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To The Very First Boy That Thought I Was Cool…

From the very first time I uttered the phrase, “I’m the best big thither (sister for all of those who can’t read speech impediment)…I knew I had my lifelong best friend.  My parents always say that it didn’t matter what they told Evan, if I told him the sky was green he would say “nope, Manda said.”  When he started elementary school, I would sit by him on the bus every single morning less an older kid even try to be mean to my baby brother.  We had periods where we weren’t as close, like middle school.  Middle school is just a weird time…lots of feelings…lots of boy body odor…neither of those things are good for sibling relations. Luckily, our feelings have calmed down and we (he) discovered deodorant.  In honor of his birthday this week,  I wanted to share some thoughts on what having a sibling has taught me

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“our” first day of kindergarden picture…both sporting excellent hairstyles

How To Present A United Front

When I was younger I was notorious for eating the last thing in the box and leaving the empty box in the fridge/pantry.  One time, I did that to a box of Little Debbie Swiss Cakes and our dad reached his limit.  He called both of us into the living room and asked us who left the empty box in the refrigerator.  We both said no, but only one of us (me) was guilty.  My dad, knowing full well that it was me, decided to send both of us to our rooms until the guilty party confessed.  Evan never once ratted me out even though it meant he was in trouble too.  Unfortunately, I only gave myself up after my dad brought in a make shift lie detector test (the Bible…he made me swear on the Bible about Little Debbie cakes).  And that’s pretty much how it’s been the rest of our lives.  Whenever one of us needed the other to “sell” our version of events to our parents, we never hesitated…for example when one sibling wanted to have a party while their parents were out of town and the other sibling answered the obligatory parental phone call with a sweet story about how we were just hanging out and watching a movie (Sorry mom and dad, but ignorance is bliss)!

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partners in crime from the beginning

How To Love Someone Even When You Don’t Like Them

While Evan and I are close, we have had our fair share of “I hate you moments.”  Like when I locked him in the dark garage for 30 minutes while I was babysitting him and when I let him out he put me in a headlock and started punching me.  And as we’ve gotten older, we have let each other down and made each other upset, but that’s never stopped us from pulling through for the other.  It seems like we live in an age where we let our moment-by-moment feelings control our actions, but with my brother I’ve learned to act in love even when I didn’t feel the like.

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clearly only one Perkins child is happy in this picture

How To Deal With The Opposite Sex

I read a study that found when you pair people up in 5- to 15-minute conversations, as if it were a speed date, the males who grew up with sisters tend to do better than the ones who grew up with brothers or as only children. Similarly, the females with brothers tend to do better with boys.  I think I’ve made Evan more sensitive and he has made me less sensitive…he talks me off the ledge when I’m having ALL of the feelings and I help him understand ALL of the feelings.  I still call and ask him what it means when I guy says, “I’m just trying to take things slow” and he maybe has called to ask me how you send a girl flowers. Maybe.

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More than anything, Evan has taught me what it feels like to have someone really think you’re awesome.  I’ve never gone through a breakup where he hasn’t called to tell me that the guy was a “chump” and that he always thought I could do better anyways.  When I’m having a hard day, he always pulls through to remind that he’s my biggest fan.  He is wise and he loves Jesus and I am so lucky to have him.  Also, he’s always been the “star” of the family  See below. ham

You Might Need To Take a Year Off Dating If…

I have been joking about writing this post for a while and since my last post was pretty serious, I thought this was the perfect time…

Lovely readers…as you know, or don’t know, I took a year off dating and that ended back in December. While I have a lot of valid and serious reasons as to why I took a year off dating and was really inspired by Andy Stanley’s sermon series “Love, Sex, and Dating.” I also have some not so serious reasons as to why someone should take a year off of dating. I know, I know…y’all are on the edge of your seats…so without further hype:

You might need to take a year off dating if…

  1. You have dated three different guys with the same name and your friends have appropriately nicknamed them the original, the sequel, and the remix
  2. The same nicknames…the original, the sequel, and the remix… can be said about how many times you have broken up with and gotten back together with the same guy
  3. You are on a second date and your date falls asleep on you. Mid conversation.  When you ask him about it he tells you he was “just resting his eyes.”
  4. You once had a potential relationship ending argument over the downgrade of your significant other’s Uber rating after you failed to show up for the Uber driver he ordered for you.
  5. Your mom once went to an event where Tim Tebow spoke and she slipped a note to him in his dressing room all about her daughter….and maybe a picture too…(PS I know you’re shocked mom, but he never called).
  6. And the grand finale...On a 7 hour drive home with a guy you’ve been dating for 4 months, you decide to trap him into having the “define the relationship talk with you”…at hour 1…. while you are driving. No escape.

All of those things are true and only slightly exaggerated…except for #6 which is not exaggerated in the slightest (sorry, Matthew). If you can’t laugh at your hiccups, your life will be pretty boring.

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Just be fair…here’s a picture from my first “real date.” Such a hottie🙂

On a more serious note, I recently talked to someone who is thinking about returning to a situation that had previously been the source of many hiccups in their life. One of the main things we talked about is how important it is to have a plan. You know the saying…the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results and that is so true in the dating world.  Obviously, I know staying close to Jesus is the number one thing, but here are some other rules I’ve made for myself:

  1. Have friends that love Jesus and can be honest with you—I cannot express how important this has been in my life. I am so lucky to have women in my life that can give me objective and loving advice on my dating life. I love my single friends that encourage me through their own lives to hold high standards and I love my married friends that are consistently showing me what it looks like to be respectfully and intentionally pursued.
  2. Pray specifically and daily-As corny as this may sound, I pray every day for my future spouse. Since December, I’ve prayed the same thing over and over again:

Lord, I don’t know who he is. I don’t where he is or whether I’ve even met him, but I ask you to bless him and protect him. I ask you to provide for him and keep him pure. I pray that we will be attracted to the things that reflect Your character first and that we will proclaim the gospel through our relationship. I pray that he is being wise and kind in his relationships with women. Please bring him in my life soon. Amen

3.  No “filler guys”-In the past (and by the past I mean 2014), I have been guilty of texting someone or hanging out with someone I knew I didn’t really want to date.  This was definitely just so I wouldn’t feel lonely or to inflate my ego or sometimes…just to give me something to do. Not to say that I don’t have guy friends, but I want the men in my life to be intentional with me and so I am committed to being intentional to them in return.

4. Be open to new things-The best advice someone gave me about dating again is just to say yes to going on dates with different people. Don’t overanalyze everyone before you’ve even gone on a date with them…is he shorter than you like? Who cares…try one date…Does he seem quieter than other guys you’ve dated? Who cares…try one date. The flip side of that is don’t be desperate…dating someone because they love Jesus is the place to start, but it doesn’t have to be the only reason you date him. Andy Stanley says it perfectly “desperation in dating leads to disaster.”

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A Love Letter

Sometimes I think the scariest thing we can do is verbalize our fears. I was teaching in children’s church on Sunday about fears and how God promises to always be with us, even when we are afraid. I talked with the kids about my biggest fear when I was their age. I was so scared of the dark. Our house in Florida had an open floor plan and mine and Evan’s rooms were on one end of the house and my parent’s room was on the other side of the house. During the day, the open space was our kitchen and family room. But at night, that open space was a dark cave full of things that were going to jump out and grab me. I can remember standing at the edge of the pool of light from our hallway, literally holding on to the edges of the wall, willing myself to run into the darkness. But if I made it across that scary place, I knew I would be in the safe arms of my parents.

I know for most people, Valentine’s Day doesn’t necessarily conjure up thoughts of fears. But I guess if you’re me, it does. And my friend Claire is probably saying to herself, “of course it does, you think too much.” I feel really compelled to be honest with you all and share my deepest fears. Because once I named those fears, the Lord led me to do one of the greatest exercises of my life. I took each and every one of those fears, marked them out, and replaced them with what God says about them. And to me, that is the most beautiful love letter I could receive.

My fears:

  1. That I will be less of a woman if I am not a wife and a mother
  1. That I am not worthy of love from someone that really loves Jesus because he will see right through me.
  1. That I have already messed things up beyond repair
  1. I am only worthy of disposable, transient, conditional love.
  1. That I have to say yes to everything because I don’t really believe that I am enough, God is enough, that there is enough

God’s truth:

  1. That I will be less of a woman if I am not a wife and a mother

13For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139: 13-14

  1. That I am not worthy of love from someone that really loves Jesus because he will see right through me.

15 Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.

Isaiah 49:15-16

4 Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.

Isaiah 43:4

  1. That I have already messed things up beyond repair.

 23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Romans 3:23-25

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect. Leviticus 26:13

  1. I am only worthy of disposable, transient, conditional love. 

  the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you
.

Jeremiah 31:3

  1. That I have to say yes to everything because I don’t really believe that I am enough or that God is enough

 

30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted; 
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint
.

Isaiah 40:30-31

Here’s the thing about fears…once you hold them up to the scrutiny of the truth…they fold. When I stood at the edge of the hallway light and remembered the truth… that this dark expanse that scared the chickens out of me…was really rooms that celebrated birthdays, served my favorite meals, played games, and hosted my family and friends…my fears crumbled. I saw them for what they really were.   The same thing for my grown up fears I listed above. Once I held them up to the truth of what God says about me, they were defeated.

PS I was trying to find an old love note from high school but ran into this gem instead. IMG_2815

Love these girls! Missing  Megan and Lindsey!

A Year Without Dating

I can honestly say that when this all started, I really thought the conclusion would bring me Prince Charming ready to sweep me away and ride off into the sunset (or at least a tall/semi-tall/taller than me with heels on, dark-haired, Jesus and football lovin hottie), but it didn’t.  I am ending this journey the same way I started it, single.  And while that is hard, the process has brought me something different and more than my Prince Charming.

I really can’t adequately put into words what the Lord has taught me about myself and about him, but I am going to try.

I have learned more of the true meaning of Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  That’s a verse often used to inspire athletes to go and win the gold medal or the super bowl or whatever else, but its really the qualifier before that is the meat and potatoes, so to speak, of the thought I think Paul is trying to convey.  “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

I have been brought low and I have abounded.  And in the lows and in the highs I have learned that pursuing Christ in the lows and pursuing him in the abounds brings peace.  Quiet peace that brings about steady strength.  That is not to say that I have been happy this whole time.  Because I haven’t.  I have been sad.  I have wrestled with the Lord. I have sinned.  I have pushed the limits of this commitment.  I have gotten too close to a man that I couldn’t date.  I have been so far from perfect and happy rainbows and butterflies throughout this process, but I have felt the depth, height, and breadth of Christ’s love during it all.

I have journaled pretty much every day throughout this process and I went back the other day to read some of my first entries.  They were from a place of great pain, desperation, loneliness and fear.  I think these are the natural emotions we experience whenever we elevate anything…people, things, wealth, jobs, relationships to a status higher than God ordained them to (aka higher than Him).  What I noticed the most about these beginning journal entries to now is the change God has created in my heart and life.  They didn’t appear in the way I thought they would, through a relationship, but they happened in a small…day by day way.  I am not the woman I was a year ago, and Praise the Lord for that!

In the past year, I have never felt more loved and valued by God and the people in my life.  I have been given the amazing opportunity to serve my church and community in different ways. I have gained new, wonderful friends that have supported me with love and hugs and laughter.

And like I said at the beginning, my relationship status hasn’t changed BUT God has changed my heart.  While I don’t know all the reasons why I am where I am in life, I feel confident that God is using my waiting as a tool of sanctification.  Changing me more into his image.  John Piper famously said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”  I may not be aware of the 9,997 other things He is doing in my life, but I am so graciously aware of these three things:  1) This year he transformed me more into his image, 2) He taught me that fulfillment is not something man-made and created by myself, another person or a relationship, but found only through Him, and 3) what it looks like to have confidence in a uncertain future because of who He is not what I can control.

I recently listened to a great sermon called “A History of Waiting” and the pastor concluded his sermon by using the illustration of his children on a road trip. “When a child repeatedly asks ‘are we there yet?’ this doesn’t just reveal his impatience with the journey but there is a confidence there…’are we there YET?’ They might struggle in the waiting, but there is never a doubt in the child’s mind that daddy can’t get them there. Are we there yet is both a cry of longing and a cry of confidence.” http://tcpca.org/sermon/a-history-of-waiting/

And I can definitively adopt the mantra of those children. “Are we there yet?” is my confident appeal to the Lord in this season, however long it may be, of waiting.

In the past year, God has given me a quiet peace and steady confidence in Him during my waiting.  On December 13, 2014, I wrote this quote used to describe a polish noblewoman in her biography, “she made magnificent bouquets out of the refusals of God.”

I think if I were able to rewrite this quote in my own biography it would read something like this, “God made her magnificent bouquets out of His refusals.”  I am so thankful for the beauty God has brought into my life through His closed doors and refusals.

PS my very sweet and kind friends left their husbands, babies, significant others, normal lives, to celebrate with me last weekend. Its really only appropriate to celebrate a year off dating with your girlfriends and a photo booth.

 

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So You Like My Daughter, Do Ya Now?

As I am finishing up this year and thinking about re-entering the dating world, I have been thinking about what is important in a relationship, what is healthy, what is necessary?  Of course, I have my own ideas and thoughts about what is important, but who more than my dad would have the highest expectations and standards for the person I date.  So I asked him to sit down and think through some things he would have wanted to know sooner about dating and relationships.  I thought what he came up with are great for everyone. Not just for all the men lined up to date me in December (jk), but all men…married, single, dating, engaged, etc.

**Small disclaimer**some of these include things specific to me, but it was so sweet to read how well my dad knows me that I couldn’t delete them from the final post.

I have to confess that I have broken most all of these rules more often than I care to admit with my wife.  I most definitely owe Kathy’s dad an apology for not honoring and respecting his daughter like I want me own daughter to be treated.  I hope that all the rest of you guys reading this who are dating or married will take to heart what I have written and hopefully do a better job than I have.  And for all you women out there that are not married and reading this, keep the bar high.  Trust me when I say there is no man out there worth lowering your standards for.  And, please don’t fall prey to the myth or false assumption that you will change him or he will change.  What you see right now is most likely the best you are going to get. That being said, I hope and pray that Amanda will find a man who will aspire to hit the bulls-eye and not have to learn these the hard way.

 1.Love Jesus more than anything or anyone else.  When the religious leaders questioned Jesus as to what the most important law was without hesitation he declared, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment” (Matt. 22:37,38).   Since Jesus created and designed us He knew that the greatest potential for intimacy and connectedness on a human level would come only when we love Him over and above everything else.  The greatest gift you can give to Amanda or your partner is to be a passionate lover and follower of Jesus.

2. Love my daughter more than you love yourself. Now you see why I said you have to love Jesus above everything else.  Because the truth of the matter is this:  if you do not love Jesus with all your heart, soul and mind you will not be capable of loving my daughter, or anyone else for that matter, more than you love yourself.   However, if you love her more than you love yourself and she loves you more than she loves herself the potential for intimacy is unlimited.  Amanda hears, feels, and receives love through the giving of gifts and by being served.  So, give her even the smallest of gifts and look for simple ways of serving her each and every day.

3. Encourage and support her to become the person God created her to be. She is “fearfully and wonderfully” made.  She is God’s masterpiece.  Empower her to grow spiritually, use her unique gifts, strengths, talents and abilities.  Challenge her to dream great dreams for God and be willing to take risks.  Remind her of what God says in Eph. 3:20 “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think according to the power that works in us.”  In other words, God says dream your biggest and greatest dream for me and I can top it every time.   Let me also encourage you to respect and honor her sexual boundaries.  Help her to stay pure and holy.

4. Treat her like a lady.God created us distinctively male and distinctively female.  We process and view just about everything that happens in life through different thoughts, feelings and emotions.  Entire books have been written on this subject, so I will not go into detail here.  And when it comes to understanding our differences God places the mantle of responsibility squarely in the man’s lap.   I Pet. 3:7 says, “live with your wife in an understanding way.”   And that is so hard because we are men; we see everything through a man’s eyes; we filter everything through a man’s filter.  But it is our calling as men.  In fact, in that same verse God go on to say that our prayers will not be hindered if we will live with our wives in an understanding way.

With that in mind, what I want to say to you is hold her in the palm of your hands softly, be tender and gentle, focus on her when she talks and talks and talks (–good joke, Dad), be sympathetic when she is hurt, let her process her day and give you all the details, and try your best to smile, say yes dear, and be patient as she tries on outfit after outfit.  Treat her like the incredibly beautiful, unique, special, and valuable treasure she is.  Open the door for her; push her chair in; wait for her to order first.  It is the simple daily things you do that show her how important she is to you.

5. Share your life with her. This is a hard one for us guys because we tend to process everything in our minds and keep it under lock and key. But I can tell you from personal experience that this is a recipe for disaster.  When God created Adam he said it was not good for man to be alone.  The reason God said that is because He knows it is not good for man to be alone!  And I do not believe he was only referring to physical aloneness here.  He knew we would be at our best when we shared our deepest feelings, thoughts, desires, fears, insecurities, struggles, dreams, and opinions with the woman He has brought into our lives.  Learn to share all of your life with Amanda.  She is one of the wisest, most forgiving, accepting, and grace-filled persons I know.  (We all know she got those qualities from her mom!)  As you share slices of your life with her you will experience the incredible feeling of acceptance and freedom of sharing your entire life with the love of your life.  If you both live as open books before each other the intimacy you long for will be unlimited.

One last thought, maybe another rule, confess your sins as soon as possible and don’t let sin, shame and guilt build up.  I am not naïve enough to think that you will always keep all of these rules perfectly.  No one ever has, save Jesus.  Like I said earlier, Amanda is very forgiving and so is her mom and I!  If you will strive to keep these rules you will find yourself involved with the second greatest woman on planet earth!!!

-Dad

P.S. And did I say make sure you keep up with Florida Gator football. And when I say keep up I mean like knowing who is on the recruiting list, how many stars they have behind their names, who is on the injury report, where they are in the SEC standings, and sometimes I think she even has their schedule memorized.  But I will forewarn you that watching a game with her is brutal.  She lives and dies on every play.  After you sit through an entire game with her you will feel like you played the game!

Going to the Chapel

Scarlet A

A few weeks ago I did a study on Rahab during my quiet time.  Prior to my study, I had heard about Rahab but wasn’t super familiar with her story.  Quick recap/summary:  she was a prostitute living in Jericho at the time Joshua was getting ready to lead the Israelites into the promise land.  She lived along the wall of Jericho and eventually hid two of the Israelite men in her home while the King searched for them.  Then she let them escape out of her window with a rope.  Because of this, the Lord promised Rahab safety and spared her and her family’s life when the Israelites burned down the city. (Joshua 2, if you wanna read)

First, she was a prostitute.  When I initially hear the word “prostitute” I recoil in second-hand embarrassment and self-righteousness.  I cannot imagine the depths of her shame, the sting of her label as a prostitute.  She probably felt like she would never be more than the woman who sells her body to men.  But then, I’ve felt that way too (not about prostitution) but that I can’t escape the shame of my past.  Party girl, serial dater, careless spender, gossiper, unfaithful.  The list goes on and on with the labels that I have placed upon myself or have been placed upon me by others.  And suddenly, I’m identifying with Rahab.  I can feel the heavy burden on her shoulders and chest because I feel it on mine.

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Then I re-read her story, I re-read about that scarlet rope.  That rope that had been used to never let her forget who she was…prostitute….that same rope that probably felt like it weighed 1,000 pounds full of shame,  but it was the same rope she would use to save the lives of the Israelite men, the same rope that led to her redemption, and that same rope that led to her inclusion in Jesus’ lineage (Matthew 1:5)

That rope was the central line, the main artery to her deepest shame and regret.  But God, God used that same rope to save her life and redeem her.  The thing that was the symbol of her sin became her way to salvation.

I have been a touch on the emotional side lately anyways, but identifying with Rahab…her shame and her redemption….moved me to all the happy tears.  I hope you’re as encouraged as I am that God will use our biggest failures, deepest fears, biggest sources of shame, to ultimately save and redeem our lives and the lives of others.  He is so good.

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Stuff My Dad Says

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while now.  Today, my sweet daddy is 60.  For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about all things fatherhood.  I work with children on Sunday mornings and I see their big tears when daddy drops them off and I see their enormous smiles when they see their fathers return to get them.  What tremendous responsibility most come with being a parent, but specifically a father.

Maybe its because I am a girl and am intimately acquainted with a girl’s relationship with her father, but I think dads of daughters have some even bigger shoes to fill.  The term “daddy issues” is part of the vernacular when it comes to discussing a woman with an absentee father, but I would venture to say it’s the rule and not the exception that fathers influence their daughters choice of partners. I used to think that was not true in my own life until I dated someone that looked so much like Dad.  Of course, I would have never admitted that until a discussion about said boyfriend where I admitted that he and my dad had “kinda the same height and similar hair” and my sweet friend Claire so eloquently responded, “dude, he looks just like your dad.”

All that being said, the importance of fathers has been on mind lately.  Especially, the important role my dad has played in my life.  So in honor of his 60th birthday, I have compiled a short list (and in no way is this exhaustive) of things he has taught me.

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I am special.  My dad, who…love his heart….is not musically inclined, used to sing me this song every day when I was a little girl.  A few months ago, I found the “lyrics” to his song in my Bible.

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My dad is definitely not perfect, but he has always made it a priority to show me how valuable and special I am.  I mean…this man picked me up and carried me to the breakfast table until I was at least 13 years old (ok…maybe 14. Ha!).  He has never shorted me on “I love yous” or “you are beautiful” A very wise woman once told me in college, one of your challenges in marriage will be to stop calling your dad for everything and call your husband.  While that will definitely be a challenge, I can’t think of a better testament about my dad.  He would literally drop everything to come to my aid whenever I need him.  Just the other night, I was talking about the yard situation at my new house and how I was going to mow it and I said half-jokingly, “I’m just hoping you’ll put your mower in the car and come over.” And he responded, “I already figured that much.”

Its ok to fail.  Both of my parents gave me the freedom and space to fail, but my dad especially taught me failure is a part of life.  We aren’t perfect. One time I was going through a particularly hard breakup and I was being very hard on myself for giving the relationship another shot and my dad sent me this text.

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He didn’t tell me, “I told you so.” Even though he very well could’ve used the moment to remind me that “Dad knows best.” Instead, he first loved me and then pointed me to Jesus.  My dad never made me feel lesser for my mistakes.  He might have disciplined me, but I never felt judged because of them.  In the end, I was reminded that my dad did know best, but he gave me the freedom to learn that on my own.

Be honest about your shortcomings.  For most of my life, my dad was a pastor and although I knew he wasn’t perfect, I still found myself falling into the school of thinking that our pastors are on a different level of holy. I think my dad would tell you as well, that he struggled with what people thought of him.  He had a certain image of himself he wanted projected even though it wasn’t always the “real him.”

As I got older, my dad was more honest with me about his shortcomings.  In the past four years, my dad has grown tremendously in the areas of humility and vulnerability.  I cannot begin to tell you what that has meant in my own life.  Because my dad is honest with me about his own shortcomings, it gives me the security to be honest about my shortcomings. I read this quote in a book that I think is so fitting, “If we live behind a mask we can impress but we can’t connect.” I cannot imagine as a parent admitting your failures to your children, but I am so glad my dad has and continues to admit his failures because I am learning more and more about who he really is and in turn he is encouraging me to let others see who I really am.

You are  never done becoming the person God has created you to be. I used to think that once you had been a Christian for a certain amount of time, you were just kinda done changing.  You’ve been a Christian for 30 years and there’s nothing really left to change, you’re as much like Jesus as you’re ever going to be.  Obviously, I was wrong.  The past few years, I have see more growth and change in my dad’s life than I have over the past 20 years and he’s not afraid to tell you that.  He is teaching me that you are never done becoming more like Jesus. He is always transforming you into his image and its hard and you have to fight for it.  But the results are beautiful.  Who God created you to be is who really are.  Never lose hold of that.

Happy 60th birthday to my awesome dad! Thank you for striving, daily, to love us like Jesus does.  Even though I am getting older, I will never outgrow my need for your love, support, friendship and butterfly kisses.

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When I stopped looking

When I stopped looking for love 7 months ago, I was challenged by a sermon I heard to take a year off dating to change your bad habits, your unhealthy perspective. Never did I think I would find love when I let it go.

This post has probably been about 28 years in the making and probably one of the hardest for me to write. I’ve been trying to turn my thoughts, emotions, and experiences into sentences for weeks now, but never feeling like the words would adequately express my heart.

And then I re-read the story of Gomer in Hosea last week and the words were there. I felt like I was reading my life played out in Old Testament Scripture. I am Gomer. I am the adulterous woman. Even after I became a Christian, I held back in the area of relationships. I didn’t trust that God’s love was enough to satisfy my heart. So I supplemented His love. I sought love, value, worth, and identity in my relationships. And each time, these relationships would provide all of these things to me…but then, then they would break. I would feel unloved, not valuable, unworthy…my identity felt shattered. I felt like the rug where I had planted my feet had been pulled out from beneath me. And then I would find another relationship.

I could hear Gomer’s words coming out of my mouth “I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.” (Hosea 2:5b).   And like Gomer, when those lovers failed, I would return home…tail between my legs, looking for shelter, but never really seeing or trusting that He is the source of love, value, worth, and identity. Patiently, He pursued me…“Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her path. She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them.” (Hosea 2:6-7b). And like Gomer, God patiently pursued me. He blocked my paths and built walls to bring me back to Him.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14)

In the past 7 months, God has shown me love. Love that speaks loudly my value, my worth, my identity. Love that blocked my path, that spoke to tenderly, that turned my troubles to hope, that brought me back to Him.

And in His pursuit for my heart, He is showing me that where I had previously put periods at the end of relationships, we are in a relationship without any periods. An eternal love. In His perfect love I no longer have to live in fear…fear of failing, fear of being rejected, fear of losing that person. His love comes with freedom…the freedom that comes from knowing His love is not conditioned upon my behavior or treatment of Him. His love is best…there are no substitutes, supplements or replacements. His love is teaching me to exchange all my lesser loves for the best love I’ll ever know.

And one day, I will tell someone, “I love you. But I’m human and I’m going to one day fail you, disappoint you, hurt you, and I won’t necessarily mean to do that…but I can only offer you imperfect love. That’s why I’m going to need you to run as hard and fast as you can after Jesus, because He already loves you far better than I can love you and I want you to be loved best.”

“19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” (Hosea 2:19-20)

FOMO

“Fear of Missing Out” this is kind of a running joke with my friends and I that along with suffering from type 1 diabetes, my greatest affliction is FOMO. I hate feeling like I’m missing out on the party. My mother says this started at a young age with my refusal to go to sleep in my crib until everyone else in the house was asleep for fear of missing out on some quality play time. I would like to say I have outgrown this affliction, but I have not. While my FOMO has landed me on some good adventures, i.e. NASCAR 2013 (seriously, most fun thing I have ever done), it has equally ended with some pretty terrible adventures, i.e. 2006 Halloween trip to the “haunted train tracks”

NASCAR 2013
NASCAR 2013

This Memorial Day weekend I had a serious bout of FOMO. Maybe its because I was cleaning out closets while eating mass amounts of birthday cake and not doing something extraordinarily exciting like NASCAR 2013 (again, most fun thing I have ever done. Two thumbs up. Amazing). Or maybe its because I went to the world’s most crowded Kroger and it was empty, presumably because everyone in the world except for me was at the lake or the beach.

Memorial Day 2012
Memorial Day 2012

I think the causes of FOMO can vary from person-to-person, but in my case, I am fearful that I am missing out on something very important. That somehow, the lack of my presence at whatever event or stage of life, makes me less relevant (gah, how vain is that?!). Like allergies are exaggerated in the spring, my FOMO is exaggerated in the summer. Especially boyfriendless summers. If only they made nasonex for FOMO.

EVERYONE IS HANGING OUT WITHOUT ME THIS WEEKEND. I AM DESTINED TO BE A DOG LADY. IF I MISS THIS FUN WEEKEND TRIP I WILL MISS ALL THE FUN THINGS IN LIFE. FOREVER. … –just some sample thoughts that are the symptoms of FOMO.

Random slip n slide, no holiday, just a great FOMO choice except for my landing
Random slip n slide, no holiday, just a great FOMO choice, except for my landing

I have to remind myself, sometimes quite often, that fear is not part of my character anymore. 2 Timothy 1:7. I have to remind myself that where the spirit of the Lord is there is peace and not fear and in that peace there is freedom. Freedom to maybe feel a little bummed that all my friends (aka the shoppers at my local Kroger) are at the lake and I’m cleaning, but peace in knowing that I am following a God that is the perfect planner of weekends, months, seasons, and lives.

And in the words of a wise, wise person…the grass IS always greener…over the septic tank🙂

WCW

This one has been so hard for me to hit the “publish” button on.  I think because its so personal to me and because I am afraid that the words I write will never be adequate enough.  However, after chickening out last night and posting about my friend’s accidental nudity instead, I am finally pulling the trigger.

This weekend is my sweet momma’s birthday.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about how blessed I am to have a mom like her.  I think it all started when I came across a photo from a family vacation we took a few years ago.  At the time I had just been diagnosed with diabetes and was a total brat.  I didn’t realize it until a lot later, but she was personally going through some deep struggles at the time.  But that’s the thing about my mom, we had a great vacation and she loved me through all my unnecessary brattyness, even though her own life wasn’t peachy at the time.

first grade

kathyandamanda

As I look back over the years of my life, I can truly see the love of God through my mother’s love for us.  I have never met someone so willing to put others before herself.  As I am typing this, she is went and bought a family McDonald’s and filled up their gas tank.  My mom, who never missed a field trip, cheerleading competition, doctor’s appointment (she still wants to come with me to see my endocrinologist, we all have to leave the nest sometime though, mom. Ha!)  I used to think this is just what mothers do for their kids.  As I’ve grown older and met people outside of my small little bubble, I realize that is not the case.  I used to think that maybe she just has the sweetest personality and that’s why she loves like she does.  And don’t get me wrong, she is the sweetest, but what I’ve realized in the past few years is that she has no concept of loving others in any way different than the way Jesus loves her.

She is remarkable.  She is a lover and distributor of grace, maker of cheesy chicken casserole, author of corny jokes, homecoming queen, and reflector of Jesus.  I am so thankful that has God has opened my eyes, on this side of eternity, to allow me to see how truly blessed I am to have her as a mother.  I am lucky to spend the rest of my earthly days thanking God for this great blessing and serving her.

Also, she’s had to endure a lifetime of hearing that I look just like my dad. Clearly, we were little bowl cut twins.

twin2 twin1

If I am a tenth of the Christian, wife, mother, friend, worker, and woman she is (or even get a tenth of her metabolism), I will have succeeded in my time on earth.  Happy Birthday, Momma!

homecomingqueen

Also, if she weren’t already bordering on sainthood.  She chaperoned three boy crazy 16 year old girls on a cross country road trip with hundreds of other high schoolers (aka lots of boys). Love her brave heart.

16yearolds