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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This Isn’t A Perfect Love Story

There’s a part of Noah and mine’s story that most people don’t know.

Our friends and family here in North Carolina know.

But if you’ve been keeping up with my life through social media, there is an aspect I’ve intentionally chosen to leave out.

In fact – if some of my students are reading this – I have lied to them about this part.

Consider this my apology. Sorry, guys.

Here’s the real story.

In January of 2014, I joined Christian Mingle, feeling lonely and pretty hopeless about the dating scene in Raleigh. 

In case you’re wondering, that’s not a good reason to join a dating site.

I never paid for the site but it was flattering having guys “wink” at me or try to message me. I vaguely alluded to how to get in touch with me in hopes that if I guy actually took time to do the research, he would figure it out. And at times this worked – I went on a couple of dates with a few guys.

Eventually, however, Christian Mingle became a place where I was getting my attention needs filled. I was on it way too often and consuming too much of my time seeing how many people had viewed my profile. I had started using it to fill the void in me of not feeling lovely or worth pursuing.
So I deactivated my account. 

As last summer came, I began prophetically proclaiming over all of my single friends that they would begin dating. I felt like there was shift in the seasons and that I was to speak it out over friends who had been believing for relationships. And it started happening!

Many close friends began dating relationships and I was thrilled beyond belief for them.

Yet a part of me ached. It was like I’d missed the blessing.

The weekend before Memorial Day, on a Saturday morning, I sat in my girls’ group crying that I had missed it. And before I went to a Heidi Baker conference that night, I felt grace to re-activate my Christian Mingle account.

I don’t know why. Maybe out of desperation. But for whatever reason, I re-activated it.

I went to the conference needing Jesus; completely desperate for fresh revelation and a touch from Him.

After worship, Heidi stepped on stage.

And if you’ve ever heard her preach, you’ll know that she’s kind of all over the place but in the best way. She lives a life of consistently and constantly listening to the voice and urging of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, she probably always diverts from whatever plan she originally had intended on speaking about.

She looked out and said: “God wants to restore hope tonight for things you’ve been longing for. Especially with marriages. So if you’ve been wanting to get married, stand up.” 

I stood up. So did half of the room.

And she begins to pray. That spouses would come. That hope would be re-ignited. And most fascinating to me, she prayed that marriages would come out of that conference.

“Keep your eyes open! Look around the room! ” She prayed. “Lord, would marriages come out of this conference!” 

It was hilarious. But my spirit began to break and shift as hope pressed its way in with every word she prayed over us.

Noah was supposed to be at that conference.

Friends of his were there.

But that day, he was helping a friend with their car and wasn’t able to make it.

So four days later, the hottest guy on Christian Mingle tried to send me a message.

He was really the only one I cared about trying to find, so I did extensive Google and Facebook research (yes – I’m that girl) and found him.

I sent him a message explaining who I was. We kept talking. He was really cute. And loved Jesus a lot.

A week and half later, we met in person for the first time at Caribou Coffee.

That’s the real story of how we met.

Through Christian Mingle.

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We hate that.

Seriously, we would not recommend Christian Mingle.

But God used it.

But one of the hardest parts about our relationship is that we had to create a friendship from the ground up. 

We didn’t have a history of common experiences. We were complete strangers who were interested in dating each other but had no idea about the other person’s past.

So the first time we dated – it was a mess.

We tried really hard. Our hearts were in the right place.

But I was a bit of a control freak who had unreasonable expectations for what dating relationships should look like.

And he was a commitment-phobic guy who didn’t know he had emotions or how to be vulnerable with me… or community.

And ultimately we broke up because we were on two completely different pages. In short, I said to him “Hey. Either have a goal of marrying me or don’t pursue me.”

So he broke up with me.

In the two months that we were broken up, God addressed every inch of control in my heart… examining it in and out. As I tried to maintain bitterness at love, God cracked my heart open and began showing me that real love has no control. 

He started showing me how I had even tried to control my relationship with Him – I wouldn’t completely surrender to my love with Him because I knew the power of love. I knew that it could control me in ways that probably weren’t logical. And I wasn’t sure if I was okay with that.

But He kept planting seeds of hope.

He also kept teaching me how real love is a choice. That regardless of feeling it, or not feeling it, God’s love for me is the most powerful because He chose me and picked me as His own. He didn’t feel love for me and THEN decide to die for my sins. He chose to love me and rescue me from the pit of Hell. I was picked. He wasn’t obligated. 

After my spring break trip, thinking I was over Noah, I came to church hope-filled that the best really was to come.

I walked to my usual seat. The band came on stage. And then I saw him after not seeing him in three weeks.

And I lost it.

My spirit broke inside of me again, moved by my feelings for him that I thought were dead.

That was who I wanted.

I looked at God and said “If I get to pick, I want him. I will wait however long it takes. And I don’t care how it looks or if this is illogical. But I want to choose him.”

Two weeks later, he asked me to talk.

He told me he was still crazy about me.

We began an intentional friendship.

And the next week he told me I was what he wanted. He chose me. And he would do whatever it took to win me over.

This shattered every. single. one. of my rules.

Rules about saying things so intensely.

Rules about pursuit.

Rules about guarding my heart.

It broke them all.

But Jesus consistently has said, “I’ve always promised you extravagance. And that had to break all of your rules.”

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We spent a month and a half becoming friends again; hanging out in groups, running random errands together, not hanging out one on one.

Then we spent a month going on dates. And me being overwhelmingly and extravagantly pursued by a man who realized exactly what he wanted. Who had become vulnerable and was willing to share everything with me. Who left me feeling like the most loved woman in the whole world every night as I went to bed.

(If you’re wondering… this was never the case the first time around).

And now. We have been in a relationship for a month.

I can confidently say I am not dating the same man I was dating before.

I can also confidently say that I am being pursued by a man who is day after day, all in.

It’s still messy. Nothing about it is what I would have written. And nothing about it is what I would’ve expected. There are still many things we’ve had to face as a couple that I wouldn’t have chosen to put in the story. There are also many things that have been put in the story that have overwhelmed me with unexpected joy.

But that’s the point.

I couldn’t have written my own love story if I tried. 

I love that it’s mine. I love that it isn’t finished yet. I am being broken and refined in more ways than I knew I could be, but it is making me look so much more like Jesus.

I realize I am breaking so many “dating” rules by writing this; by writing this love story as if I know this is it.

I don’t. Nothing is guaranteed.

I would like this to be it. So would he.

But we are submitted to Jesus, to the process, to community, and taking each day as it comes, listening to God’s voice every step along the way.

Whether or not this is it, this is the story we’re wrapped up in right now. And it’s not perfect. But right now… today… it’s ours. We’re in it.

Don’t let your “rules” for how it should be block out God from writing your story. 

Submit yourself to His voice and to the wisdom of close friends who are also walking with Him and you.

Be vulnerable in the midst of your story with other people and listen to His leading.

Pay attention to when your spirit feels unrest.

And pay attention to when it doesn’t.

This is our story for now.

There is no part of it that you can’t ask about.

Let there be freedom in having your own story be written in a way you wouldn’t have written yourself.

Why Breaking Up Is Okay

So early writing about this, yes I know.

Wise to post about my dating journey for the world to read? Who knows.

But I hold on to the foundational belief that vulnerability brings freedom. In me… but also in others.

Therefore, I will continue to be vulnerable on this blog. 

I am aware my students read this. It’s frightening and slightly nauseating to write personal revelations and have students approach you about them the next day. But I have nothing to hide. There is no shame in the journey and process. And I don’t just teach with my words… I teach with my life. It holds me to a higher standard but also makes admitting my failures even more important. If I reveal the real me, they will learn how normal they are… that their failures do not define them. If I share my revelations with them now, they could miss entire difficult seasons that I had to walk through because of my choices. It’s why I will talk to them like I’m a person and not just their teacher who they know nothing about. I will be authentic with them. I will answer their questions when they ask them, using discernment and discretion along the way. And I will continue to write.

I am on the other side of a break-up. A very recent, 4 days ago break-up.

And I’m okay.

I really am. I’m not saying that to be in denial or stuff anything down or numb myself. I really am, 150% okay.

This is the most peaceful breakup I have ever experienced in my life. Not pain-less, no. It was painful. It hurt in a deep pain that resonated through my chest as he mustered up an “I’m so sorry” on Monday night; An “I’m sorry” that I was bursting at the seams with as well as I listened to the pain in his voice. I was sorry. It hurt us both and I cried and still do cry about it sometimes. But my spirit is at rest within me. I am full of hope and resolved that this was and is the right thing in this season for both of us.

My plans took a slight detour. They were redirected in a way I didn’t anticipate. Our relationship had the best of intentions but was just not working. And it was no one’s fault. Both of us were giving it our all. But after a weekend of conversations, we realized we were just on two totally different pages. And God was saying “let go.”

This is why breaking up is okay. 

Because the revelation that “all things work together for good to those who are called according to His purposes” means that these past 5 months haven’t been in vain. For either one of us. 

Because obedience to God above all things is what we both value the most.

Because He has our best intentions in mind – He will not leave of forsake us. Breaking up was hard for both of us. But obedience to God is completely worth it.

And the truth that God can be trusted and wants my best in the midst of my pain and risking changes any perspective I might have on this situation. In places where I feel exposed, I am somehow covered and protected by the One who knows my heart best.

There are no disappointments with God. There are things that happen in unexpected or painful ways. But I can choose to grab on to them as a disappointment, or I can choose to believe that it’s just another step – it’s another part of the process. It’s another piece of the journey. It’s another season I get to choose intimacy with God. And it must mean this isn’t the end of the story for me. 

I am taking the time to mourn the things when they come up. Realizing Valentine’s Day is next weekend or that I won’t be getting unexpected flowers or taken on dates for a while is sad and painful in moments. But every time a new memory comes up, I choose to feel it all. To let it bubble to the surface. To mourn it. To cry. And then to release it. And to embrace the new season. There will be days where I’ll miss those things more than others. But that’s just not the season I’m now currently in. I won’t be forever in a season of not being pursued. But for now, I am. And the pain just means that I was actually fully present in that relationship – it means I opened my heart and was giving myself to the thing God had placed in my life. And that, in spite of the pain, is so worth it. And by the grace of God, I am less afraid of pain than I’ve ever been in my life.

So for now, my days will be spent investing in my friendships and lifegroups and students.

Neither the previous season nor current season is better or worse. Neither season is lived in vain. 

A life lived obedient to God will never escape what He has for you in that exact perfect season. He knows you better than you know yourself. Trust Him when it’s painful and uncomfortable. Embrace the fullness of the season He has for you right now.

Disclaimer: This post is probably one of the more vulnerable things I’ve written and I’ve questioned posting it. You should know that I hold my most recent relationship and the guy I was dating in the HIGHEST respect. It was one of the most fun, intentional, and refining seasons of my entire life. I learned a TON. And I still, to this day, think he is an absolutely fantastic man of God who honored and pursued me well and gave our relationship everything he had. We are still friends. There are no hard feelings, no bitterness, no resentment. The reason I chose to post it is because I have been shocked at the process and how peaceful and hopeful it has been. It makes me believe that dating in the Church can survive and withstand breakups and that gets me really excited. 

Date A Guy Who…

“He’s cute, and sweet, and funny, and has GREAT hair.” 

These would probably be things you would find in my 6th grade journal, written about whatever guy of the week I had a crush on. And that would probably be the extent of the list. The fact that he had talked to me at least once that week was also a major qualifying factor. Bonus points if you chatted me first on AIM.

Gratefully, my list of things I look for in a boyfriend has become a little less… superficial. But even now, the things I’ve realized I need aren’t the things I’ve expected.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned while dating The Boy is that dating doesn’t look how you think it’s going to look. Such is life, though. You can be as prepared as you can be, but there’s no formula for your exact relationship. You’re going to have to undergo many rounds of trial and error, finding out what works and what most definitely doesn’t. And along the way, you’re going to discover qualities about the person you are dating that you had no idea were so important.

So women, through my process, here are things I believe I should’ve added to my list…

1. Date a guy who is patient. One of the thing I am continually blown away with is The Boy’s patience. He is by far one of the most patient people I have ever met. Even when things irritate or frustrate him, he never raises his voice or yells. And I am a woman who needs a handful of grace. Unfortunately, I do have stereotypical mood swings. I am not always nice. And I am not always loving. But he has shown countless amounts of patience towards me when I am not so deserving.

2. Date a guy who isn’t afraid of your emotions. This one is huge. Women’s emotions are a lot for guys to handle. Very rarely, if ever, do they feel things as deeply as women do. So living life in close proximity with a human who feels things on a totally different level than they do is probably…. honestly… a little draining at times. Date a man who isn’t intimidated by the fact that you have emotions. Date a man who won’t run away from them, but instead will sit there and listen to what you’re feeling. And later, you can admit you were acting crazy and you can both laugh about it together.

3. Date a guy who doesn’t pursue you perfectly. Because where’s the depth in that? Now hear me out about this one. I didn’t say “doesn’t pursue you well.” But a perfect pursuit is overrated. And honestly, there’s only One who is the perfect Pursuer. Date a man who pursues you as best as he personally can, and who is consistently trying to learn more about how to pursue you better. Date a man who is a student of your heart… who is willing to take the risk and time to fail and get up and try again. Dating a man who doesn’t pursue you perfectly will teach you how to communicate in ways you didn’t know how to before. Dating a man who doesn’t pursue you perfectly will allow you to understand your own heart better. Dating a man who doesn’t pursue you perfectly, but pursues you with vulnerability, enthusiasm and teachability is a game-changer. Do not compare your pursuit with the relationships around you. This.. this right here in front of you… this is YOUR pursuit… YOUR relationship. Date a man who learns the keys to your heart and remembers them.

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4. Date a guy who isn’t afraid of hurting your feelings. In my mind, there’s nothing more irritating than someone who doesn’t tell you how they’re really feeling because they’re too scared they’ll offend you. You can’t have an intimate relationship with that person because you never know what’s really going on. Date a guy who tells you what he really is thinking and feeling and isn’t afraid it’s going to hurt your feelings. I’m not saying he communicates his thoughts with anger, bitterness or finger-pointing. But he isn’t afraid to tell you he doesn’t agree with you or that how you acted earlier that day really hurt his feelings. Or even better, date a guy who isn’t afraid to call you out on your junk, but calls you up to the woman God created you to be. Date a guy who challenges your thought patterns. Date a guy who calls out when you’re believing lies.

5. Date a guy with flaws. There’s an episode in Parks and Rec when Ann Perkins is first dating Chris Traeger and likes him but can’t find anything wrong with him. She says “He’s like a perfect human person. I can’t find anything wrong with him.” Then, not long after that, Chris gets embarrassingly sick with the flu and Ann has to take care of him in all of his.. well.. mess. And she is relieved that she has finally seen some of his flaws.

THIS IS REAL LIFE.

Dating someone who is flawless is both unrealistic and dumb. I’m not saying major, red-flag flaws here. But I am encouraging you to date someone who isn’t afraid to let you see their flaws. It takes vulnerability and a ton of bravery to let someone see the places in you that aren’t perfect. Dating someone is…

their flaws + your flaws = your relationship (iron sharpening iron)

When someone allows you to see their flaws, it also brings out your own. And with flaws out in the open, you go into situations together fully dependent on God to be the Perfect One and make you stronger. Meanwhile, you press in and sharpen each other, making each other look more and more like Jesus. Sure, it’s a little difficult at times. But it’s good. It’s soooo good. Don’t be afraid of the flaws. You have just as many. Learn to work through the mess with someone, not alone. Their flaws rubbing up against your flaws is just part of the process.