The lonely days…

I’ve never felt more lonely than my first night in Portland, December 1, 2016.

A year ago, I went to Portland for vacation. My friend was supposed to join me but due to a family emergency, she could no longer come on the trip. I was not mentally prepared to be in Portland alone. After exploring the city for a few hours, I sat in my hotel room, crying, determined to find a flight home, ASAP. I was so lonely, I hated it. I had a rental car and my hotel was about 20 minutes outside of the city with not much to do nearby. I sent an SOS to my people…”I gotta come home ASAP” but they convinced me to stay. Why did I feel so alone in this city?

img_2359Those emotions stuck with me, in fact, sometimes, I’m reminded of the chill winds and overcast skies of Portland in the moments I feel lonely. I feel every ounce of uncertainty and unfamiliarity that I felt in that hotel room.

Here’s the thing…

I’ve learned to enjoy being alone but its outside of my personality type. As I’ve gotten older I’ve acquired some introverted tendencies but I’ve always been an extrovert.

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I was lonely in Portland but I pushed past the fear and anxiety that wanted to cripple my soul, got on the meetup app, and found out a small group was gathering for a bible study at Starbucks. I figured this could go well or really bad but I wanted to meet new people so I went anyways. I was greeted by a joyful woman named Kiesha. She introduced me to everyone and they were all so welcoming.

Later that night, I went to a restaurant that a few friends recommended. I needed one seat and the bar seemed like the only place I would snag a seat…I watched as couple after couple overlooked me waiting and took a seat before me. Over time, I locked eyes with a gentleman waiting for a seat as well, we both saw a couple getting up and knew it was our chance to sit down. We began chatting and he told me he immigrated to the States from the middle east and loved Portland because people were so kind and welcoming to him. He asked if I was traveling alone, I told him yes. He proceeded to encourage me to travel more and seek out new adventures.

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It’s in the moments of loneliness that I feel the ache of singleness the most. I ended a relationship earlier this year and it was the right thing to do but very difficult. I knew the end of that relationship meant the feelings of loneliness would come sweeping back in. Growing up in church, they told us to kiss dating goodbye and “wait” because your husband will appear just when you “least expect it”.  A perspective I kissed dating goodbye author Joshua Harris is re-evaluating. The reality is, there is no formula for meeting the person you decide to spend forever with. Every story is unique. While marriage isn’t the ultimate goal of fulfillment for my life, I am keenly aware of my desire to love and be loved by a significant other. We are all wired for connection (thanks, Brene Brown for studying this). I know I am not the only one who feels this way, I’ve talked to girlfriends who are now dreaming about the future for themselves with no one else in mind. This isn’t what most of us had planned but its where we’re at. Welcoming peace and stillness to our hearts is where we learn to walk in the “dark” without fear. Its where we bow out of the rat race and learn to fly.

It’s been a whole year since Portland and I am well-acquainted with the feelings of loneliness;  familiar with the change in seasons with friendships; and well aware of my own sadness when I wish I had a boo. BUT this year, I deepened my friendship with adventure, 7 countries, and 10 US cities later I am more confident, empowered, and determined.

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I’m no longer anxious on lonely days.

I am aware.

From that awareness, I choose to wake up and ignore the self-imposed deadlines I’m “behind” on. Because who’s keeping track of the time anyway?

 

 

Lessons Learned: Relationships

So many times, I write things and then erase it, over and over. I do this all the time. Are my true feelings at this moment too raw? Maybe I should wait to talk about this…The story goes on and on. People tell me all the time, I loved your blog but do you realize that you told your business to everyone? The answer is yes. You see, I struggle with perfectionism and trying to put together for everyone, in fact, countless people have told me that they assume I am just a goody goody and do no wrong. This is of course very far from the truth. So I really started to blog last year because it helped me stay real, honest, and vulnerable. I convey my feelings best when I can write them out.

Well I’m here to tell you all a story; a story that began with a kind gentleman asking me out on a date. At first, I was inclined to tell him no. I was about to move to Austin, he was in Houston, really there was no reason for me to even give him a chance. I met him at work and he FB messaged me to ask me on a date. I almost said no. In fact, that was my first reaction. However, some friends and my mom suggested I give him a chance, so I did. Our first date was dinner and church. I planned on going to church to say “see you later” to my people before I moved to Austin and I wasn’t going to stop that for a date. So he was either coming or missing out on a date, he decided to come. At the end of the service and the pastor does the altar call, he decides he wants to go up there and rededicate his life to Christ and he asked if I would walk with him. (Let me pause the story here: Can I just tell you that my pride was in the way? I was thinking, “OMG all my people are going to think I’ve backslid and I’m trying to get my life right.”) After swallowing my pride and realizing how shallow I was, I made my way up to the front with him. At the altar I was thinking “this is so my life, only I would have a first date that ends in a persons salvation.” Nonetheless, I was happy for him. He asked me out on several dates and we talked a lot and became friends.

Throughout this time I was extremely nervous. I didn’t want to miss God. In previous relationships, I was desperate. This guy showed up at a time where I was really content personally. I didn’t want anyone to mess up this “place” that I worked so hard to settle into. I decided that I needed to learn how to trust God with my emotions and heart and follow peace. There are several things I did differently when dating this time. I made my boundaries crystal clear and did not budge on them. We did not kiss and he did not sleep over at my apartment. We were purely getting to know one another. I did not feel the need to rush into all of that.

If you know me, then you know; I don’t want a boyfriend so bad that I desperately want to spend all this time and energy getting to know someone for kicks and giggles. I work full time, help out at church, and I’m in grad school. I am busy all the time.

So back to my story…I had a blast getting to know him and dating him was fun. He was such a gentleman and possessed an incredible servants heart. I appreciated and admired that. In spite of all the fun and getting doted on and feeling special, I was by no means; ready to fall into his arms. I told myself, I was going to guard my heart and emotions (“guarding your heart” looks differently for everyone…that’s a whole different blog I will write later).

I fiercely protected my heart and really sought God on how to honor him with this relationship. Every step of the way I asked God to keep my eyes open and don’t let me miss a thing. At the beginning of this year I was doing the Daniel fast. I needed God’s insight and direction on this guy. Things we’re going seemingly well but I had a few reservations and I just wanted to really seek God about it so I chose to fast and pray.

After several long and hard conversations, it was evident that we were running in two different directions. The Holy Spirit made it clear to me that this was something I did not need to continue to put my time and energy into. Once I got that answer, I went to Houston the next day to meet with him. I prayed that God would show him, I wasn’t the person for him. We met up and talked and I said, “I think we should part ways” and he said, “I agree”. I thanked him for being a gentleman and closed a chapter. You don’t have to make someone “bad” just because they aren’t for you. Our conversation was seamless and graceful. I felt such a peace from God. I felt confident because followed God’s leading for myself. None of my family or friends had to tell me what to do. I asked for insight and God gave it to me. (No God did not talk to me audibly, but he showed me though our conversations what I needed to hear and that our paths were not lining up).

The reason I am so encouraged by all of this is because I don’t think dating is wrong. I’ve learned more from dating than all the books and purity conferences ever taught me. Everyone has to have their own experience and must chose to learn from it. A purity ring won’t keep me from having sex that is my choice. We all have a choice. There’s no 10 steps to contentment plan, 12 ways to get a man in a year, nor a book on 10 ways to wait well, that will give you what you want. I am not a big fan of books with “steps” to _________(fill in the blank); everything works differently for different people. Not everyone has the same convictions. Not everyone will date the same way and that is okay! For me, I was able to learn how to date someone and leave my baggage behind. Oftentimes, I find myself overcoming an issue and I put it behind me and the minute it reintroduces itself in a different form, I am running back to pick up that old hurt, pain and fear. This time I said no more! I had to learn how to take risks and trust that God had my back.

This relationship was short lived only 6 weeks of my time. (Guys, this is a big deal). The fact that I’m at a place to hear the Holy Spirit and obey quickly is so much progress. Before I wanted a relationship so bad that I would drag it out. Last year, I grew so much personally. I truly left the “old me” behind. I’ve learned how to obey quickly because it hurts more when you wait it out. Relationships take time and energy to cultivate. If you are investing your time in someone you have reservations about; get out of that relationship. It’s not worth your time. I realized that having healthy boundaries was a safety net for me. I did not compromise. I did not give anything away. This was the healthiest I have been personally while dating someone. I valued myself. I felt beautiful. More than anything I am still a virgin (by the grace of God, it’s a miracle). I love my body and myself far too much to be disrespected because a man thinks I am beautiful. Its great to feel flattered and wanted but if a man is using his words to get in my pants, then he can hit the door.

We all know getting physical causes us women to get attached. I’ve learned the hard way and don’t want to repeat that lesson ever again. In order for me to stay healthy and not fall apart, I kept my “cards” close and focused on a his character, which I knew would reveal itself, in spite of words spoken. Character will shine through, every “right” word spoken. Focus on character and how he responds to his family, the people he is around, and see him when he gets angry. Its not worth it to compromise, simply so you won’t feel alone. I am so happy single, I would hate to be married and miserable because I was rushing. I will take contentment over turmoil in the home, ANY DAY!

I learned so much. SO MUCH. It was a great dating experience because I allowed myself to overcome fear and all of the “what-ifs”. While life has it twists and turns, and making hard choices is not easy, I am encouraged. I danced unashamed in my kitchen today to a song that said, “Sometimes you gotta tell your soul to sing, even when you don’t fell a thing, that’s when you gotta sing, louder, louder!” I needed to sing louder this morning. Making hard decisions can be painful. Just remember to get up and dance, even if you are crying still. Letting depression settle over you will lead you to a dark cave. Trust me I’ve found myself slipping into that vortex. It can be hard to get out sometimes. Hard to find any footing and you feel like you are falling into an endless abyss with no way out. I get it.

Be you, be bold, and beautiful, and brave. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Your character and how you carry yourself speak louder than words.

Gentleman, be strong, courageous, and encouraged. There are women who know good men still exist. Everyone wants to love and be loved, this is fact; it doesn’t have to be romantic love, it can be platonic. Everyone wants to be accepted and wanted.

Note: No, I haven’t kissed dating goodbye. I have not pledged to never kiss again till I’m married. I plan on being intentional. I plan to take my time.

Elizabeth Elliot said it best: “I do know that waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts. It is easy to talk oneself into a decision that has no permanence-easier sometimes than to wait patiently.”

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Chivalry isn’t dead, I just don’t know how to respond to it.

I’ve found that since our culture has changed and we have said that “chivalry is dead” sometimes we as women don’t know how to accept genuine kindness from a man without thinking he has ulterior motives. I mean, I struggle with letting a man open the door before I shove it open internally stating, “I am woman, my hands aren’t broken, I can get the door, thank you.” When I am with my guy friends I have to remind myself to let them be kind. I have been wondering what my issue is? Why is it so hard for me to accept genuine kindness from a man? These are the questions I ask myself.

[small rant about my own personal immaturity]

Let’s face it. All the christian purity conferences ruined me. They talked about how a man should be intentional and how we shouldn’t date around. They talked about the importance of friendship before a relationship, all great things but if the context isn’t taught correctly, then we have to “re-teach” ourselves about fostering healthy relationships. I found it was hard to have a meaningful friendship with the opposite sex without assuming that maybe-possibly-kind of-there could-be-or-may-never-be-something-romantic there. I eventually got annoyed that mentally my guy friends move to potential husband candidates because we were “building a friendship ” I mean, how was I supposed to know their intentions otherwise since they were never verbalized but subtly expressed in moments? Most likely we would be friends,scope each other out, “pray about it” and live in a gray area for a while before any action or no action at all was taken. I misunderstood a guy flirting for a guy being truly interested. Let’s face it. People flirt all the time. Thus, this stupid confusing way of being a Christian and honoring the Lord through vague friendships with the opposite sex [and wondering if there was something more because the only glimpse of a deeper relationship was occasional flirting] became really confusing and weird. This is when I had to put my brothers advice to the test (My brother told me, “If a guy didn’t tell you he likes you, then never assume that he does.”). Guys weren’t being forthright about their intentions. They were playing games. I didn’t understand why some guys wouldn’t open their mouth and say “hey I like you, I would love to get to know you better, can we go out sometime?” I understand it’s hard and guys don’t want to be rejected. Just a hint men, if you ask a girl out on a date, most likely she will say yes.

But back to men and chivalry.

For example: if a guy friend buys you a gift, that doesn’t mean he likes you. It simply means he is being nice. My brother gave me the best advice ever. “If a guy didn’t tell you he likes you, then never assume that he does.”
If a guy buys your dinner while out with friends or if you two are just hanging out, you don’t need to go pray and ask God if that is your husband. He was just being nice.
The problem we (I) have is that we can’t accept genuine kindness from a man without assuming that he has bad intentions toward us. Some men are kind and honest. Some men want to be friends only. Some men want to be more than our friend and those men will pursue us. We need to learn to trust more and worry less. 

Trust me, I struggle with this. I have had guy friends show me genuine chivalry by opening my car door, paying for dinner, driving out to see me, and they only looked at me as a friend. Guess what people? Because I did not have a healthy view of chivalry there were times that I thought my guy friends must have liked me. However, I took my brother’s advice and remembered not to make assumptions about a guy’s feelings towards me in a romantic way. Can I just tell you that none of these guys ever told me they liked me. They were just interested in treating me well and being my friend. The sad thing is, I’m not used to any men besides my family being a gentleman. So when a man is kind, caring, and thoughtful, I assume they want something from me. In my stubbornness, I can project the vibe that I am not grateful for their kindness towards me, when 85% of the time I am truly thankful and humbled by genuine kindness.

I think in our fear of being betrayed or allowing ourselves to be smooth talked by a guy, we start in the defense every time. We assume that a man who approaches us has other intentions. We assume that.

This perspective that they are “all the same” is dangerous. Just because a guy is kind to you doesn’t mean he likes you. Or if he is interested in you it doesn’t mean that he is trying to manipulate you by being kind.  It can simply mean he is being kind. My guy friends have told me how hard it is to be a gentlemen to women nowadays because we can be so abrasive. I think we need to be more mindful of how we treat men because the very man we are sitting around praying for (or complaining about) could be right in front of us.

Let men be gentleman and let’s learn to accept their kindness without proving that we can do it all on our own. Men know we can open the door or carry our own suitcase but if they want to display kindness, let them be men. There are still good men out there.

xoxo

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