Dating is Awkward

It’s been a hot minute, hasn’t it? Just when I think life can’t get any busier…it does. So here we are, 6 months since my last post and a lot has changed. The ‘highlights’ include moving to a new apartment, my job moving locations, turning 30, and starting to date again [see title, above].

If you read my post from April, you may have noticed that I mentioned a relationship not working out that I really hoped would. Fast forward a few months and we’re dating again…but this isn’t the post you may be expecting.

Dating is weird, y’all. I feel like a lot of people talk about how much fun it is and how exciting it can be and while my relationship is those things (for the most part), it’s also awkward. And stressful. It’s full of ups and downs. Our story so far has not been ‘easy’ or traditional – we’ve struggled through hard conversations, through differences, through being on and being off and being back on again, through tough questions and even tougher answers…and you may be wondering why we’re back at it again.

The answer is messy and unresolved. My significant other and I haven’t reached the next chapter of our journey of either parting ways or deciding that this is the forever choice we want to make, so it’s harder to give you a nice-pretty-tied-up-in-a-bow answer for why we’re dating again. In a world full of highlight reels, smiling photos, and 140-character updates I haven’t found a lot of transparency in the hurdles couples face during the dating process, especially when dating as a Christian. We’re told that this is one of the most important decisions of our lives and we should take our time, but you should also date intentionally and work towards the goal of marriage (at what feels like a rapid pace). We’re told to set really clear boundaries (physical, emotional, and spiritual) but no one gives you practical advice on what those boundaries should be, how to have a conversation about them, or how to keep them. We’re encouraged to invite community into our relationship, but not told how to welcome feedback and insight from our friends and mentors. But how do you handle the tension of the not knowing and the ‘still-figuring-it-out’? As someone who has a very strong aversion to leaving things unresolved for any amount of time, I’ve struggled with how to deal with not being able to have the answers *right now.* Of having to take time to wait on my partner to think and pray about things, or for me to think and pray about things, or for us to see how things develop over time.

All of this to say: we’re working on figuring it out, one day at a time. I really like this person. Like reeeeeeeeeeeally like him. There are sooooooo many happy, fun, and exciting things that make me hopeful for the future. But then there are also sad, stressful, and disappointing moments that make me question if we are good for each other. I may experience the joyful moment that is sharing the bliss that is frozen custard for the first time, but I may also hear the same joke for the upteenth time and wonder to myself ‘can I really handle hearing this same joke for the rest of my life and not want to smother him with a pillow?’ For the majority of our relationship, I experience excitement and joy over this person, but I also have times questions and doubts. Is it ok for me to feel this way? Is this normal? How do I handle these thoughts and emotions?

If I’m being honest, I still don’t know. I’m lucky enough to be dating someone who is willing to let me be completely open with what’s running through my head and talking through things or affirming that he, too, is facing the same questions. He is so kind and loving and is thinking not only about if this relationship is good for him, but also if it’s something that’s for my good too, which I’ve never experienced before. I’ve been talking with a couple of trusted friends for accountability and guidance. I’ve been praying for God to reveal His plans for us – if it’s to end things, let that answer come quickly, and if it’s to keep going, make that abundantly clear. I’ve also been praying for a lot of grace and guidance on how to navigate the tricky world that is Christian dating in 2017.

I’m afraid I don’t have a great ‘lesson learned’ or pithy ending. It didn’t really occur to me to actually write about this until I was talking with a friend earlier today, lamenting over the challenges of dating and how I don’t really know of people facing the same issues, and she encouraged me to blog about it and share my experience with others (in the hopes that if there’s anybody else out there facing similar things, you’d know you have a friend in me). I’m working on taking one day at a time and reminding myself that I don’t have to know all the answers right this moment, I don’t have to have the 5-year-plan laid out today, and it’s ok to sit in the tension of the unknown. And, I think, the biggest takeaway for right now is that this relationship can still be good regardless of the outcome. Because we’re both actively working to date each other well, to keep God at the center of our relationship, and to help each other grow in our walks with Him, no matter how things end up, it will still be a successful relationship. I can only continue to look to God in all of the moments (those of happiness, of sadness, of doubt, and of hopefulness and excitement for the future) and persevere in seeking His will.

My questions to you, reader, are these: have you experienced those moments of uncertainty and if so, how did you handle them? How do handle moments of tension and things being unresolved and how long is it ok for them to last? I think it would be even more helpful to hear the answers to those questions from people across the dating spectrum – single, dating, engaged, married…in a time where we want to show the best parts/happiest moments of our lives, how do you practically work through the hard parts? I’d welcome any comments, stories, or feedback – thank you for ‘listening.’ 🙂

Life….is hard

I’ve had a challenging past few weeks. Past few months, actually…but crap really hit the proverbial fan a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been pretty tough for me to get out of my ‘funk’ and trust God and the plan He has for me.

I’ve been in a ‘rut’ for awhile. It’s mainly been a spiritual one – feeling like I haven’t grown in my faith, like I don’t know God any better than I did a year ago, and that I’m not hearing Him or trusting in Him. I feel like I must be doing something ‘wrong’ – am I praying enough? am I singing the right worship songs? do I need to do more than one devotional in the morning? am I reading my Bible enough? am I listening for Him the right way? In my mind, to have been in this ‘plateau’ for so long means that I must be missing something. And it’s not even just a general plateau of ‘hey, life’s alright, I’m just gonna keep on keepin’ on’ – it’s been a plateau of ‘meh,’ of disappointment, of frustration, of apathy…a plateau where I keep asking myself, ‘why am I living life this way? why do I believe what I believe? do I actually trust God? do I have enough faith?’

The past few weeks haven’t really helped my overall frame of mind. I ended a relationship that I really, really wanted to work. My lease is up at the end of June and my roommate is moving away so I need to find an apartment that’s in my budget, hopefully with Christians, and with a reasonable commute to work….by June 30th. To top it all off, I got into a car accident while on what was supposed to be a money-saving ‘staycation’ and learned the hard way that I don’t have the right insurance coverage and will be paying for thousands of dollars in car repairs out-of-pocket.

It’s hard to trust God and His goodness right now. I fully recognize that I’ve never 100% trusted that He’s got my back or that He can work things out for my good no matter what the situation. As a control freak and someone who feels like I’m responsible for digging myself out of the messes I’ve made, I can’t really comprehend a God who’s willing to love me and help me when I’m the one who’s continually screwing up over and over again. I ask myself, ‘why would God want to help get me out of this financial mess when I haven’t been prudent with my money?’ or ‘how can God possibly work out my housing situation to find me good roommates, a nice apartment, an easy commute to work, and in my reduced budget (now that I’m paying so much for car repairs)?’ or ‘I have too much to learn or there are too many ways I have to grow before God thinks I’m ready for a husband…I’m never going to get there or be good enough for that kind of relationship.’

In my ‘logic-brain’ I know what the Bible says about God’s character and what He wants for His children. I know of His capacity to do all things. But it doesn’t really feel like those things are true right now. After admitting I didn’t read my Bible as much as I should, a wise friend told me: ‘Em, you can’t really trust and proclaim something you don’t know.’ This is where something finally clicked for me as to why I’ve probably been in this rut for so long – I’ve been spinning my wheels trying to *do* all the things you’re ‘supposed’ to do to be a ‘good Christian’ (serving on a church team, leading a community group, discipling someone, being discipled, volunteering my time, tithing, etc. etc.), but I’ve never actually done the thing that’s most important – seeking God and learning more about Him through reading His word and simply praying and listening.

It’s still really hard for me to not let my fears, stresses, and anxieties run wild…to not sit here and obsess about all the money that I owe or the apartment I have to find or the car I have to pay to fix and how crushing it all feels. But I’m trying my best to work on reading the Word and just being still. My favorite Scripture right now is Psalm 46 (verses 1, 2, 5, and 6 are my favorites):

1God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Has anyone else been in this place? What Scripture helped you?

Thanks for listening, friends.

-Em

#ThingsOnMyHeart

Can I just say…I don’t even know where to begin. How to start the delicate dance of talking about the sensitive topics of today without sounding ignorant, misrepresenting my faith, or alienating a fellow Image-Bearer (aka another human)…But I recognize that the whole point of blogging is to share your thoughts, and they aren’t always going to make everyone happy (ground-breaking revelation, I know). I also don’t want to run the risk of becoming complacent because I typed a few words that reached a few hundred people and call that ‘engagement.’

So…I’m just going to be honest as I try to wrestle through the twists and turns of my thoughts.

I didn’t march this week. I’ve been so scared to say that out loud for fear of being judged as ‘unprogressive’ (whatever that may mean) or uncompassionate or anti-feminist. Quite honestly, up until a few minutes ago, I didn’t really see the point of them. My mild agoraphobia aside, I’ve felt apathetic towards the marches that have happened this past week. Do they accomplish anything? Can change actually be made from the gathering of thousands of people with their signs and posters? My head says ‘yes’ – we have historical proof of it (hello there, Dr. King), but my heart still isn’t sure.

But then, through a conversation I had with my friend Andrea (aka Dre aka D-Swizzle aka my spirit animal) this evening, I started to see that attending a march can matter, regardless of the outcome. She said ‘I just have to think that if I were in a position where Trump’s laws were oppressing and belittling me as a human being, seeing that thousands of people showed up on my behalf would be a pretty big deal. So while it won’t change the whole world in itself, it can empower and inspire enough people to do something in response to it.’

That’s huge. It makes it ‘click’ for me now. I’ve had a hard time connecting with the enormity of the things going on in the world today and how I – one, small, insignificant person – can take action in a way that points people to Christ. I think tonight I took a step toward understanding how to do that better.

I’ll admit, this isn’t my most eloquent post. There are still dozens of other thoughts swirling in my head that I wanted to include, but I’m trying not to go down the rabbit hole. I welcome any thoughts, musings, or suggestions of how you think I could show my support through action.

xo,

Em

An Update – December

An Update on #LVER30Before30.

I’ve decided I’m going to revise some of these items because after a few months of tackling my bucket list, I realize some of the items here are either no longer relevant or just things that actually aren’t a priority for me.

  1. Read the Bible cover-to-cover
    1. I’m currently in 1st Samuel. I’m pretty behind on my plan, but I *finally* got the set of Bibliotheca books I ordered 2 years ago through Kickstarter and I’m hoping these will help me speed up my reading.
  2. Eat at Alinea / visit Chicago
    1. Work is sending me to Chicago in February or March, so I may look into trying to visit then!
  3. Roll out new blog and do minimum 1 post per month
    1. December post here and here
  4. Become conversationally fluent in French again
    1. I’ve signed up for cooking classes (taught in French!) starting in late February
  5. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
    1. Accomplished November 25, 2016
  6. Become an expert on the Belle Epoque (all the great artists, musicians, and thinkers of the day)
    1. I ordered 2 books that sit collecting dust on my nightstand…if I can just get to reading them, I’ll knock out 2 birds with one stone! (this and #16)
  7. Try a speed-dating session for fun
    1. I found a friend who’s willing to do this with me!
  8. Do 10 body weight pull-ups
    1. oof…what was I thinking?!
  9. Go to Pentatonix Concert
    1. Check – November 9th, 2016
  10. Take a cooking class – knife skills
  11. Go do paintball!
  12. Go to Central or South America (pick country later)
    1. My sister and I are shooting for a trip to Costa Rica sometime in the next few months
  13. Do a color run
  14. Mission trip to Haiti
  15. Try eating bugs
  16. Read 1 book per month
    1. October – Longing for Paris
    2. November – I’m behind 😦
    3. December – still behind but I’m wrapping up a couple of books soon!
  17. Revamp my wardrobe – BE AN ADULT
    1. I plan on doing a big cleanup in Januray
  18. Become an amateur cheese connoisseur
    1. Started reading It’s Not You, It’s Brie (you’ll want to eat cheese for every meal)
  19. Do the Whole30 [this goal has been changed/updated]
    1. Currently doing Whole30 with a friend – 9 days left to go!
  20. Have a professional portrait session (Abigail)
  21. Learn to drive stick shift
    1. The girls in my community group have decided to do a weekend excursion and teach ourselves! Probably this summer…
  22. Have one real spa experience (mud path, hot stone massage, etc.)
  23. Visit gun range (maybe get gun permit)
  24. Find a way to creatively display my postcards and mementos from trips
  25. Pay off student loans
  26. Go to Colorado to visit Sheila and San Franciso to visit Chessa
    1. Heading to SF in February!
  27. Get TSA Pre√ – no more lines for me!!
    1. DONE AND DONE
  28. No soda for a year
    1. Still doing this! 🙂
  29. Watch one classic movie per month: Casablanca, The Sandlot, National Lampoon, Some Like It Hot, The Big Lebowski, Breakfast at Tiffany’s(November), The Graduate, Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof, The Breakfast Club (October), The Goonies, Stand By Me
    1. I’m behind here too – hoping I can catch up on books and movies before the end of this month!
  30. Throw an epic 30th birthday party
    1. I’m back to the drawing board – I want something fun but still accessible for everyone…any ideas??

Ghosts of Boyfriends Past

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Recently I went to my last apartment to pick up a few lingering bits and bobs. I came across an old and faded box labeled ‘Important School Stuff.’ After lugging said box home and opening it, I stumbled not only upon long-forgotten college papers, but also a photographic trail of the loves I’d had from the past decade.

This was very strange for me – to see the photos I’d carefully selected and taken the time to upload to a website, order prints, pick up from a store, purchase a frame, and assemble so that I could have a physical reminder of the relationship I was in. It was especially weird as I had just written and mailed a forgiveness letter to my ex-fiancé not 2 weeks ago. I tend to remember the worst parts of my relationships – the fights, the annoyances, the endings – and writing my forgiveness letter made me realize just how much I’ve focused on the negative over the past decade.

Although these ‘ghosts’ are all from the past, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the impact they’ve had on my present (and future) by being thankful for each one.

Ross (2006).* Ross was my First Love. Ross and I dated when I was a senior in high school, and we got engaged the summer after I graduated. For better or for worse, this relationship has had the biggest and most lasting impact on my dating life. I’m thankful for my relationship with Ross because it was exhilarating. The drives in his fast car. The pride I felt when we held hands knowing (at the time) that he was ‘mine.’ The goofiness we had (because we were basically kids). The vulnerability. The promise of love everlasting, even though we were only 18 and 19. I’m thankful that I got to experience both the very good and the very bad with him.

Joey (2011).* I’m thankful to Joey for opening my eyes to new cultures. Joey grew up in another country and had a very different view of the world than I did. Joey was smart. He had big ideas and big plans for the changes he wanted to make in how students learned soft skills and critical thinking. I’m thankful for Joey living in Boston and giving me a reason to come back to visit time and again. This gave me the chance to fall in love with the city so much that even when we broke up, I still wanted to take the risk of leaving behind life as I’d known it in North Carolina and move to New England. I’m thankful for his help in landing my first job in Boston, which gave me the financial ability to make the move. My life is so full and I love this city!

Chandler (2015).* Chandler gave me a peek into what Godly dating can look like, and for that I am thankful. While our relationship’s ending was like the punch-line-opening-scene of a romantic comedy (he broke up with me at my best friend’s wedding on New Year’s Eve 40 minutes before midnight), I think that of all my relationships, we had the healthiest boundaries and most God-centered relationship, and for these things I am grateful.

I’m not sure why the turning of a year brings so much hope and promise. January 1st of one year is no more sacred or meaningful than December 31st of the previous. But as the craziness that was 2016 comes to a close and the light of 2017 shines through the darkness, I’m thankful for having the opportunity to reflect on the romantic relationships that have taught me so much. None of these relationships were perfect – all of them had many bad and un-Godly elements. I know that while none of these men were God’s best for me, I was certainly not God’s best for them. Even with the tears cried and the heartbreak endured, I’m still thankful for each of these men and the lessons I was able to learn from them and the time we spent together. I pray that they feel the same.

I have hope that the wisdom I’ve gained and the lessons I’ve learned will help me be a better partner for the next man I date (and -hopefully- eventually the man I marry). Above all, while I may not always understand it, I’m thankful for the plan that God has had for my past, the plan He has ordained for me now, and the plan He is orchestrating for my future.

*names have been changed

An Update – November

An Update on #LVER30Before30.

  1. Read the Bible cover-to-cover
    1. Truckin’ along!
  2. Eat at Alinea / visit Chicago
    1. Plans for a May 2017 visit with the Boston Foodie Club 😉
  3. Roll out new blog and do minimum 1 post per month
    1. November post here
  4. Become conversationally fluent in French again
    1. Still need to do this…
  5. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
    1. Accomplished November 25, 2016
  6. Become an expert on the Belle Epoque (all the great artists, musicians, and thinkers of the day)
    1. I actually need to start reading these…
  7. Try a speed-dating session for fun
  8. Do 10 body weight pull-ups
  9. Go to Pentatonix Concert
    1. Check – November 9th, 2016
  10. Take a cooking class – knife skills
  11. Go do paintball!
  12. Go to Central or South America (pick country later)
    1. Looking more closely at Costa Rica and maaaaaaaaybe Columbia
  13. Do a color run
  14. Mission trip to Haiti
  15. Try eating bugs
  16. Read 1 book per month
    1. October – Longing for Paris
    2. November – I’m behind 😦
  17. Revamp my wardrobe – BE AN ADULT
    1. I plan on doing a big cleanup in Januray
  18. Become an amateur cheese connoisseur
    1. Started reading It’s Not You, It’s Brie (you’ll want to eat cheese for every meal)
  19. Meet with one professional / social networking person per month
    1. I missed November 
  20. Have a professional portrait session (Abigail)
  21. Learn to drive stick shift
  22. Have one real spa experience (mud path, hot stone massage, etc.)
  23. Visit gun range (maybe get gun permit)
  24. Find a way to creatively display my postcards and mementos from trips
  25. Pay off student loans
  26. Go to Colorado to visit Sheila and San Franciso to visit Chessa
  27. Get TSA Pre√ – no more lines for me!!
    1. DONE AND DONE
  28. No soda for a year
    1. Going strong 🙂
  29. Watch one classic movie per month: Casablanca, The Sandlot, National Lampoon, Some Like It Hot, The Big Lebowski, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (November), The Graduate, Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof, The Breakfast Club (October), The Goonies, Stand By Me
  30. Throw an epic 30th birthday party
    1. I think I found the perfect spot!

Chanel

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A Musing on Setting Foot into a Chanel Store.

Recently I had a friend bless me with a bag of amazing goodies. She knew my week had been stressful, so she surprised me by stopping by my office, handing me a Chanel shopping bag, and telling me to enjoy what was inside. When I got back upstairs and had a moment to myself, I got to delight in many French treats and also marvel over my very own, very first Chanel lipstick. Little did my friend know that I had been admiring all things Coco for years (ever since I’d seen Coco Before Chanel) and have been saving for a Chanel bag of my very own for awhile.

Yesterday, something came over me where I felt that I had to visit the Chanel store here in Boston and see ‘my’ bag. I’ve always felt uncomfortable walking into luxury-brand stores, even in such touristy places as Newbury Street here in Boston, or 5th Avenue in NYC. I felt like I didn’t belong – my clothes weren’t right, my hair wasn’t adequately highlighted and styled, my nails weren’t manicured, I wasn’t wearing couture or high-end brands, and so of course the sales clerks would immediately be able to tell that there was no way I could afford any of their merchandise.

Back to yesterday. I had just visited the French Culture Center and was just around the corner from the Chanel Boutique. I reeeeeeeeally wanted to go (and I almost chickened out) but I started walking over. I was feeling pretty good about my outfit, my makeup was ok, I’d splurged on a manicure a couple of days before. As the doorman held the door for me and I walked in, I felt immediately out of place, but I held my ground. I made my way to the beauty counter and a cheerful woman asked if I needed help. Caught off guard, I said yes and she immediately set me up at the counter and asked me the most surprising question – ‘would you like some water? still or sparkling?’ I frowned internally – she didn’t even know if I was going to buy something and she was offering me Perrier? Would they still charge me for the water if I didn’t buy anything? (I can hear all you luxury brand aficionados are snickering.) I hid my concern and she brought out the bottle and its own branded Chanel napkin (not gonna lie, I was tempted to take it home as a memento of this occasion). She proceeded to let me sample 5 or 6 different lipstick shades and blush, all while giving me beauty tips and tricks. I felt so special and important! I ended up getting a lipstick and a blush, and couldn’t believe that my purchase came with my receipt in an embossed little folder, my blush in a velvety slipcase, and a cute little Chanel shopping bag. Emboldened with my purchase (using my shopping bag as my ticket to say ‘I deserve to be here’), I approached a saleswoman and asked to see ‘my’ bag.

They didn’t have it in the store, but she started bringing out similar bags. And that’s when I saw it. THE bag. This was it. Whatever I’d had in mind before was now replaced with this gorgeous, luxurious, French masterpiece. The Chanel Calfskin New Medium Boy Bag Flap in Silver. I held it in my hands. I tried it on. I admired in the mirror. And now I have $5,200 (plus tax) to save.

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Enter Qapital. I’ve been using it since early June to save for MY bag by setting up rules to save $ by either rounding my purchases to the nearest dollar and putting that amount in the account, or by linking it to fitness goals (a certain number of steps will deposit a larger amount in the account). I’ve only saved a few hundred since June, but this has been a painless way to save and requires absolutely no brain power on my part. Will it take me a while to save for my bag? Yep. Will it all be worth it when I can pay cash for something I’ve thought about and saved for months (or even years)? You betcha.

This has turned into a rather long post that can result in many closing thoughts to tie it all together. I think what I’ll end with, though, is with the excitement and anticipation of one day being able to own and use such a quality piece of craftsmanship. Anyone else on this journey?

An Update on October

An Update on #LVER30Before30.

  1. Read the Bible cover-to-cover
    1. Truckin’ along!
  2. Eat at Alinea / visit Chicago
    1. Plans for a May 2017 visit with the Boston Foodie Club 😉
  3. Roll out new blog and do minimum 1 post per month
    1. Check and check
  4. Become conversationally fluent in French again
    1. Taking my language placement test at FCC in November
  5. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
  6. Become an expert on the Belle Epoque (all the great artists, musicians, and thinkers of the day)
    1. The books have been ordered and received!
  7. Try a speed-dating session for fun
  8. Do 10 body weight pull-ups
  9. Go to Pentatonix Concert
    1. Tickets for November 9th!
  10. Take a cooking class – knife skills
  11. Go do paintball!
  12. Go to Central or South America (pick country later)
    1. Making plans for February
  13. Do a color run
  14. Mission trip to Haiti
  15. Try eating bugs
  16. Read 1 book per month
    1. October – Longing for Paris
  17. Revamp my wardrobe – BE AN ADULT
  18. Become an amateur cheese connoisseur
    1. Started reading It’s Not You, It’s Brie (you’ll want to eat cheese for every meal)
  19. Meet with one professional / social networking person per month
    1. Lunch with Tendai!
  20. Have a professional portrait session (Abigail)
  21. Learn to drive stick shift
  22. Have one real spa experience (mud path, hot stone massage, etc.)
  23. Visit gun range (maybe get gun permit)
  24. Find a way to creatively display my postcards and mementos from trips
  25. Pay off student loans
  26. Go to Colorado to visit Sheila and San Franciso to visit Chessa
  27. Get TSA Pre√ – no more lines for me!!
    1. DONE AND DONE
  28. No soda for a year
    1. Going strong 🙂
  29. Watch one classic movie per month: Casablanca, The Sandlot, National Lampoon, Some Like It Hot, The Big Lebowski, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Graduate, Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof, The Breakfast Club (October), The Goonies, Stand By Me
  30. Throw an epic 30th birthday party
    1. I think I found the perfect spot!

Paris, je t’aime

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An Exposition on Why How Much I Love Paris.

I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but I do know that for as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with French culture. I loved the sounds of the language, the look of the pictures of food I saw in the copy of “Culinaria: European Specialties” my parents gifted me for my 10th birthday (it has survived the decades and a multi-state move to now sit on my bookshelf – I still pull it out and pour over it!), and the allure of the art, history, and culture. I can’t say what it is about France, and Paris in particular, that captures the hearts and minds of so many.

As I grew older, my passion only grew. In my high school, where many spoke Spanish, I insisted on taking French all 4 years. It was never a question of ‘if,’ just of when I would ever get to visit Paris for myself and after adding French as a minor to my undergraduate business degree, I got to study abroad in 2009 and finally get to experience the country I’d loved from afar for myself. It was magical (you can travel back in time to college Em’s adventures here).

I’ve been back to France a few times and continue to love it (and would move there in a heartbeat if I could!). I incorporate as much of it into my life as I can – from decor, to books (currently: this and that), to my cooking (coq au vin mmmmm), to my music, to the blogs I read, to the memberships I have, and the restaurants I frequent.

To this day I can’t tell you why I have this passion except to say that it must be something God has placed on my heart. Can I hear an ‘Amen’?!

An Open Letter

An Open Letter About My Ugly Heart.

I snapped today. I snapped last week, too. And days before that. I feel like I’ve been constantly at the end of my rope for the past year.

I always go ‘balls to the wall’ until I can’t anymore. And then I snap, I withdraw, I take ‘me time’ and veg out and do nothing for a day or a weekend.

Right now I’m struggling really, really hard with singleness. For the past decade of my life I’ve been mostly single. I’ve dated a few people, but nothing panned out, which I know is for the best. “God’s Plan.” I’ve just finished listening to a sermon series on Godly relationships – Godly dating, Godly marriage, and Godly singleness. My biggest takeaway on Godly singleness was that singleness is a gift and God gives it to us to use as a time to serve His ultimate purpose – going and making disciples. The last podcast I listened to talked about how much single people can bless others around them. How much they can be great employees and awesome aunts/uncles and whatnot. Easy for you to say, Mr. Preacher Man. You’ve been married for 12 years and have 3 kids. You haven’t had to deal with singleness since you were 19. You don’t know what it’s like to be on the edge of 30, with no promise or hope that anything will change, knowing that your life could ultimately be spent constantly serving others.

I know what you’re going to say, Married People: Marriage is hard. Marriage is nothing but dying to self and serving someone else every. single. day. Em, you obviously don’t ‘get’ marriage. Oh I know…as much as a never-married woman of almost 30 could know. But at least in marriage – a Godly marriage – that dying to self is done for someone who has pledged in covenant to do the same thing for you. There’s a comfort in knowing that in dying to yourself and serving others, you have a partner who has promised to love and cherish you til death do you part.

How do I reconcile seeing singleness as a gift and an opportunity to serve others with no promise of ever being thanked, valued, or (sometimes) served in return? I know, I know, but Em, you’re missing the point! You can’t have a servant’s heart and expect to get something in return! Exactly. EXACTLY. How do I live the next year, five years, 10 years, rest of my life seeing singleness as this awesome gift of serving God and his people without getting frustrated and burnt out? How do I keep giving of myself knowing full well I have no right to expect any sort of love or thanks or reciprocity in return?

I’ve been a Christian for awhile. Several years. I know the ‘answer.’ I know that God is the only One who can love me, value me, and desire me in the way my soul craves. But, if I’m being honest, right now He just isn’t good enough. He’s just not cutting it. I don’t trust Him. I don’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He’s a Good Father and wants good things for me. I don’t know that He loves me.

So what do I do? How do I seek out and press into the one thing I want nothing to do with at this moment? How do I stop wallowing in self-pity? How do I die to myself and not hold grudges against those who owe me nothing? How do I get to a place where I’m right with God?

I don’t have an inspirational answer to wrap all this up in a neat bow. I don’t know the answer. I mean, I “know” in the sense that I’ve been going to church my whole life and recite the answer I’m supposed to say in response to all of this frustration. But I don’t know. And that, dear friends, is the most open and honest this ugly heart has been in a good long while.