy. Both my mom and I tend to be more hot-tempered, but Dad is quiet and reserved about what he’s thinking. He rarely yells or gets upset when you have a disagreement.

2) His brain.

Dad is an engineer, but he’s also a pastor. I never cease to be amazed at how my dad can connect engineering and the Bible together. He sees God in everything. Sometimes, when I’m having a struggle, I really need that connection.

3) His heart.

Some people don’t know how to work with others. I can safely say my father works with people, even when he disagrees with them. He doesn’t look at someone at point out a certain flaw as a reason that he can’t get along with them when he needs to. This doesn’t mean that Dad likes everybody; but he knows how to love everybody.

Happy birthday, Dad!

 

Love

Since today is Valentine’s Day, I figured I’d be cliche and post about love. However, since I have no significant other, and the kind of relationships generally celebrated on this day haven’t even been on my mind lately, I figured I’d share about the kind of love that has been on my heart.

Christians are called to love others. 1 Corinthians 13 says that if we don’t have love, we have nothing. More and more, I feel that we aren’t showing this kind of love.

As human beings, we have the desire to be considered “okay”. That we’re “good”, we don’t have to worry about ourselves. Often, this takes form in our thinking, “Well, I’m pretty bad, but at least I’m not as bad as so-and-so.” This is not a loving thing to do. This kind of mindset translates into how we interact with these people, how we treat them.

Homosexuality. That is a lifestyle choice that is very outward, is greatly debated and disagreed on. And some Christians look at it in the way of, “Hey, I sin, but at least I haven’t committed that sin.” And how do we treat these people, who God created, loves, and designed? We respond without love, without hope.

Psalm 71:14-15 says, “As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all.”

Do we tell of God’s saving acts all day long? Is that how we interact with people? Sharing hope and love? Or do we jump to judgement, comparison, and hatred?

Sin is a lifestyle choice, whether it is outward or not. Gossip is a lifestyle. Lying is a lifestyle. Addiction is a lifestyle. Homosexuality is a lifestyle.

Maybe this Valentine’s Day, examine how you love people within your life. Who has God given you to love? Are you telling of his love, of his saving acts, all day long? Are you offering hope and love?

Romans 5:8. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

My Love Language is Chocolate

I’ve recently discovered something about myself.

The way to my heart is very clearly paved with chocolate. And there are plenty of examples across the span of my life so far that prove it.

When I was in first or second grade, I had a best friend from school named Ezra. Since I was in a cyber-charter school, outings were when I’d get to see my friends in person. Ezra and I always hung out together, and looking back, we probably even behaved more like the elementary school boyfriend-girlfriend friendships you read about in books like Junie B. Jones.

I remember one particular outing that was a Valentines exchange. You would make up all your Valentines ahead of time, with cheesy slogans like “Bee Mine”; classic cartoon characters that were endorsing your awesome Valentine’s Day; and always, a piece of candy. Everyone had a paper bag they had decorated with their name, heart stickers, and probably some glitter. They lined them up along a wall, and you dropped one Valentine in each bag until you reached the end of the line. Afterwards, all the kids would rush to find their paper sack, and would then look through the cards and stuff their faces with candy. I sifted through my bag, and I found at least five of a particular Valentine. It had some kind of sports reference that I didn’t understand, but there was also a small chocolate wrapped in patterned foil to look like a basket ball or a soccer ball. They were from Ezra: he had given what he had leftover to me. And I still count that as one of the most romantic gestures ever shown to me.

Someone who plops a Hershey kiss into my hand with a smile instantly becomes a beloved friend: not perhaps, because they gave me chocolate. I think because I find chocolate special, someone who gives me a piece seems to understand that, and I value that understanding highly.

I relate this to others, too. A friend of mine particularly loves Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and when I have them on hand and I know I’m going to see him, I bring one with me. It’s never for the purpose of bribery or because I’m trying to get rid of them. It’s because I know he genuinely enjoys them, and it’s a friendly gesture I’ve performed subconsciously for a long time.

Once, when I was working at camp, there was a s’mores campfire that I went to and tried to take pictures of. Needless to say, it was too dark without a flash, and after the first camper screamed, “Ahh! My eyes!” I thought it best to put away the camera and find a bench to sit on. A sweet counselor came up, placed a piece of chocolate in my hands, and whispered, “You didn’t get this from me.” Another friend who was working later gave me an extra Hershey bar once he’d secured the leftover stash from a sneaky camper. Whether it was because the sugar in the chocolate got to my brain, or I found the giving of chocolate a very kind thing to do, I went to sleep very happy that night.

So, here I come to my final point. Can chocolate be a love language? Because I’ve never really figured mine out, and this is as close as I’ve ever come.

Chocolate is special. It’s something you save, something you crave, something you indulge in. Chocolate is often given as a gift, and gifts are meant to be special: it wouldn’t be given if it weren’t meant to be as such. It’s not only because chocolate is sometimes for special occasions: handing someone a fruitcake isn’t quite the same as a piece of a Hershey bar. What is so perfectly wonderful about chocolate that makes it so intangibly exceptional?

That’s the part I don’t fully understand yet. All I know is that the gift of chocolate is a gift from the heart. And isn’t giving from the heart a part of what love is all about?