On Love and Instagram

I’m a highly emotional person.

I’ve mentioned before that I am pretty much Leslie Knope.

And if you need a clue into my emotional spectrum, just watch this.

As I’ve gotten older and as my relationship with Jesus has deepened, I’ve gone through many processes of learning how to not let my emotions rule me.

It’s difficult.

Being a highly emotional person, feeling things really deeply, but learning that your emotions don’t always tell the Truth. They might be accurate and in tune with what the circumstances around you are telling you. And you might be totally justified to feel what you feel. But many times, they don’t align with the capital T Truth that comes from God.

So what then?

What’s the balance?

I have to feel. Numbing is bad news and when I choose to numb, I choose to numb to God.

But even still, as a Christian who is growing and allowing God to shape and mold her, who submits her emotions to Jesus, I still don’t feel everything completely rightly.

Maybe it was naive of me to think that as I got older, my emotions would all come into alignment and I would feel the exact right thing in the right moment every single day.

But it isn’t true.

Sometimes, I don’t feel the right things in the right moments.

Sure, there are things that hit me like a ton of bricks in the “feels” department.

But sometimes, I just don’t feel what I’m supposed to be feeling.

For example:

I am crazy about my boyfriend. He is loving, compassionate, patient.

I expected, though, that when I found someone who I wanted to be with and who adored me that I would always feel like I was madly in love with them.

SURELY.

I had these high expectations for my own emotions. That they should be exactly like what I see portrayed in romantic comedies and on social media.

But the reality is that I don’t feel completely infatuated with him at all times.

I find things I get annoyed at.

I have moments where I just don’t want to be around him.

But Instagram tells me I should feel more and all the time, right?

That when you fall in love, you’re supposed to be constantly obsessed with being with that person and everything about them is just the most wonderful thing.

When I look at social media, I see the highlights of everyone’s love life. I see the romantic things some girl’s boyfriend did for her. I see women gushing about how obsessed and crazy they are for their significant other and how he makes them feel. And I buy into it.

I buy into the comparison trap.

The trap that tells me what I’m feeling isn’t right – I’m not feeling enough or my feelings don’t align with the feeling and emotions I’m seeing broadcasted all over Instagram.

I admit it.

I often use Instagram as a measuring stick for how I should feel about Noah. 

Guilty.

It’s embarrassing to write that.

But it’s true.

I read the captions of people’s pictures. I admire how infatuated people look with each other in pictures. I see how “in love” people are. And this voice inside my head creeps in and says “If you don’t feel exactly like that… this isn’t the right relationship for you.”

How dumb is that.

Instagram is telling me if I should be in love or not. In fact… Instagram is telling me what love looks and feels like.

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I have one thing to say to Instagram now.

Screw you. 

I will not allow anything but Jesus to be a measuring stick for my relationship.

I will not allow anything but Jesus to define what being in love is.

Noah does make me feel many of the things I see on women’s Instagram captions. Oh, it’s not 24/7. Absolutely not. But it is often enough to know I’m absolutely crazy about him.

So I’m here to banish the expectation that you single girls have… the expectation that will cause you to break up with a perfectly wonderful human because you aren’t sure if you “feel” enough.

You aren’t going to feel all the right things every. single. day. of your relationship. 

Think about your relationship with Jesus. 

Do you constantly feel in love with Him? Loved by Him? Adored by Him?

Probably not. I bet you have days where you’re just not feeling it but you choose to press in.

The Truth is that you are. Regardless of how much you feel.

But you mustn’t dictate the status of your love based on what you think you should be feeling. 

A question I’ve continually battled over is “Do I feel enough for him? Enough for it to be it?”

Well what is “enough”? What the heck am I comparing it to besides the descriptions that are posted on social media of what people feel for their significant other?

Yes – feelings and emotions are important.

Yes – your man needs to make you feel something. He does need to give you those swoony moments where you look at him and think “I’m not sure I could be happier.” 

But the truth is that you aren’t going to feel that at all times.

There will be these moments where the way he says “But um….” will annoy the heck out of you for no reason.

But you have an opportunity to choose him.

The key is to listen to Jesus.

Let Him lead you into the exact relationship that is best for you.

Let Him decide your steps. Open your heart to hearing from the Truth He is speaking about your relationship. Let Him define what being in love looks like for your relationship. Let Him tell you how to love and serve someone (who has flaws…just like you) regardless of your emotions.

Nothing else.

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How It’s “Supposed” To Be

I haven’t had many profound revelations lately.

Honestly, blogging has been hard in the past months. Not because God isn’t moving but because life looks so incredibly different than it used to. My weeks are jammed pack with lesson planning, emailing parents, grading papers, leading 2 lifegroups, discipling girls, running my church’s social media accounts, and somewhere in the middle, finding time to invest in my friendships and my relationship.

And… quite frankly…. most of the revelations I DO have are about dating. A lot of my time with God lately has consisted of talking to Him about my relationship. I don’t know if that’s “right” or “wrong” or what. But in the past week, the Boy and I have seemed to be climbing a mountain in our relationship.

It’s been marked by difficult conversation after difficult conversation, miscommunication after miscommunication. It’s been exhausting. We’ve both been tired… physically and emotionally.

Saturday morning, we sat in his car and just looked at each other. And I managed to say what we were both thinking, “Is it supposed to be this hard?”

Neither of us had the answer for that. I even used the phrase “Are we trying to make Ron Swanson date Leslie Knope? Maybe Ron and Leslie aren’t supposed to be together.” (Yes… I did say this in a legitimate serious conversation. And yes, I might’ve been crying a little bit.)

And then we just decided to try. We decided to keep pressing in. To give this relationship our all. We talked about the areas that were hurting the other person, we decided to forgive each other, to consciously try to improve, to ask God for wisdom and to move on. And we got out of the car and went to breakfast. And suddenly every ounce of heaviness just disappeared. And I sat across the table and laughed with my best friend and enjoyed my breakfast with him.

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I will not quit in a difficult seasonThat’s not the point. Seasons are called seasons for a reason – they change. And I will not let a difficult season define if my relationship has substance or not. I will not bail when things get hard. I am a woman who presses in to the hard things. It’s at the very core of who I am. I am not one who bails. And the difficult seasons are going to be the things that create the depth and strength our relationship needs.

Because here’s the thing. I don’t care what it’s “supposed” to look like. I don’t even know what it’s “supposed” to look like. I don’t know what I’m “supposed” to feel or how our conversations are “supposed” to go or how often we’re “supposed” to be having these conversations. I just know I’m submitted to God’s will for my life and He directs every detail of it. I know that God is the one who clarifies and defines the boundaries in our relationship. I know the guy I’m dating loves Jesus and is submitted to His will as well. I know the guy I’m dating is trying his hardest to pursue me to the best of his ability. I know the guy I’m dating is submitted to community and seeking wisdom from friends. I know the guy I’m dating serves me consistently and makes me laugh on a daily basis. I don’t know what it’s “supposed” to look like. But I know those are the facts. And I know he’s worth choosing to fight for.

Yes, our relationship might be Leslie Knope dating Ron Swanson. But maybe in God’s kingdom that relationship works out. And maybe it doesn’t. Maybe in a few months we’ll realize it wasn’t meant to be. And that’s okay.

But I will always choose to believe the best. I will always choose to press in for clarity. And as his girlfriend, I will fight for him.

But I also know this. I will not base the foundation of my relationship off of what I feel in a difficult season. 

I write this not to air my dirty laundry or expose all of my secrets. And to clarify, I am not miserable in my relationship. In fact, I am crazy about this guy. He consistently amazes me with his growth and humility and patience. And he’s worth sticking around for.

I write this to prepare those who are not yet in relationships. 

When you start dating someone, you will have all sorts of ideas of what it’s “supposed” to look like. And I’ll break it to you now… It most likely won’t look like that. There will be glorious parts that are way more fun and better than you ever thought they’d be. But there will also be moments and seasons that are harder than you expected.

Don’t ditch when the unexpected happens. Get to the other side of it. Let the glory in your relationship rise to the surface with the ebbs and flows of life. And rid yourself of the idea of how things are “supposed” to be. Let God write a brand-new story that has yet to ever exist.

It’s not supposed to look like anyone else’s story. it supposed to look like yours. 

Men, Eggplant, and Fat Coats

I haven’t blogged in a while.

I like to write when I have clarity about what season I am in, what God is doing, or after major revelations or breakthrough.

But in efforts to maintain the mission and integrity of this blog, I have always felt the conviction to write about the process. The middle and in-between stages of life. The normal… at times, mundane… things.

So this is an in-process post.

I don’t have major revelation or breakthrough. Just small ones… little bits and pieces that God is teaching me in the small moments.

This post might seem like a ramble. But I’ve decided to write the small revelations I have gotten in the past month. Not just when the breakthrough happens, just the learning and the in-process moments that I am currently in. Because for some of these, the breakthrough hasn’t happened yet. The truth and revelation are there. But the sinking in and accepting it as a reality in my heart hasn’t occurred yet.

It will. In time.

But for now… I process.

#1) We have to let men be men. My goodness, have I received and realized this conviction in the past month. My relationship has recently taken a “re-vamp,” if you will, after a few hard conversations, followed by a couple of weeks on a break to let God speak and work on us. I had become frustrated that he wasn’t leading how I wanted him to… Was his work ethic an issue? Did he have ambition or drive? Follow-through? These questions surged as I forced my hand into his life, bringing about my own motion to things I felt he should be working towards, trying to make him the guy I would want to be with. I led. I controlled and didn’t let go. Until I broke. And realized that what was happening wasn’t sustainable. If we wanted a successful, kingdom-minded relationship, he didn’t just have to lead. I had to let go. I had to take a step back… let him grow… give him space to step up.

And this is the moment. Because, women – the moment you let go, real men will step up and lead. As women, that is often the most terrifying part; letting go and trusting someone else with the plans. Trusting someone will take charge of their life and therefore lead you well. Real men will do it. They will shape up, get their life together, chase after their dreams and goals, and pursue you with everything they have. They just need to be given space to do it. And you must make the choice to relinquish your control over his life or keep trying to take the lead. Show him you believe in him enough to lead you.

Men don’t need more mothers. They need best friends, supporters, believers, cheerleaders, partners. Women who will be with them in the trial and error, the failure and the success. 

#2) Shame is stupid. I’ve realized there are two things that keep us out of the Throne Room of God – our sin and our shame about our sin. Shame is just as much of a hindrance to intimacy with God as our sin. It is our sin that puts a barrier between us and God, but when we realize our sin and are too shameful to run to Him in it, we are refusing to walk out of a jail cell that isn’t even locked. God is the safest place to go to in our mess. It is why David is considered a man after God’s own heart, despite being an adulterer and murderer. Because in his darkest and most shameful sin, He RAN, broken, unhindered and unfiltered, into the Throne Room and the arms of a loving Father, full of repentance and desperate for forgiveness.

#3) Comparison makes me want to vomit lately. Last week a female co-worker looked me up and down and then asked if I wanted a winter coat. She had bought it when she weighed 180-190 and was “very large” and now it simply was way too big on her (she AND her dog fit in it)…so she thought I’d want it. I looked at her wide-eyed and smiled that I would love the coat, later sulking in this realization that this woman not only thought I was much larger than she was, but also assumed I weighed around 180-190 lbs. It was a comparison trap – bait that was sitting there, waiting for me to take, telling me that I should absorb the words into my being, compare how my beauty measures up to the women around me, and immediately begin dieting. Women! We must put an end to this! Be the most complete version of you that you were created to be! You are enough! Stop provoking comparison out of other women by self-promoting. Rant over.

#4) Joy the Baker’s new cookbook is changing my life. Changing my life is an exaggeration. But I’m totally in love with it. It’s worth every penny. Buy it.

#5) Spaghetti squash and eggplant are secretly delicious. I’m obsessing about these two things right now. I made this recipe for a friend and it was TO DIE FOR. I’ve also been eating too much eggplant parmesan because Trader Joe’s sells these breaded eggplant cutlets in the frozen food section and they are unbelievable. Pan-sear them, sprinkle parmesan on them, the serve them over spaghetti and a tomato sauce of your choice. SO good.

This ended up being more of a top 5 things that are on my mind right now. Pick and choose which one you’d like to hold on to for your week.

Very Fat

“Ah yes…” He said as he looked at me, smiling. “It is because you are very fat.”

I half-grinned as my heart sank. And my eyes dropped to the dirt floor of the hut we sat in, avoiding the glances of my friends. My mind raced over the words he just uttered. Very fat. No words any American would ever dare to say to your face. And he was using them to describe me, without hesitation, in answer to my question of why he thought I was the oldest of my friends.

He stepped out to grab the rice and beans that women in his village had spent all day preparing for us. My friends and I sat in a momentary silence.

“I am so sorry he said that, Courtney.” My friend Joe said, wanting to comfort me but unsure of how.

I shrugged. “No, it’s fine. Really. I’m secure.”

 

And I wasn’t lying. I was okay. Somehow, by the grace of God, the fact that a Ugandan man thought I was older than my much thinner friends because I was “very fat” was okay.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

 

He noticed. My weight was not something I could be immune to.

But he didn’t treat me differently. In fact, in his mind, he never said anything offensive at all. He wasn’t aware of the tension he left in the hut or the discomfort felt by my friends that someone they loved had just been called fat to their face. His words were not spoken with hate.

 

Why was this scenario so different in the bush of Africa? Why would this whole situation be different in America?

 

After eating, we left the village and walked on the dirt path to the road to head back towards town. I walked beside a Ugandan girl I assumed to be around my age.

She was beautiful. Not rail-thin. Average weight most likely… with a thin layer of “cushioning”. She walked tall… confident in her steps.

And the word “fat” was brought up again.

So I asked her the question that was circling in my heart and in my head…

“So here… is it better to be fat or thin?”

She looked at me, perplexed. “I do not understand your question.”

I tried to rephrase. “You know… do people like fatter or thinner people better?”

She shrugged and smiled “It is not one or the other. It is not good or bad. It is from God.”

 

I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

How could being called “very fat” NOT be a bad thing?

My American mind, brainwashed by the “need” to be thin – the “worship” of having the body of a Victoria’s Secret model – the striving to be toned and lean and tiny, was rattled.

 

There’s a lie I can’t seem to escape. A lie that my head knows isn’t true, but my heart holds on to with everything. I believe I would be better if I were thin. I believe I will be worth more, valued more, wanted more, pursued more, loved more if I am what society insists I should be – a size 2.

I have never been a size 2.

 

So here, I fight this unattainable standard; this ultimatum that I will never be the best I can be UNLESS I lose weight. That I will never step into the fullness that God has for me UNLESS I lose weight. That God will not allow a man to pursue me UNLESS I lose weight.

But this lie… it doesn’t match up. It is the one thing that doesn’t fit inside my secure heart. The heart that knows I am loved and accepted and treasured by the King of Heaven. The heart that knows where my worth can be found. The heart that wants more of God more than anything else. The heart that knows that striving will get me no where in the Kingdom of God.

 

This lie is trying to make room in my heart – trying to crush its way into my theology – trying to make cracks in my cemented foundation of grace – trying to change how I view the character of God.

 

This semester I have strived. I have tried to stay on top of working out. I have eaten more vegetables than ever before. I have started taking multi-vitamins. I’ve traded my 2% milk for Almond Milk. I’ve attempted to drink as much water as possible. I’ve saved drinking soda for special occassions.

 

And I haven’t lost a pound. In fact, I sometimes feel like I’ve gotten bigger. And I am living a significantly healthier lifestyle than I was 2 or 3 years ago.

 

 

I have no conclusion for the end of this post. I am in process. I am in the middle of breakthrough. But there’s something significant that God is breaking off.

 

And I can’t help but think that it’s not my weight that He wants me to change.

It’s my heart. 

It’s how I see a skinnier Christian woman and think she has more inheritance in the kingdom of God than me.

It’s how I look at the woman in other people’s engagement pictures and think “That’s not what mine will ever look like. My arms are too big.”

It’s how I see instagrams and blogs filled with Jesus-loving people who are fit and full of a paleo diets and wonder why that’s NOT something my heart is passionate about.

It’s how I think there’s something wrong with me that I have absolutely no desire to run a half-marathon.

 

Our journey’s are as unique as our figures. 

And I think I, for one, should stop comparing. And just be.