MRP Interview: Jessica Santosa

This year, the Modern Ruth Project will feature occasional interviews with specialists and professionals who are experienced in each month’s topic. This month, I had a delightful and insightful conversation with international Christian dating coach, Jessica Santosa. 

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Jessica Santosa (www.jessica-santosa.com)

MRP: How did you get into relationship/dating coaching?

Jessica: After 5 years [of being] single and unconvinced that sitting in my bedroom, praying and waiting for men in my church to ask me out wasn’t working, in 2014, I secretly enlisted a secular dating coach that utterly transformed my life . That was when the concept of even having a dating coach was introduced to me!

I’m talking late night YouTube videos, headphones in, quilt overhead, fully immersed in this guy’s work. He educated me on the male mind, why I kept trainwrecking relationships, and what bits of the past gave no help to my present. During this time, I wasn’t sure if God approved of my new obsession with dating advice. I had been following Jesus since I was 17. Now I was 26, incredibly frustrated, confused and felt largely judged by the people in my church. Looking back,  I realize that perhaps He was leading me to fill a gap in the Kingdom, which is now my joy, honor, and privilege.

With my dating coach, I gained a clandestine sort of power. I also learned that I was the prize to be won. I finally started to have fun being single and had a revelation of my own worth and beauty. My confidence soared, and I enjoyed connecting with people wherever I went. I would get a number of offers to go on dates from men in and outside of church, and the Lord gave me peace about that process. I realized dating could be this really enjoyable season where a woman learns the power of her femininity in Christ without losing herself,  that she could be the chooser, firm in who she is and what she wants.

During 2014 through 2016,  I was simply desperate to get to the bottom of what I call a “broken Christian dating culture.” I started recording these theories for entertainment on my personal blog, complete with Canva designed cartoon-like illustrations, making fun of myself and my experiences. My pastor, my friends, and my connect group were incredibly supportive and enjoyed these articles, saying they felt refreshed and relieved by the honesty! The churches I grew up in were good at teaching marriage, leadership and serving, but not so helpful on teaching singles to date with honesty, enjoyment and strategy.

The drive solidified when I learned that I had 6 committed Christian friends who were already divorced. Out of the six, 3 told me how they first got together, and many discussed about how “God gave them a word” or “They were just so madly in love they went ahead with the wedding.” Many rode on the expectations and excitement of their community, honestly thinking they were making the right decision, only to find that the voices of others overrode their own judgement of the person they [were marrying].

The state of Christian dating culture in Sydney, Australia [my home country] left many of my peers confused and frustrated. The more I wrote, the more my peers praised my candid, brutally honest accounts. My blog was found by Match UK, who then asked me to contribute to the Christian Dating section of their website. 

Then text message screenshots from girlfriends and guy friends alike started rolling in. I would write scripts back to my friends,  telling them what to say to the people they were dating. And soon I became the dating coach of my church community. 

One day, I experimented with a banner ad on my website for a free 15 minute Love Readiness Assessment, and attracted clients from the UK, Albania, Canada, the U.S., and  Australia. And that was when I realized the bride of Christ is in need of a dating coach who understands the problems unique to her context as Kingdom people. I can’t believe the amount of people that tune [into my Instagram Live show] (all 55 of them every Saturday, hooray!). The heart is something every Jesus-loving single is desperate to get right under God’s biblical direction. 

MRP: What are the benefits of enlisting a dating coach?

Jessica: We go to a personal trainer if we want to increase in health and strength. We go to a financial advisor to learn how to budget, invest and handle money. Women succeed in their vocations because they do some formal training in their chosen careers, but rarely are people taught how to intentionally build a healthy romantic relationship.

My clients receive a coach who is fully invested in their love lives and will guide them on how to navigate the dating jungle from wherever they are in their journey. I’ve been a Christian for 13 years, went to Bible college for 2, and worked in the helping profession for 8 years. It’s my obsession and hunger to consume wisdom on how to do rich, meaningful relationships God’s way. I was also 5 years single and experienced what it was like to be lonely, horny, and desperate, but managed to grasp onto God’s hand into peace, enjoyment and freedom in dating.

MRP: Why do you think it’s so hard to date as a Christian woman?

Jessica:

  • Overspiritualization: Too much praying in bedrooms about it and not enough taking small risks to just meet people and put yourself out there.
  • Comparison & unrealistic standards: Many Christian women I’ve coached spend too many hours comparing themselves to the couples preaching on the pulpit, and think “I won’t settle for anything less than that.” What it’s really about is thrashing it out with God about who you are and what your mission is. We’re the Body of Christ for a reason where every ligament does its different job!
  • Fear of judgment: I encourage my clients to go on lots of dates, whether through dating apps or accepting coffee from the guy in her Bible study, even if she’s not that into him. Dating experience is so taboo in the church context, when actually that’s been recommended by experts as the path to gaining a full understanding of what character and emotional style will be best suited to you. I was casually dating 4 wonderful, marriage-minded Christian guys so I could make an informed decision about who my life partner would be, until the Holy Spirit led me to the ONE right man.
  • Negativity bias: I’ve had some amazing successful Christian women quote dreary statistics to me about how there are significantly less men than women out there, until I told them I was accepting casual dates from 4 eligible Christian guys before I decided to become exclusive with one. (BTW: That one turned out to be the love of my life!) And I’m sure I figured it out through having a wide berth of dating experience, which trained me on how to pick the right guy!

MRP: What are some of the most common dating mistakes Christian women make?

Jessica:

  • Emotionally over-investing way too early in the process. I think this is caused by how rarely Christian guys ask us out for coffee. So much that the Christian woman jumps at the opportunity when “this must be it.” Compatibility is ascertained by prolonged loving actions over time, not a whirlwind romantic pursuit, as lovely as it feels in the moment!
  • Sitting pretty: Call me a hard-line pragmatist, but I think too many Christian women are “waiting” and not doing enough “acting.” Go out there, network, strike up friendly conversations with guys and girls alike!
  • Misunderstanding godly femininity and masculinity: Women need men and men need women! Both sexes benefit from serving each other when we reflect God in the complimentary ways we have been created. I find that much of my content surrounds educating women on the male mindset. For example, a woman may start the conversation with a man, but then it’s up to him to pursue her. Because if she chases the man, it robs him of his “masculine birthright” to chase, pursue, and win her.

MRP: What are the biggest obstacles faced by Christian women in the dating world? How can they be overcome?

Jessica: Standing firm as God’s daughter in the secular dating context, and funnelling out meaningful dating experiences from dross. Also, denying our sexual appetite is a huge obstacle, and the church are not giving clear answers on how to deal with these desires. I am blessed in that my church regularly invites a Christian sexologist to speak at the young adults conferences. But the topic is so difficult to navigate that many women reach 30 and relax their standards because they are tired of waiting and feeling ashamed.

To be honest, I’m not sure on how to overcome this. I know the desire for sex lessened for me once I fell in love with my boyfriend because our emotional and spiritual connection is so strong. Now waiting until we’re married is without question.

MRP: What advice would you give Christian women who have never been on a date or in a relationship?

Jessica: I’d say,  “You’re amazing, but you need to stop taking yourself so seriously. Download CoffeeMeetsBagel and have fun!” Honestly! If you’ve followed the Lord for a long time, trust in your ability to maintain your boundaries, and enjoy getting to know guys slowly at the cross road of building connection and potential romance.

MRP: What relationship resources (books, sites, programs) would you recommend to a single Christian woman?

Jessica: 


MRP thanks Jessica for sharing her wisdom with us! Learn more about Jessica and her coaching at www.jessica-santosa.com and follow her on Instagram (@jessica.santosa) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jessica.santosa). Also, Jessica has published an e-book, “The Five Foundations To Attract Your Mr Right.”  The book details five building blocks to changing your dating habits. You can get the first chapter as a FREE download by clicking here: (http://www.jessica-santosa.com/shop/the-five-foundations-to-attract-your-mr-right)

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Ask MRP!

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Dear MRP,

Last month, I was introduced to this guy by a friend of mine. We hit off (or so I thought) and began talking every other day. But then, a week ago, he pulled back and hasn’t been in contact, despite my attempts. I’m not sure what I did but it left me feeling kind of hurt and confused. It was only a short ‘conversationship’ and logically, I know I should just let it go but it still bothers me. How do I get over this?

—Hurt & Confused


Dear Hurt & Confused,

I’m sorry you’re going through this. False starts and fizzled burgeoning relationships are never fun. They end for variety of reasons, sometimes, very mysteriously like your situation. But I don’t think you should feel wrong about being affected by it.

I think you have a case of what I call ‘disbelief whiplash’. The promise of a successful relationship begins to rotate your view but a sudden enigmatic reversal snaps it back. If you had your hopes, that’s natural. And as a result, it’s also natural to feel let down when it ends. Also, it may not be because of anything you did. There could be a myriad of reasons for this guy’s disappearing act. Don’t collect guilt when it doesn’t have your name written on it.

Lastly, remember that God allows things to end for a reason. The electricity of a new relationship may divinely melt into a fizzle before it even takes off. And that’s for the best.

I pray that you continue to trust God in this and seek His best for you.

-Jen @ MRP


Have a question for Ask MRP? Send it to modernruthproject@gmail.com.

Ask MRP!

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Dear MRP,

I had been dating this great guy for two months when he decided he no longer wanted to see me. He said I was nice but a little “too much” for him. When I asked him what he meant, he said, “You’re a little loud.” I was surprised and disappointed. I don’t remember shouting or raising my voice at anyone whenever we were together. But I do tend to be outgoing and love chatting with new people. But I’m thinking I should tone it down in order to keep him. What should I do?

—Too Much


Dear Too Much,

It can be troubling when your personality is described in negative terms, especially by a romantic interest. Cosmetics and hair products can easily refurbish appearance. But personality is the engine inside the fresh coat of paint.  It’s what powers you, it’s who you are.

And I want to assure you that there is nothing wrong with who you are. Sanguine conversational people like you are literally the life of the party. They spark conversations, form and strengthen bonds, and lighten the mood of every arena they enter.

With that being said, I don’t think you should dilute your personality in order to win him back. Suppressing your disposition, how God made you, won’t last for long and may leave you both unhappy.

For example, there’s this toy called the Shape Ball.

The ball has openings in the shapes of a triangle, square, circle, star, pentagon, etc. The goal is to match the shape of the opening with the shape of the piece and drop it inside the ball. I’d watch my baby cousins play with it. And being babies, they couldn’t get the hang of it. They didn’t understand that the circle couldn’t be placed inside the star opening. The circle with its smooth curves and the sharp angled star slot weren’t the same. After a couple of minutes of trying and dotting the air with squeals of frustration, they would pound the circle into the opening until it eventually dropped inside the ball. But it’s not supposed to be there.

Just like that toy, you can try to force a connection, pretend to fit with someone who doesn’t quite match you. So you bang the bond into looking like it works but it doesn’t. And now you’re with the circle when you were meant to be with the star.

Your personalities are different and that’s OK. Don’t change yourself to make it work because God has a better fit for you.

I hope this blesses you. Praying for you as you embrace your personality and wait for God’s best.

-Jen @ MRP


Have a question for Ask MRP? Send it to modernruthproject@gmail.com.

January/February: I Am Flaws & All

 

pretty-woman-635258_1920I think it’s safe to say that every woman has something about herself she’d like to change. It would be kind of awesome to have a “Delete” button that would instantly shave off extra pounds or that weird toenail that refuses to grow normally.

If such a button were real, I think Leah would have used it. In Genesis 29, Leah is described as having “weak eyes”, which translates to a homely appearance. To make matters more difficult, her younger sister Rachel was a bombshell and the openly more preferred wife of their husband, Jacob.

And like women today, I’m sure Leah couldn’t avoid comparing herself. Measuring her beauty against Rachel’s. Calculating where she fell short to where her sister triumphed. Pondering how to fix what was broken in order to be loved.

But she wasn’t broken. She wasn’t flawed. What she hated about herself was what God deliberately wanted in her.  He used it to glorify Him and lift her up. When the story of her life is concluded, Leah gave birth to four sons, one of whom is in the lineage of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Be they physical, personality or otherwise, our flaws aren’t accidents of design. They are intentional distinctions from God for you.  You were specifically made to experience life, benefit others, and glorify God in the way He made you. Don’t rush to change. Rush to celebrate.

In January and February, we encourage you to accept and embrace the statement, “I Am Flaws & All.”

MRP 2018 Focus: Identity Crisis

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Happy New Year!

If you’re like me, a resident of the Eastern coast of the United States, this is a frigid Friday and you’ve curled up with either A) soft and fuzzy warm blankets or B) mugs of varied hot beverages or C) all of the above.

But for all of us, it’s also the first Friday of 2018. Two thousand and eighteen. I know it takes a few recitations for the foreign accent of a new year to melt into normalcy. But 2018 just looks and sounds futuristic to me.

So with that in mind, I’d like to ask you a question.

Who were you on the first Friday of 2000?

Yep, 2000, eighteen years ago. That period of time when Y2K was the biggest of deals, theories and questions about the new millennium ran amok, and a time when most of us were wee bitty teenagers.

Who were you then? What was your life like? What did you want and who did you want to be? What did you expect your life to be like in your 30s, like say, in 2018?

Do you remember?

I’ll go first.

The first Friday of 2000, I was a painfully insecure high school sophomore who loved writing stories and poems. I spoke softly, not to appease those who heard but to avoid their rejection as much as I could. My life was domestically peaceful. My parents loved me and provided a great and wonderful foundation. Yet internally, I consistently felt like I wasn’t enough. What I wanted was to be enough and to feel enough. I wanted to be pursued and loved. So my mind would eagerly throb with daydreams of Thirty-Something Jen. Thirty-Something Jen would have been happily married for 10 years to a handsome and adoring husband. Thirty-Something Jen would be a witty conversational butterfly. Thirty-Something Jen would eat confidence for breakfast and wrap power around her wrists like the wonder woman she’d be.

Now let’s fast forward to today. Who are you now? What is your life like? Based on your expectations in 2000, are you comfortable with where you are now?

I can go first again.

I’ve changed some and changed none. Through Christ, I realize how loved and valued I really am. But I still struggle with confidence. I am not a conversational butterfly and I married my handsome adoring husband only 2 years ago. On this first Friday of 2018, I am a 33-year-old who still speaks softly at times because the security I expected at this point never fully arrived.

How about you? Are you where you thought you’d be?  It’s OK if you aren’t. And the truth is not many of us are.

Life after the age of 30 is presumed to be when women are more confident, more secure and more phlegmatic about themselves and their state of being. But that’s a mistaken belief, one that a lot of us have swallowed whole.

What happens when you thought you’d be a wife and mother by 30, and you’re single at 42? What happens when you thought you’d be an award-winning journalist by 29 and you’re a data entry clerk at 35? When our hopes and aspirations don’t match the reality of our circumstances and we can’t figure out how to join them together, an identity crisis is formed. Our sense of ourselves leaves solid ground and we can drift into uncertainty and resignation.

In 2018, the Modern Ruth Project will focus on the tension of discovering who you are in Christ, who He made you to be in this world, and how to get to and enjoy where you want to be. Throughout the year, we will be posting stories about career growth and transformation, spiritual endurance, marriage/dating experiences and counsel, and maintaining a healthy mindset about who and how the Lord made you.

I can’t wait to go on this year’s journey with you!

 

Attitude of Gratitude

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In my present circumstances, I am recognizing that challenges accompany blessings. Life now looks very unstable compared to my life last year. Yet simply because something is challenging doesn’t mean it isn’t good. In all of it, I am seeking an attitude of gratitude. I want to continue to see the goodness of each situation, even when the road is difficult. When I praise God for the blessings instead of focusing on the challenges, I am much more filled with joy. Focusing on the challenges brings frustration and negativity.

A mere text message a few weeks ago was impetus for me to reflect on my attitude. “What have you been up to?” An acquaintance texted me. My reply: “The usual: work and school.” “Sounds boring.” was his reply. Wait…Boring? “Boring” isn’t a word in my vocabulary! More than anything, I realized that I am grateful for everything in my life, and for life itself. I don’t count anything drudgery. In my eyes, it is all opportunity. True, school can be very draining and time consuming. Yet, not too long ago, I was pining to leave a job where I was more tired than fulfilled. I was more than ready for student life! Here I am, now in school and being stretched daily for a career that (God willing) will one day be fulfilling for me and bring healing to others. Not every person in the world has the ability to further their education or even to pursue a job that they are interested in. Even if my job isn’t what I would prefer to be doing–I have a stable source of income. There are so many who cannot say the same and would happily jump at a job offer! While to outsiders my life may appear burdensome or “boring,” I am very grateful for each situation. When I am grateful, my mood is much more upbeat. I have found that I am even more productive in my school work when I focus on the opportunity that is being in school!

An attitude of gratitude leads to contentment. Gratitude leads to greater awareness of the blessing that each situation in our life is. The challenges help us to grow. No opportunity comes without responsibility. Praise God for every blessing—even when it is challenging. I promise that it will lift your mood and help you to remember your opportunities! As I move forward into finals, I’m thanking God for the opportunity to expand my knowledge and further my career.

How can you praise God in the midst of your current blessings accompanied by challenges?

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio.  I am a Master’s student studying to become a counselor.  My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

Seasons

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The foliage of an oak tree is an ordinary sight in springtime. But a searing summer afternoon is what turn its shade into rare relief. In the winter months, cold air is shunned and cursed as people bundle up. But in the summer, that same arctic chill is hunted and chased by the same people who wished for its end.  Seasons are like that. They enable you to appreciate what was formerly overlooked and make you grateful for what you wouldn’t have otherwise.

I’m in what I would call a tetherball season.  Imagine a ball made of anxiety and doubt, with some teaspoons of fear thrown in for good measure.  Anxiety about our leaders and the world. Doubt about my professional life. Fear about the future. The ball is floating and bouncing on a rocky midnight blue sea. But the size of the ball is dwarfed by the magnitude of the chain attached to it. The thick metal links are fused to a pole in the center of the body of water. So, though the sea tosses and turns the ball over and over, it can never drift away from the anchor.

“God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

-Hebrews 6:18-20

I already knew that God is mighty and securely holds us in His hands. But lately, His daily assurance has been powering my days.  And the security of His word keeps my heart at peace. Only by being in this particular season can I say that I am truly grateful for His strength.

Maybe in a season of loneliness, you cherish His love. Or in a period of doubt, His faithfulness soothes you. Sometimes, going through something will allow you to completely treasure, enjoy, and be thankful for all of who God is.

In your season of life, what about God are you grateful for?

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Jennifer Jen

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 32 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-).

In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin.

I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well.

I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!