The Real Problem

It’s not you, it’s me. No. I’m not just using a line. I’m being serious because I am the problem. Unless you’re reading this post after you’ve made a dumb mistake, in which case– you are the problem.

Last week I got into the Christmas spirit and did some cookie baking. I used the Sara Lee mix and followed the cutout recipe. I melted the better, measured the flour and poured in the cookie mix and I mixed and mixed. Twenty minutes of mixing, my dough wouldn’t stick. Thirty minutes went by. No matter how much I mixed and kneaded and dropped on the counter, my dough would not hold. I rolled the dough out and watched it separate before my eyes when it should have maintained its form and spread out. I stubbornly pressed the cookie cutter into it anyway and watched the dough fall apart instead of adhering to the shape of the cutter.

You know you’re doing something wrong when you’re baking cookies  and you’re so frustrated that you’re on the brink of tears and you actually start to contemplate tossing the cookie dough in the trash. No problem is too small for my Jesus. There I stood at my counter, kneading and praying. Praying to Jesus for the wisdom to form the perfect dough. God’s got this. And yet there I stood, twenty minutes after having prayed with no change. I think I started to get a little angry at God for not helping me out. Baking cookies is very simple so why couldn’t He just give me a hand?

I paused my mixing long enough to turn to the other counter in my kitchen when I saw it: the egg. The egg that was supposed to be in my bowl of cookie dough was still sitting on the counter. Oops. I felt like an idiot.

“There’s a spiritual lesson in here somewhere….” I thought to myself.

 

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It’s not You it’s me. It’s not you it’s me.

God isn’t the problem. Your friend isn’t the problem. Your teacher isn’t the problem. Your boss isn’t the problem. Your boyfriend isn’t the problem. Your parent isn’t the problem. You get where I’m going with this.

You are the problem.

How many times have you gotten mad at someone close to you because their actions have upset you? Because they’ve been ‘inconsiderate’, ‘rude’, ‘disrespectful’, ‘insensitive’, etc.? How many times have you rationalized your anger? Have you told yourself that things would be different if they just changed or if the scenario were different?

Let me be less vague and be a little vulnerable– I haven’t done that in a while.

I spent a lot of 2016 getting angry at a friend of mine. I had strong feelings for this friend and was hypersensitive to any and all of their actions. If they didn’t answer my texts, I thought they were ignoring me because they thought I was annoying. If they talked to someone else more than they talked to me, I was jealous. If they were curt and didn’t acknowledge the times when I would go out of my way to do something for them, I was hurt. If they flirted with me and paid attention to me, I was hopeful. Until they ignored my texts again or flirted with someone else or didn’t notice how much I cared for them. It was a vicious cycle.

I told myself a thousand times, “if they just (fill in the blank with any action), things would be different.”

“If they treated me like this”

“If we spoke about this”

“If we got to know each other more”

Blah blah blah, essentially, things would be different. So I thought. So I hoped. So I was wrong.

Things wouldn’t be different because the situation and the other person didn’t need to change. I did. My perspective, my actions, my attitude all needed to change in order for me to break the cycle.

When I was trying to form those ingredients into cookie dough, I used all of my strength and efforts and even called on God for help. Nothing I did made a difference because I didn’t remember that I had left the egg on the counter. I didn’t see it. When I turned around to the other counter, my perspective was widened. I could see things ( the egg) that I didn’t see before. Things with my friend and I weren’t that different. When I spend time with him or talk to him– what I text him; what I don’t text him; what I wear around him; what I say to him. With every detail, I secretly hope ingredients are being mixed together to change how he views me and to form dough, which in this case is a more solid bond between the two of us.

I keep missing the egg. The biggest detail. Without it, no matter how hard I try, that dough will not form. Love. I can work as hard as I want, but love will always be the missing ingredient that makes it impossible for the dough to form, which is why I’m the problem. I think I can will something to happen with my own actions instead of believing in The Holy One’s plans. It doesn’t matter what my friend says or does or what I say or do; as long as love isn’t in the mix, that dough will not form.

Now what about your situation? What’s the missing ingredient in your relationships?  Is it one that can be easily added? Or is God calling you to throw out your batch of dough?

 

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Love, An Overused Word & an Underused Action

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The first Christmas my boyfriend and I were dating he got me expensive jewelry. The next Christmas he got me ceramic popcorn bowls, headphones & a dry erase board. I don’t make the comparison to show the quantity of gifts, but to show the quality difference. The jewelry made me happy & I wear it often, but those popcorn bowls made me gush. I love jewelry, but I’ve never been the girl to need it on holidays. I’m simple, I’m addicted to popcorn, I break headphones often and I love sharing my thoughts, and in that year my boyfriend definitely learned all of these things.

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Okay so last night I had a pretty interesting dream that was, you guessed it, about Hallmark’s favorite four-letter word: l o v e. The person I dreamt about made me realize something important: love is an overused word and an underused action.

In the dream they said even if someone tells them they love them, if that love isn’t shown and isn’t felt by the one receiving it, how do they know it’s true.

That person is right meaning that the literary concept “show don’t tell” need not be applied to writing alone, but to love as well. While there’s power in saying the words “I love you” or “Jesus loves you” or “you’re loved,” there’s even more power in showing love.

Showing love is probably one of the hardest things to do. An act of love to one person may mean nothing to someone else and vice versa. So how do we show people love? I’m gonna be honest, I’ve been staring at this screen for a while trying to think of an answer and a few decent ones have crossed my mind, but I’m only writing about the one I think is best.

You show someone you love them by learning about them.

I believe this is the best way to show someone you love them because when you decide to learn about someone you decide to shatter the exterior that they present to the world. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or significant other the implications are the same. You sacrifice time, energy, even money to really understand who they are. In doing this you acknowledge that the good parts and the bad parts about them aren’t sold separately, so you study both.

You study both because you want to pass the tests– their tests. No I don’t mean they’re going to test you to see if you love them. I mean the tests and trials that life brings them. So that when they’re upset you know what part of their past is weighing them down. So that when they’re in trouble you know how to help. So that when they’re mad you know what will bring them peace. So that when they tell you “it’s okay” when their face says it’s not, you’ll know how to comfort them. So that when they feel alone you can tell them they’re not because you’re by their side. Not just standing next to them, but walking with them and holding their hand when they don’t know which way to go.

Now there are of course many more action ways to show someone you love them and trust me when I say I considered making a list of them. I didn’t because I believe that before you can get into the action ways of showing love, you need to delve into this aspect of it. If you try to answer questions on a test without learning the material you’re going to fail. If you try to show someone love without learning about them first, you’re going to fall short.

7 Things I wish I Realized When I Was Single

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With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I felt the need to blog about 7 things I’ve learned about dating.

1) Being in a relationship sucks sometimes.

In movies they make it seem as though a relationship is the answer to all of ones questions and problems, that once you find your “one true love” all will be right and happy in the world (Disney especially gets the blame for this). In typical Hollywood formula most films show the process of getting together followed by the fight where we think it’s over then, TA DA, the couple makes up, kisses, and rides off into the sunset and they live happily ever after. Meanwhile in real life relationships require a lot of time, work and selflessness. There are times when the other person will frustrate and drive you crazy  and you’ll do the same to them and those are the times when you have to humble yourself and be prepared to apologize and/or forgive. Those latter two steps are far from easy, but if you’re with the right person, those two steps are more than worth it.

2) You cannot just fall into the street and meet Mr. Right

Contrary to what Anna in Frozen and many other females think (myself at one point included), the perfect relationship won’t necessarily come from meeting a stranger on the street so ladies, please stop dreaming. The stranger who helps you up after you fall or that does a random good deed is likely just that, a stranger that did a good deed. The best relationships often come out of friendships. They come from that place when you spend time with someone, getting to know who they really are and being comfortable showing them who you really are. I’m not saying that you have to be friends with someone before dating them, but I am saying that there’s something incredible when you find love in the place you least expected it.

3) A relationship will not make you feel any more secure

If you look in the mirror and fail to see what a beautiful, wonderful person you are when you’re single, you’re certainly not going to be able to see it when you have someone else telling you. Any insecurities and worries you may have are actually likely magnified in a relationship because rather than knowing you’re an incredible person for yourself, you’ll constantly wait for the other person to give you that affirmation and if/when they don’t give it to you, you’ll feel disappointed. Know you’re beautiful because that is how God made you, as a beautiful human being that is unique in every way.

4) Your crush that you think would make a perfect boyfriend won’t

Too many times females have the bad habit of falling for a guy that will not fall back. We spend time over analyzing and strategizing ways to talk to them while we obsessively rant to our friends about why they’re so perfect (those that don’t know what I’m talking about must immediately watch He’s Just Not That Into You). If you’re that antsy about a crush that you either barely know or know very well, then chances are that you don’t like them, you just are in love with the idea of them. To be in love with the idea of someone is to idolize that person and to prepare oneself for heartbreak, disappointment, rejection– you name it.

5) Do not date someone just because they like you

People want to be wanted, which is fine, but also not fine. If your desire to be wanted is so strong that you’re willing to be with someone for the sake of it, then that’s a problem. Of course you can date someone that’s interested to see if there’s a chance there, but if after many dates, their feelings are growing and yours are still none existent you should absolutely cut it off for the sake of their feelings and your own. Feelings can develop in time, but why would you wanna force something that may never come. I guarantee you, if that person loves you and you’re with them for the wrong reasons– I hate to be cliche, but– when the going gets tough, you’re going to get going. And at that point even if you don’t romantically have feelings for that person, you’ll still care about them and you will feel awful when you hurt them.

6) Everything happens for a reason

Every rejection, every heartbreak and every tear is for a reason. Don’t analyze the reason, just accept the moment and cherish its lesson. Cherish singleness especially. There’s something divine you’re learning in it, be it strength to stand on your own or the ability to make more time showing love to a multitude of people. So embrace and be wise with your time as a lone ranger.

7) Just do it!

When you’ve found the person that isn’t perfect, that drives you crazy, that you can be yourself around, that makes you happy, that challenges you to be a better person and that doesn’t just make you feel loved, but that you love, go for it and cherish them. Because I recently realized that it’s not just about being in any relationship, it’s about giving up your singleness for the person who’s worth it.

2013 A Year of Learning to Love

2013 has been incredible! I went to some great concerts, went on a summer mission project, found a church home in Boston, fell deeper in love with my boyfriend, saw how generous people can be, learned to really  trust God, learned “The Way of Love” (1 Corinthians 13), learned how to be more intentional with people, learned to manage time when I actually have  a busy life & saw how much better your life is when you surrender all to God :).

Of all the things 2013 taught me, I feel compelled to share in greater depth what it taught me about love. First I remembered something I’d known for a long time: love is about risk. Friend, family, boyfriend/girlfriend, when you pour love into any of these relationships you run the risk of being hurt. I’ve always been scared of that risk because when I take it if I don’t receive the love that I’m giving, I feel frustrated, upset and even bitter. This then releases my defense mechanism: I put up a wall and vow to show less love to avoid future hurt. Super smart, right? Wrong. I tried to justify this mindset and It wasn’t until a challenge my boyfriend gave me that I realized that I had to stop. The challenge was posed when he pointed out this flaw and asked me “What are you going to let God do about that?” …

Prayer, a week’s reflection and memorizing of 1 Corinthians 13 are the starting steps of what I let God do. In doing this I learned that true love is given selflessly, with the expectation of nothing in return. It’s given humbly, with a shock if you do receive anything in return. It’s given with forgiveness, care, surrender, kindness, patience, etc. and most importantly, it’s always given. These things are all often easier said than done, but with much prayer & intentionality, they can be done. And when they are done, the results will be incredible. So I challenge all in the coming new year not to just love your friends and family, but to love all you come into contact with, including & especially those that have hurt you in the past. Love with sacrifice, grace, humility, but most importantly, just get out there & love :).

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

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Accidental Love

Single. One word, one simple word, but when you’ve been that one word your entire life that word defines you, and its definition can frustrate you when you’re an insecure female. Everywhere you look you see movies, shows, books, reality of happy couples and people in love. You question why it can’t happen to you. Why you always fall for the jerks that mistreat you and guys that just don’t fall back. You chase enough Mr. Wrongs until one day you start to believe you are Ms. Wrong. But that’s when the fun can start. When you can fully let your guard down and meet someone by accident. Someone that you see as a potential friend and that sees you as a “dude” to chill with. And then something magical takes place. When you see that mere friend as something more. And when you find out that that something more feeling is mutual. Then you take a risk on each other. A risk down the line that makes you realize that all of your past heartaches and rejections were worth it :).

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Let Hate’s Response Be Love

What would happen if we lived in a world where people cared about others more than they cared about themselves? If we lived in a world where hate was nonexistent; where apologies were in abundance and forgiveness ran in an endless supply. I’ve always been a bit bothered by the way that our society imposes the idea of “entitlement” on us. Entitlement as in, we are entitled to be respected, understood, and well, treated well. I know I sound crazy for thinking that that mindset is a bad thing, but because of it, too often, we hate, refuse to forgive, and are just plain mean. I myself struggle with being kind when I’m mistreated too– especially when it’s the same person mistreating me day after day. I question why they act this way when I deserve better. This mindset of mine that springs from entitlement never leads to anything good. It often leaves me disappointed with myself.

One of my favorite bible verses is Matthew 5:44: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”  I love that verse because of how bizarre it is. I try to live by it, but I fail quite often. That’s the beauty of God and a relationship with Him; when we fail, He still loves us. Also,  He uses those failures to show that He will help us to do better next time because honestly, in our own strength, it’s nearly impossible to show love to those that, according to our culture, don’t deserve it. That’s where we can begin to apply this bizarre logic. We can remove our sense of entitlement, and turn the tables so that we see ourselves as the ones that don’t necessarily deserve anything good. In doing this, I think it becomes easier to stop focusing on what we deserve, and to start concentrating on how we can show love to those around us no matter how they may treat us. Let hate’s response be love, and disrespect be met with compassion; for when we put others before ourselves, we will truly experience something great.