Dear Ginger: How do I know if this is the ONE?

dear ginger

Dear Ginger,

How do you know if someone is the right person to marry? –E

Dear E, thank you so much for taking the time to send in this important and universal question. Who hasn’t wondered about this whether single, dating, or even engaged? I pulled out my own journal from when my husband and I were dating and had started talking about marriage. Look what I found:

“Lord, Thank you for this man. Thank you for this choice. I have so much fear mixed with the adrenaline. God- I ask that you continue to guard and guide. May we both seek wisdom in your Word and from the advisors in our lives. Speak Lord, clearly, for your child is waiting on you. Unveil my eyes. Let me see and know you. Help me to listen for your echo. Lord, please, please, please be clear. I don’t want an answer other than “Yes, this guy is the one!’ So up until we say the “I Do” – if this is not what you have for us, you must please be abundantly and overwhelmingly clear. But Lord, if it’s my choice and lines up with your will … I choose this gentle man who loves deeply.

I don’t want to regret. I want a co-pilot in love and ministry. We don’t get to see or know how hearts will change in the coming years, what hardships lie dormant, just waiting, but my desire is to go through the valleys with David. I choose it. I want it.”

You can see I was wrestling through my feelings and emotions.

David and I were married on October 17, 2010. We planned and prepped and dreamed of the day for months. We decided, somewhere along the way, that we wanted to have both our own personally written vows and some traditional vows recited in our ceremony.

I spent an evening alone thinking about what I desired to communicate to my husband and the people who were witnessing our vows. I wanted to acknowledge that my promise was about more than simply having fun together or loving each other when things are easy. I’d witnessed too many relationships struggle, too many marriages end, and too many indestructible relationships break down after years of what seemed like perfection. We had been challenged that marriage wasn’t for our happiness but for our holiness and that rings weren’t an accessory, but a reminder. And so I set out to explain why I knew David was “The One.”

I always wanted to know how married couples knew that this was IT. Was it just a desperate physical desire? Was it a long-term slow warming? Was it burning hatred turned into passionate love like Beatrice and Benedict (Much Ado About Nothing) or Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy? (Part of me really wanted it to be that!) Was it a voice inside my head that whispered, “This is the man you are going to marry”? (I also really wanted it to be this one too.) Or was it something else?

My husband received the title of THE ONE, when He was the one I said “I love you” to and the one that I said “yes” to. I prayed all along that God would end things if I wasn’t listening to His voice closely enough. But I feel like we enjoyed each other, pushed each other to fall in love with the Lord, and challenged each other to be the best versions of ourselves. My relationship with David never called for any sort of personality or moral compromise – instead David encouraged me to not change myself for him.

And so I decided that this one was THE ONE when I could wholeheartedly promise to seek HIS best for the rest of my life.

“In making this vow today,
 I declare-I know-that you are THE ONE.
 You receive that title not because of storybook romance,
 I know that you are THE ONE because you are the one man in the whole world to whom I CHOOSE to make this promise.”

I said those very words, made some promises to my one and suddenly it was official. The words were spoken, the rings exchanged, and then the next adventure of actually living out the vow began with a joyful party.

wedding

Is this the one you choose to love with all your heart, with all your life? Here are some questions for you to consider.

  1. What if “in sickness and in health” looks like Ian and Larissa’s story? Would you willingly give up your plans and dreams for a “normal” marriage and life to love and serve your spouse?
  2. Does this one person bring out the very best version of you? Does this one push you to be the woman God designed you to be? Are you able to be your true self around them? “Don’t be in a relationship where you have to second-guess yourself. Be confident in who you are. If you are dating someone and feel like you have to walk on eggshells or constantly worry that you are not smart enough, funny enough, attractive enough, or whatever—it’s not the relationship for you. You deserve to be cherished for who you are, not who you are pretending to be. Changing to conform to someone’s idea of a perfect match will leave you resentful, fearful, disenchanted, and somewhere short of happily ever after.” (Forget the Corsage)
  3. Are you willing to think of this one first and foremost as your family? Are you willing to leave and cleave? …The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:22-24
  4. Have you allowed your community to be a part of this relationship? Have you hidden this relationship from the eyes of others because of any hesitations? (It was important that both my friends and his friends witnessed our relationship. We visited each other’s churches and tried to see the other in their own “environment” as much as possible. This was challenging as we had an hour distance between the two of us.)
  5. Are you seeking godly wisdom about your relationship from someone who knows both of you?
  6. Do you have purpose and identity ASIDE from this relationship? Your purpose and identity should be found in the Lord first and foremost. I know from experience how easy it is to want to make someone else the end all, be all.
  7. Are you able to freely share your thoughts and opinions and have them heard and considered?
  8. Do you assume the best in your one? It can be tempting to assume the worst. “They’re late because they don’t care. (This was a huge light-bulb moment for all of my friendships and relationships. Just because someone doesn’t behave or respond the way that I think they should doesn’t mean they don’t love or care about me. I have yet to benefit in the long run by getting all huffy and bothered. Giving a strong dose of grace to a situation can do wonders in keeping a small thing like giving me advice on how to brown onions from exploding into, “YOU DON’T THINK I CAN COOK?” Simmer down there, Chef.)
  9. Are you praying, asking and seeking for the Lord’s direction and guidance?
  10. Are you willing to see love as a choice rather than a feeling?

Loving someone isn’t a sentiment. It’s a daily choice. It is a repeated action.

“Love is a commitment of my will to seek your best for the rest of my life.” –Lynelle Zandstra

Andrew Peterson – Dancing in the Minefields from Centricity Music on Vimeo.

I know this was by no means an all-encompasing list. I’m hoping other readers will comment with their own thoughts and perspectives.

Pray, pray, pray. Ask. Seek wisdom. Seek the Lord. He is faithful to answer.

Praying for you, E.

Following,
Ginger

 

Wednesday Throwback

I’ve been cleaning up  the files on my computer and I came across this guest post spot that I wrote for a friend. I know the semester has been well underway for a few weeks, but I thought it was worth a share even in mid-September!

-COLLEGE REDO-

Don’t even get me started on the fact that I am old enough to have my 10-year college reunion soon. I still feel like that 18 year-old who pulled up in front of Gardner Hall with her parents and matching Target bedding set. If I could walk up to that version of myself today, I might just slap her in the face… not in a mean way, just in a “Listen here, girlie” way so she’d know I was serious.

I didn’t have a freak-out or breakdown in college, per say. I walked in and out a relatively adjusted member of society. There are simply some things I wish I’d done differently. And luckily for you, I’m going to share them right here, right now.

throwback

1.     Remember that change brings grief. Everyone is so excited the first few weeks of the semester. And yet, I found myself blinking back tears on more than one occasion. I wasn’t homesick; I was missing my “normal.” Every face, place, class, and relationship in my life had suddenly changed. If I could sit with the18 year-old me, I would tell her that it’s ok to grieve those changes. You don’t have to run past them and ignore the feelings. Acknowledge them, be sad about them, but then embrace the new adventures that lie ahead.

2.     Eat with a different set of people once a day. Forget A, B, and C crowds. College creates a uniquely level playing field. Take the opportunity to walk up to a group of people and introduce yourself. The conversations will all start the same way: your name, your major, and where you’re from, but from there they can lead anywhere. Friendships start when someone is willing to take a risk and say, “Hey, can I sit here?”

3.     Plug into a church by the end of your first semester. You can church shop for four years and still never find a home. Or, you can pray and decide that there is a timeline. Locating a church home is more than walking into the same church for the last service (Likely 10 minutes late) each week. Invest in such a way so that you are held accountable. Volunteer! I finally started volunteering as a junior and my church-going experience vastly improved. Those 4th and 5th grade girls were looking for me and I didn’t want to disappoint. When you feel known by a body of people, it’s hard not to love where you are planted… or sleep in.

4.     Stop comparing your (love) story to anyone else’s. There will be people from your class who marry before they graduate. Engagements abound the spring of senior year. I mourned the fact that everyone else appeared to find their match in college. In retrospect, I wish I would have shook off the worry and sadness and just enjoyed the journey of my college years. Comparison stole my joy. (This is quite possibly the reason I would actually slap my 18 year-old self.) “Ginger, stop waiting and sighing and start living your story.”

5.     Try everything. (Within reason!) I attended maybe 3 sporting events in all four years of my education. In retrospect, I wish I would have taken a walk out of my world in the theatre department and experienced all of the things my university had to offer. An art department on campus usually has a gallery. Music departments offer countless recitals. Even the science buildings offer displays. And yet, I can count on my hands the free concerts, multi-cultural events, or even socials that I attended. School is more than studying. College is more than your major. Intramurals would have been the perfect chance for me to do something I loved without fearing making some sort of a team. Audition, sign up, join, go on a trip… now is the time to learn how God has uniquely wired you to serve Him and love others.

6.     Remember that friendships are seasonal. As we get older the breadth and span of our relationships get wider and wider: high school, college, camp, work, church, neighbors, family… and on and on! I can’t keep all of those balls in the air. As painful as it is, I had to finally realize that friendship works both ways. Some friends I bounce the ball to them and they joyfully send it right back. Others seem to… well, drop the ball. Not everyone will return your texts, e-mails, or calls. That hurts, but it’s ok. Mourning that change is healthy and necessary. We just have to be careful about hanging our happiness on a friendship or relationship.

7.     Choose wisely. Indulgence is fabulous. Every once in a while I love having dessert for dinner, but my freshman year in college I made it a precedent. More often then not I walked up to the Belgian waffle bar and then topped it off… not with syrup, but with a trip to the Blue Bell Ice Cream bar. Just because you CAN choose anything in this newly independent phase (what to eat, when to sleep, what to tattoo, who to date) doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. Choices always have consequences.

You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23, NLT

8.     Stop worrying so much about post-graduation. My senior year of college I was tied up in worry knots. I kept asking that God would show me exactly what to do after graduation. I finally went and made an appointment with one of my favorite professors. Through tears I explained to her my deep desire to know God’s will for my future. I listed all the reasons why He should tell me exactly which job to take: I could obey Him quickly, I could stop worrying about this, I could spend more time praying about other things, etc.  When I finally stopped talking she met my gaze and asked “But what takes more faith – an arrow that says “go right here” or taking steps each day to draw closer to Him?  Your desire is to honor God with your heart, gifts, and talents.  Where can you possibly end up in this world and not be able to do that?”

Do the work, use your head, make an effort, and then trust the Lord.

I’m sure I could talk to my 18 year-old self for hours on this topic, but those seem to be the tips that resonate after all these years. Everyone talks about how college is the best time in your life, and for that reason some people don’t seem to ever want to let it go. But I firmly believe that the present can be the best time in your life. So live in it, wherever you are!

“And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there…” 1 Corinthians 7:17, The Message

Following,

Ginger

Life Starts Now

dear me

Dear Eighteen year-old me,

I’m looking down at my sleeping daughter as I write this letter to you. You won’t believe the journey that has led from 18 to being thirty-one. It has been an incredible ride. I have so many things that I want to tell you. I could talk for hours and hours with lessons learned and mistakes made… but I know the experience will only serve to grow you and teach you. So instead, I’ll summarize some main points that I hope you learn sooner than later. For starters:

1. Don’t get that perm in two years when you move overseas. Yes, England is damp and wet, but perming your hair won’t fix that. I repeat. It will be 2002. DO NOT GET A PERM.

2. When those guys say, “I don’t think we should date any more,” let yourself be sad. That’s fine. But then repeat these words to yourself: “Rejection is a good thing.” I know it sounds harsh, but relationships end in one of two ways: rejection or marriage. You didn’t want those to be marriage. Trust me.

3. You can spend years trying to “find” yourself, but if you identify yourself with an anchor other than your heavenly Father, you will end up in a road that leads to nowhere. Finding my identity in the Lord has been the most freeing and exciting discovery of my life.

4. Who you are is more important that what you want. Let me see if I can explain. I wanted to be in a romantic relationship but it felt like zero guys were interested. So I decided I needed to lose weight to fix that. Long story short, don’t sell out who you are for anything. Don’t let your story get hijacked by bad decisions.When I know the WHO I want to be it helps me choose my “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?” Set your heart and mind on who you want to be … a woman of integrity, honor, compassion, and inspiration. Stay true to your identity in the Lord.

5. You can trust the Lord with the desires of your heart. I know it’s confusing when things don’t happen in your timing or within your parameters, but I want to remind you that God loves to give you GOOD gifts! He’s not waiting to throw your decisions in your face or spoil your plans. His good IS good.

6. Your heart is worth guarding and sharing. Ugh. That word “guard” has become such a touchy one. So here’s what I mean. Love yourself enough to protect your heart from unnecessary hurt. Don’t be careless with your time, your body, or your emotions. But don’t wall yourself up from experiencing real relationships either. We have to risk big to win big. Share, give, and receive love with your heart … just don’t settle for the cheap version.

7. Your mistakes don’t define you. I stand here and acknowldege a long list of life mess-ups. I could label myself easily, stand before you and declare:

Hi, I’m Ginger and I’m a recovering food addict.

Hi, I’m Ginger and I’m a liar.

Hi, I’m Ginger and I’m deceitful.

Hi, I’m Ginger and I’m a recovering bulimic.

All of those statements have been true of my life at one time or another, but I am also united with Christ. His past is my past and His future is my future! He calls me Beloved.

Hi, I’m Ginger and I struggle with food and body image, but I am IN CHRIST.

8. Get out of your comfort zone! Sure, it’s safe to sit by yourself, watch t.v. and spend all of your Saturdays at the library, but growth comes when you are willing to take on challenges. I know you like to hold your cards close and are afraid to share too much, but you have got to get past that fear. This life has too much waiting for you and I don’t think it will be found watching reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

9. God isn’t hiding. I know you want to hear from Him, but don’t make it complicated. He’s not holding out on you. His Word promises that if we seek Him we will find Him. Hayley Dimarco says, “You cannot seek anyone with all your heart in your spare time.” True that. Give Him your time and attention and then be patient. Sometimes He wants you to take a step even if you don’t know what the path ahead looks like. Be brave and keep seeking.

10. Life starts now. Oh, Ginger. This is the message I want you to get through your head and into your heart. Your life will not start when some guy to rides up on a white horse and invites you to be the heroine of his story. You ARE the heroine. Your heavenly Father has given you an amazing life to live, so why are you stuck waiting for someone else to confirm that truth? Life is not on hold until you find “the one.” Life does not start with a corsage, a diploma, a ring, a job, or even the perfect group of friends. Real life begins with Jesus.

Love,
This Ginger

– – – –

These are the truths I would tell my eighteen year-old self. Those main points (really, rethink the perm) are what I would share with any woman if we had the chance to sit down and share a cup of coffee and an hour of time together. So, of course, those are the points that shaped my first book. I can’t wait to share Forget the Corsage with you.

 forget the corsage

More to come…

Following,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: Eyes Up

Yesterday we started walking through M’s complex thoughts about self-worth, anxiety, and what to do when we don’t like how we look or feel. Obviously it’s not something that can be answered in a short blog post or with a pat answer.

Acknowledging the truth, that we will never live up to the world’s standards is essentially step one. Step two is to then choose to live and see ourselves through God’s loving eyes. But step three involves our eyes.

When I get so focused on my own worries, imperfections and failings I get caught in a crazy cycle of self-loathing. One long look in a mirror, a step on a scale, a harsh word from a classmate… any of these can send our self-esteem reeling out of control. So we ground ourselves in truth, and then we look outward!

The truth of the matter is that joy flows most often when we take a step back from ourselves and notice those around us. Joy comes from blessing and encouraging others, rather than focusing on our own needs. When life is “all about me” it leaves little room for the joy that emerges through loving people.

The next time the tears threaten to overtake you, try one of these tips before you give up.

1. Make cookies and give them to friends and neighbors.

2. Write a letter (snail mail!) to a grandparent, relative, or teacher who has been instrumental in your life. Thank them for the role they have had.

3. Leave a flower for someone and don’t tell them who it’s from! Instead just include a note that says, “You matter. Thank you for being you!”  Have fun encouraging from a distance.

4. Go for a walk outside!

5. Turn on some music and dance in your room.

6. Offer to help your mom cook dinner.

7. The next time a volunteer opportunity is presented to you, say “yes”!

8. Go through your closet and collect clothes to donate to a local charity. That sweater you wore once last year might just make someone else’s day.

9. Take time to collect runaway shopping carts in the parking lot and return them to their homes.

10. Commit to only use texting and social media to encourage other people. No more lamenting, moaning, or complaining.

11. Invite someone in your family to go out for lunch, your treat! Plan the “date” and even dress up to make it more special.

12. This list could go on and on, so start making your own!

I know that counting my blessings is a huge kick in the pants when I need to refocus my gaze, but this list can also help in those moments when the hurt threatens to knock us down. We each have so much to give to a world in need!

I pinned this photo on Pinterest this week. I love the thought behind it. Let’s find our passion and get to loving others!

purposeful

Happy Thursday.

Following,
Ginger

Smooth Transitions

Hey Ginger, I am a soon-to-be college freshman! What advice/resources can you recommend for me as I start off on this new journey? –T

Congratulations, T! What an exciting transition you are entering. If you are anything like me, you were ready for your freshman year in college when you were a high school junior. I couldn’t wait for the adventure of starting something so completely different and fresh. New friends, new home, new church, new rules, new classes, new everything!

I’ve been jotting down things to share with you all week long, but I’m hoping other readers will comment with some bits of advice to add to the list!

  1. Remind yourself that change brings grief. This IS going to be so exciting, but it’s also going to be so different. Even if you thrive with change, there is some part of you that will mourn a shift or two. Let yourself be sad. It’s ok and it’s normal. Acknowledge your feelings and grieve… just don’t stay in that place for too long!
  2. Repeat this out loud: “When expectations and reality don’t line up, the only thing left is disappointment.” Your freshman year isn’t going to look like what you see in the movies. (Thank goodness.) The reality of grades sets in and sometimes you need to close your door and study, or even sleep. There will be someone staying up all night long just about every night of the semester. You don’t have to be the person that joins them!
  3. Sit with someone new at lunch. There are no more social stigmas. You can introduce yourself to anyone you like and tell them where you are from and your major. They will in all likelihood, share the same info with you! College is a social blank slate. Make the most of it!
  4. Take your time to visit churches, but I suggest selecting one by the end of your first semester. Having a place to belong will help get you out of bed and to spiritual nourishment. I’d also recommend volunteering at your church. When I was super tired and considering staying home, that obligation to the 4th and 5th grade Sunday School class kept me accountable and responsible!
  5. Don’t let yourself assume that you will meet your spouse in college. I certainly didn’t and I only went on 3-4 dates during my whole 4 year experience. Letting go of that expectation will make reality a lot more pleasant!
  6. There are so many things you can do with your time. Try lots of things – take random classes, and try intramural sports. Just make sure you also remain diligent to the purpose of school: your degree! Focus when it’s time to focus and have fun when it’s time to have fun!
  7. You don’t have to get a tattoo, piercing, or anything else to make college memorable. It’s four years. It will be memorable on it’s own.
  8. If you have the ability to study abroad – go for it! I don’t know of a single person who has ever told me, “I regret those 3 weeks/months I spent in that other country.”
  9. Rather than focusing on “WHAT do I want to do when I grow up?”– May I suggest a different question? “WHO do I want to be when I grow up?” Your job can change; your character and integrity are with you for a lifetime.

And lastly,
10. Live out what God has already spoken! Follow His Word and enjoy the experience. You will find Him on the journey with you at every turn.

My favorite books about transitions, change, and adventures:
“A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller
“Chasing Daylight” by Erwin McManus
“I Married Adventure” by Luci Swindoll

And I have a FAVORITE book that I love to give graduating seniors:
“You are Special” by Max Lucado

Alright friends, what would you add to the list for T?

Following,
Ginger

Interested but not Desperate

Dear Ginger,

So I have a guy friend that I really like. I want to make myself available and convey my interest in him, but I also want to allow him to pursue me and not portray myself as desperate. I find it hard to create a balance, sometimes even more so when we’re already friends. I don’t know how often it’s appropriate for me to call him or initiate seeing him? T

GIRL! Been there. Done that. Bought the T-shirt and then had to take it back because it was the wrong size.

Awesome, I love that you’ve noticed some great characteristics in one of your guy friends. If he really is one of your friends he is already aware that you are “available.” In my mind, not dating someone = available. I remember telling a girl friend that I had “guy problems” with one of my guy friends. I liked him but he wasn’t doing anything about it. She asked me some tough questions.

Girl friend: “Are you dating him?”

Me: “Nope.”

Girl friend: “Has he expressed interest in dating you?”

Me: “Not really.”

Girl Friend: “Is he socially capable and mature?”

Me: “Yes.”

Girl Friend: “Is he coming onto you but not making dating intentions clear?”

Me: “NO!”

Girl Friend: “Then what’s the problem? It doesn’t sound like he has the problem.”

“Guard your heart” is a popular phrase thrown around in Christian dating circles and books. It’s from the book of Proverbs and has a ton of wisdom packed in one very short sentence. It’s a great truth to remember in dating situations. I should protect my heart because it’s valuable. But I often wish Solomon had something to say about the OTHER side of dating… like: “How do I put myself out there?”

After my heart was broken a few times I began to take guarding to the extreme.    I decided enough was enough.  I was not going to do any more grieving… and I took it too far.  I became a giant ice block.  When asked about my opinions or feelings I would change the topic, shy away from sharing, and refrain from making eye contact with the opposite sex. 

I’m the first to admit that I don’t want my heart to run out ahead of me, but at the same time… I can’t close myself off in relationships. Sometimes you have to “put yourself out there.” I have a go-to friend when it comes to relationships.  She’s given me countless words of wisdom over the years and her most frequent comment actually comes from her dad. She was always quick to remind me that if I want to win big, I have to be willing to risk big.

This may come as a shock to you (cough, cough), but men are not mind readers.  I know, this would have been good to know from the beginning, wouldn’t it?  I have sent hundreds of hints toward prospective guys only to find myself saying, “Why isn’t he doing anything?!”  Sometimes they need more than a hint.

-Be specific. Only show ONE guy partiality at a time.

-Be intentional. Ask him about his life and interests; convey that you want to get to know him! Remember the things he tells you.

-Be engaging. Rather than playing it super cool or hard-to-get, try SMILING when you see him!

I very much applaud your desire to have your friend pursue you. And I’m not suggesting that you need to ask him out. I still believe that the relationship needs to start with the guy. But while I admitedly don’t have all the answers, I do think it comes down to a balance of protecting what God has given us while being willing to risk rejection. 

Last minute thoughts:

  1. Don’t act weird around your friend. Just be normal and be you.
  2. Don’t manipulate situations to end up alone with him. If it happens, it happens.
  3. Surround yourself with dreamers and realists. You’re right, it’s fun to rejoice in all of the little happy moments when you like someone. “HE TEXT MESSAGED ME AGAIN!” But guarding your heart is an active decision. Make sure you have friends that are willing to keep you grounded! (And beware of telling the ENTIRE world. Choose a few solid women you trust.)
  4. Spend time with him in all sorts of settings. Get a group together to serve, to play games, and get to know each other. Let him know you are glad when he shows up!
  5. I think you have the freedom to call or text if you want to – you are friends, right? But you also have to know the motives in your heart. If your day is made or destroyed by how quickly he texts back, then I think you are treading on dangerous ground. Anything that has that much power over our emotions could be an indicator of an idol in our lives.
  6. Trust and believe that God has things under control and that your life doesn’t surprise Him! He knows your worries before you express them. Find freedom in placing the desires of your heart with the One who created your heart.
  7. If you find yourself obsessing, pull out Psalm 63 and note David’s love that kept him awake and dreaming at night. How often do we express such devotion to our Heavenly Father?

Relationships are amazing gifts, but with two broken individuals they can quickly become complicated. Continue to filter your emotions through the truth of God’s Word. Be real with yourself and with your trusted advisors. Be open and honest in prayer. Keep this situation in perspective and realize if this truly is to be part of your story, the Master Storyteller knows exactly how to make the characters come together.

Thanks for asking, T! Praying for your heart and your adventure.

Following and Listening,
Ginger

Strained Friendship

Dear Ginger

I have this friend that started cutting herself the other day. I told my teacher at school and now my friend hates me for telling. I don’t know what to do because I really want to keep her as a friend. –A

Dear A,

I want you to know how brave you are. Thank you for taking the time to send in your question, and for caring enough about your friend to make sure she gets the help that she really needs. I am so sorry that you are hurting because of this situation.

While it feels like your action damaged your friendship at the moment, your courage to seek help for your friend is actually the best thing you could have done for her.

The truth is that many teens cope with the hard stuff in their lives by keeping those things to themselves. I know because that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t like the way my body looked and I was desperate for attention, so I began hurting my body in secret. The first step in my healing was the day that I told someone about my dark secret. By bringing my hurt and struggle out in the open it gave that struggle less power. Satan loves to keep us trapped in our secrets.

I do think there are some things you can consider as you work toward healing in this friendship.

  1. Pray for your friend. She needs you to be her friend, but more than anything – she needs to turn to the Great Healer, God. Her hurts are deeper than just on her skin. Cutting is an indication that her heart is in so much pain. Pray for your friend every time that you think of her.
  2. Give her time and space. As you give her a chance to determine how she really feels, continue to develop your relationship with the Lord. Why don’t you try reading some of these verses and then journal about what they have to say regarding friendships, hurt, and healing: Psalm 27:14 and 147:3, Proverbs 12:26 and 18:24, Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Peter 5:7, 1 John 4:7.
  3. Don’t gossip about the situation. I applaud you for telling a teacher. I am so proud of you for speaking up because I know it probably wasn’t easy. But I also want to remind you that this isn’t something you need to share with other friends at school. The quickest way to create an even bigger wedge in this friendship is to have rumors flying about your friend that somehow started because of something you said.
  4. Be ready to listen when she’s finally ready to talk again. I know from experience how much you might want to interject and explain all your reasons for telling, but she’s going to need ample time to explain why she feels hurt and even betrayed.
  5. Be genuine! Tell you friend how you feel about the situation and why it was so important for you to tell the teacher. Make sure you never make her feel as though you are the perfect one and she’s the one with issues. We all have problems and we all experience and process pain in different ways.
  6. Be empathetic. Make sure your friend knows that you care. If we move past pain too quickly and want things “to just get back to normal” before we have time to process them, we miss out on an opportunity to give love to a friend who is really hurting.
  7. Make sure YOU are sharing with a trusted adult about how you are handling the situation. This is going to be a challenging time, especially if your relationship is strained for a while. Open up and share with a teacher, youth leader, counselor or parent about what you are thinking and feeling.

A – thank you for being the kind of friend that helps rather than just stands by and watches someone fall.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NLT

Following,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: Prep

Dear Ginger,

Hi! I’m a freshman in high school and i go to a church where at one winter retreat you spoke to all the girls! Now I’m doing a sermon to my Bible class on 2 Timothy 1:3-12 (verse 7 is my main point) so I was wondering if maybe you could give me some ideas or pointers or anything to help me make an awesome sermon that everyone can enjoy, remember, and learn a lot from. -A

Dear A,

Great question. I feel like I’ve had several people ask me over the past year about how to develop a sermon, message or Bible Study. I don’t have a set list of “to do’s” every time that I speak, but I am happy to share some of the things that help me on a weekly basis!

1.  Know that section of Scripture well!
Read it over and over and fall in love with the Word of God. Your passion for the text will translate into the way you speak about it!

2. Read the passage in multiple translations.
Bible Gateway is a great resource for that. Sometimes I can better understand a passage if I read a different translation. At times New Century Version, New Living Translation, God’s Word Translation, New American Standard Version, the English Standard Version and the Message Version have ALL helped me to better understand a passage.

3. Read the whole chapter of the text that you are working with.
So if I’m speaking on Philippians 3:11-12, I’m at least going to read all of chapter 3, but I would probably understand the verses if I read ALL of Philippians. I should also look for the:
who
what
where
when
and why of a book (This video might help explain that further!)

4. When it’s finally time to develop the message the first step is to pray, and then pray some more!
I have to remind myself that getting guidance from the Lord is going to be the best tool. Sure, I might have lots of ideas for what to say to a group, but I know that God has the PERFECT take-aways for a message.

5. Identify one take-away.
My hope is that even if my audience is distracted or doesn’t pay attention to my whole message, they are at least able to summarize an important point from the message. After I’ve studied and prayed I simplify and write that one phrase or take-away at the top of my notes. Something like “God is the ONLY thing that will ever satisfy” or “God’s promises are all GOOD!”

6. Open up some resources!
Once I have studied and prayed about a passage on my own, I then utilize all the resources I have at my disposal. Here’s a retro Thursday Tip video that will show you what I mean!

Last bits of advice:
Stay real and vulnerable. No one wants to hear how we’ve got it all together.
Keep the message simple.
Practice, practice, practice. The more comfortable you are with your message, the more comfortable your audience will be.
Remember that enthusiasm and energy play a big part in your delivery!
Pray some more.

A- I hope this helps. I can’t wait to hear how the class goes!

Following and Listening,
Ginger

Beneficial Wisdom

Howdy Friends!  We started answering J’s question yesterday regarding how to make decisions when all of the options seem viable and beneficial.

First off today I want to hone in on that last word: beneficial.  Reminds me of a verse in 1 Corinthians.  Check it:

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23

That’s a key point in this argument.  Just because we “can” do something doesn’t always mean it’s the best option.  I can choose to go out to lunch everyday.  This wouldn’t be beneficial to our bank account or my skinny jeans.

So check your options and see if the end result of all the choices would make for a beneficial and constructive outcome.

If all of the options pass that initial test, I believe the next step is to seek some wise counsel.

“Fools are headstrong and do what they like; wise people take advice.” Proverbs 12:15, The Message

“Take good counsel and accept correction— that’s the way to live wisely and well.” Proverbs 19:20, The Message

So how would an advisor help us with difficult choices?

  1. They see our blind spots.
  2. They encourage us to do what is best.

“Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.” Proverbs 15:22, The Message

So who is actually qualified to be our advisor?

  1. Someone who knows God.
  2. Someone who is actively making decisions that honor God.
  3. Someone who is wise.
  4. Someone who is older than you.  (Hear me out!  I think we can glean advice from our peers.  Some of my go-to advice givers are my friends.  But I also need the presence of some people who are a few steps ahead of me in life.)
  5. Someone who knows you.

Yesterday I talked about how I approached a trusted professor to gain advice.  I had spent a significant amount of time with her both in and out of the classroom.  She was mom to three grown kids of her own.  But more than any of these qualifiers I knew she would provide Godly wisdom because of the love she had for God and His Word.

In the end God’s voice is the one we listen for, but He has also poured out wisdom on His people.  You don’t have to enter the decision making process alone.  Link up and seek counsel!

Following,
Ginger

(P.S. I picked up most of these thoughts on seeking counsel from a SOMA North sermon in January of 2009.  Contact me if you’d like more info.)

Thursday Tips: Advice

It seems rather redundant to say that the Thursday Tip is advice.  But here’s the thing, you are going to help provide said advice.  Thank you for contributing to the discussion all week long.  We’re not done yet.

DAY 4 Question: What’s a piece of advice that someone has given you that you now recite or remember frequently?

My answer came to me pretty quickly.  “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  I first heard that saying in 2001 and I probably think about it at least once a week if not more.  I don’t know who the quote is originally attributed to, but I know that it has changed the way that I think about comparing myself to others.

What about you?  What’s a piece of advice that has made it’s way into your everyday life?

Following,
Ginger