Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dealing with Unresolved Grief is Key to Healing Your Heart After a Breakup—or Any Loss

So you’ve had a bad breakup? Or a loss of another kind. It’s hard. It hurts. But here’s some hope and insight.

One of the most essential lessons I learned in my season of desert darkness was the importance of grieving losses—going through not around the pain. I learned that “unresolved grief is the major underlying issue in most people’s lives.”

Unresolved grief? I knew I was sad and hurt from my last breakup. I was surely in pain. But it had never occurred to me that I had “grief” and it had to be resolved. Wasn’t grieving for getting over a death?

In the ensuing months, I came to learn that grieving was for all sorts of losses. It gave me a name for the permeating underlying sadness I’d been feeling for months.

Why do people avoid processing emotional pain, especially when emotions are strong? For one thing, as Mr. Griffen said to Annie in the movie We Are Marshall, “Grief is messy.” Mascara runs down your face when you cry, your eyes get puffy and your nose gets red. Your emotions fluctuate like the highs, lows and unexpected turns of a roller coaster ride. It’s not pretty.

But then again, neither is a rainstorm in springtime when the roads flood and the mud slides. But grieving, like spring— the shoulder between the dead of winter and the glory of summer—lasts only for a season.

Maybe you’ve seen people who try to hide their pain. They put on a pretend smile when inside they are dying emotionally. Like a like a duck gliding along the surface of a pond, they seem calm and unruffled, while underneath they’re paddling like mad just to stay afloat.

If you are going through a bad breakup--or any sort of loss in your life--an you want to get over it, it’s important to know what grief is, why it’s important to process it, how to go through it.

What is grief?
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Grieving? For a breakup? What’s the big deal? I mean, you just pick up the pieces and move on, right?” James and Friedman give us some important basics, “Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind.”

Grieving is okay. It’s necessary. It’s not just for the loss of a loved one through death, but for other losses as well. “The problem,” they continue, “is we have all been socialized to believe that these feelings are abnormal and unnatural.”

The pain won’t just go away if you ignore it. In fact, it is widely known that holding back emotions or not dealing with them can lead to increased physical stress and even physical illness.

A loss of significance—a big loss—can get stuck in your heart if it is not processed. When your self esteem falters, and you feel like it’s always midnight, and you hold it all in, the pain can pile up like emotional garbage. It clogs the drain, blocking your emotions as well as your movement forward into healing and wholeness.

Stuck pain can also lead to unwanted behavior. You’re constantly sad or bitter and it keeps you at arm’s length from other people, so you feel alone. You don’t feel like yourself, so you end up saying or doing things you don’t really mean—like blaming others or lashing out in unwarranted anger—and hurt others.

It’s been said that if you don’t grieve well you grieve all the time. While you may put on a good front for friends and coworkers, inside the lingering sadness remains. That’s why it’s so important to grieve losses—to unblock your frozen heart so you can feel better, find joy, and live a life of emotional freedom, serenity and love.

Here are a few things to remember:

Grieving a loss is not a linear process. Processing loss can circle around a few times or wash over you like an ocean wave. Eventually the waves that once pounded you so hard will have less and less impact, and finally recede.

Everyone heals in their own way and their own timing because love and loss is unique for each person.

Acknowledge your loss. Whether you left, he left, or it was a mutual agreement, something that was there is now gone.

Ask for help. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you do what you cannot do on your own. With His power, emotions expressed will begin the flow, unclogging your blocked heart. In time you will get unstuck and move from the darkness of loss and pain into the sunlight of restoration and wholeness.

Let yourself be sad. In his book, Broken, Tim Baker says, “Sorrow is entirely underrated.” I have to agree. “Sometimes,” he continues, “we feel that crying is showing weakness and that real Christians, if they’re truly saved, would never feel sorrow or cry…” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Tears are a cleansing emotional release from a wellspring deep inside of us that need to get out. Tears are part of unblocking our inner stuckness and pain. “It is as if we have to cry so the pain has somewhere to go, and that somewhere is out of us,” said Baker.

What do you need to release today? Will you release the pain, release control, release your need to be right, release the other person from what he or she did to you—or didn’t?

Recognize what you’ve lost and what remains. It can be helpful to make a list of your losses. Losing a significant love relationship is a loss, but you may have also incurred other losses during this time.

For instance, the loss of companionship and friendship, time spent with that person, and the loss of affection and physical touch. It could mean the loss of a dream of a life together with that person. There’s also the loss of trust, loss of control, and the loss of self respect or self esteem.

Dig in to God’s word. Writers of the Psalms, like David, often cried out to God with disappointment, sadness, longings and doubt. Then, after ranting and ravings, he’d remember God’s goodness and faithfulness in bringing him through his trials. He wasn’t afraid to express how he really felt, yet found, in the “but God” moments, a transition from tears to trust, from sorrow to celebration or from heartbreak to hope.

Pray. No matter what your circumstances, prayer is powerful. Prayer changes things. And it changes us.

Grieving losses is difficult, but not impossible. As night falls and darkness settles in you may feel hesitant or afraid to walk on. But take heart. Grieving, like night time, will not last forever.

Remember, you’re just passing through on your way to better days. Much better days.

Prayer by prayer and moment by moment healing comes. With the light of Christ to illuminate the way, things begin to change or you change, or both. You start to reorient your life around other events, places, or people and in time you return to a happier version of yourself with less sadness and more joy.

God redeems loss and pain and heals the heart to love again.

Lord, my heart is broken. Will you help me to get beyond this pain and move forward into joy? I need Your healing power and love to get me through. Lord, I choose to give you my pain, sadness, loss and loneliness. I cast my cares. Be near me Lord, in this dark season and always. Through this loss, I am thankful for what remains—-my health, my friends and family, and mostly You. Thank you for your care, comfort and close presence. Lead me, moment by moment from sadness to joy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tired of Waiting for Love?

So you want to get married. Or, have a boyfriend or girlfriend to spend time with who’s a really good match for you. You like him, he likes you; you have a lot in common, and wow they make you feel really good when you’re with them!

If only.

Well, friend, that’s where hope comes in.

Yep, wild hope that one day—-maybe in the not too distant future-—you will meet the one you connect with best, and the one who stays. The real thing. Lasting love. We all desire it. At least most of us do. And if you do, tell God about it.


Tell the One who loves you most about the deepest desires of your heart. Your lack, your longings, and what you really need in a love relationship. He is the Author of the best Love Stories. He is the Author of Love.


Here’s the thing, too. It’s about having a “harvest” mentality. It may not happen all at once. You plant your seeds (your prayers) and God grows what is best for you. You prepare and you have hope.

Prepare by becoming the person who will be well-suited for the one you meet. Because there’s what you want to GET from another and what you GIVE to the other.

Prepare by learning more about the opposite sex and how they think and feel. There are a ton of books out there to read, but you can also get to know your women friends better (or your male friends, as the case may be). Oh, the insight you will get!

A blog reader I will call S. is struggling with the same thing many of us singles struggle with—-we know God loves us, and that He has a good plan. We trust Him, but...

As she says, “it would be nice to be blessed with seeing as well as believing.”

To reader S. and to all of you, I’d say: I know. It would be nice. But keep having Hope.

Hope that God really does know what is best for you. He is not withholding something (or someone) from you; He is protecting you and saving you for His very best. We are on God’s timetable, He is not on ours. And if we trust His timing and His ways, we may just be surprised…

That is our wild hope—that God will indeed give what is best for each of us. If that includes marriage and kids, it will happen. If it means being on your own, He will take care of you.

Most likely some of you are gasping right now. “Not me! I’m not gonna be alone the rest of my life!” Again, you don’t know. So trust God for today and tomorrow.

Plant, prepare, wait, and wonder, and in all that—have a “harvest mentality” that God will grow what is good. Like the luscious, red apples ripe on the tree, when it’s time it will be time.

Harvest will come, whatever that looks like for you.

Until then, look up. Smile. Live your life. And know…He will take care of you.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

When He Doesn’t Call: Keeping Your Joy

Happiness may come and go, but joy is much more stable.

Finding joy can be challenging, but possible, whether he calls or not, whether you have a boyfriend (or girlfriend) or not. No matter what.

Despite your circumstances you can choose to have joy. Really. Yep, it’s a choice.

Joy happens because you know on Whom you wait—not for the guy to call, but for God to show you that you are worth being loved well. And the one who is right for you will PURSUE you, will call you, and will not leave you wondering!

The proof is in the pursuit. If he’s pursuing you, he may be interested. If he’s not, you’ve got to let it go. Don’t try to rationalize with reasons (he’s shy, he’s busy, he’s not over his ex, etc.). For WHATEVER REASON—even if you don’t know what it is—you have be “hands off” and move forward with your own life if the guy’s not pursuing you.

The thing is, you can have peace because God is in control. You cast your cares onto Him (“Here, take this longing and ache, Lord!”) and not carry them around.

Release yourself and rely on His strength. And then a lighter heart emerges. Ah….can you feel it? Things may not have changed, but you have.

So, no matter what is or is not happening in your life right now, soak in God’s joy.

And for those of us who are single and longing for the right one for us to come into our lives, here is some hope. First, the verse in the Bible as it appears. Then, my modern day-Jackie-interpretation of the verse for singles.

Here you go…

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17-18

Here is my translation of Habakkuk 3:17-18 for singles:

Though the relationship does not bud
and there are no men on the phone,
though the love connection fails
and the man produces no ring,
though there are no dates in my Daytimer®
and no guys at the door…

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God; He will take care of me.

So whether you have a Daytimer, an online calendar, or scraps of notes to keep you on track in life, God never loses track of you. He will give all you need.

Stand up straight. Take a deep breath. Remember the joy that’s yours today—and every day.

A Trip to the Beach, A Lesson in Patience

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him…”
(Psalm 37:7)

Life often has unexpected twists and turns, and we need patience, persistence and staying power. Thankfully, God gives guidance to help us stay on the right track. Our job is to listen and obey Him.

Yeah, easier said than done.

But I learned a lesson in patience—and God’s interesting ways of guiding our lives—on a day trip to the beach a few years ago.

Here’s the story…

On the western shore of Lake Michigan, along Wisconsin’s coastline, is Harrington Beach. One sunny Saturday I decided to drive there which, according to the map, should’ve taken less than two hours from my home in Milwaukee.

As I drove along, I finally spotted the lake on my right and thought I’d be there shortly. But suddenly the highway turned inland and soon I was driving past farmland and bright red barns. It didn’t seem like I was going the right direction since my car was headed AWAY from the lake.

This can’t possible be the way. I want to go to the beach, yet I’m driving inland past farms!

So I stopped at a gas station and asked the attendant if this was the right way to Harrington Beach, and he assured me it was. While the road had twists and bends, it would eventually lead to my destination.


I guess I just needed to follow his directions and wait for the right exit. I pressed on.

Finally, I saw a road sign that pointed to the correct exit and arrive at the beach parking lot. It was a wooded area and I still couldn’t see any sand or water.

I parked my car, walked through a short wooded path, and down a few wooden stairs. As I descended, I looked up and saw most amazing expanse of sand and water I’d ever seen at a Midwestern beach! Ah! To my right and left were miles of soft sand that beckoned me to walk.

Waves crashed on the shore, sea gulls cawed, and a gentle breeze blew off the lake and cooled me. At last!

It was quite an ordeal to get there—and a test of faith. But my loving God knew the entire time I’d get to that the beach, even as I drove on winding roads that seemed to be going in the opposite direction. He knew the way; I did not.

I learned a big lesson in patience that day.

If I know the One who is leading me, I can trust I will eventually get to my destinations in life—and it gives me strength to endure delay even when the journey doesn’t look how I think it should.

Trust on. Have faith. Even when you cannot see the way.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Still Waiting? Learning to Trust God’s Timing

Here’s the thing about waiting. It’s what we tell ourselves while we wait that determines how we wait.

You can think, “this is gonna take forever!” and sigh hopelessly. Or, you can think, “I don’t know how long this will take, but I’m trusting God’s perfect timing. He will take care of me.”

Big diff.

God keeps perfect time. Do you believe it? Things will unfold in your life when He is ready, when circumstances are ready, or when we are ready.

Here are a few examples. You can’t tell a newborn baby to run a marathon and then be disappointed when he does not. It’s not time yet. He has to grow up first, and gain strength and muscle.

You can’t order a closed rosebud to “open up now!” It simply will not happen. In time the graceful flower unfolds.

“To everything there’s a time and an hour,
for our lives to unfold and for roses to flower.
There’s a reason and purpose for every delay,
and with patience and timing we’ll get there someday.”

That’s a line from a poem I wrote years ago called, “A Time for Everything.” So, as you wait, you can…

Have patience
Choose joy
Trust God’s timing
Live in the “now”

Sometimes we need to “grow up on the inside” and that begins as we first “grow down,” much like the like the roots of a bamboo tree. For the first six years, the tree develops an extensive root system under the earth. If you stood there and looked at the site where the bamboo tree was planted you’d think nothing was happening.

Lots of waiting.

Then, finally, in the seventh year, the bamboo plant shoots up 80 feet tall! But if it had not first created such a widespread root system the tree would not have had the support needed for such explosive growth.

Although it seemed like nothing was happening, God was at work preparing for growth.

Things are not always what we see.

Waiting builds character, strengthens our dependence upon God and draws us closer to Him. It protects us from harm, and grows us up on the inside.

Waiting is for a reason. “God lets us wait—,” says Dan Allender, “not to punish us, not because he has forgotten us, but because our waiting is the crucible he uses to purify our hope for him.”

No matter what you wait upon, know upon Whom you wait. The Lord will deliver you.

As you wait, Believe.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Waiting? A Few Ideas to Help You Wait Well

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.
Psalm 130:5

Waiting is hard for most of us. In fact, we live in a world that promotes an instant-mindset through almost every advertisement you see or hear: Act now! Get what you want when you want it! From instant oatmeal to eyeglasses “in about an hour,” we get confused when we have to wait for things to happen in our own lives.

When things seem to take too long for our own liking, instant gratification replaces waiting, and we may take matters into our own hands. Bad idea.

We try to make something happen because you don’t know what to do with the spaces in life—like the interim gap between, say, the guy who just left and the next one to come into your life. Sometimes we wait for guidance, direction, or answers—or we don’t—and pay the consequences.

If waiting is a given, then we must decide if we will wait on God, and learn to wait well, or force things to happen on our own and downright disobey. Either way, we will deal with the results.

For instance, if you drive through a red stoplight, another car could careen through the intersection and hit you, harming you and wrecking your car.

Or, if you start another romantic relationship without waiting on God’s timing, you’d carry the unhealed pain with you and you won’t be able to give and receive love in the most stable or emotionally healthy way possible. You may end up driving the other person away or crashing the next relationship because you are simply not ready.

God has good reasons for delays. Truly, He does. We may not always understand what He’s doing or why, but God wants us to obey his commands—not because He is a tough taskmaster, but to protect us and guide us. In learning obedience, we also learn wisdom.

Ah, wisdom!

Like the wisdom of keeping your hands off the cocoon of an emerging butterfly. While you may want to help, it is not wise to pry it open for the little creature. He needs to emerge on his own, and the struggle builds strength as he exits his temporary shelter—otherwise he will die.

So we need to know when to keep our hands off and trust God’s timing for things to unfold.

So how do you learn to wait—and wait well?

Have you ever noticed that often God is not in a hurry? In Bible we see a number of examples, like Joseph, a young man sold by his own brothers. He lived in slavery (and at times, prison) for 17 years before he rose to a powerful position in Egypt. Jacob labored for 20 years before he was released from Laban’s labor in order to earn marriage to Rachel.

God doesn’t seem to be in a hurry because He is not on our timetable, we are on His.


God is God, and we will never fully know His reasons. But we can take comfort in the fact that He is good, loving and faithful—and he is always at work, even in the dark, putting together the pieces of our lives for His good purposes.

During seasons of waiting in our lives we can remember that:

Waiting is active. Waiting is more than just passing time; and it is not doing nothing. The work of waiting is believing God. Not just believing in God, but believing He will provide what is best for you.

Know on whome you wait: God, not man. God had good purposes, so your waiting is not in vain. You don’t have to be afraid that God will forget. He knows your heart and your desires. "My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken." (Psalm 62:5-6)

Waiting is for a purpose. God uses the seemingly dead times in our lives to heal, replenish and prepare our hearts for the next season in our lives. Think of your heart as a fallow field. Like the farmer who leaves his land crop-free for a season, your heart may feel barren or blank, but it’s only for a time. Leaving the land empty replenishes the soil and replaces the nutrients so a better, healthier crop grows the next time. In the same way, your “in the meantime” can be a time to heal and replenish your own heart land and, in time, gather a better and healthier yield in how you handle relationships—and life.

Waiting draws us closer to God. Enduring delay builds intimacy and a closer relationship with Him. In our weakness, God is strong and His strength precedes victory.

Bottom line? Waiting means TOTAL dependence on God—not a little bit of dependence when I felt like it—but complete reliance on God.

Total dependence on God means that we are not so full of pride to think we can do this life on our own.

Sure when times are tough, we cry out for help. But when things are looking up, you might find yourself thinking you can do life on your own. “I’ll take it from here, God,” you think, “I’ve got it covered.” Really? When we don’t see anything happening, we may foolishly step out and try to make things happen on our own.
We can be confident but not prideful, secure but not foolish.

There’s a lot to be said about the fine art of waiting…so tune in tomorrow for more.

Guess you’ll just have to wait. :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hurting After a Breakup? Grab Hold of Comfort and Support from A Single Girl Who's Been There

Breakups hurt. That’s a fact. And everyone handles the demise of a relationship differently. Some people want to avoid interaction completely, so they stay home and isolate themselves from what they think will be further pain. Just flop on the couch, flip on the TV and zone out to a place where anger and anxiety disappear, even for just a few hours.

Another common tendency is to obsess about the relationship, and think about what happened (or didn’t happen) over and over again. You replay in your mind the last few conversations you had. You know the dialog of your breakup by heart (he said this, then I said that, then he said…), but you still don’t understand what really happened between the two of you to get to this painful point.

Like a hamster on a wheel that goes around and around but gets nowhere, your mind seeks answers, insight, and closure.

Breakups are painful because something has been wounded. And, much like a physical injury, an emotional wound needs care, comfort and recovery time.

Healing emotional pain from a relationship split begins when you stabilize the situation. Separate from the source of pain, the other person, so you can prevent further injury and begin the healing process. It’s like a cast on a broken arm, but it’s a heart boundary for a time and for a purpose.

For example, don’t go back and keep having repeated post-breakups talks or interactions with the person who broke your heart. It can be extremely difficult, like withdrawal from a drug, to keep your hand off the phone but it will be easier to heal in the end.

Don’t call or email him just to see how he is, and don’t drive by his house or office. You may be tempted to want to reach out to him and connect because that’s what you’re used to—it’s comfortable and familiar—but your goal here is not connecting, it’s disconnecting. It feels awful and lonely and different. But that’s just part of the process.

Of course, every situation is different. I’m not saying that you have to cut off all contact completely or forever. Some women I know have been able to be friends with people they’ve dated, but not right away. The truth is: A time of separation is essential if you are ever going to have a platonic friendship in the future.

Breakups can be complicated, and you may need to have a few talks to get to the finale. But use wisdom and discretion. Hard as it can be, I’ve found that being away from the other person completely, at least initially, was more healing in the long run than the slow hanging-on-to-fragments-of-what’s-left relationship death.

Pray about it and ask God how to best tie up the loose ends of your ending.

A wise woman has self respect and doesn’t grovel; she knows when to walk away and to whom to run—into the arms of her First Love and Great Physician, Jesus. He is the one who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Remember, you won’t be in this painful place forever. In the meantime, here are some great ways to find the comfort and support you need…

Let yourself cry.

Say hello to “the God all comfort.” His love, His presence, and His word are healing gifts.

Prayer is a vital key in your healing process. Why not start each day with prayer for wisdom, guidance, healing and favor and end each day with a prayer of thanks and gratitude for all He’s done for you that day (whether you enjoyed it or endured it)?

also brings healing, comfort, joy and a fresh encounter with God.

Put his stuff away. It’s hard to move forward into your new future when mementos of your past are pulling you back. If you’re not ready to discard them, box up all the photos and treasured objects he gave you and put them in storage until the time is right to get rid of them. Also, think about deleting his number from your cell phone so you’re not tempted to do some desperate dialing or texting in a weak moment.

Talk with trusted friends or family members.We need our friends to comfort and support us in our times of need. Telling your story can help to ease your heart’s pain and bring emotional healing. When someone listens we feel validated. Talk to your close friends or family members about your breakup story, not to bash the guy or cause harm, but to get it out of you—to release it, so you can find freedom and healing.

Write in a journal or notebook. When your feelings appear on a page (or even typed online), they are no longer swirling inside your head. You can vent your emotions, release your pain and do so in the privacy of your personal journal.

Think about asking God these questions and writing down your answers: Lord, what do you want me to learn from this relationship that just ended? What are you teaching me during this healing time? God has valuable life lesson in every season of our lives, even the dark times.

Nurture your spirit.When your heart is hurting it’s helpful to take care of yourself and remember what makes you feel good. Comfort comes in a variety of ways and uses some or all of our senses:

the touch of a friend’s hug, a therapeutic massage, or a warm comforter around you as you rest in an overstuffed chair by a roaring fire;

the sight of the stunning beauty of God’s creation (on vacation or right in your own backyard), or a redecorated apartment;

the smell fresh cut flowers filling your living room, or a new perfume;

the taste of your favorite comfort foods (like creamy mashed potatoes or a hot caramel latte);

the sound of relaxing music, the melody of a flowing river on a nature walk, or a phone call from a kind friend who is really good at cheering you up.

This is a time of transition. You’re going from a being couple to a single, from a “we” to a “me.” Change takes time and we all handle it differently, so be good to your self in the process.

Some days you will stumble and some days you will stand firm, but no matter what happens you walk on, knowing that you are one step closer to brighter days ahead.

Dear Lord, I am really hurting today. How could this happen? I simply do not understand. I am sad, and angry and hurt and heartbroken. I give you my pain and cast my cares into the ocean of your love and comfort. I choose to trust You, and remember that no matter what happens you are faithful, kind and good. Even when I do not see where the plot is going, You are still the author of my story. I need You, Lord. I need your close presence. Help me to rest in the comfort of your love. Restore my shattered heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

After the Heart Holiday -- Now What?

Okay so the heart holiday is over. You made it! Here are a few parting thoughts about Love…

Perhaps you’ve heard this expression: “The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.” So said Oliver Wendell Holmes.

I believe the same is true of love. The heart, once expanded to encompass the breadth of love, is never the same again.

A nice idea, you may say. But what if your life has turned out differently than you’d planned? You had love—-once-—and lost it. Or, you’ve never even experienced it at all. Being single at this stage of your life was not your plan, yet here you are, on your own.

Unlike the board game called LIFE, where the path meanders through key life events like graduation, jobs, marriage, kids and retirement, you never got your little red convertible with a husband in the seat next to yours, or a bunch of kids in the back.

Either way, we need to remember that God is still sovereign. That means He rules and reigns; He’s in control even when life seems out of control—or seemingly empty. Just because the road of real life took a different turn, does not mean God has forgotten about you. He is still with you on the path--leading, guiding, loving.

Every step of the way.

Here’s a good way to look at it. “The sovereign Lord will not be thwarted by ill motives, wayward plans, or the scheming of the unrighteous. He rules over the universe, and he even uses evil to accomplish his plan,” says Dan Allender.

“But God’s sovereignty is not an invitation to passivity. Instead, it is a call to wise and risky creativity. We must plan, and he will direct.”

Okay. We must plan, and pray, and God will direct.

So, on this Tuesday and for the rest of our lives we can choose to walk forward by faith.I, for one, choose to love. To be kind. To care about others. To serve and give. To protect and be protected. And more.

Today I choose to...

Love bravely.
Love courageously.
Love anyways!

Will you?

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Single Girl Ponders Valentine’s Day—and Love

So I’m at the grocery store yesterday and I walk into a veritable Heart Fest. Seriously. I pushed my shopping cart through the front door and into a land of heart-shaped cookies, cupcakes, and balloons, red roses, teddy bears, and cards of all shades and sizes proclaiming love.

Ah, Valentine’s Day. The day of all things red-—and love

Then I noticed quite a few couples grocery shopping together, which is unusual. Or maybe I just noticed it more today. Some of these two-somes looked a lot like each other; they say that happens sometimes. Like the outdoorsy couple in hiking gear that looked like they just stepped out of the LL Bean catalog. Others, it seems, don’t resemble each other at all. But they’re together—-even at the grocery store.

Are these people in love? Or just getting by? Are they happy?

This I ponder as I meander to the deli. Here, the clerk slices my low sodium turkey, another seemingly mundane task on another mundane day. That is, until she looks up and sees someone named Phil walking by looking straight at her. He smiles and says hello. Deli Girl says “Hi” back with a smiled so wide you’d think she’d just won the Colorado lottery.


What about the older woman with sneakers brighter than her Grandma-coif hairdo? She picks up and puts down steaks with an indecisive look. Does she have someone special to go home to with those steaks, or is she all alone tonight?

I wonder, as I stand in the checkout line next to a twenty-something guy with Red Bull and deodorant, how Love works.

Who picks whom and why? What attracts someone to another for life? What makes a couple work—or not? People have been coupling, loving, and doing life together for centuries. And yet, my head swims.

It is a mystery.

And then I remember. God is a God of mystery and miracles—especially when it comes to love. He excels at getting the right people together at the right time. If we let Him, He truly is the best Matchmaker ever.

That’s what I’m counting on. I want love to find me…real, mutual love that’s lasting and good. I trust that the Author of Love knows what I need in the man best-suited for me. And that He knows what you need, and who is best-suited for you.

Maybe one day my Love Story will begin. And I hope it’s a really good read. A mystery? Perhaps. But a good romantic comedy--

Now that would be delightful.

In the meantime, instead of bemoaning the love we don’t have, let’s celebrate—with friends, family, and others—the love we do.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Waiting for a Valentine? Maybe He's Already Here

Waiting for a Valentine

For love, the heart cries silently,
“Where are you?
When will you find me?”
Hopeful for a precious valentine.

Yet, waiting long it seeks to fill
The emptiness with its own will,
And imitations leaving lack,
Hungry for a faithful valentine.

At last a suitor is revealed,
Truth uncovered, not concealed,
Who shines with light supreme, sublime.
Are you my radiant valentine?

Love, he tells me is his name,
And Justice, he is just the same
For once he hung between two robbers on a tree –
My God, My God, my faithful valentine.

What Love is this that covers me --
And shields me from my enemies?
From death to life so powerfully,
My valiant valentine.

Your giving heart, so rare and free,
Your promise you will never leave,
Eternity of You and me,
My One true love valentine.

-- Jackie M. Johnson

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Finding Love Again: Are Your Expectations Realistic?

The perfect man. The perfect woman. Do they really exist?

While it’s good to have standards and consider the spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional, and physical aspects of your ideal person, it’s also wise not to expect perfection.

The “right one” will be the one best suited for you if you include God in your love life. And love will be more successful when you don’t expect a man—or anyone—to be faultless.

Of course, we know that men and women are different in many ways, so the more we learn about the opposite sex, the greater chance we’ll have for better communication, with less frustration and more mutual enjoyment of each other.

In Finding Mr. Right, Stephen Arterburn reveals that the heart of a man is the most important part of his anatomy. “Often women focus on the wrong traits and mistake character flaws for strengths. They desire the confident, self-assured man, and mistakenly end up with an uncaring and demanding jerk. Wanting strength, they may shun a man who has a sensitive side, who actually is interested in who they are and how to please them.”

He also said that the wise woman looks for “…the inner man who is secure enough to love, free enough to laugh, and humble enough to learn.”

Some people idealize the fantasy of what they think dating or marriage is supposed to be, and sometimes a reality check is needed.

I have a coworker friend who’s been married for over a decade. He and his wife have a large family and, from seeing them at a few work functions I surmised that they had a happy, strong marriage that was conflict-free and breezy. I once said to him, “You guys make it look so easy.” His easy grin turned serious when he replied, “It’s taken us years to get to this place.”


Like any relationship, marriage has its ups and downs. It takes dedication to live out the commitment.

As you think and pray about what you want in a date or a life partner, keep a realistic view—both the bright side and challenging side.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

After a Breakup: What to Look for When You're Looking for Love Again

Looking for Mr. (or Miss) Right?

There are many essential traits to look for in a date, and eventually a life partner. I have five listed here, the five C’s: Christian, Communication, Character, Chemistry, and Calling with some questions to ask yourself about what each one means for you.

Christian means that he has a committed and growing walk with God. If you’re a person of faith, that’s the foundation for any dating relationship. What does that mean for you? Do you want someone who will attend church with you every Sunday? Do you want to pray together as a couple? How will your faith influence your decision-making in life? Think about how you want to live out your spiritual life with another person.

Communication is essential to any good relationship. It’s talking and listening, building rapport and intimacy, sharing, and more. What kind of communication is important to you in a relationship? Are you comfortable going deep in conversation, or do you prefer to stay in the shallow end? What is “good communication” to you?

I remember a dreadful date with a man who didn’t talk to me almost the entire day we were together. Ron was a man from church with whom I’d spoken a few times. We had mutual friends and saw each other at singles events. One Sunday afternoon we drove to Green Bay for a Packers football game and he was completely silent throughout the entire game—including halftime! Even the long, soundless drive home was awful. I told myself that day that I needed a man who would not only talk, but listen, and make good communication a priority.

Character refers to his temperament, personality and moral fiber. Does he have integrity? Does his keep his promises, say what he means and mean what he says? How do your personalities mesh? Do you have temperaments that are complementary?

is another word for attraction. Is he handsome in your eyes? Does he have other qualities that appeal to you? Is there that intangible “certain something” that makes you click as a couple? Of course, chemistry and attraction are important in a relationship, but don’t let your feelings dictate your choices based solely upon someone’s looks. True beauty is more than a perfect smile or fit body. It’s both inner and outer qualities, and how that person makes you feel. Additionally, chemistry is just one of the essential five C’s for a healthy and fulfilling match, one piece of the entire love puzzle.

Calling is the term I’ll use here for God’s will for your relationship. Is it right for the long term? Has God called you to marriage, or not? Just because you love someone does not always mean you will marry them. If you have all four of the five C’s, but if the “C” of Calling is not there, it will never work. You may have different life paths.

Finally, before you date someone—whether you meet on the Internet or at the office—make sure he is not married. Seriously. Don’t rely on him wearing a ring.

Here’s my story about that…

Josh had the kind of captivating blue eyes you could dive into and swim laps in for hours. He was a new client at our firm and always stopped by my desk to say hello and chat briefly. Of course, he always had something interesting to say and often I could only eek out pleasantries while I tried to remember my name.


His left-hand ring finger was bare; a good sign. No glint of a gold wedding band to be seen. Since there wasn’t a man in my life at the time, I had fun daydreaming about him. It was just for amusement, I told myself. Until the day I learned he was married.

Married! Yep. To the same woman for twenty years. And, oh, and they have a bunch of kids. How in the world was that possible? I mean, he never wore a ring and he was so nice. I was shocked, and surprisingly a bit hurt. I know I shouldn’t have been, but Daydream Man was gone. Who would I think about now?

It was time to clear my heart and head of even the smallest inklings of desire for this person and get back to what I really wanted—a God-centered lasting love.

Okay, so think about the 5C’s and what you’ll do with them. And maybe one day, the man with the precious metal on his left hand will belong to you.

Choose wisely.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Finding Love Again: What Do You Want to Do Differently Next Time?

Often books on relationships emphasize finding the right person, but it’s also important to be the right person.

To have the lasting love and intimacy you desire it’s essential to identify unhealthy patterns in your own life, change what you can about yourself, and then come into greater clarity about the qualities you want in another person.

Identify unhealthy patterns. Healthy relationships grow when we know our true identity and respect our individuality and uniqueness. They also flourish when we connect with who God is (His character) and how that makes a difference in our life.

We are all made with different habits, personality traits and ways of relating. However, sometimes we do things in a relationship that hurt ourselves or damage the connection and we don’t know why.

Sometimes we know our weak spots and sometimes we are blind-sighted. Think about your past dating experiences. What went wrong? Why did it end?

It’s helpful to identify any patterns in your dating experiences that may be sabotaging the love you desire. You can start by making a list of things you’ve learned from past relationships—things you’ve done that you don’t want to do again. Here are some examples:

* You stayed too long in a dead end relationship.
* You didn’t stand up for yourself when he hurt you with words or actions.
* You gave in when he wanted to go farther physically than you wanted.
* You stubbornly wanted your own way all the time.
* You didn’t know how to handle it when he treated you poorly.
* You lived in a fantasy world of thinking “it will be more” when he only wanted friendship.
* You rushed from one relationship to next when you weren’t ready love again.

Change your thoughts and actions. Now that you know what you don’t want, it’s time to get to make some changes. What do you want to do differently next time?

You don’t have to stay stuck in patterns of the past. Ask yourself why you’ve made unwise relationship choices? If you don’t know, then pray and ask God to reveal to you any habits or patterns that have been holding you back.

Be clear on you really need in a relationship. In order to make choices that lead to the love and intimacy you desire, it’s important to know the characteristics you want—and don’t want—in a person. What are your criteria for the things you look? Think about the kind of men you’ve picked in the past? What do you want now? What needs to change?

Make a list of things you need in a relationship. For instance:
• I need to have a better idea of what I really want in a relationship.
• I need to learn to assess more quickly if a man is right for me or not.
• I need to be clear with myself and the other person about what behaviors I will and will not accept.
• I need someone who is consistent in his words and actions.
• I need to make time for a quality relationship; to feel more connected.
• I need a man who will pursue me, be available, and treat me with respect.

My friend Heidi once said, “The difference between the wrong man and the right man is like the difference between the darkest night and the brightest day.”

It’s time for a brand new day!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Finding Love Again: Wisdom is Key

Now that you are getting over Mr. Wonderful (or Mr. Wonder-Where-He-Went) you may want to think about how you will do things differently in your next relationship.

You can be ready for love again and make healthier choices in the future by becoming a person of: wisdom, high standards, realistic expectations, integrity, love, and faith. We’ll talk about each one of these characteristics each day this week on A New Day Café blog—right here.

Making better choices in relationships begins as you think about the kind of person you want to date and how you’ll date. If you’re a person of faith, will you look for love in the world’s way or God’s way?

There is no Intro to Dating 101 section in the Bible, but we know that God desires people to treat each other with honesty, respect and honor. For one thing, that means being more other-centered and less self-centered.

It also means to be humble, be patient, bear with one another, to speak truthfully to build up others with your words, to be kind and compassionate, to forgive each other, and to live a life of love. Check out the book of Ephesians in the Bible for more about how we are to treat others—no matter who they are.

It seems wise to get to know someone first to see if you are compatible before you connect in a dating relationship. Spend time with your friends, his friends or your singles group instead of instant one-on-one time. That way you can prevent heartbreak for both parties if either of you discover you the other person is not for you after all.

Wisdom is essential making changes. Without it we do really dumb things that hurt others or ourselves. Wisdom protects, leads, guides, and gives knowledge and understanding. Wisdom gives us victory!

As you follow the path of wisdom something wonderful happens. You grow up on the inside.

When hard things happen, like a breakup, it can cause us to wise up and become more emotionally and spiritually mature.

What does that kind of person look like?

A mature person loves, accepts and respects herself. She learns to put rejection and loss in perspective, and trust the bigger picture of God’s guiding hand. She deals with issues as they come up and doesn't let them accumulate. Garbage needs to be taken out regularly, and emotional garbage needs to be processed and dumped frequently, too. She doesn't hold on to the past but clings tightly to the One who is her future and her hope: Jesus Christ.

A mature person lives in the reality of present, not the fantasy of the past or the future. She doesn’t obsess over a guy who’s dumped her for far too long or imagine herself in a white dress and veil with someone who is clearly not pursuing her.

A mature person trusts that God really does know best. And she lives what she believes. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)

When you live in the light of God’s truth, you begin to feel stronger and more confident, and you become more equipped to make healthier relationship choices.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Restoring Confidence After a Breakup: Essential Tips

When your identity is rooted in the soil of God’s truth, your confidence grows. So when you run into the guy who dumped you, or the girl he is with now, it won’t shatter your self esteem. Sure, it may shake you up a bit at first, but you bend; you don’t break. As you learn to accept your strengths and your weaknesses, you build confidence that you are worth being loved well.

Confidence is very attractive. In fact, I’ve heard a number of men say that it’s not always how a woman looks that first attracts them. Surprising as that may be, they say that it’s her confidence and how she makes them feel.

One day down the road you may start dating again, and when you do, you will have the confidence to move forward and make better choices next time (I’ll blog more about that next week).

You can be confident in God, and His abilities not your inabilities. Confidence, because God is faithful. “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

Here are some suggestions to improve self esteem and confidence builders:

*Challenge negative and “what is wrong with me?” thinking.

*Watch your “self talk” and ruminating. Oftentimes we are harder on ourselves than others.

*Appreciate your positive strengths and work on areas that may need improvement.

*Stay away from critical and negative people as much as possible.

*Don’t put yourself down; build yourself up with God’s word.

*Accept compliments graciously. Just say, "thank you."

*Face your fears with faith.

*Don’t be afraid to say no.

*When your self esteem starts to crash, ask yourself: What happened? Is it true?
What evidence is leading you to that conclusion? Then consider if you need to change something in your life, or let go what happened.

*What one person thinks about you is just one person’s opinion.

*Love and respect yourself.

*Remember: You are worth being loved well!

*Handle with humor; find something to laugh about.

Lord, I need new confidence and self esteem after this time of rejection. Help me to focus on You, not my circumstances. Plant seeds of truth in my life and help them to grow so I can know my true identity based on what You say and what You see. When the words or actions of others have hurt me, please shore up my eroded self esteem. Give me clarity and true perspective. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Restoring Confidence and Self Esteem

This is who you are, your identity, LOVED BY GOD. ~ Eugene Peterson

After a relationship breakup a common question in going from a couple to a single is “Who am I now?” You want to know if you are loveable, worthy, enough. How do you find your way forward on your own?

Breakups can affect your self esteem and your identity. When you look at yourself, you may have a clear picture or a distorted image—either way it’s your point of view.

So often a woman looks to a man to affirm her worth and value. If he thinks she is great, she feels great. If doesn’t, her worth withers. We are sorely deceived when we think that any man has the final answer to our significance.

“No man can tell you who you are as a woman. No man is the verdict on your soul,” said John and Stasi Eldredge in Captivating. “Only God can tell you who you are. Only God can speak the answer you need to hear.”

To be sure, the authors affirm that it’s normal in a loving relationship to speak well of each other. It’s important to affirm each other with words. However, they conclude, our “core validation, our primary validation has to come from God.”

With the yardstick the world uses, you may feel like you will never measure up. However, when God looks at your life, He sees something entirely different—and His point of view is authenticity, reality, truth.

But what does God have to say about who you are? In His eyes, you are:

His friend.

A child of God—an adopted son or daughter.

Princess or prince.

You are precious, honored, and highly valued.

You are the apple of His eye
(someone who is held dear).

You are chosen.

You are accepted by God…
you belong to Him… and you are loved with an everlasting love.

Once you’ve discovered your true identity, who you are in God’s eyes, and choose to live in that truth you will begin to see yourself in a whole new light. You reawaken to who you really are—chosen, accepted and dearly loved—and find the courage to be yourself.

When your identity is rooted and ground in what God says about you, your self esteem is more solid. You are better able to handle success or failure, deal with change, make decisions, and move forward to give and receive real and lasting love.

The Lord wants to transform your identity, not take away who you are, but to reveal who you really are. No longer a servant, you are a friend. No longer an orphan, you are a child of God. Instead of a pauper, a princess; instead of alone and unloved, a Bride.

Don’t let your pain or your past define you. It is a part of who you are, but it’s not the entirety of what makes you the unique individual you are. Who you once were, or who you are now can be transformed as your identity comes from your security in Christ.