A Wise, Guarded Heart

heart lock1

“Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.”—Proverbs 4:23 (RSV)

If only we could comprehend the magnitude of this verse! As women, especially women that have been single longer than expected, it can be easy to magnify a man’s positive character traits at the very beginning. Finding a handsome man with good character can make it easy to let down our guard. Some of us have the tendency to fling open the gates of our hearts upon meeting a man who seems to embody what we are looking for. Yet we must be cautious-our hearts hold the wellsprings of life!

More than once, I’ve been guilty of not guarding my heart. There have been a few men who were amazing on the surface. They were attractive and knew exactly the right things to say. They shared the same faith and appeared to be seeking the Lord in their actions and the words they said. I opened my heart quickly to them. Yet, character is revealed over time and through different situations. Truths about their character were revealed—not the sort of truths I had expected or hoped for. Trusted friends (male and female) also brought details to my attention that came to light in their conversations with the men in question. I was left hurting and regretting my not-so-cautiously opened heart. I had charged quickly forward without exercising wisdom, blinded by the positive qualities I saw.

Part of the sweetness of building a relationship is the time it takes to blossom. A great friendship or marriage is built in the crockpot, not the microwave. The recipe is prayer, guidance from trusted mentors or friends, time together in a variety of life situations, and levels of trust and intimacy that grow according to the state of your relationship. The ingredients simmer together over time to create something wonderful.

Your shared history together helps to foster an intimacy that grows over time. You share your heart with wisdom over time as you continue to find green lights from God, your own sense of peace, and confirmations from people of wisdom.

My heart is precious to my Father. It holds the springs of life—springs that affect not only myself, but also many others surrounding me. I’ve experienced the pain that comes when I give my heart away in the eagerness that follows meeting a “great guy.”  By guarding my heart now, I’ll be better able to give away my love to the right person in time.

I’m calling on the Holy Spirit and my trusted friends as I discern wisely how to guard my heart and when to share myself more intimately. I’m feeling empowered with the healthy boundaries around my heart, and learning to thrive in healthy relationships that are built ingredient by ingredient, simmering together over time.

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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 case manager for refugee mothers. My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

No Shame

confident woman

Last week, someone I work with dismissively tossed in my face the blogpost I wrote on married sex life.  He said that it was being spread around the department.

For a moment, shock paralyzed me.  I was completely unprepared.  The attack had come out of nowhere.  Then I started talking—word vomit is more like it.  I said I was proud of writing it, that I wanted to break down boundaries.  Then I left.

Despite my words, embarrassment flooded through me.  The thought that he and other people had read the article and were even thinking about me and sex was horrible enough.  But that they were perhaps laughing at it and judging me?  People who I had to work with?

It brought back all of my insecurities and conflicted emotions about waiting for marriage for sex.  While the church preached abstinence, an adult virgin was a joke in the modern world.  As I got older, I would think of the movie The 40 Year Old Virgin with a wince.  That would be me.

And even though I knew that it was a lie, my decades-old insecurity whispered—you’re only a virgin because no one wants you.  You’re ugly.  You’re fat.  That’s what everyone is saying.  They’re laughing at you.

I made it through the end of the day and went home, able to hold back the tears until I got in my car.  I had published the blogpost because I had wanted to help other women, just as reading a similar article had helped set my expectations before I got married and calm my fears when things didn’t go as planned.  But maybe it had been a terrible mistake.

Finally, a coworker helped me reframe what happened.  “He had been trying to shame you,” she said.  Just putting a name to it helped.  She was right.  There’s no real answer as to why he would do that – I heard later that his girlfriend had applied for my job and maybe he was just pissed she hadn’t gotten it and wanted to bring me down some way.  Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter why he did it.  Naming what he had been doing helped me put it in perspective: he was using my own story to try to get power over me.   And seeing it for what it was helped me take back the power.

Because I am not ashamed of who I am.  I am proud of who I am.  I am proud of my choices.  I have integrity.  I am who I say I am and my private life reflects who I say I am publicly.  I am also proud that I am brave enough to put my life out there in public, even the vulnerable parts.  In this Facebook-frenzied, filtered, and airbrushed world, there’s a real need for what is genuine, warts and all.

So be brave.  Yes, you might face opposition and derision, just like I did.  But I survived; you will too. Be confident in who you are.  Call it by its name when you face that opposition and feel the power of the truth.  Be not ashamed to share your story, your light, and your truth with the world.  We can’t wait to meet you.

One Size

couple

I remember the day I decided to save myself for marriage. I was 11 and my health class had just started a segment about STDs.

I was absolutely terrified.

At that age, I hadn’t yet developed my own relationship with God to understand the biblical necessity of my commitment. But fear was a good starting point. No marriage = no sex. So simple even a 6th grader could do it.

But then it got confusing.

I was in college when I first heard about purity rings, bands of silver or gold wrapped around the ring finger as a physical reminder of a promise to abstinence.  Then, while hanging with some sorority sisters, I watched as they threaded colorful plastic pellets to create purity beads, cords long enough to tie around their waists. Only on their wedding night would the cord be cut by their husband.

During late night conversations in our dorm, as my friends planned to not kiss or hold hands with any guy until their wedding day, I listened with a growing sense of spiritual insecurity.

I know I’m not having sex until I get married but now I can’t even hold hands? I had no jewelry to signify my commitment to God. And I hadn’t even kissed a guy yet. But I wasn’t so sure I wanted to wait until my wedding day to do so. Does that mean I’m not a good Christian?

As I grew in Christ and with age, it became clear to me that, aside from abstaining from premarital sex, physical boundaries are not one size fits all. Some couples can peck affectionately without conviction. Others feel led to steer clear of all physical touch.  And both ​can ​work, as long as the couple is seeking to honor God.

When I met my husband, I was not quite 30, far removed from the health class horror but still firm in my commitment to the Lord. We talked openly about our convictions and established what would be our boundaries. As our relationship progressed and we became acutely aware of, ahem, this thing called desire, we talked, prayed, and redrew our lines together.

If you haven’t thought about your physical boundaries yet, do so. Write them down and pray about them.  As long as your boundaries ​fit and ​create a continuous path to God, you’re on the right​ ​track.

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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!

Discerning True Intimacy

beauty

Have you ever seen those incredibly talented make up artists who can transform themselves into a totally different person with some bomb contouring and eye shadow?  Well, I am not that person.  I can barely color inside the lines with my lipstick.  And I didn’t even know contouring was a thing until I was in my 30’s.

Now regardless of your skill level or how you feel about make up in general, the stuff is basically magic.  I mean, I once saw a woman turn herself into Nicki Minaj.  And in case you’re wondering, she looked nothing like Nicki Minaj in real non-make up life.

On the other hand, there are also millions of YouTube videos for make up dummies like myself.  Tutorials to help you enhance your beauty without going overboard. Or how to create a date night look that doesn’t resemble a Crayola massacre on your face.

And if you really think about it, intimacy can be the same way. It can transform said relationship into something much different than its initial intentions. Or it can enhance what God has already created, but at the right time and in the right context.

For those of you who aren’t following, here’s an example.  You’ve been seeing this guy and you’re getting the hunch that he’s really a creep. But since there are no other prospects or even men looking your way, you decide to take things to the next level out of boredom and desperation. Whether that means kissing, sex, or the whole ‘everything but sex, technically still celibate’ category, you know you’ve crossed a line.

And once that line is crossed, this man’s character and attractiveness levels up from Gollum of Lord of the Rings to Great Gatsby Leo Dicaprio.

Without intimacy you could’ve seen the red flags and all the signs that this man was a waste of your time from the get go. But, since he’s a great kisser and makes you feel desired, you find yourself justifying the way he treats you to your friends. Or making excuses for his behavior towards his family. And worst of all, accepting less than what you God desires for you all for the sake of not being alone.

But let me tell you something honey. It is better to be alone the rest of your life than spend your days trying to make it work with the world’s okayest mate.

And I know that dating as a woman seeking purity before marriage can be hard.  Intimacy with boundaries is where the Netflix and Chill and ‘Just come over’ texts go to die.  And I LOVE Netflix and free dates.

But intimacy that outpaces the level of commitment is not worth having to retrace the ‘how did I get here’ of a relationship covered in Revlon.  Especially one that never should have happened to begin with.

So, ladies, let’s leave the eyeliner and contouring to the experts. And trust that God can enhance the intimacy of your relationship at just the right time if we allow Him to.

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roz Roz
Hey there!  My name is Roz.  I’m a full time working, single, homeschooling mother to the world’s funniest 5 year old on the planet.  I’m an introvert who is obsessed with bacon.  I like to play music extremely loudly in my car and will keep singing at full voice even when you turn to stare.  I also blog occasionally over at beautyfullyflawed.com where I write words about Jesus, homeschooling, and the beauty of imperfections.  I look forward to sharing my imperfections with you, as well.

The Best Investment

body

Hi!  My name is Roz and I have a budget.  There are line items for tithes and offerings, mortgage, utilities, student loans, contributing to my IRA, and all those amazing things that take your money as you get older. Adulting. Is. So. Much. Fun.

And as we grow up and learn the lessons of life, we keep track of where our money is going and where it’s coming from.  We listen to sermons and Dave Ramsey the heck out of being good stewards over our finances.  But rarely does anyone tell you the cost of not being a good steward over the one thing you came into this world with – your body.

God has put in eternal effort and endless time crafting bodies that are fearfully and wonderfully made, but we allow others to make withdrawals that they didn’t earn and can never repay.  Now to those of you reading this who have never crossed physical boundaries in relationships, do you think the breakdowns you’ve allowed in emotional and spiritual barriers are any less expensive?

No matter the line crossed, we’ve all been there.  Feeling as if pieces of us are missing after every break up or failed relationship.  It’s only natural to give of yourself when taking the risk of getting to know a significant (or insignificant) other.  And I’m not trying to make you feel hopeless or fear condemnation.  Because I serve a God who can replace all that’s been lost and repair what’s been broken.

But before you tether yourself to another, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually, outside of marriage.  Ask yourself, what are you worth?  Are you willing to pay the price of regret, shame, and heartbreak?  Our minds, hearts, and bodies should be bound to Christ and his promises.  I’m not saying it’s easy or even easily attainable, but the price He paid has established this as the best investment you’ll ever make.

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roz Roz

Hey there!  My name is Roz.  I’m a full time working, single, homeschooling mother to the world’s funniest 5 year old on the planet.  I’m an introvert who is obsessed with bacon.  I like to play music extremely loudly in my car and will keep singing at full voice even when you turn to stare.  I also blog occasionally over at beautyfullyflawed.com where I write words about Jesus, homeschooling, and the beauty of imperfections.  I look forward to sharing my imperfections with you, as well.

Your Worth is Not in Dating

online dating

A few years ago, having a very demanding job that required me to live where I worked (with one day off per week), I didn’t have many opportunities to expand my social circles. I was also feeling more pulled to live the vocation of marriage. So, I foraged into online dating. This allowed me to meet many more men and to see who was out there. I gained friends along the way, and even a boyfriend that I dated for a year. In my time of dating online, I learned many lessons on the journey, including about my own worth and where it originated.

Dating, online or not, can bring questions of your worth. Why are no guys showing interest? Why is this guy who seems like a perfect match viewing my profile but not reaching out? Or, why do only guys who don’t share my values seem to show interest? Why did that guy treat me so low?

If you keep logging in and not finding any messages, maybe you feel unworthy of love. Maybe the only messages you’re receiving are from weird guys, or men who don’t share your values. (It happens, even on Christian dating sites.) Or when the great guy you’ve been messaging and sharing a great conversation with suddenly disappears, you may wonder if something is wrong with you. What about when the guy you’ve been conversing with seems like a different person when you meet face to face, and even discloses a big piece of information that should have been disclosed right away? (Yes, that happened.)  So many situations arise in our dating lives that can make us feel unworthy.

Living a life of prolonged singleness, it’s easy to question your worth. The attitudes of the world about singleness make it even easier to question, especially when people constantly question why you are single. That question can linger and make you wonder, is something wrong with me? Your terrible dating experiences, online or face to face, can also trick you into believing this lie. It’s easy to forget that your worth isn’t determined by the number of messages or views you’re getting.

Worth isn’t even determined by how a man treats your heart—worth is not a product of how others view or treat you. In fact, your worth isn’t determined by men at all! If you’re at a point where you’re feeling low due to a dating drought or terrible dating experiences, maybe it’s time to take a step back from dating while you search for where your real worth can be found. Where is this worth found, you ask? Worth is found in your identity as a child of the Heavenly Father, who created you, delights in you, and even rejoices over you! Meditate on that beautiful truth. “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”-Zephaniah 3:17

 Sister, no matter your terrible dating experiences (or lack of dating experiences thereof), there is nothing wrong with you. You are not lacking in worth. Remember Who gave His life for you. He offers you a perfect love every day, no matter if nobody is romantically interested or if you are happily married. Your past, present, and even what you see of your future prospects doesn’t change anything about your worth in His eyes. Finding His love doesn’t require purchasing a subscription or making an on-point profile. Your Heavenly Father, the God of the universe, created you, and delights in you! What greater worth is there than that?

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 27 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio. I am a case manager for refugee mothers. My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.