La Vie Boheme

Dating in this day and age is HARD! Am I right or am I right?! The older I get, the pickier I am and the fewer the viable options available. By the time most of us hit adulthood (mid-twenties and beyond), we have picked up a few hurts, habits, or hang-ups along the way. We’ve got a little baggage. At some point in the dating journey, we all have to determine which flaws we are willing to tolerate. Let’s face it, no one is perfect. As the song says, “I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine.”

So let’s assume you’ve done a little leg work ahead of time. You’ve got your nice little list of ideal qualities and attributes in a  potential partner. And then you meet another human that comes pretty close to matching the criteria on your list. They have some flaws because, after all, they’re not perfect. And if we’re being totally honest here, you’re aware of your short comings, too.

Now the two of you embark on this little journey of intentional dating. Meaning that the goal is not just “hanging out for fun,” but moving toward determining if you’re a good match for lifelong commitment. As time goes on, you can honestly see yourself chasing after God and navigating life with this person. They’re pretty darn awesome. Perfectly imperfect.

But then something comes up, perhaps an emotional sore spot is accidentally bumped, someone overreacts in a situation, or an issue of some sort arises that must be dealt with. Suddenly, things get a little more real. It is at this point in a dating relationship that you find yourself at a fork in the road. Do you work through it and proceed, determining that the fault is tolerable or will work itself out? Or do you walk away? You’re not married, so the latter is a viable option.

Assuming it is not an “automatic deal breaker” issue or sign of a larger issue like control or abuse, but something in the gray area of “tolerable moderate infraction,” I would like to challenge you to look at it as an opportunity.

First, it’s an opportunity to show Christ’s love. Jesus doesn’t expect us to clean ourselves up and then come to the cross. He’s not afraid of our messiness. So why would we expect a potential dating partner to be perfectly put together before entering a relationship?

Secondly, consider your own flaws and shortcomings. Do you expect your dating partner to walk through some stuff with you or simply turn tail and run when things go less than perfectly? If you react poorly in a situation, would you want your partner to show you grace and forgiveness or drop you like a hot potato?

“For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” -Matthew 7:2

Finally, and maybe most importantly, see it as an opportunity for sanctification. It is only through relationships that God can use us to help each other grow and change for His good. Some of us need a little polishing, while others might need intense grinding off of jagged edges.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” -Proverbs 27:17

In his book “You & Me Forever,” Francis Chan says, “Marriage is one of the most humbling and sanctifying journeys you will ever be a part of. It forces us to wrestle with our selfishness and pride. But it also gives us a platform to display love and commitment.” Even in dating and courtship, before the covenant of marriage, there are plenty of opportunities to “die to self” and show love. What better time to practice the skills necessary for marriage than during the dating/courtship stage?

The level of commitment may be different than marriage, but the opportunity for spiritual and personal growth is still there. If you allow for mistakes and flaws, understanding you are both human, there is an opportunity to grow closer to God through the journey.

What kinds of marital skills have you learned through dating/courtship?

White Wedding

I’m the first to admit that, like most women, I have a secret Pinterest board full of all things wedding. Lace, sequins, and sparkly trinkets abound on that secret “maybe someday” spot. It’s fun to dream about having a “big day” of epic romantic proportions. I remember spending entire afternoons in high school with my best friend clipping out pictures of wedding dresses and bouquets of flowers out of Brides magazine. That was the low tech version of Pinterest back in the day.

As girls, from the moment we watched our first Disney Princess movie, we started dreaming about the day all our friends would gather to watch us exchange vows in a beautiful gown. We imagine we would float around the dance floor effortlessly in the arms of our prince charming. My five year old daughter is already planning her wedding and mine, simultaneously. She loves looking at Pinterest with me and oohing and aahing at the pretty dresses and sparkly engagement rings. It’s fun and silly, but it’s misplaced energy.

We spend years dreaming of the perfect day, but how much time do we spend preparing for a lifetime of a healthy, strong marriage? A few weeks of required pre-marital counseling at best for most. Americans spend upwards of $35,000 for one day. But are unwilling to invest much time or money into the rest of their marriages. It’s embarrassing, really. No wonder the divorce rate is so high!

So how do we turn that around for our own future marriages? I’m glad you asked! I just so happen to have a few suggestions.

#1 Study what the Bible says about marriage and spousal roles. Learn about the intended design for marriage directly from the Source! God had a plan from the very beginning for marriage and family. He is the first and best resource for discovering how to prepare for marriage.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” -2 Timothy 3:16

#2 Read Christian books on the topics of intentional dating and marriage. There are some excellent books on this topic. Here are a few that I’ve read and highly recommend: Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption by Matt Chandler, You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan, The Right One: How to Successfully Date and Marry the Right Person by Jimmy Evans  If you don’t like to read, try All of the above titles are available and the info is so worth it!

“And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.” -Ecclesiastes 1:13

#3 Listen to Christian podcasts and Youtube sermons on the topic of marriage. When I first started studying the topic of Christ-centered marriage and intentional dating, I binge-watched Francis Chan and Matt Chandler. Also, Pastor Michael Todd has an excellent series on the topic here. The important thing is to find biblically sound teachers with healthy views on marriage. It changed my perspective in the best ways!

“For by wise counsel you will wage your own war,
And in a multitude of counselors there is safety.” -Proverbs 24:6

#4 Pray for opportunities to learn how to be a good spouse. Even before your married, God will teach you how to be a godly spouse. I prayed for this about 10 months ago and it has changed me from the inside out. In addition to studying books and sermons, I asked God to give me real life opportunities to put marital skills into practice. And He has definitely provided!

“Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” -James 4:2b

#5 Pray for your future spouse. Ever since I was a young girl, I was told to pray for my future husband. I did occasionally, but not consistently. I never knew what to pray for him. But one of the best books I’ve read during this preparation phase is The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie OMartian. No, I’m not a wife, yet. But this book taught me how to pray scripture over my future husband. You may not know his name yet, but God does. I prayed for us to both have wisdom and discernment as God draws us toward Himself and each other. I prayed for us to choose His best for us.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each otherso that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” -James 5:16

As a single woman, I’ll keep my secret dream wedding board. But more importantly, I now have a marriage prep board, too. It has cool stuff like how to encourage my future husband and scriptures to pray over my spouse. And of course, there are lots of biblical and romantic quotable quotes.

I want to hear from you! Single people: What things would you add to the list? Married people: What prepared you most for marriage?


Last week, we dug into scripture and thoroughly covered what submission actually is and is not. Read more about that here.

In this post, I would like to propose a different than “normal” perspective on Christian marriage. We traditionally have placed a heavy weight on the singular roles of leader husbands and submissive wives. But I think we’ve put unnecessary emphasis on the wrong thing. The more I study marriage and family as God intends, I see a different picture than what has traditionally been painted as the overbearing husband and the subservient wife.

Husbands are to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” -Ephesians 5:24. That looks more like sacrificial love and less like lording over his wife. From the very beginning, God saw that man wouldn’t be able to carry out his assignment on his own. The wife was specifically designed to come alongside and be a helpmate to her husband.

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'” -Genesis 2:18

The word for “helper” above is from the same word used when referencing God’s divine intervention, support, and deliverance. Pause and ponder that. Women were designed to be supernatural support to our husbands! Adam was created to be responsible for God’s creation [Gen. 2:15]. Eve was specifically designed to support him in that role.  The role of a helpmate is far more empowering than we have previously interpreted it.

Moreover, when we read about the ideal wife described in Proverbs 31, her role is far more multi-faceted than submission alone. She works diligently; she takes care of her home and family; she honors and respects her husband; she cares for the poor and the weak; she is trustworthy, wise, kind, and generous. In her role of caring for her family and supporting her husband, she improves his reputation and thrives as a wife and mother.

Men desire to be respected and honored. As women, it is our job to call out the king in our men. That is an empowering and honorable position. When I encourage and build up my man, he feels like he can take on the world! I see his demeanor physically change and he stands a little taller. It’s not difficult to see the good he does for the kingdom and our families… when I’m looking for it. But it is humbling, because it takes the focus off of me. Most importantly, it enables him to feel confident in the role God has given him in work and ministry. In turn, he shows his affection for me by sacrificing his time and resources. What a rewardingly vicious cycle!

Husbands are called to be the head of the family and spiritual leader, guide, sacrificial lover, and provider for their family. Yes, leadership is a big part of it. Also the risk, responsibility, and spiritual accountability are very important parts of their role. On judgement day, every husband will stand before God and be held responsible for the decisions he made which effected his family’s spiritual growth and direction. That’s a HUGE responsibility! I’ll take submission over that any day.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” -Ephesians 5:24-28

Conversely, wives are called to be a helpmate. That includes submission to her husband’s headship, as well as encouragement, support, child-rearing, honoring, and respecting her husband and caring for the family. Disclosure: the list for wives is longer because that’s what I’ve studied more thoroughly. Just trying to stay in my lane!

The big misunderstanding of Christian wifehood is we got hung up on the hierarchy before we ever got to the rest of the design. Being a helpmate means so much more to me than just submitting to my future husband’s authority. It’s about supporting and encouraging him toward all that God is calling him to. That’s an empowering role!

Someday, when I am a wife, even with all the hardships life and marriage may pose, I look forward to encouraging my future husband toward greatness! My greatest joy is calling out the king in my man and watching him flourish as he leads and guides our family toward missional living and furthering the kingdom. There will be no greater joy than to submit to his headship. Even when my flesh wants her own way.

Happily Ever After, Pt. 2

In the last post, I talked about what God has been teaching this single lady about marriage. Read more about that here. Today, I’ll continue with why it’s important for a single person to learn about marriage and how to apply that knowledge to our single life.

Knowing what the purpose of marriage is helps us prepare appropriately for it. It also helps us approach dating differently. If my goal in marriage is to find happiness, then I will only look for dating partners that make me “feel good” or fulfill my whims in order to make me happy. Read: take me out for expensive dinners and buy me roses. But if my desire for future marriage is to further carry out God’s plan for me and sanctification, then I will seek a partner and experiences that draw me closer to Christ. Read: serve at the local homeless shelter and worship together. See the difference?

Francis and Lisa Chan’s book, “You & Me Forever” radically changed my view on God’s purpose for marriage. I strongly encourage you to check out their material here:  (PSSST! They even offer a free download of the book on their app.)

The underlying motivation for marriage drastically changes the behavior in dating, partner selection process, and even the planning and preparation of self before a potential partner shows up.

A dear friend and pastor challenged me awhile back to do a practical exercise in preparation for dating. He pulled out a blank sheet of paper and drew a quadrant on it. He labeled each box “Must Have,” “Should Have,” “Could Have,” and “Can’t Have.” He told me to go home and thoughtfully, prayerfully consider and then write down the items I would put in each box for a potential dating partner. “Must haves” are required attributes of my future husband. It’s the non-negotiable items that someone must display such as a personal relationship with Christ. “Should Haves” are desired attributes that are a bit flexible like having hazel eyes. “Could Haves” are flaws that are tolerable such as difficult family members or financial debt. “Can’t Haves” are deal breakers like lying or cheating.

I have made a similar list many times over since about the age of 13. I’m a girl. It’s what we do. However, this time as I went home and contemplated his assignment, I realized how much my desires had changed over the years. When I searched my heart and prayerfully sought God as to what should be on this list, it became obvious why this would be so different than all the other “ideal mate” lists.

Before when I had made similar lists, my objective was to make a wishlist of personality and physical traits that I find attractive. Tall, dark, handsome, charming, kind, brave, etc. I was looking at a potential mate and subsequent marriage as things to make me feel happy, safe, and loved. And while those feelings are a nice byproduct of a healthy marriage, I now realize that “feelings” alone are not the goal.

This time my list took on a completely different shape as I desire to seek God’s will for my future. Instead of looking for someone to make me happy, I find myself looking for someone to challenge and encourage me toward Christlikeness. Now my list includes things like volunteerism, generosity, tithing, spiritual maturity, boldness, etc. It’s not all super spiritual, but mostly it is because character and spiritual roots are what lasts.

If there is one thing I am learning, it is that God cares more about my character, holiness, and obedience than he does about my feelings and happiness. Because I want what God desires for me most, I don’t necessarily want safe and comfortable anymore. Instead, it looks less like financial and emotional security and more like God’s own sacrificial love and eternity focused.

I find myself looking for a husband who has a heart after God’s and can lead me closer to Him, who has a similar spiritual mission in life that I can encourage and support well. I seek a partner whose passion for furthering the kingdom ignites my own as I fuel his desire to serve the Lord. Because of my deep desire for missional living, I find that the things that are on my list are shaped toward that rather than personal security and safety. Your list may look different because your calling is different.

If you are not yet married, I encourage you to seek God’s will for you and make a list like the one I described. Study God’s beautiful design for marriage so you can begin to prepare and cultivate your heart now! If you are married, it’s all the more important to discover God’s purpose for you and your spouse.

Happily Ever After, Pt. 1

Lately, God has been leading me into a deeper understanding of marriage and marital roles. You might be wondering how this applies to a single person. As many of you know, I am unmarried, so how can I speak to marital roles and how can I apply this knowledge to my own life?

Firstly, the Apostle Paul was a single, never married man and yet he wrote the most quoted marital advice in the New Testament. God reveals Himself through people of various walks of life. You don’t have to be married to see the value marriage can provide. Do not discredit someone’s revelation of God’s character based on their marital status, but look instead to their spiritual fruit as Jesus instructed.

“Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” -Matthew 7:17

Secondly, understanding God’s intention for marriage is extremely important for singles, especially those who plan to one day be married. I want to begin to prepare today for marriage by cultivating my character to become a good wife someday. Often people think they can’t learn how to be a good spouse until they are married, but I have seen in my own spiritual walk that it doesn’t work that way. If we ask God, He will provide opportunities to train for our future. Just as He trained David to be ready to slay Goliath by sending bears and lions for him to kill while shepherding. Just as He strengthened Samson to defeat the Philistines. Just as He prepared Esther’s heart and favor with the king to rescue her people. So also will he prepare a single person’s heart for marriage.

About 9 months ago, I began asking God to show me what it means to be a godly wife and to provide me opportunities to train for that future role. Think of it as dressing for the job you want. The Father has been faithful to respond to that request! He has taught me submission to the Holy Spirit as well as spiritual leadership. He has shown me that being submissive is far different than the warped definition the world has given us. He has trained me how to see others as He sees them. He has enabled me to encourage and call out the king in my man rather than complain about his shortcomings. He has provided opportunities to pursue missional living rather than romantic relationships alone.

One of the most valuable revelations Holy Spirit has shown me is in the purpose of marriage itself. Marital roles are intended to support us in our spiritual mission and sanctification. In short, marriage is not intended for our personal happiness and sexual gratification. It is for the purpose of reflecting Christ’s love to the world. Additionally, it is for marital partners to encourage each other to fulfill their God-given purpose. Finally, it is for growing more Christlike. As with everything else in life, it’s about making Christ greater in our life.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” -Proverbs 27:17

In Timothy Keller’s book “The Meaning of Marriage,” he states the following:

“a lifelong, monogamous relationship between and man and a woman. According to the bible, God devised marriage to reflect the saving love for us in Christ,  to refine our character, to create stable human community for the birth and nurture of children, and to accomplish all this by bringing the complementary sexes into an enduring whole life union.”

In the next post, I’ll discuss how this understanding of God’s plan for marriage can be of practical and spiritual use to a single person. In the meantime, whether married or single, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the topic. Why did God invent marriage? If you’re already married, what has he taught you through that relationship?

Can’t Buy Me Love

Let’s be honest, most of us don’t make it into our twenties and thirties without a few financial blunders. They flood our mailbox with credit cards the minute we turn 18, but they don’t teach us how to manage finances or even balance our checkbooks in high school. I don’t know many people without student loan or medical debt at the very minimum. Some of us had parents who were wise with their money. Some of us saw excellent examples of what NOT to do.

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7

Most of us have heard of or even subscribe to the Dave Ramsey financial philosophy of zero debt budgeting. I agree with 98% of his philosophy. It’s wise, biblically sound financial stewardship.

However, what if you meet someone and they’re a great catch: a mission minded, compassionate, Christ follower with strong character, but their only flaw is they’re still on “Baby Step Number 1,” starting an emergency fund? What if she’s the most amazing, godly woman you’ve ever met, but she has student loans coming out of her ears? Does that disqualify the person from the dating arena? And what about grace?

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about what’s tolerable and what’s not in a potential dating/courting partner. But what about the gray areas? Finances can be a major issue in marriage. Some statistics would claim that 80% of marital fights are over finances. So it’s an important topic to discuss ahead of time.

First and foremost, we have to look to the Bible as the primary authority. It discusses money quite a bit. In fact, Jesus talked about money more than Heaven and Hell combined! God knew from the start the challenges finances would pose for us, so He gives us detailed instructions in His Word regarding it.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” -Malachi 3:10

This is a direct command and the only place in scripture where God challenges us to test Him. That’s pretty serious. So, rule number 1: I tithe and anyone who is a potential dating partner must faithfully tithe as well.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:21

As I observe and get to know someone as a dating partner on a deeper level, I’m taking note of how and where they spend their money. This is not so much a hard and fast rule as it is watching and learning. I want to know where his heart is and according to Scripture, how he spends will tell me a lot. Does he use it to bless others and sow into ministry? Or is he miserly? Does he blow it on foolish and selfish things? Or is he generous and kind with his money? No one executes this perfectly. Lord knows I don’t! But over time, you should have a good general idea of where most of your partner’s treasure is being sown.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” -Matthew 6:24

I am searching for a partner who is seeking God and passionate about missional living. According to this scripture, serving God and “chasing the almighty dollar” cannot coexist. Therefore, as I strive to personally be less selfish and materialistic, I am also looking for a partner who is not obsessed with money, climbing the corporate ladder, or preoccupied with big houses and fancy cars. Years ago, I dated a guy like that and it was this reason alone that caused me to realize that he loved money and a lavish life more than God or subsequently, a relationship with me.

Ambition is not a bad thing. Obsession (AKA idolatry) is. When the money, cars, houses, trips, promotions, and various symbols of “success” become more important than pursuing God and furthering His kingdom, that is idolatry. Focusing too much on finances can be an idol.

“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” -1 Timothy 5:8

Wow. That’s harsh! Any potential partner must be financially self-sufficient. That means he must be able to support himself. If he is a single parent, he must be able to provide for his household. In this day and age, that looks different from person to person. He might have a roommate or she might rent from a family member. Bottom line, they should be able to support themselves and provide for their own food, clothing, and shelter. The condition and style the above items is in a bit of a gray area. Some may prefer to see filet mignon and Patagonia, while others are fine with bologna and secondhand threads. That’s up to you.

To recap, the 4 big financial health signs I have discovered in scripture are as follows:

  1. Must be a tither. Period.
  2. Watch for spending habits.
  3. Can’t idolize money and/or success.
  4. Must be self-supporting.

This is not an all-inclusive list, but it reveals some good indicators. In all of the above, you should apply the same litmus tests to yourself. What do your spending habits tell a potential future dating partner? Do you tithe faithfully? If you fall short in any of the four areas, why?

Remember to have grace and understanding for yourself and others. No one is perfect and most of us are still trying to figure this whole money management thing out. So rather than being legalistic, seek to understand and show grace. Perhaps there are genuinely extenuating circumstances.

On the other end of the spectrum, do not, under any circumstances ever ever EVER let a dating partner move in with you before marriage to save money or begin financially supporting a boyfriend or girlfriend. This compromise of physical, financial, or relational boundaries will only hurt you in the end.

In addition to studying scripture, it’s vitally important to seek godly counsel from someone older and wiser who has been there or your pastor. Accountability will lead to growth and help you learn quicker if you allow it to.

How Far I’ll Go

I recently reached out to a friend who just got married last May. She and her husband were a shining example of godly courtship leading up to their marriage. When I found out that their first kiss took place at the altar on their wedding day, I had to find out how they did it.

We live in a society that pushes a “do whatever feels good” philosophy much like the Greeks and Romans of the early Church times. Paul advised against sexual immorality in several of his letters that comprise the New Testament.

“Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.” Ephesians 5:3 NLT

“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” Colossians 3:5 NLT

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21

When singles and young people ask, “How far is too far?” I think they’re asking the wrong question. It’s not about dancing as close to “the line” as you can without actually crossing it. It’s about living a life above reproach. It’s about drawing your own line so far back that there’s no way you’d cross any questionable lines or find yourself ridden with guilt.

I used to know a girl that was adamant about maintaining her virginity, but would do absolutely anything and everything sexual with any man except actual, technical sex. What kind of witness is that? Is that purity? Is that maintaining healthy boundaries? I don’t think so. And I’m sure most would agree.

We can all agree that according to Scripture, sex outside of marriage is not God’s best plan. And if we want God’s best for our future marriages, sexual purity is important. But there’s a bit of grey area where God expects us to use good judgment and discernment. It’s up to each of us to decide how far is too far. Therefore, we have to create healthy boundaries long before we find ourselves in a compromising situation.

When I spoke with my married friend, I was pleased to find out that she and her now husband did exactly what I have put into practice myself (yay me!). She said early in the relationship, they had a conversation and drew clear boundaries for physical contact.

For each person and couple, those boundaries may be drawn differently. For me, personally, I know that based on my past struggles and sexual temptations, I can’t even kiss a man on the lips before our wedding day. I’m a single mom, so obviously I’m not a naive, doe-eyed, innocent virgin. In light of that, it may sound extreme to some for me to draw such a stern line. But let’s be honest, a kiss can be a slippery slope that leads to more and more until we’re in a place we can’t recover from. The kiss is the “gateway drug” to physical intimacy, if you will. I’d rather play it super extra safe and not have any grey area. This is something I’ve prayed about and believe God has asked me to do. Again, your line in the sand may be different.

The second tip that my friend gave me was something else I’ve already put into practice (2 points for the win!). She said they set clear boundaries around spending too much time alone together especially in the late evening hours.

I have a 10 pm curfew. I know not all sex happens after dark, but as a dear friend pointed out, temptation is harder to resist when we’re tired. As attraction and the relationship grows, that time frame and alone time in general may have to be adjusted in order to safeguard ourselves. Clear and regular communication as adjustments are made is also essential so both parties are in agreement.

Again, this may look different for each person and couple, but the important thing is to focus on how to protect yourself and one another from sin, not how much can you get away with. In a healthy relationship, both parties should be in total agreement on this topic and be able to hold each other accountable. When one has a moment of weakness, the other can be strong and uphold the boundaries. If the lines get blurred, a conversation is definitely in order to re-calibrate.

If you are both chasing after God first and foremost, then your hearts will be in the right place. My desire is that my life and my relationship would point people to Jesus. My heart is to have a marriage one day that is a reflection of Christ’s love and is completely counter-cultural. That begins long before the wedding day! It is harder to do things God’s way, but it’s always worth it!

My friend reported that because of their decision to abstain, they are enjoying a multitude of God’s blessings in their marriage that made it all worth every sacrifice. That’s what I want someday. I want to be able to say we did things God’s way and because of that, He can bless us abundantly as we chase after His high calling in our life and marriage.

By the way, drawing these boundaries in a seemingly extreme way for protection applies to ALL sin, not just sex. If your struggle is with drugs or alcohol, don’t go near a bar or the people you used to gain access through. If your sin is lust or cheating, avoid friendships with singles of the opposite gender especially when in a relationship. Avoid any situation that could potentially become compromising. RUN AWAY!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

Just The Way You Are

In my last post, Waiting For Superman, I talked about having unrealistic expectations of a potential dating partner. This week, I want to address the flip side of that same coin.

No one is perfect. We all know that. We most often use that line in defense of our own flaws or quirkiness. However, in light of grace, we need to accept the fact that our partner will have quirks and flaws as well. Sometimes, they’re things you can live with. Other times, they may not be.

Now I’m not talking about major character defects like lying, cheating, or anger issues. I’m talking about personality quirks like type of humor or small flaws like table manners issue. The little stuff that might be mildly annoying, but isn’t necessarily a deal breaker.

I thank God for small flaws and quirks for a number of reasons. First, they remind me that my partner isn’t perfect, so I can relax and let go of my own perfectionism a bit. It’s almost like I have to see him be human first, then I can let my hair down a little, too. That’s when vulnerability and honesty begin to truly emerge in the relationship.

Second, it often opens my eyes to the bigger picture. I once dated a guy several years ago for a very short period. We attended the same church and he seemed to always have something super spiritual to say or scripture to quote. He expressed interest in me and I thought, “He’s not exactly my type, but what’s the harm in getting to know him a little better.” He seemed nice enough, but after a few times of hanging out outside of church walls, I saw his feet. And that was the beginning of the end. When I saw the horror that was in his summer sandals, I could barely hold it together. Remember the scene in Dumb and Dumber when they had to use circular sanders to file Harry’s toenails? No exaggeration. It was just like that! I was horrified! I thought,”If his foot hygiene was that bad, what else did he not take care of?”

Soon, I started noticing major character defects like a victim’s mentality and no fruit of spiritual growth. I discovered that while he knew a lot of scripture, he lacked the maturity and grounding to apply his knowledge to his life. His deeds did not back up his words. So I quickly severed the relationship. Besides, the raptor toes had to go!

Finally, I’m grateful for quirks and flaws because sometimes, just sometimes, they can have the opposite effect and deepen the attraction. Maybe you discover that you both loved playing super nerdy games as kids like D&D or Magic the Gathering. That could make for a fun date night down the road. Or perhaps you find out that he is really good at woodworking and you’ve been dying to build a bookshelf for your ever growing, insane book collection… Hypothetically, of course. This gives you a project to work on together. Read: more bonding time. Maybe he has a quirky sense of humor that may seem dorky to others, but puts you at ease, because, admit it, you’re a dork, too. Personally, I find it more magical when connection happens over the unexpected little things rather than the obvious.

It is in those moments that recently I have taken the time to thank God for being so detailed oriented. It’s in those little quirks and details that God reveals His perfect plan. He shows his extravagant love by fashioning us uniquely and beautifully. When you find someone who has flaws (not just quirky interests) that match up with yours, you have found something special. Thank God for his faithfulness and extravagant love.

“And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Luke 12:7 NLT

You Gotta Be

“Begin with the end in mind.”

I’ve heard this phrase, coined by Stephen Covey, used in regard to business. The idea is to start and continue a series of actions with a particular destination in mind. It causes you to pause and ask yourself a series of questions. What is the goal? Are my daily actions getting me closer to the big goal or not? How can I adjust my trajectory in order to achieve the desired result?

Of course all of this makes sense in business terms, but I find this logic can apply in many aspects of life. In parenting, it’s a good idea to step back and look at the big picture. It’s like looking at the roadmap of life to make sure we’re navigating the best possible route to get to the highly sought after destination called, “Responsible, godly adult children.” Are you with me so far? Good.

Lately I’ve been pondering how to apply this logic to my romantic life. Beginning with the end in mind means first determining what the end goal is. Starting at the end and working my way back to where I am now.

I am not trying to just be someone’s girlfriend. My objective is to be a godly wife. 

With that in mind, I conduct myself differently. I don’t date just for fun. I don’t flirt for the sheer attention of it. I don’t fall for flattery. I don’t waste my time on relationships that don’t have long term potential. And I certainly don’t give my heart or body away to anyone. I do build friendships and invest in people. I do chase after the calling of Christ whole-heartedly. I do make sure someone has good, solid, godly character before allowing myself to develop any romantic feelings. I definitely exercise self-control and restraint.

In fact, this mindset has changed a lot of the ways I view dating, too. Personally, I think “dating” according to modern definitions is a farce. It’s not for the purpose of finding your marriage partner, but rather, for the purpose of “having fun” and fulfilling carnal desires. Instead, I adhere to a “courtship” type of philosophy without all the weird legalism. Read more about that here.

I used to date according to societal norms. But it led to frustration and games. Lots and lots of games. There are rules for every situation. How not to scare a guy off. How to appeal to his emotional side as well as physical. How to find the man of your dreams. How to get him to notice you. Blah, blah, blah. Once I realized that my goal was not to “hook” a guy, but is to wait for the man God has for me, my outlook and approach did a 180!

Within that realization, there are several concepts which I will further expound on.

1) My goal is to be a godly wife. I don’t want to just be someone’s girlfriend. I want to be the type of wife that Proverbs 31 describes. That means that in this season of singledom, I am focusing on my relationship with God and actively developing my own godly character. I’m also studying God’s Word and trusted Christian teachings about what it means to be a godly wife. Especially as an independent, single mom, I am allowing God to teach and mold me to be a helpmate for when that time arrives. And He is faithful to provide plenty of opportunities for learned application!

“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
She is more precious than rubies.
Her husband can trust her,
and she will greatly enrich his life.”  -Proverbs 31:10

2) My job is to wait. This one could be a post all on its own (and it may be at some point). Contrary to what society would have us believe, God created man and woman equal but different. As a woman, my job is to hide myself in Christ and wait on the Lord. There’s no need to chase after men or try to get their attention. Look and listen, but don’t chase. God will turn my future husband’s attention to me when we are both ready. I have to trust in Him. An exercise in patience is challenging and frustrating at times. But I have learned that running off and doing my own thing results in far more painful consequences. And so I will continue to wait.

“But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.” -Isaiah 40:31

3) My value is in Christ, not what men think of me. People’s opinions come and go. Popularity rises and falls. Men of the world chase folly. I have learned not to care what people think of me. My relationship with the Eternal One is far more important than the shifting whims of men. My Heavenly Father will take care of me up to and including sending the right godly man to my doorstep. I no longer have the desire to be chased for flattery alone.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised.” -Proverbs 31:30

Because of this shift in mindset and Christ-centered focus, I actually don’t get the cat calls and undesirable pick up lines. I don’t get hit on or asked out by jerks and players. Most common men either don’t notice me or are intimidated by me. I don’t really care either way, because I am hidden in Christ and focused on that relationship. So maybe more accurately, I don’t notice them. Regardless, I am content to keep my eyes on Jesus until He brings my Boaz into my life. I am open to love in God’s perfect timing. Until then, I am diligently preparing by cultivating my Ruth-like character. I’m working in the “fields” by focusing on the calling God has placed on my heart and learning to submit to the Holy Spirit in humble obedience.

“Promise me, O women of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles and wild deer,
not to awaken love until the time is right.” -Song of Solomon 2:7

It’s not easy to be patient and wait for God’s timing. But I know full well that the Lord often delivers in a way that is far more glorious than I ever imagined. I know He has a husband chosen for me who will be an even better blessing than I imagine now. He will love me and challenge me. He will lead my family well. And he will be humanly imperfect. We will sharpen and grow each other in faith and character. We will draw each other closer to God and each other as we embark on the sanctifying journey of marriage.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”                             -Ephesians 3:20

I Just Died In Your Arms

“Will you be my daddy?” my five year old begged as she looked up at him with her big, hazel eyes. It would have been far more adorable and less mortifying had I actually been in a serious relationship with the man she was soliciting. I could have died. Luckily, the friend in question is a good sport. We all had a good laugh about it.

Kids say the darnedest things. Or so they say. One thing is for sure, it’s never boring! Getting involved with a single parent will surely involve blunders like the one described above. Especially if they have an outspoken, daddy issues laden young child like mine. My sweet girl has longed for a daddy since she went to daycare and saw other little girls being dropped off and picked up by their daddies. To this day, she is on the hunt for her daddy.

My older sister often reminds me that it will take a pretty amazing man to step into our family. And she’s right. But as my mother reminds me, it’s less about a “perfect man” and more about the “right man,” showered with God’s grace.

It’s hard enough to get to know someone when kids are always around, interrupting, playing, climbing, crying, and interjecting obnoxious comments. It can feel very circus-like. And then when mutual attraction is established and ground rules are set, the kids get comfortable enough to ask when the wedding will be or if the potential suitor may henceforth and forever be called, “Daddy.” On the other hand, I have recently acquired the nickname, “Miss Hannigan.” After all of this, if the gentleman is not running for the hills, screaming in terror, we may have something to work with.

Of course, the plus side is that having kids that do not have functioning filters allows me to “separate the wheat from the chaff.” A man who can’t handle reminding my five year old about personal boundaries, probably doesn’t want to get involved with me. And if a middle schooler’s awkward jokes about “K-I-S-S-I-N-G” seem a little too real, he might as well drop out. The guy who makes it past my kids may actually have a shot at getting to know me. Only the strong will survive.

More than that. The man who understands both of my polarized children and how desperately they want to be loved will have a fighting chance. A man of strong, godly character and a willingness to lead this crazy three ring circus would be a special find, indeed. I don’t want someone who just tolerates my kids to get closer to me. Instead, I am waiting for God to send a man who loves my crazy kiddos as much as he cares for me. He will take an interest in them and be willing to not only befriend them, but also lead and guide them. He will see them, not as a hurdle or nuisance, but as part of an adventuresome package deal.

Pursuing a single parent is wild, challenging, and unpredictable. But it can also be so rewarding for the man who is led by God to be the head of a pre-existing household. There is a dynamic already in place that just the right man could enhance and cultivate into something pretty special.

I’d like to hear from the other single parents or former single parents. Comment below with the craziest thing your kid(s) said to a dating partner.