The Christian Dating Cliche: Guard Your Heart

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I call it a cliche, but it’s a rule to live by: Guard your heart.

When I was 15 years old, I found myself heartbroken for the second time in a year. Out of nowhere, the guy I had been dating (who I thought was so different than my ex-boyfriend) dumped me. He said God was calling him to do it.

Listen, I’m Christian, but I do not think a good way to break up with people is to claim that “God said so.” That is not loving. That is a cop-out. If God is really calling you to break up with someone, then give that person the reason why that may be. For example, it might be that the soon-to-be-ex wants to raise children with different values or has a different lifestyle. Even the cliche “I love you, but I’m not in love with you” is better than the “God told me to” line.

The same boy who used that line on me also told me over and over that he thought God was telling him that I was “the one.” OK, dude. I think he was confusing what he wanted with what God was saying to him. Just saying.  

Anyway, I was heartbroken. Crushed. I couldn’t get out of bed. It had taken me months to snap out of my last heartbreak, and I couldn’t face the inevitable road of pain that I knew I was about to walk down again.

My mother, being wise, called me out of school and drove me right down to our church offices to speak with the high school pastor. I’m really thankful for the heartfelt talk he gave me. It really did help—not so much with the pain, but I think he saved my faith. I could have easily turned sour and cynical toward the church and God. After all, did God really tell that boy to dump me? Why would He let me get hurt again?

Ladies, regardless of your religion, it is important to guard your heart and your faith. People lie. People make mistakes. People say things without thinking. I’m sure that boy didn’t mean to hurt me. Honestly, for all I know, maybe he was—VERY WRONGLY—flirting to convert, and he thought he was actually doing a very nice thing by getting me more involved in church. Maybe it was some weird test I didn’t pass.

It doesn’t matter why he said what he said. I should never have allowed myself to be that caught up in someone that my entire world would be shattered by a breakup.

Breakups are hard, and they hurt. As Lorelai Gilmore would suggest, they require wallowing, but they should not derail your entire life—at least not at 15 years old or after only a few months of dating.

Guard your heart. Be sure that you don’t allow your boyfriend to become your world. Keep time for friends and family. Don’t text 24/7 (as tempting as that might be). Schedule phone calls, or have a cut-off time for text conversations.

Most of all, value yourself. You are far more than a relationship. You are more than some boy’s words.




 

You Don’t Know What Others Are Going Through: Be Kind

Sad girl in hammock. You Don't Know What Others Are Going Through
*Sigh.* So, I really wanted to like the new Netflix movie
Sierra Burgess Is a Loser. It looked so endearing and starred Barb from Stranger Things and the loveable guy from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. By all accounts, it should have been amazing, but about halfway through the film, I had to turn it off due to my rising anxiety levels, second-hand embarrassment, and pure horror that one of the scenes included a character being misled about whom he was kissing with his eyes shut. (Consent, guys. Consent.)

One of my initial issues with the movie was that the stereotypical mean popular girl was over-the-top cruel to her classmates—she was the type of cruel that had me thinking, “Did these screenwriters ever attend high school or just watch movies about it?”

Thankfully, the screenwriters did explain the character’s behavior with a fleshed-out background featuring a hectic home life and pressures from her mother to be perfect.

It’s an important lesson that, though it seems to be pounded in our heads incessantly in film and books, I tend to easily forget: You never know what others are going through.

I can be a am a judgmental person. I’m trying to be better, but more often than naught, I let my thoughts get away from me, so these next few paragraphs are as much for me as they are for anyone reading this.

Once again, you never know what someone else is going through. That person who cut you off on the freeway might be rushing home in the midst of a family emergency. That person at work who put you down in front of your boss might be dealing with job insecurity. Your friend who made a snide comment about your outfit might be feeling left out.

We should, of course, stand up for ourselves, but instead of responding in anger or defensiveness, take a moment to think about what the offender may have going on his or her life.

Sometimes things we take offense to may not even be intended to be taken as an insult.

I’ll never forget, one time in junior high, my friend pulled up her hooded jacket in a really cute way, and I said something like, “Aw! You look just like a little mouse peeking out of a hole!”

She got really upset, and our friends who witnessed it all asked me why I would say that.

While I looked like the biggest jerk in the world, I had only made that statement because my father had said it to me a few days earlier, and I had thought it was really sweet. When he said it, it had come off extremely endearing. Obviously, it had not come off that way when I repeated it.

And there’s the kicker: Not only should we be mindful of what offenders may be going through, but we should also be mindful of what anyone we are around may be going through. Something we say without thinking could be harmless to us but could scar the person we’re speaking to for life.

We’re all bound to make mistakes in this department, but be mindful, be caring, be understanding, and, above all, be quick to forgive.

God knows I’ve certainly cut off my fair share of people on the freeway, hurt people’s feelings, and just been a downright unpleasant human being.

The least I can do is extend the same grace that I hope others are giving me.

Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

Tired girl. Spread too thin.

There is an expectation as you get older to take part in all sorts of obligations. On top of your school work, you’ll also need to be in a number of different clubs. Then, on top of that, you’ll be expected to be a leader of at least one club—depending on if you are applying for colleges.

In college, you’ll be expected to still be a part of clubs, but you’ll also need internships (which often are unpaid), and depending on your financial situation, you might also need a part-time or even a full-time job.

These expectations don’t change as you get older. I find myself often feeling guilty for not taking part enough with our church; for not being able to make it to community meetings that, in the past, I would have loved to be at; and for not having enough time to give to hobbies and friends and family.

Ladies, don’t get me wrong. It is very beneficial for you to be involved with organizations you care about, but there may come a time when you realize you are simply being spread too thin. Things will start to fall between the cracks. You’ll start to feel overwhelmed, and soon the things you care most about in life may start taking a back seat.

Whenever you begin to feel like you’re in over your head or have taken on too much, I encourage you to make a priority list of the things and people in your life. For example, my priority list looks something like this:

1. God
2. Family
3. Work
4. Friends

If you start to find that items lower on your priority list are trumping higher ones, it may be time to make some changes in your schedule. For me, lately, I’ve been neglecting my No. 1 priority: God.

My husband and I have been doing a lot of work on our house and on side projects that, unfortunately, have taken priority on our weekends. As a result, we’ve missed church quite a bit these last couple of months.

By missing church or being too tired to read my Bible before going to bed, my actions do not match my priority list—that’s something I need to change.

We all spread ourselves too thin at one point or another. Take control over your time again by making sure that you’re spending the time you need on your priorities in life.

What does your priority list look like? Do your actions match your list?

Find Your Courage, and Keep It

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I was never that girl who always had a boyfriend, and part of that is because I was never that girl who told guys how she felt.

I was the girl who held it all in but told her friends and posted hopelessly romantic Taylor Swift lyrics on Tumblr, hoping he would notice even though he was not on Tumblr. I put it out in the universe, OK? That should have been enough.

But it is, of course, not enough. If you go about your dating life this way, your crushes will at most only ever hear rumors or have suspicions that you like them. Or, even worst, your crush will be endlessly pestered by your friends—trust me, you do not want this.

Sure, if this were a rom-com (Did you all see To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before yet? It is a perfect film. PERFECT.), the boy in question would still make a move, but life isn’t quite a rom-com, and I don’t want you to live the way I did.

If you have feelings for someone, just tell him. Make your life easy. Why spend time pining over guys if they can just tell you upfront to move on? Why spend time pining if you could be together right now if his feelings are the same?

I know it’s scary. I know you don’t want to hurt. But, at a certain point, you have to make a decision either to move on or to make a move. Do not waste time sitting on the sidelines hoping someone will finally make the call to put you in the game.

I had one moment of bravery in high school. I was sitting in my last class for the day, and I suddenly decided that enough was enough. I knew the guy I liked had feelings for me, but he had done nothing about it. He hadn’t asked me out. He hadn’t confessed that he liked me. I felt like I was being strung along. and it was time to do something about it.

The bell rang, and I burst out of class, speed walking through the halls. I was going to find him. I was going to confess that I liked him. I was going to tell him that I knew he liked me and that he needed to do something about it, or I was done. I was out. Out!

Unfortunately, this one single moment of bravery was abruptly snuffed out. I ran into a friend in the hall, and as I speed walked past him, he knew something was up. He slow jogged along with me and pestered me about what my rush was. I confidently told him what I was about to do.

I don’t recall what he said that made me stop my crazed run through the hall—I’m sure just about anything would have worked since it took so much just to get my courage up to that point.

I sadly listened to my friend as he talked me out of my brave act, and I went on pining and moping for another few months. That friend was genuinely trying to look out for me, but that confrontation and confession was something I needed to do. It was something I would have been proud to do.

Ladies, take control of your lives. Yes, it’s scary when feelings are on the line, but how much better would it be if you could either have those feelings returned or get the answer you need to find someone who is a good fit for you?

Be brave.

And once you have that courage, don’t let anyone take it away from you.

Trust Life’s Unexpected Turns

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There will come a time in your life when something unexpected happens that changes the route your life was previously on. In fact, odds are that this will happen multiple times.

When I was a freshman in college, I had plans to be a big-time political news commentator. I had big opinions, and I wanted them to be heard—I wanted to make a difference. I was thrilled when I began chasing that dream by writing a political column for the school paper.

It only took a year for this dream to be squashed. It was a year of tears and isolation as I realized that people who share big opinions are not looked on kindly by people with opposing opinions.

Then I was told that I would not be needed back as a political commentator for the next school year. I was crushed. My dream began to unravel at the seams. Was I not a good writer? Was it my content? Was it my beliefs? My confidence spiraled.

Though this unexpected event crushed me, it was actually a blessing in disguise. That year writing publicly about politics was actually a horrible experience for me, a perpetual people pleaser. Knowing that half of the school population disliked me for my opinions was my worst nightmare.

Throughout the year, there had been other red flags that this was not a lifestyle I wanted to pursue. Not being invited back to the paper was the final kick I needed to realize that being in the spotlight was not for me. I didn’t need to grow a thicker skin. I needed to find a new career.

Since then, things have definitely improved. I found a better calling in public relations and marketing fields. I still get to write, I’ve been able to work on political campaigns, and best of all, I don’t have to cringe when opening my inbox wondering if I’ve received any hate mail.

Recently, my husband and I moved from California to Nebraska. That was another huge life change that was rather unexpected. I had no plans to leave our shiny new Southern California apartment. I had no plans to leave my first real full-time job. I had no plans to leave my family (whom we had just finally moved near).

But life happened, and just a little more than a year after starting the life of my dreams, we packed everything up and moved halfway across the country.

At first, I just wasn’t sure what God’s plan was other than us saving some money. But, only six months into our new lives, I’ve realized that this is once again a blessing in disguise.

Moving gave us the ability to buy a home (something we wouldn’t have been able to do in California for years and years), flex my creative writing skills, fall in love and raise an adorable Border Collie puppy, and I just found an amazing new job that is exactly the type of place I’ve wanted to work since I decided to move into the public relations field.

Listen, there will be times in your life when you will think, “Come on, God—what are You doing?” Those are usually the times when you will grow the most and become the person you need to be for the next season of your life—a season that might just be better than the previous.

Embrace those unexpected turns or roadblocks in your life. They will probably lead you somewhere you never considered going before—somewhere you might be glad you found.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

Seeing as how we shared a quote from Chip Gaines on our social media pages last week, it may come as no surprise to you that I am a huge fan of the Gaines family.

A few years ago, I had no idea who Chip and Joanna Gaines were. I saw their photos all over magazines in line at the grocery store, but all I knew was that they were on HGTV. I was a little surprised that a couple on that channel was of interest to news tabloids (though today it’s not surprising at all), but other than that, I thought nothing of them.

Then I became aware that they were under attack for the church they attended. After that I began to pay a little more attention to them; as a Christian myself, it’s always interesting to see how others—especially those in the spotlight—handle those types of situations.

At some point last year, I became completely enamored with this joyful and delightful couple. I loved watching their show. I loved Joanna’s Target line. It was beyond just liking their style or products. I grew to respect them as people. I loved that they involved their kids in their work. I loved that they worked hard as a family. I loved that Chip was always bringing animals home. I loved that they lived on a farm. I began to think that maybe my own similar dreams were possible.

After reading their books, The Magnolia Story and Capital Gaines (OK, I lied—I am still in the middle of the latter), I respected Chip and Joanna even more upon learning about how they’ve reached the level of success they have today.

I think, in the back of our minds, we can sometimes make excuses for why some people are successful—as if to make excuses for why we aren’t or why we can’t reach that same level of success. We think, “Oh, well that’s because they had money to begin with” or “Well, they knew people in the industry.”

What I love about the “Magnolia story,” if you will, is how honest the Gaines are about what it took to get where they are. This couple took risks to see their dreams come to fruition, and it worked because they weren’t fearful of failure. They saw failure as a learning opportunity and never as something to be ashamed of.

Taking risks is something I’ve always feared because, ultimately, I didn’t see failure as acceptable. To fail, in my mind, was to be not good enough or to have not worked hard enough.

Chip and Joanna have given me an amazing gift. They’ve helped me understand that sometimes failure is out of our control, and there are times when it’s actually necessary to experience failure in order to learn the life lessons needed to accomplish greater feats.

Whatever your dream is in this life, go for it. Do not be afraid of failure. Keep running after it until it’s in your grasp. Do not let fear intimidate you or cause you to second-guess your abilities. Life is far too short not to achieve all you can.

Chip and Joanna worked hard to make their dreams and goals a reality. You can, too.


What are your dreams? What risks are necessary to make those dreams come true?

Finding Hope in the Midst of Tragedy

As I write this, the Holy Fire in Southern California is blazing away not far from my parents’ backyard.

I hope, hope, hope, and pray that by the time this is published the fire is mostly contained or completely extinguished.

My heart breaks thinking about all of the wildlife being displaced, fighting for their lives. My heart breaks thinking about all of the people who have had to face the question of “What in my home can I not live without?”

My heart breaks for the people who have had to make the hard decision of what precious memories are to be left behind in homes they may not be able to return to. My heart breaks for the people who didn’t even have that option.

I cannot fathom how anybody could commit such an act that could cause so much pain. I cannot fathom how anybody could purposely cause such mayhem and destruction.

For those of you who have had to face tragedy, I cannot possibly know what you have gone through. You are far braver than I am.

We will all inevitably face some tragedy in our lives. We will all lose people we love. We will all go through hardships and trials.

In those times of darkness, it is so vital that we cling to the love in our lives. Think of those who give you purpose. Think of those who need you.

You could lose all of your possessions in a fire, but so long as you have loved ones and people to cling to, you’re going to be OK.

And, if you feel alone, I urge you to find a community to help you as you rebuild your life. Find it in a church or a support group. Find it through volunteer work.

It’s people who can bring us those first flutters of that “everything is going to be alright” feeling. In your darkest times, don’t hide. Don’t push people away. Cling to them. Let them in.

Don’t push hope away.

Finding Your Sunshine: Tips to Improve Your Mood

If you’re anything like me, sometimes you just get in a funk. You could be stressed about work or school or sad about a friend or family issue, or sometimes you don’t even know what’s wrong—you’re just not in a happy place.

Below are some tips that almost always improve my mood during those times.

The Three Day Rule: Health and Fitness

A lot of times I get in a funk because I start to feel bad about myself for not eating right and failing to exercise the way I want to. Sometimes it can be downright daunting to think about where you want to be fitness-goals-wise and how long it will take to get there—which can cause you to get in even more of a funk!

Luckily, I’ve found that all it really takes is three days to build back up your self-esteem. You don’t need to hit any goals; you just need three days straight of eating better and exercising the way you want. I guarantee you that just those three days will drastically improve your mood (probably from being healthier!) and build up your confidence. 

Get Out of the House

My husband and I are both introverted people, so sometimes we can spend a whole weekend just hanging out at home, and since I am not working right now, sometimes that means I don’t leave my house for a whole week at a time outside of grocery shopping or taking our dog, Cooper, to the vet.

I often won’t even realize how in a funk I am until I finally do get out of the house for a non-chore-related event and feel my mood improve. Make a point to get out and do at least one fun thing a week. You need it!

Do Something Productive

Ever heard the saying “messy room, messy mind?” It’s kind of true. If you’re feeling down, it may seem counterintuitive to force yourself to do chores, but when you’re done, you’ll feel so much better. It can be something small, like cleaning your room or organizing your closet. You could even do some virtual cleaning by cleaning up your computer desktop or organizing the apps on your phone.

Watch an Old Movie

Sometimes, if you’re feeling really down, the last thing you want to do is go out or be productive. If that’s the case, I recommend watching an old movie you loved from your childhood or a guilty pleasure. Watching childhood favorites brings back old feelings of comfort and safety, while guilty pleasures can just be pure fun to watch. Some of my favorite films to watch when I’m feeling sad are Lady and the Tramp, The Little Mermaid, and Something Borrowed.

Find Reasons to Be Thankful

Another way to bring some positivity back to your day is to take a moment to think of three things in your life for which you’re thankful. A lot of the times when we’re in bad moods, we just need perspective switches. You can read more about the benefits of gratefulness in our blog post on the topic. It might be the best mood booster on the list!

 

Facing Rejection Like a Champ

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I know it’s trashy, but I live for my weekly viewing of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, or—the king of them all—Bachelor in Paradise.

Maybe it’s because I live a boring and drama-free life compared to the people who go on these shows, but sometimes after a stressful week, nothing can make you feel better about your own life than watching guys or girls (depending on whether it’s a bachelor or bachelorette time of year) lose their minds over a love interest they barely know.

I find the most common thought I have (or statement yelled at the TV) while viewing is “why are you crying? It’s OK!”

Especially early on in the seasons, it’s a little silly when contestants start crying when they aren’t chosen to continue on to the next week of dates.

The thing is, these contestants aren’t crying because they are brokenhearted over losing a chance with the bachelor or bachelorette; they’re crying because they’re facing rejection.

Rejection is a tricky emotion. It can manipulate you into thinking you care about something you really don’t. It can trick you into thinking you have feelings for someone you don’t.

This happened to me as a teen. I was not happy in a relationship, but once I was the one facing rejection, I did everything in my power to get the guy back because I thought those feelings of rejection were something that they weren’t.

Just because those feelings of sadness aren’t real feelings for a person or for something in your life (maybe it’s a job offer or not being included by a friend), that doesn’t mean those feelings of rejection don’t hurt. They hurt a lot! That’s why it’s all so confusing.

The pain is still very real and has to be dealt with. The key to accepting rejection in a healthier and less painful way is to change your perspective.

The reason people cry when they’re rejected on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette is because they compare themselves to all of those other candidates who were chosen to continue on. They think they don’t stack up compared to them. Perhaps the girls are prettier or funnier. Perhaps the guys are more attractive or have more appealing careers.

This way of thinking is toxic and completely the wrong way to look at it—that’s why I end up yelling at the TV, “Why are you crying?!”

It’s not because I think they shouldn’t be sad; of course they should be. It’s extremely disappointing to be sent home, but they usually start spouting off a bunch of self-deprecating, pity-me comments about how they don’t understand what the remaining contestants have that they don’t.

That’s the thing—it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what those candidates might have that the person crying in the back seat of the limo doesn’t.

What should matter is that it wasn’t a love connection. Those remaining people just click a little better with whoever is handing out the roses that season. They are by no means better people than the ones being sent home (well, most of the time!); they just are better matches.

It’s the same with being rejected after a job interview. Whoever got the job isn’t better than you; that person just fits better with the position you both were vying for.

It doesn’t make the rejection sting less or make it any less disappointing, but it can keep you from losing your confidence or being too hard on yourself if you think of rejection as more of a two-way street.

Even if you are going through a time in your life when you feel like you’re facing rejection in the dating world, in your career, or amongst your friends or family, think of it as a saving grace.

Chances are that, if you’re being rejected from something, it probably isn’t a good fit, and that rejection is saving you from a possibly miserable situation dating someone you wouldn’t be happy with, working in a job you’d hate, or spending time with someone you maybe shouldn’t.

Rejection never means someone is better than you. We all have different flaws and strengths. Rejection just means someone may be a better fit than you for that particular situation.

It means you probably have something way better out there waiting for you. And isn’t that worth celebrating?

 

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