DAILY DEVOS RETURN…

As you all know, the #ATLdevo began back in September of 2014, and ran until about August 2015. Every single day, I made it a discipline to write what I was learning with Jesus, and posted it ONLINE, and not only that, but delivered every morning to the inboxes of 80+ people. NO PRESSURE!

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The feedback was incredible. Just incredible. Let me quote some of the emails/texts/messages I’ve gotten throughout this year of writing…

“We, your devo followers, are so thankful you said yes. I know you’re growing from it and it’s a big encouragement.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for your obedience in doing this devotional. This devotional continues to raise me out of so many heart-heavy situations.”

“I look forward to these devotions every day! Thank you for your heart! It is making a difference in my life! Thank you for your obedience!”

“Oh my goodness, you don’t know how your messages speak to me. The last couple of ones I find myself crying and asking God for more of Him!”

“Very thankful for your ministry here. It’s been too long since I journaled about the goodness of the Father and too long since I’ve been still and quiet early in the day. Love the prompts as well! Keep serving faithfully as you are!”

“Thank you for your inspiration and interaction with daily verses and uplifting words. Your obedience to God is one of the many gifts He’s given. You are a treasure to those of us receiving them.”

“Thank you for your daily devotionals. Really great stuff and God inspired.”

“I have been going back and reading the Phylla House devos: SO GOOD! I might use them next year for my class :D”

“Thank you Helena, for allowing God to use you in our lives! Today’s devo… it was exactly what I needed.”

“Your devos are amazing and I can hear your voice as I read them! So great! Thank you for blessing me and so many others with them already!!!”

These are quotes in reaction to the devos I wrote in 2014 to 2015. I picked 100 of those devotionals and published them in a book! You can buy that book here!

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Why am I charging for this book? Well… I have 80+ people who got it for free, one page at a time, via email and reading the Phylla House blog where the devos were originally hosted. The subscribers actually got more than that, because some of the devotionals didn’t make it into the book. After that, I prayed hard and pulled the devos from the blog, edited them fiercely, and published them in tangible form.

The cool announcement is that I’M DOING IT AGAIN!!! Fresh devos, page by page, delivered to your inbox, free as birds, imperfect  probably, full of late-night/early-morning Love.  You can subscribe to the Phylla House blog and see it unveil one page at a time, as God teaches me over the next year. How does that sound?

And then, God willing, at the end of 2016, I’ll revise the devos and publish them in book form once more, in time for you to gift them to your friends and family, having “already read it” if you know what I mean 😉

I hope you’ll come along with me.

The journey starts again on January 6th, 2016.

Much love,

Helena

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Emotional Abuse and Neglect

November 13th. It would have been my 7 year wedding anniversary this week, ya know, had it not been for the divorce.

I chopped my hair off, my beautiful long, blond hair and I felt so free! Of course, I asked his opinion many times, and he approved. I wouldn’t have cut my hair had my husband not approved! I thought that the change would make me more noticeable, more attractive. I wanted to be attractive, so he would look at me. I just wanted him to really look at me, instead of the computer screen he was so drawn to. I remember meticulously curling my hair, and walking into the bedroom to show him. He was at his computer, and he turned for half a second and looked back at the screen before he mumbled “looks good” and kept clicking. I felt a wave of shame wash over me. My eyes teared up. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Nothing I did was good enough to beat the screen. All that clicking wasn’t just for the games, but also for pornography. I never knew what he was really looking at.

Attention and conversation. How demanding, right? I wanted to be in relationship with the person I had  married. I felt ignored and unseen. I felt helpless, angry. I didn’t know how to express it. I was 21, and I didn’t want to be a nag.

I had an alcoholic college boyfriend call me a “bitch” once. Yeah, I typed it. It hurt so much to hear that word that I told myself I would never nag again, and that I would especially never argue with a drunk man who wants the bathroom door CLOSED while he’s puking. I thought he needed some air. My bad. Don’t even get me started on alcoholism. I’ve dated 2 alcoholics and I’d like to say that’s 2 too many. Nothing like having to drive his truck home every single time we went out in public, because Chugga Chugga couldn’t stop, and then cleaning up his puke in the bathroom because Chugga Chugga couldn’t handle his liquor. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. You’d think those were easy breakups, but they weren’t. I loved their families, loved their mamas. Good hearted men who loved me dearly. They just loved drinking a little bit more.

I’m sure I didn’t look thrilled day-to-day. I’m sure my tears got super old. Ew. What a drag! I’m sure my attempts to talk through it all were just SO draining to him. SO draining that he would say it felt like “cutting his chest open with a knife” every time I brought THAT up. Super. Guilt. Bottle it up. Never bring it up again.

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I found out how crippling and painful it was to marry someone who was addicted. Someone who valued a “THING” over their spouse, and any THING over Jesus. It was painful to watch the person you love the most waste their life and hurt themselves. I didn’t want to have children, and yet I wanted them so I could have someone to look at me and see me. Wow, right?

This is how the divorce started. This.

I daresay many divorces start like this. One person feels unwanted, over and over. They go looking for attention, for affection. Rejection leads to adultery. The opposite of the gospel, really. The very thing two people swear to one another at the altar, to be there for each other. Broken vows left and right, man.

BUT GOD… has shown me fantastic, healthy marriages. Men who are powerful leaders, making Spirit-led decisions, praying over their families, and boasting on how hot their wives are. They are the flower-pickers, the ones who hold the woman when she cries instead of telling her to stop. Men who are not perfect, but their priorities are right. To honor and cherish their spouse, to be home for the family, and to be present, devoted. Oh and these men are praised, let me tell you. Their wives go on and on about how wonderful, handsome, godly they are. Incredible fathers. Fantastic lovers, when the ladies are giving TMI! Oh, what a gift. My favorite person. My great love.

I believe firmly that it takes a change of heart to cause a behavioral change. God has to move in the heart. God has to break the chains of addiction, of fear, of rejection. God has to be sufficient. Idols have to be laid down. And grace has to abound. The ones who love us the most will fail us miserably from time to time, and that’s no surprise. But the ones who truly love cannot, cannot, CANNOT think that emotional abuse and neglect are acceptable behaviors. Women have to stand up against it, as do men.

Ladies, don’t marry the little boy who ignores you.

Men, don’t marry the little girl who turns away your affection.

Wait for people who love you well. Commit, then. And if you’re in a marriage like this, frozen cold like Elsa’s castle, feeling all alone in your frosty attentionless and sexless wonderland, I’m so sorry. Get help. Talk to mentors. Talk to a counselor. Talk to JESUS. Talk. Talk before you cheat. Talk before you leave. People CAN change, but they have to want to. That’s where Holy Spirit can come in and do His job.

I pray a blessing over people who are dating, that they have the discernment to lay down communication and their emotional needs out on the table before marriage. That they understand mutually how important this is. I pray a blessing over marriages that are struggling, that God will open up eyes and ears and hearts to LOVE. That those addictions have to go, in Jesus’ name. That sufficiency will be found in Christ, so that we can love other people well. I pray for the divorces that are about to happen and I intercede, Jesus, for the ones who are hurting SO much. If emotional abuse bruised, they’d be purple and black. Jesus, have mercy on their broken hearts. Be near to them. Bring them renewed hope.

7 Lessons I’ve Learned from Ministry

You name the ministry, I’ve probably done it. Homeless. Door-to-door evangelism. Special needs kids. Teaching. Orphanage. Preaching. Healing. Prophecy. Manual labor. Cooking. Worship leading in languages I don’t even speak. Mentoring. Writing. Sunday school. Women’s ministry. Hiking mountains to go visit sick people and do church in their homes. Going into bars to befriend prostitutes. God’s given me the opportunity to start a ministry, and also a glimpse of what it’s like to jump behind the wheel of a ministry I didn’t start. God can use any of us as vessels, and it is His utmost joy to do so. From all that jazz, here are 7 lessons I’ve learned…

1. Let Holy Spirit do His job.

389026_10150915761510194_140302104_nI can’t tell you how many times I’ve approached situations and tasks with my logic, and fell on my face. I’m talking EPIC FAIL. I rushed in with my YES when I should have said NO! The most important thing I’ve learned is to take the time to ask God what He’s doing, and give Him time to be the First Responder. Holy Spirit is gonna do a much better job bringing conviction to a heart than any of us could. Holy Spirit tenderizes hearts. He heals. He gives us information we couldn’t possibly know, which is heaven’s intel for you to do what needs done. Our job is to be willing to agree with what He’s doing and saying. We need to be attuned like Jesus described in John 5, doing exactly what He saw the Father doing. Another example is when Jesus didn’t show up to heal Lazarus, because He was on Father God’s timeline. Had He showed up on time, Lazarus wouldn’t have died or been raised from the dead. Yield to Him! One nugget for you: desperation is an invitation to enter into God’s chill zone. Any time you feel RUSHED, especially in ministry, guess what? Press pause, even if it’s an internal pause. Have a moment with Holy Spirit and say “hey, what’s the big picture?” and listen. Slow your roll. God is not frazzled, because He’s not losing.

2. You can do it anywhere.

compassWhatever ministry you do in Thailand, you can do in Georgia. It breaks my heart when people “come home from the mission field” as if there is such a concept. We’re not home, yet. If a certain people group or ministry broke your heart overseas, don’t stop working with them. You can move somewhere far away to tend to a crisis, and many times God will call on the willing to go. But let me tell you… sitting with widows in Nicaragua and sitting with widows in Georgia feels pretty similar to me, except we’re speaking English. Holding a special needs baby in India and holding one in Texas was the same feeling of overwhelming joy to me. Don’t let your address dictate your calling. Sometimes you’re gonna go overseas, sometimes you have 4 kids and can’t. Doesn’t make you any less of a missionary, with any smaller of a heart. The poor are everywhere. The homeless need hope. Kids need instruction and parents. The broken need a shoulder to cry on. The baby believers need teachers. Same same, but different.

3. You need to be ministered to, probably more.

devo2They should have a show on TV called “So You Think You Can Help People” and make contestants go to counseling for a long, long time. Newsflash: you’re super imperfect and messy and you need a lot of help. Once you get that through your head, you can drop the act and get real. We are vessels, and we can give what we receive from God, that’s in 2 Corinthians. That means we ask for help, and we invite people into our lives to call out our mess and make us deal with it. Mentors, counselors, brutally honest friends… give people the double scoop on what’s going on in your heart and let them minister to YOU. Receive it. When you run into a hurdle, grieve it. Life is hard, yall, especially when you go and put yourself out there to help others. You’ll hear some stories that hurt, and see some things that stick with you. Don’t let pride lead you to trauma. Take care of yourself… on that note…

4. REST.

1526621_10103504744396170_959411098518940348_nBurn out is real. You need time to smell flowers, and stick your feet in the ocean. You need a drive with your windows down, and breaks from whatever is super difficult. PLAN TO REST. It’s not selfish. It’s a commandment, if you’re gonna get technical. The work will be there for you when you get back, I promise. Take the time. Bubble bath. Movie theater. Road trip. Trail run. Whatever it takes for you to hit reset and calibrate yourself to the rhythm of God’s breathing. Jesus would sneak away. Be like Sneaky Jesus and take your time away.

5. Leave the 99.

decaturWe all know and love that sweet parable of the lost sheep that wanders off, and the Good Shepherd leaves the 99 to go get it. What does that mean for you? One time during a women’s ministry meeting, I knew someone was missing. And I knew they needed to be there, and that something wasn’t right. I left the meeting and went to pick her up. She had been having thoughts about hurting herself, and I showed up at her door. Don’t busy yourself trying to get your validation from 99 that you miss the opportunity to do what the Good Shepherd would, which is to know His sheep and take good care of each one.

6. You’re never stood up.

notebookcryThis is kind of a joke, because yes you are. All the time. If you do one-on-one ministry with vulnerable people and set up 4 meetings, and actually end up with one meeting, guess what? That’s okay. People cancel. People sometimes don’t show up. Plans change. All the babies get sick. Sometimes you cook for 5 and end up eating alone, and you cannot take it personally. It’s not about you. It’s not about you. I’ll say it again: it’s not about you. Don’t let yourself get bitter and give up on people. God sees your heart, and He gets your frustration. He also rewards you. Keep showing up, just like Jesus does for you, and know that when you pour grace on someone who can’t make it (instead of shame/disappointment/anger/frustration) they will experience that grace, and maybe that was the whole point of the meeting anyway. Check!

7. Don’t wait for permission that is already yours.

oh-manIf you look at the greatest scholars, they started out as babies, pooping themselves. Their brains may be brilliant, but so is yours. Their organs are the same as yours, their hearts beat and so does yours. You can disqualify yourself from contributing to the Body of Christ by comparing yourself to someone up on the stage, but let me save you the time and tell you that’s silly. God teaches you things every day if you listen. Little things and big things. My favorite thing to do is ask people what God is teaching them today, and wait for the answer. There’s always something. You hear Him, too. He teaches you things that He may not have taught me. You have something to bring to the table that is unique and much, much needed. The Bible says you’re competent as a minister of the gospel! Did you know that?! Jesus didn’t have a flashy diploma, nor a rich upbringing. He wasn’t privileged, but He certainly knew His Father. We’re loved equally and there are no favorites. If you’re older, you could mentor a younger one. If you’re younger, you could be a great friend to someone, and have deep conversations about God. You have God’s permission to do Kingdom work, and it’s unlimited. Go do the thing that God put in your heart to do.

4 Dysfunctional Dating Personalities

I must admit that in the past I’ve done wrong all the things I’m about to call out. I was selfish, and I didn’t know myself very well. I created parasitic relationships. I was insecure. I say “was” because along the way I learned a few things. You’re here already, so have a seat. You’ll probably nod along. I’ll try to be direct. Here are 4 types of dysfunctional dating personalities.

1. Mirrors

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“It’s like you’re my mirror, my mirror staring back at me.” -Justin Timberlake

I call them mirrors because these people are looking for only themselves in another person. Their traits, their strengths, and their weaknesses. They have grace only for familiar weaknesses, and appreciation for only their kind of strengths. They want to look at someone and feel like they’re looking in the mirror.

The lie they believe is that dating themselves would be the easiest thing, because they understand themselves. They want to trust and they can only trust themselves. They’re afraid of the unknown. They are afraid of unpredictability. They are afraid of the unfamiliar. They’ve probably been 100% burned by someone they trusted before, and now they’re out looking for themselves.

The thing about mirrors, though, is that you miss out on having a real counterpart, someone who loves you through the differences and whose strengths compliment yours. Breaking out of this mirror dating strategy looks a lot like laying down expectations and digging deep into humility. Look at your best friends and tell me how they’re different from you, and yet are still your best friends. Having major things in common is absolutely necessary, but don’t let fear or trust issues become the compass for your choices.

Mirror relationships miss out on the gospel because they are oftentimes judgmental. Mirrors are quick to cut a relationship the minute they realize they’re not dating themselves… that’s insecurity playing out like judgment.

I learned not to be a mirror, because I need someone who sees the world slightly differently than I do, yet loves me enough to come and sit by me and show me, and want to know what I see. I learned that brave communication is the key to accessing the reward of doing life with a different person. If we fail to communicate with courage, to voice our needs, we end up resenting that person for not seeing it the way we do. We assume the permanent role of being misunderstood, which is a victim mentality, and we miss out on the flexibility of love. Love can stretch around and see things from multiple angles. Love can give grace in the middle of disagreement. Dating someone who would be exactly me in another body would not lessen conflict, it’d probably increase it, because I’d expect that person to understand more about me with less information. It’s backwards. It’s lazy love. It’s self-seeking, literally. You should desire to look into someone else’s eyes and see them for who they are, not simply compare them to your likeness.

If you’re in a relationship with a mirror, you’ll feel like a show dog. They will run you through their hoops, their obstacle courses, and at the end of the day, you’re still on a trial period. You don’t feel secure in those relationships, because they’re constantly judging you, comparing you, and well.. you’re gonna be disappointing because you’re not their long-lost twin. If you let their disappointment (which actually stems from their own fear of failure due to previous failure) seep into YOUR heart, you’ll start to feel like you don’t measure up. That is not true. You are yourself, and you were never meant to be just like them. You are you, beautifully. You are worth the risk of being loved for who you are. If that person cannot appreciate who you are, you should break up with them. Do it quickly, and don’t look back. They do not currently have the ability to love you well, because they are only looking for themselves. Gather your courage and remember that you’re brave enough to love someone through their differences. That’ll come in handy when you’re dating someone who is enamored by YOU and not their traumatized sense of preservation. Pray for their healing, but for the love of God, get out of the toxic relationship.

2. Blankets

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“If I lay here, if I just lay here, would you lie with me and just forget the world?” -Snow Patrol

Look, blankets are not the worst. Lots of blankets actually get married and stay married. But the thing about the blankets: they’re looking for comfort. They’ll date the friend and marry the friend, and truly they’re not feeling on the inside what they know they should be feeling. But they are so, so comfy that they don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want to hurt anybody. They don’t know who they would be without that friend of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 plus years in their lives, with due reason. They love that person, just in a “hug your grandma” kind of way. Aww. It’s super tragic. The friend zone gone wrong.

The lie that they believe is “there will not be someone else who will feel this familiar, who will love me for me, who will know me this well, and who will let me know them fully” and they sit there with this tangible option of comfort versus the invisible risk of the ominous, fiery “what if” in the uncertain future. This is why a lot of blankets do get married. They value the relationship for what it is, even if it is completely lukewarm, and they choose it. I’m sure some of these semi-arranged marriages do thrive, but I believe you should question your thinking during DATING if you’re not feeling anything beyond friendly love. I think it’s deceptive to someone to pretend you have passionate feelings for them. It’s a lie. When you’re married, you stay married. You kindle the fire. I’m writing this about DATING, k? Cool.

Blankets miss out on the opportunity of meeting someone who exhilarates them. It’s the crazy-in-love thing. Whether or not that fades is irrelevant. It should be there at least at first! The romantic in me demands the spark, the butterflies, the stuttering, the lingering on the phone unable to hang up, the swoon when that person kisses your cheek, and the fire that burns up inside when they look into your eyes and you know they are thinking about how much they love you. Blankets chance missing that, and I think that’s just crazy. Love is All-consuming Fire, by definition. God embodies both.

I see blanket relationships missing out on the gospel when it comes to being lukewarm. Often, these two people don’t go out of their way to express their love to each other. It’s a comfort zone, which isn’t unbiblical but it can hinder the zeal that could be there. It’s also a control and trust issue thing going on. Blankets think they are expert statisticians, that they know their odds are harsh. They may not believe God has the best for them and the person they’re dating.

I learned not to desire a blanket relationship when I realized how much pain it can create. Blankets are in my opinion the hardest breakups because they feel like you have to get out of the warmest bed to the coldest room, on a rainy morning, with the option of sleeping in, and instead you sit up, put your feet on the floor, and walk away from the comfort zone. It’s excruciating. I wish those on no one. But can I tell you how glad I am right now that I’m not in a blanket relationship? SO glad.

The key in overcoming these kinds of relationships is to have blind trust in the goodness of God, and also to place a high value on honesty. You might think you’re avoiding pain by staying in, when really you’re being dishonest with that person every single day by not loving them romantically. When that truth rises out, it hurts a different kind of pain. I’m not saying to be fully led by feelings, but you are not a robot! If you’re not feeling romantically drawn in, be honest and end it. Set that person free to experience a real two-way street relationship.

If you’re in a relationship with a blanket, you might feel unappreciated and overlooked. You’re not being pursued much. Romantic gestures might look forced. It’s the classic case of being taken for granted, mostly because… well… you’re being taken for granted. You might be feeling the fire yourself, but you notice the gap between your ideal and what you have. It might be great to ask some hard questions and to communicate what you need. Along the lines of “hey, I feel like we are so comfortable together, and I’d like to keep the fire alive. What are some ways you can think of that we can express passion to each other?” and TALK. TAAAALK. If you don’t talk about it and you break up with a blanket, you’re gonna hate me and yourself and everything. This is not an easy breakup. You’ll need to lean heavy on the Lord (as always) and dig deep into His Word. Prayer turns up like 15 notches. Surround yourself with friends and wisdom. All is well that ends well and I promise you have got to let go of mediocre to experience greatness. Good is the enemy of best. You are so so so worthy of passion, and you should make room for it.

3. Empty Cups

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“I don’t want no scrub, a scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me, hanging out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride, trying to holler at me.” -TLC

At the risk of sounding horribly harsh, let’s talk about empty cups.

Empty cups don’t have anything to offer you, but they still think they should be dating you. You have to fill them up and hold them up. Everything that would be of benefit in the relationship would be coming from one side, while the other is seeking validation, affirmation, status, and a way to avoid their own issues just a little bit longer. Empty cups put a high value on how they feel for you, and a very low value on pretty much everything else that is important, like faith, distance, financial health, overall health, life goals, accountability, family, and committed decisions like parenting, housing, and attempting to make some long-term decisions. This sounds AWFUL but you would not believe how many people are not in a healthy place emotionally to date but are still trying to date, in the middle of their broken places when they should be seeking Truth and wisdom and healing. These people are co-dependent. They don’t know what to do with themselves if their phone isn’t buzzing, because they don’t quite know how to access Jesus for a relationship. They are not permanently stuck that way, but they MUST go through healing. We have all been empty cups at one point, and we know that the best thing that can happen is being released so that we can lean on Jesus without a distraction or alternate source of comfort.

The lie they believe is that they need to lean on somebody else (and not 100% on Jesus) to give them their daily boost of “I am significant.” They do not fully know who they are in Christ, nor what Jesus does for them. Odds are, they are disconnected from the voice of God. Maybe it’s because of a stronghold, or just that they haven’t been taught how to access Jesus for themselves. This kind of love is like a vacuum, not an overflow. They’ll be looking to receive. They speak loftily without making any action to back up their words. They talk big game about their feelings, but they shy away from commitment and have no means whatsoever to actually commit! These relationships are so very unhealthy. These are breeding grounds for resentment and abuse of various forms.

Empty cups miss out on the opportunity of experiencing intimacy with God, because they’re afraid of intimacy with God. This might stem from parental wounds, or abuse, or hurt from a previous relationship. They for some reason feel separated from God, even though the Word of God says there is nothing that can separate them from the love of God. And because they need the love of God (we all desperately, desperately do), they’re gonna try to get it from a person. They want to be filled up. They want someone to pour joy and peace and love and patience into them, in an overflowing fashion. This is the role of the Holy Spirit within us. These are the fruits of intimacy with God, not with people. There is no suitable substitute for the love of God.

Empty cups miss out on the gospel because they struggle to believe it for themselves. They see other people enjoying the freedom and identity of Christ, but don’t quite know how to access that. They think there’s something wrong with being single, because they are not fully content with Christ alone.

I learned not to be an empty cup when I had no choice but to be a single empty cup haha. At first it was excruciating, but the lonely times with Jesus got sweeter and sweeter. Sometimes I’d get pizza and pepsi, and go to the dock to watch the sunset with Jesus. Sometimes I’d go hike a mountain or run in the trails. I’d sit and paint, and write, and color with markers. I would read out loud “Streams in the Desert” to Jesus in the morning, watching the sunrise. Sometimes I’d just cry in my car, and that was okay too! I started to understand what it meant to say “apart from You I have no good thing” and “there’s nothing on earth I desire beside You” and I became wildly independent. I realized that my love is independent, that I can love people and not require an ounce of it back. Forgiving people who didn’t love me well or at all. Loving my enemies. At the end of the process, I was filled to the brim.

Being an empty cup is not a permanent state, but dating when you feel this way or dating someone who feels this way is a TERRIBLE idea. The key in overcoming? Get healing. Get your time with the Lord, and that might mean you need to set a time frame and just be SINGLE during that time, by choice. Figure out your non-negotiables. Ask Him who you are. Ask Him to reveal His love for you. Take a sober look at your life, the different parts of it. Change what needs to change. Commit to what is important to you.

If you are dating an empty cup, you might feel the need to stay with them because you hate the idea of being yet another thing that falls apart in their life, BUT you need to pray and ask the Lord if you’re in the way of their healing. You might be a distraction. They need a counselor, a friend, a mentor. You need a break from all the hot mess drama. You might realize you don’t have 99 problems, you just have one. I say back away, but you do you, boo boo.

4. Reachers

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“I wish that I could be like the cool kids, ’cause all the cool kids they seem to fit in.” -Echosmith 

One of the tv shows that I used to indulge (I watched every single episode) is How I Met Your Mother. It isn’t PG and they make tasteless sexual jokes. But I watched it for the puns, the Star Wars references, the Canadian Robin Sparkles, the woo girls, and the heavy-metal music wrestling scenes. SO, in this show they brought up a theory that in every relationship there is a Reacher and a Settler… so someone is dating outside of their league, while the other is dating below their league. I disagree. HOWEVER, some people firmly believe they are the perpetual reacher. They don’t consider themselves to be worthy, which looks a lot like the empty cup, but a little different. Reachers aren’t empty, and they’re not looking for comfort. The lie they sincerely believe is that they are 100% out of their league, which sets the tone for an imbalance that plays out through the whole relationship.

Sidenote: I have SO been the reacher, as in I thought I was dating outside of my league. In the past, I dated a “cool kid” and for the life of me I could not figure out what he saw in me. The entire time that relationship lasted, I felt very uncomfortable, very unfit. I felt like the Princess Diaries, a commoner in royal settings. It made for a LOT of awkward interactions, second-guessing everything I said and trying too hard to attain a standard I made up for myself. I felt like the oddball around his cool friends, and I was just not trendy enough. I was hurt when that relationship ended, but GEEZ, I also felt SO relieved. I didn’t have to try to fit with the stuffy, superficial cool kids anymore. I could just eat a pizza with my hands, not worry if it was vegan or gluten-free or WHATEVER. I didn’t have to sit through another British tv show that bored me to tears. I could wear ripped jeans again and not feel like a hobo. I could say “I have never heard of that band” and smile for days.

With all that said, being the reacher is a full-time job. Constantly trying to adjust, to attain the standard, to fit in as much as possible, to say the right thing, the witty thing, to not be too quiet or too loud. Ew!

Reachers miss out on feeling like they’re enough and wonderful, just for who they are. They are constantly comparing themselves and worrying way too much about people’s opinions of them. It’s a performance, the kind that you know you haven’t practiced enough for and it makes you extra sweaty to think you’re probably gonna mess it up somehow. You’re expecting failure, and pit stains, expecting that person to wake up one day and see you for who you really are, and walk away. Being a reacher is not healthy. It’s not accurate.

Reachers miss the gospel because they don’t see their own value in God’s eyes. Identity in Christ. There are no leagues. There is, though, a thing called confidence. It’s important. I’ve met people who at first don’t catch your eye, but then they swoop in with their personality and captivate the room. I’ve met people who are so endearing that you can’t help but feel warm and fuzzy when you’re around them. You can’t tell me that if they dated an “attractive” or “affluent” person that they’d be the reacher? Nah. Neither are reachers. You have two people who are fascinated by each other. The gospel declares that Jesus is fascinated by each of us! None of us are peasants hoping to impress Him. He LOVES us. Though we fall short of glory, we have attained it in Him. To think you are less than worthy in any relationship is to miss the application of the gospel.

The key to overcoming the reacher mindset is to remember your God-given worth. If you don’t know it to remember it, then you need to go figure out how awesome you are so that you can come back like “of course you asked me out, way to notice how awesome I am!” and change the game. On the flip side, if you feel uncomfortable and feel like you don’t have the grace to be yourself in that relationship, talk about it and consider breaking up. I think the reacher is the opposite of the blanket. They’re so uncomfortable in their own skin and that discomfort travels through the relationship. It could be a good relationship, were it not for the person feeling so unworthy.

If you’re in a relationship with a reacher, you might be feeling super annoyed or tired of repeating yourself, telling them how great they are and having it go in one ear and out the other. And you might be wanting to date somebody who has more confidence, so that you don’t have to persuade them to believe they are good enough to be loved by you. Be wary not to put that person in uncomfortable situations to “test” them because that’s mean. It’s like taking a non-dancer to a salsa club… so mean! Be kind. If you’re not content in the relationship because that person keeps questioning their worth, you might wanna reconsider that relationship. It’s exhausting, and limiting. Imagine a relationship where both people felt confident of their worth, and celebrated each other? Yeah. Make room for that.

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I’d love your feedback. Did you relate to any of these? You’re awesome, and God is well-pleased with you.  If you’d like to talk about any of this, I will make time for you. Leave a comment with your thoughts 🙂 Also, if you have other suggestions of these kinds of relationships and you want me to write a part 2, leave those in the comments.

Thanks!

A Valentine’s Love Story

If I told you I wasn’t looking, you still wouldn’t get it.

I. Was. Not. Looking.

I wasn’t embittered, just a bit tired. My heart was tired. Not broken, surprisingly. The friend who I had just dated was so kind to be careful with it. He and I are still friends. It’s just this wonderful thing. It had just ended, no lie, a few days prior. One more reason why I wasn’t looking.

As I walked into the orientation room for my first day at the new job, I was ready for a few things. I was prepared for outdated powerpoint presentations, and boring benefits package options. I was ready for safety videos about pathogens and common sense stuff. I knew I’d get my new badge, and that I’d find myself chuckling to myself that it always feels the same, the first day at a new hospital. They always tell you it’s the best place to receive care, because we all just care soooo much. I’ve heard it all. I was ready for this.

I wasn’t ready to get there a little late. I had gotten all done up, red hair in curls, makeup on, cute business casual clothes on (not scrubs, watch out), wore my flats. I was wearing my new peacoat and a long shiny necklace. I chose the glasses that morning, to make myself look sophisticated and maybe a little bit older. Overall, I was ready to endure with poise, ready to smile and nod. I remember praying the whole way up the elevator “God, please don’t let me make a poor impression of Your name because of that traffic jam… please.” and I walked in, and saw a beautiful thing: a line.

Sigh, THANK GOD! I’m not late, they’re still registering.

Turns out the whole orientation got pushed back, making me early. SCORE!

I signed in and was informed that there was pretty much just one chair, on the front row, or I could wait as someone was retrieving more chairs from another room. They handed me a fancy hospital logo water bottle stuffed full knick knacks, and sent me on my way.

I happily skipped to the only seat, right in the front, where I would have willingly chosen to sit if the room had been empty. I was going to be sitting between a cute older black lady and some man with broad shoulders and a really nice shirt. The back of his head was handsome.

I sat down and I was a little bit mortified. I thought “oh great, he must be a cute doctor. No ring… must not be wearing his ring, or he has a nice fiancé somewhere. Perfectly trimmed beard. Red jacket. He brought his own leather folder? His own nice gel pen? His own reusable travel coffee cup? Yeah, he must definitely be a doctor. I will not even look at him, he is too handsome. Let me talk to the cute lady beside me and completely ignore him.”

And that’s what I did, or tried to do. I chatted with the lady next to me, and I found myself noticing little things about him, like how he sat so still and didn’t jitter at all, like a man who is confident of himself. I noticed there was a light in his eyes… what color were they? Green? Hazel? I couldn’t tell.

I opened up my water bottle to dig through the goodies. I found a pen, a badge holder, a pamphlet about being new, and attached to the bottle itself was a little folded-up paper. I carefully unfolded it and chuckled. I squinted to read what I quickly realized to be instructions for the water bottle. In four languages! It was hilarious.

Then I heard his voice, as he leaned toward me and quietly asked me, “are… those… instructions?… For the water bottle?” and I could see him smirking in disbelief.

Game over.

I know I hit him with a few of my cheesy jokes, something about getting to learn some new languages, and how it was a complex water bottle that needed instructions. My sarcasm was flying out, and it was being well-received. Understatement of the century. He was turning purple, trying to stifle his laughter. On a Monday, just before 8am, and he was wiping tears away from the corners of his eyes, laughing.

“I’m Helena,” I said, as I smiled through the rush going on in my mind.

“I’m Buddy, nice to meet you.”

Buddy? Is his name really Buddy? I never saw his name badge, so I figured I’d never know.

The banter went on through the whole orientation, approximately four hours of ridiculous comments thrown back and forth, through every cheesy video, powerpoint, and benefit presentation. To the point that we were joking around about being each other’s beneficiaries in case of accidental death and dismemberment. At one point, we looked up to find a lady standing in front of us, with her hand out to collect a form that neither of us filled out. We’d been laughing. Oops. We quickly filled out our papers, chastising each other for getting in trouble. I remember leaving my badge visibly on the table, so that he could see my full name. He did. I didn’t see or hear his last name.

Around noon or so, we had to move to another room so that we could complete some computer training modules. As we stood in line and got separated with a new seating order, I knew it was about that time. I may have left my coat behind so that I could go back by that room and retrieve it, just in case. Sure enough, after I’d finished my modules, I got my coat and looked at him as he looked up at me.

“Bye, nice to meet you, see you later!” and I turned around and walked out.

I pushed the button for the elevator, got in, hung around the lobby to get a sandwich from the snack bar, then I got in my car. I wondered if I’d ever see him again.

I assumed it wouldn’t but I secretly hoped it would. It was so nice to laugh like that. It was the kind of connection I have with my better friends. I had no way of looking him up, and I guess that was perfect.

Have you figured out the obvious ending? Because he and I have been dating.

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Yeah, he looked me up. He found me. He messaged me, told me he had to talk to me again and asked to keep in contact with me. I found out later that week that he loves Jesus. That week, we went on our first date, and he came with me to Bethel Atlanta. I ended up meeting his family. We’ve been going on dates every weekend, hiked a couple of mountains. And it’s the weirdest thing to be dating someone who is ready, in every sense of the word, to be in a relationship. He wants what I want. He’s in the same place in life. He really loves Jesus, have I mentioned that? We know how to hang out and do nothing, and it’s the best kind of nothing. It’s my favorite nothing to do, just being with him. We spur each other forward, and it’s this crazy Kingdom thing. My heart is full. Happy is scary, but so brave.

And for your inner cynic, who doesn’t believe in Cinderella stories, who doesn’t believe you can just meet someone and it be that incredible… well you’re wrong.

Don’t stop believing that God can put you in that kind of setup, where you’re stuck together and you have no choice but to laugh, no choice but to notice, no choice but to be chased, pursued, and surprised.

It comes when you’re not looking, or so people have always told me. I now believe in the truth of that statement. I wasn’t looking, but hey look… love is here.

Yolo, Dating, and Starting Over

I’ve blogged before about 5 dating tips. I’ve given you a blog about how a man should pursue a woman. I’ve talked about how I sorta believe there is a “one” out there. And here I find myself single at 27, not like that’s a problem.

You see, I am a scientist, through and through. It’s my degree, my full-time job. I try to analyze and understand the data I have, the experiences, people, behaviors, and compatibilities. I’ve tried my best in the past to set myself up into relationships I thought would be successful, and even safe for my heart. I’ve told my girls to wait for someone who is worth a shot, not to date just anybody. I compared it to fast food versus gourmet. I’ve compared it to a limo versus a crazy taxi. “Don’t just jump into something out of impatience.” Part of those words, however true, were jaded with my past regrets.

There are pros and cons to being a girl who gets asked out. On the PRO side, “NO” is a word I’ve learned well. On the CON, some girls kinda hate me/envy the attention from the opposite sex. On the PRO, I have had the opportunity to root my worth in Christ versus affirmation from men because I’ve had a choice. On the CON, I’ve dated 4 people in the last 2 years, and they sometimes find themselves in the same room because God has a hilarious sense of humor and I dated 4 World Racers, that’s my bad. Hindsight is 20/20, babies.

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I vowed (oops) that I never wanted to start dating someone from scratch, that I wanted to “miraculously fall for a friend I already knew well” and that, my friends, is a vow that ended up hurting me quite a bit. I dated my best friend, my teacher, myself in a man’s body, and someone who dreams like me. All were just lessons for me. You see, the formula I was trying to apply just didn’t work. Why and how? No idea. No idea at all. But it made me think even more.

I realized that I still had shame, guilt, and fear buried underneath for all these years, because I still blamed myself for my divorce, that we didn’t know each other well enough. I blamed myself for choosing someone who didn’t choose me back. That’s ridiculous. So I wanted to completely avoid dating a stranger by investing my trust in ‘christian brothers’ and then hoping that out of those scattered seeds, perhaps God would work a miracle. Every girl has done this. Every. Single. Girl.

After my divorce, I didn’t really get into any relationships. I sorta tried, but the most that happened was being a wedding date, being someone’s designated driver, going on just one date, etc. Not glamorous. I had crushes, but I think it was my heart’s way of realigning and recalculating what I really admired. That process took 2 years. That’s a long time, for all you “single vow” makers, you try 2 years and let me know how that goes for you. Been there, done that. Check!

I have been single, I have dated, I’ve been engaged, I’ve been married, I’ve been in the in-between of it all. I’ve been the secret girlfriend, the one who waits, the counselor, the listening ear, the one who finally has enough, the one who is just a friend, the one who didn’t see the end coming, and the one who saw it months prior. I’ve been the one who keeps the secrets, the one who bottles up feelings, the one who pays, the one who prays, and the one who plans. I’ve heard the words “I love you” and known when they were true or false. I’ve been the one who was ready, and the one who wasn’t. I’ve been the one who fell apart when a relationship ended, and the one who miraculously didn’t. All this to say: I am choosing to be brave.

The easy thing for me would be to hide out for six months, to not talk about any of this, and to isolate myself from the community I’ve built through my vulnerability in this blog. That would be easy, but costly. I’d rather keep you all. I’d rather keep moving forward.

I am making the choice to be lighthearted, slow-paced, unassuming, and honest. I am choosing to wear my #PRAISEPONCHO and run out in the rain to dance. I renounced my vow to never start over from scratch.

There was one seat left at my new job’s orientation, and I ended up sitting next to a stranger, whose full name I didn’t know at the time, but on whom I made an impression. I waved goodbye and skipped out the door. He searched for me like Cinderella, and I think that’s worth some dates, yeah? I won’t be blogging about him any further than this, sorry to disappoint! But I will tell you that he’s pushing me into territory I haven’t had to be in, and that I’m finding new walls in my heart to bring down. Here’s to going on dates with a stunner who is a local believer, who has a higher degree than me, and who hasn’t been on the World Race. I’m tossing my formulas out of the window, and admiring how pretty they look in my rearview mirror.

Here’s to 2015, to all its plot twists, and to the courage to start over.

Memory

Today I was supposed to get 3 things done, and I got none of them done. I ate about 60% of a truffle mousse cake from Kroger and I watched Netflix. I spent time reading Romans and being soothed by Steffany Gretzinger’s angelic voice. I rocked in my hammock, and hung out with the new kitten I adopted. Its claws are really sharp and I have no idea if it’s a male or a female, so it doesn’t have a name yet… however, it is obsessed with me. Positively obsessed. It walks with me across the room, tripping me up. I saved it, so it thinks I’m Jesus or something. I’m not Jesus, little kitten.

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I was scrolling through Instagram and I was overwhelmed with joy. The pictures, faces, and good news… I realized that I was seeing little square testimonies of God’s goodness. I saw provision, health, beauty. I saw strong marriages and happy couples. I saw funny little girls who think they’re princesses. There was nature, and glory, and revelation.

For a small moment, I surveyed my life and I took inventory. Having been gone for about 2 weeks out of last month, across NINE states, I see three bags that need to be unpacked. The clothes I wore and the things I carried with me all need to go back to their normal places. I suddenly realized why I had been avoiding unpacking all day, and the good problem I have in my hands: I love people far and wide. And right now I’m in my house alone with an unnamed kitten and 3 bags of memory from when I was with them, holding them, laughing in person, sharing meals, and taking pictures.

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my super pretty mother

 

While my first instinct is to cry, miss them, and feel lonely, my second instinct is to make a memory. I want to remember this night as a thankful memory. Just plain thankful. Thankful that I have a family that trusts me and says to me você é guerreira, which means you are a warrior. Even from a different hemisphere, they never hesitate to remind me of who I am. That’s as encouraging as it gets, because I am super awesome hahaha. It’s nice to be trusted and respected by the people who know me from birth, yeah? I feel honored.

I’m thankful that I have best friends. My sacred circle is so wonderfully solid, and I’m thankful for Mama Betsy Garmon who taught me what a sacred circle even is. Before that, I tried to carry all my friendships into the deepest place, and I would beat myself up trying to keep up with friends who were not keeping up with me.

Two years ago, I built this circle and grieved the distance that was about to take place in the other friendships. I figured out who was going to be around me emotionally and spiritually, and I officially drafted these powerhouses into my life. My four best friends, who know all my details and vice versa. Now I look back and I get to be thankful for spiritual and emotional health, people who have prayed with me, gone on adventures with me, and have fought for a deep level of relationship with me in Christ. That is RARE and a real treasure and I have it on earth as it is in heaven.

I’m on the brink of starting a new job, and I’m thankful that I have a reliable car and a cool hammock, unread books on my shelf, the fuzziest of rugs, and I even have an elliptical in my room. My Christmas lights stay up all year-round because it’s my room and my rules and I believe that the glow shouldn’t have to go away. There are generations within me, as well as worlds, words, and stories.

And I’m telling you this because if you took the time to survey your life, you would find that you also have much to be thankful for when you’re having to “unpack” your feelings. Tonight I had a choice. I could have despaired. I could have spiraled down and that would have been okay too, but I chose to remain thankful and put on my “PRAISE PONCHO” (aw yeah baby). I am trying to make #PRAISEPONCHO a thing, so bear with me.

Tonight will be etched in my remembrance as a quiet, rainy night with a full heart and a messy room. Someday in the future, when I’m living in a full house, with little ones, door-related noises, spills, and no alone time, I pray the Lord brings to my mind the memory of this very night: January 3rd, 2015, when I wore my #PRAISEPONCHO.  The thought will bring up a deep, deep laughter, and I’ll kiss the faces of my messy babes, and thank them.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go unpack these bags.