Archives for February 2012

The Homeless and the Role of the Church

“Excuse me, are you in charge?” I asked the elegant woman who was setting up a serving table of hot pasta and bread.  A long line of people snaked around the corner and were already pushing and shoving, impatiently waiting to be fed. 

I smiled and stuck out my hand which she ignored.

“Why?  What do you want?” she responded snappishly.                                                                         

“It’s our first time here.  We’re from Mariners Church in Mission Viejo and we brought some food and clothes too and we don’t want to get in your way.”

The lady rolled her eyes at me and turned her back.  “Do whatever you want,” she barked.”

I was confused.  I had just arrived at the park near the courthouse in Santa Ana notorious for its large homeless population.  Why did this churchy lady who was supposed to be helping the poor act like I was a dog pooping in her yard? 

It wasn’t about a lack of need.  The need was OVERWHELMING.  There were about two hundred people in the small park meandering around.

My group chose another spot on the opposite side of the lawn and set up our tables.  Within seconds another fifty people were crowding around us.  I asked my Marine friends to stand guard while we tried to find a modicum of organization amidst the chaos. 

All of a sudden a frustrated homeless man started shouting there were scammers crowding to the front of the line.  He yelled out “They ‘aint homeless!  You come here to feed us cuz we got no homes and they take all our food and go home to their houses.  They are cheating.  They’re going to steal the clothes you brought for us and sell them at garage sales AT THEIR HOMES.”

Certain faces in the crowd –certain VERY clean faces stared at the ground in shame.

We did our best.  We tried to bring the folks with tickets from the police for sleeping outside to the front of the line and help them out first.  People argued and shoved and I tried to be stalwart when my heart-felt like a squishy noodle.

A little later some of the homeless girls I was chatting with pointed to a woman with four nicely dressed children taking off with about six bags of our clothes. They claimed she was a known garage sale scavenger and in her arms was my prized collection of baby clothes. 

NOOOOOO!

They were Kolby’s first sleepers and handmade diaper cloths and I actually cried while packing the bags –trying so hard to trust God and to let go of stuff. 

And now here was this lady –this garage sale troll stealing my baby clothes from the people in need to sell them for profit. 

So I confronted her.  She played dumb and pretended to not speak English and I stood there feeling pissed off and helpless. 

Do I take my clothes back or do I trust God for justice?

And so I let them go but my spirit started churning.

When I got home I debriefed with my husband and he explained the reason why the other church didn’t want us at the park was because they make the homeless sit through a gospel session before they are allowed to eat.  And here we were just giving away food and clothes for free.

How dare we intrude with no agenda?  No Jesus shoved down their throats.  We had the audacity to just hang out and meet a microcosm of the need at hand.

It makes me sick to my stomach and yet…

I want to go back with a desperation I don’t understand.  I am dying to return to this septic tank of poverty where people are robbed and beaten up for the clothes we just gave them.  Where the homeless are force-fed Jesus by stupid and obtuse churches.  Where predators exploit the poor and use the system to get free inventory for their garage sale business.  And people without homes are treated like criminals and ticketed while the corrupt steal from them daily.

I want to go back to see Gloria who was so sick she could barely stand and to hang out with Princess who fled an abusive husband and to connect with Joe, the sweet filthy man who did everything he could to take care of his friend before helping himself. 

Joe pointed up to the sky as I left and then pointed to me.  I smiled weakly, not really feeling very Christ-like.  I was furious and resentful at the unfairness of life.

And in this awful place where I wonder where God is…maybe Joe reminded me. 

Sometimes it’s just about showing up.

Am I Pretty or Ugly? Little Girls, the Media and Self-Esteem…

The other night I spoke to a group of amazing young women at Fristers –a non-profit dedicated to equipping and empowering teen moms.

I talked on PURITY and that it’s never too late –which is clearly God’s sense of humor.  How I became the poster child for no sex before marriage is still a mystery to me?  I guess it’s one of those Saul/Paul miracles –you know the guy who used to persecute Christians and then became the champion of the Christian movement?  Jesus takes the most unlikely people, wrecks them with his love and grace, and then bamm…new outlook and spokesperson status.

Laughs aside, I love encouraging these gals.  I bought into the lie for way to many years that I was only as good as I looked and that my self-esteem was intertwined with my beauty.   As I looked out at the sea of young faces I knew these sweet girls had fallen for the same bucket of deception.

And it’s getting worse and worse.

I saw on the Today Show this morning that little girls are posting pictures and videos on Facebook  asking, “Am I pretty or ugly?” allowing strangers to rate their appearance and opening the door up for bullying and predators.

Why do our little girls and our teens and truthfully –most women believe we have so little to offer?

I think it’s because we are duped from the get-go (and cursed from a certain apple incident, but that’s a whole other can of worms).

One of the things I came across recently is that men control 95% of the media we consume. Only 5% of what women consume is actually directed by women. 

What?  That means I am letting men tell me how to be a woman?

And it’s not like these are Godly men who want the best for women.  These are corrupt men who are defining what you and I believe.  And it’s a 24/7 assault on our spirits. 

I am not a big feminist.  In fact I cringe at some of the rights women think they need to be equal with men.  I believe men and women are different –and that’s something to be celebrated (in the context of equality in God’s eyes). 

But let’s be honest here, it’s the media who is the biggest enemy of the female heart, not the politicians, or the religious right or the schmuck at the office who degrades you and tells you to cut up his steak. It’s the media who controls what is before our eyes and we keep watching and encouraging the exploitation.

Every time we turn into Jersey Shore, Sweet Home Alabama and Secret’s of an American Teenager we tell Hollywood to keep pumping out more BS.  I know, I know…it’s your secret little addiction and you are a grown up.  But what about the hordes of little girl’s out there who watch the same shows and believe they need to look like a Bachelor hottie to be loved and get a rose?

It’s the disturbing and relentless messages targeting our little girl’s hearts by defining their worth and value as objects and subsequently destroying the female spirit.

The media tells us women are only as good as we look, that it’s ok to  parade us around in bikini’s and sexualize us into a piece of meat.  They tell us the size of our boobs is more important than our intellect or our hearts.  They tell us it’s ok to give our bodies away over and over but then they come back and call us trash and whores after we do. 

The reality show craze has elevated toddlers dressed as pageant tarts into celebrities, its turned teen sex into an act as normal as brushing your teeth, they’ve twisted abortion into the smart girl’s ticket to success vs. a life wasted slaving over a child’s snotty nose, while ironically shaming the courageous girls who actually take responsibility for their actions and decide to have their babies.

In college they call it a walk of shame when a girl slinks back to her dorm in her heels and party dress the morning after a hook-up.  They call it a walk of fame for a guy.  They let us buy into a sick and twisted double standard regarding men and women and sex. 

Pornography is the new norm and men are being sucked in and women are left to compete with an airbrushed image that doesn’t speak but opens her mouth and takes it.

And that’s what women are supposed to compete with? 

I don’t think so.

And I confess I am one of the guilty parties who bought into this lie from the enemy of my soul – hook line and sinker.  Even worse I perpetuated it.  I allowed myself, for a long time, to become the it-girl of the media’s distorted lie. 

But not anymore…

The other night I was able to tell these girls the TRUTH about who God says they are.

children of God. made in HIS image.  worth dying for.  radically loved. cherished. treasured.  beautiful.

After I spoke, the founder of Frister’s –Ali Woodard went around the room and had each girl take the microphone and claim her beauty.  Ali made the girl’s say out loud “I am beautiful.”

One by one, with giggles and sighs, some bold and some whispered out tremulously, the girls took a stand against the lie.

But one girl couldn’t do it.  She downright refused to accept she was anything but ugly.

She cried out, “It’s not true.  I can’t say it.  It’s a lie.”

And I stood at a distance and wept. 

What are we telling our girls?  This young lady chose life instead of killing her baby.  She has chosen to seek support and graduate from high school and pursue her dreams and be a loving mother.  But despite all of these things –inside she sees only shame and loathing and condemnation.  She sees ugly, not pretty.

Ali returned to the girl and worked with her.  It took a long time.  Finally she choked out in a small voice, “I am Beautiful.”

And I wanted to scream for all of the little girls and the big girls and the older women who don’t claim the beauty we have been given by God. 

In his image he created them.  Male and FEMALE he created them.

beautiful

  

Take some time today to tell the women in your life, especially the little ones –they are beautiful. 

Related Articles:

Beauty and Body Image in the Media

Statistics on Women in Media

 

Is it Love or Infatuation?

One of my readers asked a great question the other day –What differentiates the really happy couples from those who are just getting by?

It reminded me of an article I came across regarding the longest married couple in the United States –they’ve been together close to ninety years.  This sweet little couple with the wrinkled faces claimed their secret weapons to marital bliss were saying I’m sorry and compromise.

Sounds easy, right?  I think it’s even more basic than that.

Simply put –LOVE IS A CHOICE.

But real love might be one of the hardest things in the world we choose to do.  And the honest truth is that many of us are so deceived about what love actually entails we get it wrong before we even begin. 

We think we love others but really we love ourselves.  And since we love ourselves so much, we tend to think we love people who love us back and give us what we want.    

But we are wrong.

This is because most of us have a warped idea of love.  We believe love is a feeling.  We think sex is love.  We think our happiness comes from love and we think we can fall in and out of it as if it were a place instead of calling it what it really is –infatuation .

Love is none of these things.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. 1 Cor. 13

Infatuation is hooking up now to get your needs met, it keeps you guessing if he’s not that into you, it makes you doubt and keeps you on your toes, it seeks the hottest chick and the richest guy to feed its ego, it keeps one eye roaming just in case there is someone better around the bend, it is jealous, and intense and it burns out fast –usually within a year of marriage.  Infatuation needs a constant source of more deviant sex to keep the fire going, it manipulates to get a ring, it leaves when it gets tough, it gives up when it’s not happy, it’s selfish, and it seeks personal gain above all else. 

Infatuation might get you to the altar but LOVE IS A LIFELONG CHOICE.

The closest many of us get to real love is with our children. We are willing to sacrifice, to move beyond ourselves and to lay down our life to protect and cherish their hearts.  But all too often, what we are willing to do for our babies we are not willing to do for our spouse.

When my husband Tim is huffing and puffing around the house like the Big Bad Wolf and I’m wailing and weeping like a little kid that got her ice cream stolen -“I’m sorry” and compromise are a little tough to choke out.  But if love is a choice those are the exact things I need to lean into.

Laying my own needs and desires down and putting my husband first is how I show him love.  Respecting Tim, even when I think I’m right is real love.  It’s meeting his physical needs despite being exhausted.  It’s when I give up my agenda for the day to get stuff done and I’m spontaneous and present, and it’s getting up in the middle of the night to care for the baby so he can sleep, even though we both have to be at work the next day.

For Tim, real love is taking all three of our kids to Costco so I can finish writing when I’m stressed.  It’s asking me questions and pulling out my prickly emotions I struggle to identify.  It’s doing the dishes and playing with the baby and rubbing my back for the nine-hundredth time.  It’s when he chooses to be tender even when it’s easier to be harsh.

Real love is hard and sacrificial and painful to our crusty selfish hearts. 

I received a letter the other day that was the antithesis of love.  It was from a man I dated in the past.   It’s tough to admit, but there was a point in my life after my divorce where I was so starved for love I let myself settle for scraps.  It’s not that he was a bad guy but he didn’t treasure me or my heart.  He didn’t give me security in the relationship.   He took me for granted and only when I disappeared out of his life did he fully appreciate all that I gave to him and who I was.

And now six years later he is married and he writes me a letter claiming he is still in love with me.  On top of all the awkwardness of having to share this with my husband, it also made me sad because he is so deceived. 

Love is a choice not a feeling.

Sending me a message like this is not love – its disrespect to my husband and to our marriage.  It’s disrespect to his wife.  Love is choosing to care for the spouse he chose to marry not longing for another man’s wife.  

But Hollywood has told us there is one soul mate, one serendipitous love of our life and we keep looking for it instead of learning to love the person in front of us.  My heart breaks for HIS wife because he clearly hasn’t grasped what real love is.

LOVE is choosing to love your wife even when it’s not easy.

They say President Lincoln was one of the greatest president’s ever.  Few people know his wife was one of the most trying women of all time and struggled desperately after the loss of their son with bitterness and anger.  And yet President Lincoln loved her tirelessly and had patience far beyond his own strength. In the battlefield of marriage he became a man worth following.(1)

Lincoln became an epic leader because he learned how to love and sacrifice first at home.

Lincoln chose to love.

One of the best books I EVER read on marriage was Stormie O’Martians Power of a Praying Wife.   It’s a simple little book and much of it is taken from scripture –BUT what got me by the tail feathers and rocked my world was this. 

Stormie was in an awful marriage.  Her husband was emotionally distant, unloving and downright mean.  She suffered from depression and emotional trauma from childhood. It wasn’t a match made in heaven since they wanted to kill each other. 

One day God nudged Stormie to stop praying for her husband to change and to start praying for herself to be the wife he needed her to be.  She began praying for God to give him the wife of his dreams and to let it be her.

It was a radical prayer that changed the course of their marriage.  She stopped picking apart his faults and worked on her own.  She respected him EVEN when he was unloving and she moved at him every day with genuine care and concern DESPITE his behavior.

And her Christ like love couldn’t help but change his heart.  Over time he started to try harder to love her.  He became more sacrificial and eventually became the husband of her dreams.

When I read this I wept because I knew if I was ever going to be a Godly wife I had to bury my selfish desires and let go of my pride.  I had a lot of work to do and a lifetime with the man I love to figure it out.

Real love is counter-cultural and reeks of Jesus –a God that humbled himself and died on a cross for a people who rejected him.

So what is the secret to a happy marriage? 

CHOOSING TO LOVE!

1. Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

2. Power Of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian

 

 

 

 

Bad Christian Dates and the Tower of Terror

I love hearing dating horror stories. And oh boy, do I have plenty of my own.

Like the guy I met on Match.com who flew out from Colorado to meet me at Disneyland with his daughter for the day. Only problem was he showed up to our date with another gal who looked like Cindy Crawford’s twin. And strangely enough they had adjoining rooms to each other at their hotel (his little girl told me this on Tower of Terror and my scream might have genuine for the first time). When I confronted Mr. Awesome Christian internet guy about his duplicity he got sad and asked me with a straight face, “Why can’t we just all be intimate friends?”

Ummmm…because even though one of my favorite wines is called Ménage a Trois, it doesn’t translate to my dating life Pervert!

Another lesson learned the hard way.

So when I hear my single friends moan about their lack of quality dating prospects, I usually ask them to explain how they go about meeting their potential dates.

“So I was hanging out at Swallows Inn, trolling around Match.com, or partying in Vegas and there she was and I just had to ask her out.”

And then a few weeks later these same folks are surprised and genuinely baffled (just like I was) when the hottie they picked up turns out to only be interested in them for sex and/or money and they feel used like a dirty rag and so mislead.

They tell me with a sigh… “It’s crazy. People are so superficial these days. And their profile even said they were a Christian!”

And then I laugh maniacal because it reminds me of all my awkward dating adventures where I too sought out Mr. Right in all the wrong places.

If you want a Godly girlfriend or boyfriend consider what pool of prospects you are fishing in.

Now I’m not against all internet dating. I know you’re a busy person and you don’t have time to meet other singles the traditional way anymore. So let me take a moment to explain my objections.

From my experience with Match.com, people will hide their true identity on internet dating sites and pretend to be whoever they want to be. When no one knows what you did last week, you lose the accountability of dating in community. You have no real references on a person’s character and just because someone checks the Christian box and knows John 3:16, doesn’t mean they walk the walk.

Here’s a confession for all you dudes –women lie. I know this because I did.

Truth? I was 24

I am guilty of putting up pictures of myself that looked like me on the very best day of my life with hair and makeup, a stylist, and a team of photographers. Yes, you heard me, I used pictures from my previous modeling and acting days and I looked pretty hot for a twenty-four year old. Of course I was thirty-three when I actually posted them. (Totally lame…I know, but I claim mental instability from post-divorce trauma, which is, oh right… another reason I shouldn’t have even been on a dating site)

Reality...Sam and her friend Lara at 33 (still cute but not 24!)

Oh and ladies…guess what? Men lie too! How many guys claimed to be a CEO of a non-existent company, pirate their parent’s address, and take pictures in front of cars they sell for a living but don’t actually own? Sound familiar?

We wouldn’t hire an employee without doing a background check and getting multiple references, or even board an airplane without taking off our shoes to check for weapons, so why do we let strangers enter our dating lives in a vacuum of anonymity? Strangers aren’t sexy, they are just unknown. And beauty and a shiny car can’t compensate for a Godly character.

Where to meet Christian Singles?

Churchy Places

Church is a great place to meet people, but make sure you don’t ask out everyone and become “that guy” who all the ladies avoid. Events at your church are always wonderful opportunities to mingle and volunteering as a greeter or at the coffee bar will guarantee you meet lots of new faces. What about helping out at your niece’s Christian school or your own child’s if you are a single parent? Mission trips…awesome! Usually if you head to a place where Christ is a guiding value of the organization it helps the odds of meeting another Christian. Just saying.

Group Dating

If you are in an all male Bible Study, why not invite a women’s group to join you for a fun out outing? How about a Christian Singles ski retreat or a cruise? Tim and I had a blast up in the mountains with a group of Christian singles while we were dating. But maybe stay away from the hot tub.

Friends and Family

Referrals from friends are a great source of networking, but you have to be willing to humble yourself and ask. I know it’s so hard to admit you might need help, but when I finally inquired from a friend I trusted and asked if she knew some quality men she suggested this pastor guy –now my hubby (though we met by chance on our own before we could be set up). Other people have great insight –use their resources.

Internet Dating

If internet dating is the only way you feel comfortable meeting people, try E Harmony or a site where people have to take a personality test and at the very minimum spend real-time and money setting up a profile. Then take your time getting to know them and PLEASE date in community with friends and people around to give you feedback. Real friends will tell you if a guy or a gal is a poser right off the bat.

Pursue Your Passions

If you want to meet someone who will love the real you, do what you love. If you are passionate about serving the poor and needy, go with other singles to serve. If it’s working out, maybe find a Christian running group or friends with similar interests. If there isn’t a group you know of doing what you enjoy –start one and get busy making a life someone will want to join you in.

Dating

I know you are scratching your head right now. But yes, I said dating. If you date with honorable intentions and don’t shove your tongue down their throat after five minutes –even if it doesn’t click between the two of you, that person might know another person they could recommend. And it will be much easier to run into them again at church if you haven’t behaved like a jackwaggon.

How did I meet my sweetie? We met at the church bookstore where I worked and Tim was a pastor on staff. I am an avid reader and was puttering along in seminary at the time, so the bookstore was heaven to me. I was doing something I found exhilarating and helping people and I’m sure my joy was apparent. He noticed and made sure to introduce himself and eventually asked me out.

So if you’re fishing in the pool of inebriated and superficial bar people, don’t be surprised by what you catch.

Have you got any awesome and awkward dating stories?

Got Emotions?

There’s a knot where my emotions live.  If I think about the knot it makes me want to cry.  So every effort to write has been rather futile this last week.  I reach for inspiration and the knot is like a lump of noodles clogging my drain… I mean brain

I’m not that great at grieving.  If stuffing had a competitor at Thanksgiving it would be me.  Generally my emotions only leak out in intimate small group settings where I feel really safe –and then some sort of emotional dam opens and I break down from bottling emotions that have been pent-up for ages, like a fine wine gone bad with bitterness.  It’s a weepy snotty affair and I associate this with weakness. 

So the way I protect myself from emotional hijacking is to lead the group and be a great listener.  It’s a safer place –always being the strong one.

I realized the other day, after my third round of blisters from shingles in three months, something needs to give.  I don’t want to live in this guarded place of protecting myself from hurt.  All too often I stay subtlety detached, not wanting to get too close to people, because they might leave me or hurt me, so I hover at a healthy distance and inoculate myself from pain before it can catch me.

But it always finds me.  I can’t hide from life.  And if I’m honest, I hate this about myself.  I don’t want to miss out on passion and laughter and joy to avoid discomfort and devastation.

I married Mr. Fun who wears his emotions on his sleeve and experiences high highs and low lows.  And somehow I have allowed myself to live vicariously through his emotional life so don’t have to have my own.

I stand at a distance and remain the steady ship swimming through the churning seas.  One is not better than the other, but I recognize the two together don’t equal a whole.  Sometimes it’s just two broken pieces patched together and leaking.

I buy into the lie that I need to be the glue in my family.  I imagine I wouldn’t be getting shingles if I let myself unravel a little bit more.  I have become a secret control freak who only cries at other people’s stories.  

You know something’s out of whack when you’re friend has a miscarriage and you are so upset she has to console you.  This lovely friend came over last night to be there for me in my time of need and I remained dry eyed and stoic –where are my tears hiding?

So here’s my goal for the next few months –to let go and FEEL deeply.  To not hide behind the laughs but to live them, to stop minimizing, and to go to the dark places in life recognizing that even there I am not alone. 

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:11-12)

For all of you covert Type A’s hiding behind being nice and steady and secretly overwhelmed up to their eyeballs –care to join me in this adventure?

Punching Puppies

I normally write about churchy stuff, funny things, or sex (which I take a lot of heat for) but today I can’t get past what God is laying on my heart.  And I’m sorry to say it’s not the usual satire that makes you fall off your chair in convulsions at the office.  This might make you cry and maybe that’s funny, or maybe it’s not –so here is my apology up front.

I had a tough day yesterday –an out of the ordinary overwhelming day.  Usually, I’m a pretty chipper bird but this weekend was a doozy emotionally.  We have been trying to get pregnant.  And it looked like this month was a go, until it wasn’t.  Not to go into details, but it didn’t work out –an early miscarriage, a few days of whacked out hormones that took me to the edge, and then the disappointment set in like a dense fog. 

I wanted to punch puppies.  Curl up in a ball and hide under the covers until the pain subsided.  I couldn’t look at my husband without crying.  He was baffled and we battled all morning until I could find the words to communicate that I just needed him to be with me, to be my friend and listen. And even though he’s a man and I’m a woman, he figured out how to love me in the moment and to simply be present. 

We took a walk.  We got a cup of coffee.  We watched our toddler chase birds.  And at some point we prayed. 

And it was a prayer of surrender.  I needed help to believe.  I needed strength in my faith and the ability to trust when I can’t understand. 

I am fortunate.  I have three beautiful children.  But I’ve also had numerous miscarriages –one painfully far into my second trimester.  I wish I could say it gets easier to deal with disappointment but it doesn’t.  They all suck. 

If you are pregnant for a day or pregnant for six months –something happens to your spirit and bonds you with life.  It’s what women are uniquely designed for.  We have a gift to connect with the unseen –with the very breath of creation.

But life isn’t easy.  God’s Kingdom is here and still yet to come and we live in this awkward middle ground of beauty juxtaposed with sin, of pain and heartbreak and love and laughter. 

I’m better today.  By the end of the day I pulled out of my funk.  I took Faith on a special Taco Bell run.  I played Just Dance with my son.  I relished in a frothy lavender bubble bath with Kolby.  And I snuggled deep into my husband’s arms, burrowing in like a scared bunny rabbit. 

And eventually hope floated to the surface.

I don’t understand God.  But I surrender.  I trust his plan is better than mine even though the cup might be bitter to swallow.  And ultimately I believe one day he will lift me up in His time.

And I wait for that day with anticipation.

Dating -How Long is Long Enough?

 

Leaning back into the patio chair at Starbucks Ladera Ranch, I took a big gulp of frothy yumminess and released a contented sigh.  AAAAAHHHHHHH!

Faith caught my eye as she intently focused on my drink.  She looked perplexed.  “Mommy, you’re cup says Jason on it.”

I looked down in horror and snorted in laughter.  It was true.  On the outside of my skinny mocha frapachino with whip was a name that was most definitely not mine.

But I knew it was my drink.  I saw the guy make it just the way I like it, it was simply a case of mucked up identity.  It was my drink but not my name.

Unfortunately, I was too embarrassed to tell Jason I snarfed the whole thing down.

And while the incident was stupid and dumb and funny it also brought to mind a reader’s question –How long should you date someone? 

It’s not an obvious connection- wrong name, mocha frap, mistaken identity??? (But stay with me here for relevance)

I considered some of the past dating relationships I’ve been involved in where I messed up my own drink –figuratively speaking.  I messed up my identity by pretending to be someone or something I’m not.  It was me in the relationship, but not the best parts of me.  And there was a guy, but did I really know him?   

My best (or possibly worst) experience with this lack of knowing was when I dated Mr. B (it stands for bad word) for a mere four months. 

Mr. B was a producer.  He was wealthy, maintained a powerful edge in the entertainment business, and he showered me with clothes, and Mahnilo Blahniks, and the life of the flouncy flouncy.  And I got sucked into the vortex of all things material and shallow for a time. 

Our relationship came to a head one night at a ritzy restaurant with Mr. B on his knees holding out an engagement ring.  I stared at him in shock.  Ironically, I thought this is what I wanted until it actually came to pass.

I didn’t say no.  I didn’t say yes.  I did worse than no…I hesitated.

And in a weird Holy Spirit minute where time stood still, the four months of our brief relationship flashed before my eyes.  I saw laughter and luxury and a carefree existence, but I also saw glimpses of impending darkness.  I remembered Mr. B berating a waitress, Mr. B hounding me with text messages when he didn’t know where I was, and one horrible evening when Mr.B picked on my son for crying.  I saw a guy who went to church with me but didn’t share my faith.  And I saw a future of selling my soul for box seats at a Lakers game.

And so I hesitated.

Mr. B jumped up and ripped my arm out of the seat.  He screamed at me, “It’s the Jesus thing, isn’t it?  I’ll never be good enough for you?”

I looked out the window as he drove me home and thanked God for saving me from possibly the worst mistake of my life.

“Yes, it’s the Jesus thing. (And I secretly thought an A-hole thing too).”

It was the last time I would see him.  But I discovered an “oh so important lesson” about dating that night.  Getting to know someone takes time.  There are no shortcuts on this one.  Generally speaking, happily ever after doesn’t exist when you get married by Elvis in Vegas.  And even if you stay married for the rest of your life, you will more than likely doubt your hasty decision.

People can pretend to be anyone for a few months.  Usually it’s just little lies –like girls pretending to enjoy camping and endless afternoons at sports bars (when they are secretly bored to tears) and after a while the truth leaks out she’d rather go shopping.  Guys pretend to be sensitive and attentive to a woman every need and then reality bites hard when she becomes a football widow at the first kickoff in August.  Typically, after the first six weeks, the cracks start to show and hints of people’s true personalities emerge.  But skilled deceivers can last up to three or four months.

When my husband and I were dating, Tim was advised by a well respected Christian counselor to spend as much time as possible with me.  The reasoning behind this was to see how I operated under different circumstances.  And in turn, I got to see how Tim dealt with the stresses of life.

We were also advised to date through all four seasons –one full year of getting to know each other through the good, the bad and the ugly.

And it certainly wasn’t all pretty.  During our first year of dating, we experienced together: job loss, two moves, a home sale, health issues (me), a cross country road trip with two little kids, pre-marital classes (before we were engaged), holidays with family, a crazy mission trip, vacations with family, 38 planned dates, and plenty of time with our respective friends.  Dating wasn’t just dating; it had become a mission to get to know each other.

At the end of each season we celebrated with a special night out and Tim gave me a “season charm” to be placed on a dating bracelet he had given me after our first winter together.  It was an intentional move on Tim’s part that both honored our time together and held out hope for a future with one another.

By the time Tim proposed at the end of the first year -we knew each other intimately and the only secret I wasn’t in on was a surprise proposal.

This time when Tim dropped to a knee in front of my parents, children and sixty of our closest friends I hollered out a resounding “yes” through tears of joy.  There was no hesitation!

It was fifteen months from first date to the altar.  And then a whole new way of knowing each other began.  But the foundation had been built on rock and not the shallow sands of compromise.

Don’t cheat yourself on the knowing

Marriage isn’t the time to find out he or she has got another personality, a gambling addiction, or a secret love child and garnished wages –dating is ♥

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