Dear Ginger: The fear of being left behind.


Dear Ginger,
As all of many of my close friends from school have been getting into serious relationships and some even getting engaged, I have found myself having a really hard time with the way that my friendships are now changing as a result. I have this constant fear in the back of my head of being left behind. I wanted to ask you if have any advice or encouragement from your season of singleness before getting engaged and then married. Did you have these struggles and if so, how did you handle them?
-M

Dear M,

Thank you so much for sharing your question today. I can totally identify with your struggles.  I know well the fears, the hopes, and the frustrations that you’ve expressed. I spent my teen years and most of my 20’s wondering if I was EVER going to have a relationship. Through those decades there were many weddings to attend, friends to cheer on, bridesmaid dresses to buy… and yet, there I was… still minus the “plus one” portion of my invitations.

Most days I was okay filling my time with ministry, friendships, books, and goals. But catch me near a holiday, wedding, or after a chick flick… and you would have found me weeping on my bed at night, terrified that I would be the only one still on my own while all of my friends built new lives. I look back at those younger versions of myself – 15,18, 20, 23, 26, 27 – and see girl who was trying so hard to be Miss Independent and all the while desperately desiring to be claimed as someone’s “dependent.”

So before I go into my thoughts and suggestions let me just say that I know none of this is going to be a perfect answer. I’m praying right now that it won’t feel like a pat response from a married woman. Half of the books on singleness on Christian bookshelves make me want to roll my eyes and pick up Harry Potter as a diversion instead. “Dance like a wildflower princess!”  Lovely sentiment, but during my seasons of singleness, I just wanted someone to shoot straight and acknowledge that even though I trust the Lord, that sometimes waiting feels awful and painful. And sometimes it feels okay and not bad at all.

I went through a really warped time in my relationship with the Lord where I truly thought that unless I could be happy being a lonely, that I was being disobedient. But there’s a problem with that line of thinking: Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” (Genesis 2:18, NLT)

I felt like I was being more holy by being completely alone. That’s not good. In fact, GOD says it’s NOT GOOD for us to be alone. Yes, He has given us the gift of marriage, but He has also given us the gift of platonic relationships. Life is going to contain some lonely parts, but I don’t think we should punish ourselves with it. Some seasons will hold more friendships and relationships. Others will require that we depend upon the Lord and remain thankful for a small circle of friends.

I also had a time in my life where I honestly believed that as long as I wanted “a someone” or to be married, that God was going to hold out on me until I learned to be content in the current situation. And while God does sometimes desire to teach us patience, there was another problem with my line of thinking.

And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:9-13, NLT)

I would tell my 20-something year old self that It’s okay to hope for and want marriage. It’s ok to want a relationship. It’s ok to ASK for a relationship. You don’t have to be ashamed of your requests or fearful of His response. Trust His timing and His desire to see you live an exciting and heroic story full of love.

But what do we do when everyone around us seems to be moving into a new season of life? We have to remember that relationships are seasonal. I’m working through that very concept with my counselor each week. I broke down crying out of loneliness and fear that I don’t give my friends enough attention. 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. Mourning that change is healthy and necessary. We just have to be careful about hanging our happiness on a friendship or relationship. Of course it’s sad to see any relationship change, but we have to know that some friendships are seasonal. Will you still be able to find joy in the life God has given you even if your friendships change?

I think it’s also okay that you aren’t overwhelmed with joy for your friends right now. I think your heart to love them in spite of that fact shines through in the way you are seeking wisdom and advice during this season. You want to be joyful for your friends, I can hear it in the way you wrote about them. So why not ask? Cry out to God, surrendering your hurt and desires to Him a thousand times a day if you have to. Just remember that through every season, God is with you. He is near and not far off.

As you pray, acknowledge the blessings in your life. Ask God to show you ways you aren’t alone, and give thanks. I hope that you do have friends with whom you can be your real self – even the hurt, disappointed and tear-stained version of yourself. We don’t have to go through the hard seasons alone. Rather than turning inward, let the community around you lift you up during this time. It’s okay to be the one who needs the encouragement!

I tend to find joy when I look outward. I know that my own pain is magnified when I focus all of my attention on me. Continue to serve and love those around you. Let yourself enjoy serving, giving, and receiving love.

Again – my hope and humble prayer is that God will somehow use this rambling post to remind your heart how specifically and tenderly He loves you… in this and every season.

Following,
Ginger

p.s. You might check out an older series that touches on some of these themes: Live a better [love] story.

Love as a Vow

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 then 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.

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

Love is an active choice… day in and day out.

Learning to love,
Ginger

Love Like That

I stumbled onto the topic of loving others this week because I feel like I’m doing a pretty poor job of it in my own life.

I wrote in my prayer journal just last week LOVE THESE PEOPLE. And then I proceeded to list about 50 names of people all over the country with whom I have established relationships. (Meaning more than just Facebook.) Some I’ve met only once, some I’ve known my entire life, but regardless, they are names that I should be more active in pursuing.

I know relationships are seasonal, that some of them can be picked up right where they are left off, and that some even thrive without much communication. But I also know that loving people takes more than just thinking nice thoughts about them and putting their names on your prayer list.

I feel guilty. I feel like I pull inward more and more with each passing day. I seek out things I enjoy and that make me comfortable. But I’m not calling, writing, and actively loving the people God has placed in my life. I want to love my neighbors, church friends, girlfriends, blog friends, high school friends, college friends, new friends, Cambodian refugee friends, old colleagues, family friends, family, teens, mentors, mentees… you get the idea.

So to combat my frustration I went on a communication flurry this past weekend. I left phone messages, sent texts, and started creating elaborate e-mails in my mind. I bought a few cards and put them in the mail. But I didn’t actually get to connect with anyone over the phone. We didn’t make it to dinner with friends on Friday or Saturday. I felt like a failure… but I also just felt tired.

Relationships require effort. And I think I often choose easy rather than effort.

And now I sit with a blinking cursor trying to come up with a way to encourage you to love your friends, families, and neighbors. But how do I talk about something when I fail miserably at that very something myself?

After the giant list of names in my journal I made a box on the page and wrote two sentences.

HELP ME, LORD.

HELP.

I don’t really have much to offer from my side of things. My own wisdom is pretty futile. My side of a conversation is usually selfish. My best efforts fall short of the example set for me. My strength isn’t enough.

But if I do things out of His strength… if I seek to love out of the love that first loved me, and I speak the truth in love, and I pray earnestly, and ask questions, and just care… it’s a start.

I have to remember that just because I fail at something today doesn’t mean I can’t improve tomorrow. Hopefully this wake-up call will serve to re-energize my love for others – those I know and those I haven’t yet met.

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” – Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)

 I want to love like that.

Still Learning,

Ginger

 

A New Command

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:35, MSG

“God’s definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love.” 
-Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

“We need to stop plotting the course and instead just land the plane on our plans to make a difference by getting to the “do” part of faith. That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.”
-Bob Goff, Love Does

This week we are exploring love in our communities, friendships, relationships, and families. It’s sometimes easy for me to confuse reading and writing about love with actually loving others. I desperately need that reminder every day. Love is active. What about you?

Following and learning,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: The Fear of Dependence

This week we are combatting some fears with truth, gusto, and some honesty.

Long story short: sometimes I think it makes me seem really brave and super spiritual if I can do life without the help or support of anyone else. And I can… for a while. But eventually I realize that I’m lonely, fearful, and not growing in the ways I should be. It’s way easier for me to feel super spiritual by myself. Add someone else to the equation and my selfishness quickly asserts itself. Uggh.

We weren’t created to fly solo. We were made for community.

So today I wanted to share a favorite Retro Thursday Tip via video and remind us all how we can cultivate a growing community by setting up a network. Want to hear more? Press play.

Community is hard, but I think it’s worth it.

“Considering what Adam went through to appreciate Eve to the utmost, I wondered how beautiful it is that you and I were created to need each other. The romantic need is just the beginning, because we need our families and we need our friends. In this way, we are made in God’s image. Certainly God does not need people in the way you and I do, but He feels a joy at being loved, and He feels a joy at delivering love. It is a stinking thought to realize that, in paradise, a human is incomplete without a host of other people. We are relational indeed. And the Bible, with all its understanding of the relational needs of humans, was becoming more meaningful to me as I turned the pages. God made me, He knows me, He understands me, and He wants community.”

-Donald Miller, Searching for God Knows What

_ _ _

Community: do you want to run after it or away from it? Why?

Learning and Following,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: Heart Burn

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23, NIV

Guarding your heart isn’t the same as locking it up. Go figure.

Today’s Thursday Tip is a retro video post, but it’s one of my favorites. Grab a plate, hit play and let’s chat heart to heart…

Keep sharing and guarding.

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

Dear Ginger: HELP PLEASE

photo by Andrea Alley, 2011

Dear Ginger,

Lately I have been having tons of guy problems. Many guys are “asking” me for stuff if you know what I mean. Some were really good guy friends… well I guess they’re not good guy friends anymore. But each time it gets harder and harder to say no. SO MUCH PEER PRESSURE! And it seems like each time I say no the relationship gets weaker and weaker. I don’t want to lose them as friends but I also don’t want to be known as the ‘slut’ of the grade. Its just getting harder and harder going to school and seeing the guys that “ask” me for stuff and not being able to say anything about it. I can’t tell my parents about it or they will FREAK OUT! HELP PLEASE. –K

Dear K,

Thank you so much for entrusting me with your question. I can feel the anxiety pouring through this paragraph. Let’s walk through what you’ve shared and make sure I understand the situation:

#1. Guys who were your good friends are asking you for “stuff.”
#2. You don’t think they are such good friends any more.
#3. You don’t want to give them what they are asking for.
#4. When you say “no” you feel like the relationship suffers.
#5. You don’t want to lose their friendship.
#6. In order to not lose their friendship you will have to do things that will make you feel or be perceived as “the slut of the grade.”
#7. Your resolve is weakening each time: it gets harder to say no.
#8. You want help to know what to do.

It’s obvious that you are really struggling. I’m so sorry that you’ve been put in a position where you feel like you have to choose between the person you want to be and the friends that you want to have.

I don’t think those guys are behaving like friends at all. They are making your friendship conditional based on you doing something you don’t want to do. Think about it this way: what if some of your girl friends demanded that you rob a convenience store in order to hang with them? I know it’s not a perfect analogy, but I just want to show the ridiculousness of what these guys are demanding. They are not treating you with respect, much less common decency. Frankly, I wouldn’t hang out with guys that speak to me inappropriately, much less call them my friends. I’m just being honest with you.

You, K, get to decide who you want to be and how you want to handle your relationships. That is not a decision to be made by a teenage boy. Say “NO” like you mean it. Make eye contact. The more certain you are in your refusal, the less they will bring it up. I think you should make this part conditional in your friendship. Either they back off or you back out of this twisted friendship. Trust me, there are too many godly men in this world to waste our time and give up the goods for impatient boys. It may seem like a tough choice now, but the you in the future will thank the you of today for standing firm.

You are a precious daughter of the King of the Most High!

“Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father’s house. 
The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.” Psalm 45:10-11

These boys would be smart to realize that truth and drop this issue NOW. Girl, this is a form of sexual harassment. Don’t think it’s just going to go away. Take a stand for yourself and for your Heavenly Father! If the boys don’t get the immediate hint, it’s time to tell a teacher or even your parents. Don’t stay silent on this one.

The truth is, and I hope you know this – you will only feel fulfilled and complete when you let God be your first love. No man – especially one who is not treating you the way you deserve to be treated – will even come close.

We are surrounded by a great cloud of people whose lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back. Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1-2, NCV

Praying you stand firm and run the race,
Ginger

Friday Finds: Heartache Help

Fact: We all experience rejection.  (Sometimes on a daily basis.)

It can be a tough road to navigate – especially in relationships.  So the last point I want to make about navigating through heartache is that we need to learn to embrace rejection.

I present to you, “The Art of Rejection” by Halyley DiMarco & Michael DiMarco.  I’ve quoted their book several times over the past week with good reason. This little book helped me to view my own breakup with rational and logical thoughts. I couldn’t get past my wounded feelings and needed fresh perspective.

The DiMarcos firmly and gently helped me to navigate all of the emotions and dilemmas that come along relationship rejection.

From the back cover:  Rejection Happens.  And it’s never fun.  But with the right perspective, you can turn it into something positive.  Learn how to view rejection as an art form instead of a painful experience that requires healing.  In The Art of Rejection you’ll find…

-Reasons why it’s okay to break up

-Do’s and Don’t of calling it quits

-What to do when rejection happens to you

This book didn’t just help me in dating relationships, I’ve referred to this book countless times when I feel rejected by friends, acquaintances, and even places of employment.  If you are struggling to move past a broken relationship, this might be a great little book for you.

I’ll close with one of my favorite paragraphs from the book:

“YES, you are good enough, but you aren’t for them. Those are two different issues.  YOUR goodness has nothing to do with them.  You are two different people with two different lives that happened to cross.  Just because this person has rejected you doesn’t mean you are defective or bad.” The Art of Rejection

May we always remember in the midst of our heartaches that we serve a God who is all too familiar with feelings of rejection and hurt.  “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”  Isaiah 53:3

Following,
Ginger

(The bulk of this post is from a previous entry in April of 2011.)