“Once Upon A Time” Versus Forever & Always

A Facebook post came across my Newsfeed yesterday. The original author, Abbey Elizabeth Boone, stressed how important it was to wait to find someone who appreciates you and who you can appreciate back. Her simple little blurb was picked up by Love What Matters and has been shared numerous times, cementing its purpose to thousands of readers.

I encourage you to read Abbey’s original post (at the link above). Her comparison between her past toxic relationships to her current, healthy one made me smile. Today is G’s and my second wedding anniversary. Two years ago we stood in front of our loved ones and expressed vows of unconditional love, unfaltering companionship, and endless date nights. Marriage has been the best adventure of my life so far, even if it is also the most difficult. G and I have waged through a number of wars only to come out stronger in every situation. And that is the greatest difference between my own past relationships and present one.

So here is my own little version of my “Once upon a times” compared to my “Forever and Always”:

Continue reading ““Once Upon A Time” Versus Forever & Always”

How We Met: His Story

My story with Ashley started when I moved back into the local area. I began attending FCOG (our church) and knew I needed a deeper level of involvement in the church than just attending Sunday service. I found out about a 20-30’s Bible study group called “House” so I gave my contact information looking for more details not knowing what to expect.

When I received the invite to the group, I remember initially thinking how kind the person behind the words in the email must be. As I read further and reached the end of the email, I saw the name of the woman writing, Ashley, and saw her accompanying profile picture. I thought to myself that I had just seen the most beautiful woman in my life. I didn’t want to get too excited as my main intention in joining this group wasn’t about dating, but challenging and maturing my faith. Plus my heart had been broken several times before and I told myself pictures could be deceiving.

So I remember back to a Wednesday night of December 2016 and being very nervous about the prospect of meeting completely new people. What would they be like? What would they think of me? As I took a deep breath and swallowed hard, I gripped the door handle, twisted, and entered into the home of House. To my relief, I was greeted by very warm and welcoming fellow believers in Christ.

As I made my way to the gathering spot and looked across the room, there wrapped in a blanket was Ashley. At that moment I realized I was completely unprepared for this encounter and the way I already felt toward her. As our eyes met, she said, “Hi” and smiled. With a dry mouth and clammy hands, I returned a shy hello and sat on the couch adjacent her. As I sat there, I remember thinking how beautiful her blue eyes were and that she was even more adorable in person. Throughout the night it was hard not to seem like a creeper as I couldn’t help myself from stealing glances in her direction.

Over the next few months we came to know each other better while interacting through the House group. And I came to realize that she wasn’t only extremely beautiful, but that I admired how smart and strong she was in her faith and relationship with the Lord as well.

As some things in our lives shifted for the better, we were better able to pursue one another. I wasn’t sure exactly where she stood with our relationship however, until she asked if I wanted to join her at the Lane Auto Show. I was genuinely wondering if I had died and gone to heaven! My only response was to nearly yell, “Yes!” due to my extreme excitement.

If this wasn’t enough, Ashley also offered to come and pick me up for church that same weekend in her parents’ 2014 Chevy Corvette. By then, it all started making sense, and she had figured out the way to my heart: through four wheels and engines.

When she dropped me back home after church that Sunday, I asked if she would be willing to go out on a date together, just the two of us to get to know each other. I had never been so nervous to ask a question in my life! To my relief, she actually said she would love to go on an actual date.

I felt like I could do back flips, and that my heart had just been jump-started.

A couple of hours later I was in the middle of mowing the grass when I received a phone call. It was Ashley asking if I was busy that evening to take me up on that date. I suggested we go hiking at Grand Mere. Without missing a beat, she said that sounded perfect, and next I knew we were at the dunes, hiking up and down the steep sand hills. Being a part of God’s great creation never ceases to put me at ease and center my soul.

Being with Ashley has made me realize that she is the most beautiful creation in my life. I knew that she was so special to me that day, and we continued to grow closer on a new level and establish our core values, goals, and beliefs together. I knew she was my perfect match, made for me, and my heart was drawn to her and hers to mine.

Considering my life and where I wanted to go, I knew I wanted Ashley by my side. I was not going to let this blessing from God slip through my hands. So, making a commitment to be her man forever and always, I got down on one knee on the North Pier on September 19, and asked Ashley to be my wife. She said yes and accepted my offer, without any doubt.

I will forever be grateful to God and thank Him daily for bringing us together. This is no longer my story, but the beginning of OUR story…

I will forever and always love you, Ash.

10 Rules of Christian Dating and Why He’s Not “The One”

I’m a Christian, in case that hasn’t been clearly stated yet, friends. I’m a Christian who values her faith and Lord above all things, but I am also human. I ache to love and be loved in return by those I can physically embrace. I’m beside all the people in the world looking for a place to belong, a group to belong to, and a person to make my life better. So when it comes to dating and looking towards the future, my thoughts are a jumble of what I need, who I like, and how the two can intertwine into respect for my faith. I’m not the type of girl to believe there is only “One” person out there for me. I believe there are many people who fit the bill and who are compatible with my beliefs. This fact makes dating even more difficult though… or does it?

A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook a few days ago and the first time I read it through I was like, “Yeah. He is so right. This is what I feel.” I mean it, the entire article speaks so perfectly on my beliefs and morals and faith it’s almost spooky. It is a discussion on society’s views for dating, a personal view of dating, and God’s call for dating. Considering these 10 rules might just make things a little bit easier for those needing the strength and guidance. So for those of my readers who are Christians, I urge you to read through this article. I know it has some length, but Frank’s words are true, justified, and right on point.

Originally posted on To Save a Life:

It is time for Christians to start talking about dating. The trajectory of lives and eternities are in the balance.

“Careful, there, cowboy. You startin’ kinda strong!”

Yes, I am. Church, this issue shapes our young people, friends, and family more than we could ever imagine. And we have been passive too long. “Let’s just sit back and see what happens” might work in certain scenarios, but Christian dating isn’t one of them.

Establishing principles for Christian dating could set men and women on a course towards Christ-centered marriages. Laying out guidelines for dating as followers of Jesus could alter the lives of men and women by keeping them out of toxic and unhealthy relationships (and ultimately marriages).

Most importantly, guidelines and principles for dating could transform lives and shape eternities.

So, this is incredibly important. And we have a responsibility as men and women of God to be pro-active. But we can’t be pro-active unless principles are established. So, I am starting the conversation.

I hope and pray the words from this post will spark further conversations in your ministries, relationships, and homes. Here are 10 really important principles for Christian dating.

1. Stop looking for “The One.”

“Frank, how will I know when I find ‘the one’?”

You won’t. Mostly because “the one” doesn’t exist. The truth is you could spend your life with more than one person. If you need to take a minute to let that sink in, I will be here when you get back…

…Alright, glad you returned. Here’s the deal: God doesn’t set up marriage as a divine lottery where every person has one winning ticket. That would make God a gambler, and the Bible clearly says gambling is from the devil (only joking). But “the one” very much paints God this way.

Look, marriage isn’t as much about finding someone totally compatible as it is about committing to someone despites difficulties and differences.

“The one” says you need to find the perfect person. And discovering one flaw means it’s time to move on.

But the beauty of marriage is God sustains you despite your flaws. The brokenness you see in yourself and the brokenness you experience from your spouse point both of you to the only perfect one, God.

The brokenness in a marriage should point you to the only perfect one, God.

2. Date with a trajectory toward marriage.

This quote sums it up:

Dating without the intent of getting married is like going to the grocery store with no money. You either leave unsatisfied or you take something that isn’t yours. Jefferson Bethke

That’ll preach right there. If you are a Christian, there is no reason to date without a trajectory towards marriage. Now, I want to clarify what I mean.

If you are a Christian, there is no reason to date without a trajectory towards marriage.

Dating with a trajectory towards marriage means dating with a purpose. It means dating with an understanding of the gospel. It means dating someone who meets the values and goals you have for a future spouse (more on that later).

Casual or purposeless dating has no benefit for Christians. We are intentional beings. We are designed to know why we do stuff and where we are going. Dating is no different.

Now, please, please, please don’t be a freakish weirdo. Dating with a trajectory towards marriage doesn’t mean you only date one person ever. That would be awesome, but it’s not always realistic.

You might get into a relationship with someone who loves Jesus, meets the values you have in a future spouse, and is compatible with you. But once you get into the relationship, you realize things aren’t as they seemed. Maybe they like to cuddle with cats or something. That’s always a deal breaker.

Just end the relationship, and continue to seek the Lord.

Disclaimer: A date is not dating. Again, please don’t be a freakish weirdo and give Christians a negative label. Having coffee or going to eat dinner with the opposite sex is not dating. That’s a date. Dating is more intimate. Dating involves D.T.R talks. It involves sharing personal struggles and vulnerability.

So, if you choose not to get coffee or watch a movie with the opposite sex, then whatever. But don’t place that expectation on others.

3. Don’t date non-Christians.

The ultimate purpose of marriage is sanctification (becoming like God). So, my question is, “How does dating a non-Christian aid you in this?”

If you are a Christian, God isn’t a piece of your pie. He is the pie. Why date someone who doesn’t even have God as a piece of the pie?

My wife loves the Lord, and I can say with all certainty I wouldn’t be following Jesus without her. There will be days when life is crashing down, your faith is wavering, and the only thing left will be your spouse. This is the beauty of a sanctifying marriage. In this scenario, your spouse is there to pray for you, put his or her arm around you, and walk with you.

Without a Christian spouse, one of two things will happen: you will drift away from God or your spouse will become a functional god (more on this later). Both of these are bad.

Without a Christian spouse you will either drift away from God or make your spouse a functional god.

There is another dangerous mentality in Christian circles I want to address…”flirting to convert.”

Look…Christians are called to be missionaries. The dating world, however, is not the place to be a missionary. Don’t allow pride to deceive you. You can’t change someone. That’s God job.

So, date Christians. Marry someone who loves Jesus. And spread the gospel as missionaries together.

4. Have a list of values and don’t compromise them.

If you have no idea what values are important to you in a future spouse, exit the road to marriage at the next off ramp. Pull over at the closest gas station and decide what you want in a future spouse. It’s dangerous riding on the road to marriage without an idea of where you are going.

Now, when you form this list, don’t be legalistic. Don’t sit someone down on the first date and interview them to make sure they meet all of the qualities. That’s freakish, weirdo stuff. Again, don’t give the rest of us bad name. Your list is designed to give you a framework for dating, not be a checklist for it.

On the other hand, don’t compromise. Your heart and the holiness of marriage are too important to flippantly give away because you are frustrated, impatient, or settling.

One more thing: have primary and secondary values. And filter appropriately.

Let’s practice. If you believe God is preparing you for foreign missions, is it important the person you marry shares this passion? Yes…this is a primary value. If you love the Cowboys and your future spouse loves the Packers, is it important to work through this before marriage? No…this is a secondary value.

Primary values are probably deal breakers. Secondary values are probably not.

5. Don’t “shotgun” date.

Ever handled a shotgun? If not, let me fill you in. The shells of a shotgun are stuffed with tiny round balls. When you pull the trigger, these balls spread over a large range, increasing the chance you hit the target. It’s great for hunting…it’s terrible for dating.

“Let’s see. I am going to ask 20 people on a date. Five of those should be keepers. Hopefully one will end up as my spouse.”

Not a good idea. I fear this mentality in the dating culture is actually promoting divorce. Let me explain.

The culture says, “Date around. It’s okay. Get to know yourself.” And as soon as the person you are dating smacks his or her gum the wrong way, you are out. So, the default for years is to leave as soon as a flaw arises. Suddenly, when marriage begins, you are asked to flip a switch.

You are asked to go from a mentality that says “End a relationship as soon as difficulty arises,” to one that says, “Don’t end the relationship regardless of the difficulty that arises.”

That’s a tough switch to flip. Date with a trajectory towards marriage. Date intentionally.

6. It’s OK to want to get married.

You desire marriage. Praise God. He gives you the desire. Let me prove it.

The first instance in the Bible where God is not pleased comes when God sees Adam living in the Garden of Eden alone (Gen. 2:18). God knows it is not good for man to be by himself. Enter Eve, pro-creation, and marriage (not necessarily in that order).

People are created to be in community. And the most intimate community on earth is the relationship you will have with your spouse. So, pray for God to send you a spouse. But don’t allow the desire to consume your life.

Be patient. Wait on the Lord. If you are confident God called you to marry, he will deliver.

7. It’s OK not to get married.

While marriage is a huge sanctifier, it is not something God says is mandatory. If you aren’t ready for marriage, or if you do not want to get married, you are not sinning.

I am fearful the Christian community has irresponsibly coerced men and women into marriage through cultural pressure. There must be a secret bylaw passed down from the early church fathers, but once you reach the age of 25 you will be asked the question almost weekly…”When are you getting married?”

Can you imagine how constantly hearing this question from friends, family, and unsuspecting old ladies at church can make some people believe they have a problem?

If you aren’t ready to date, don’t allow the cultural pressure to override God’s plan.

Disclaimer: If you are single, understand it is your responsibility to steward your time well. Singleness is a gift from God, but singleness is not an excuse to be lazy. It is an opportunity to serve the Lord.

8. Have a community of Christians around you and listen to them.

Don’t date alone. This sounds lame. But so is marrying a sleezeball.

When you date, allow the community of people around to speak into your relationship. Your feelings can deceive you. Your friends are able to see inconsistencies and problems you can’t because they are outside the storm.

I know too many men and women who refused to listen to people around them, and their prideful arrogance resulted in a failed marriage. Don’t fall into this category. Find men and women you trust, and allow them to speak into your relationship.

9. Pursue a pure mind.

“Sex before marriage is bad.” This was the extent of my understanding of Christian dating as a teenager and young adult.

And to my church’s credit, they drilled this one point home constantly. Like that annoying kid at church camp that wouldn’t leave you alone.

I heard don’t have sex before marriage so much I actually believed getting to marriage a virgin was the only important thing. The problem? In the process, I filled my heart and mind with lust, and I secretly struggled with pornography. Big uh oh.

What the church needs to teach is the importance of a pure mind. This requires discipline, restraint, and abstinence from activities that don’t promote holiness. But the sacrifice is worth the prize.

A pure mind might be the greatest gift you can give your future spouse. It allows you to jump into marriage with a clear conscience. No baggage. No comparisons. No regret. Just you, your spouse, and God.

A pure mind might be the greatest gift you can give your future spouse.

Don’t ever date someone that won’t honor purity with you. Ever.

Remember…If you are dating, you have not entered into the sacred bond of marriage. You have not made covenant vows to one another. So, the person you are dating is not yours.

Practice purity. But understand purity begins with the mind and heart.

10. Don’t date if you are dependent on someone for things things only God can provide.

If I could get on my knees and beg you to follow one of these principles, it would be this one. Dating and marriage are not for those who rely on another person for joy, peace, and purpose.

Co-dependent dating leads to co-dependent marriages. And co-dependent marriages will eventually crumble because the weight placed on them is too heavy.

God must be at the center of your life before you consider dating. If not, purity will take a back seat. Dating towards marriage will take a back seat. In fact, every principle discussed in this article is null and void without God at the center.

Don’t start dating without an assurance of God’s love for you and a solid understanding of the gospel.

I hope this discussion continues. I pray parents, church leaders, friends, and family begin to spark conversations about God’s design for dating.

I believe these principles could change lives and alter eternities. If you want to share a story or have a principle to add to this list, leave a comment below.

I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!

This article was originally written by Frank Powell on January 21, 2016.

The Hardest Decision

One of the hardest decisions you will ever face in life is choosing whether to try harder or walk away.

Have you ever realized there is only one choice that we make in every moment of Life? The choice to try harder or walk away. From loving ourselves, loving another person, pursuing a passion, succeeding at work, or simply being present, we choose to continue thinking, doing, eating, saying, and being what we are or else we break up with it. There is only one way to do everything, and that is completely or not at all.

The choice to stay or leave determines whether we free ourselves or we suffer. The fact is, though, that we often wonder how we make the “right” decision?

This post is written in reference to Try Harder or Walk Away: The Decision written by Rebecca Lammersen. I chose to paraphrase and add my inputs, but I highly recommend reading Rebecca’s entire article as well. Rebecca makes the point that we have to learn how to discern between the doubt of the mind and the surety of the spirit in order to access what the “right” decision truly is.

The issue is that to discern between these differences means quieting the volume of the mind. “The mind is loud and the spirit is quiet,” muses Rebecca. I could not agree with her more. Too often it becomes too easy to listen to the loud voice in our minds shouting. You know, the voice screaming, “You aren’t good enough! There is no good in you! You don’t deserve to be happy!” It takes time, patience, and practice to hear that quiet voice in the background, and discipline to listen to her. Once we listen, there are a range of negative emotions that could occur: sadness, longing, unease. But there are also the positives: pride, love, happiness. So listening to the quiet voice not only takes understanding, but also courage. Lots and lots of courage.

This courage is conceived through faith. We can only have courage to listen to the quiet voice because our faith whispers that peace exists, even if peace is not visible yet.

Peace carries freedom as a gift. Once we entrust in our choice and endure the feelings and conditions that come with the strength of our spirit, then we receive freedom.

Like Rebecca, right now I am struggling too. I’m not sure if it is my mind or my spirit that I hear behind the door. And the reality of turning the knob to see who is behind the door is frightening. Aside from the fear there also lies uncertainty, the Unknown.

“Life is one struggle after the next, a battery of choices every day.”

I could not have said this better myself. Do I stay or do I leave? It buckles down to the knowledge that no matter what we choose, we are the ones in charge of making the choice. We are the ones in charge of producing our own happiness… or our own suffering.

And in the same way, we can also choose to walk away from our decision when we wish. We can back track, we can annul, we can recount our steps. Sometimes we find walls when we turn around, walls that were not there when we first walked down this path. At these moments we must figure out how to either climb the wall, choose a path to its side, or return to the route we just came. Every decision has a number of more decisions behind it. Taking charge of these choices is the key to facing struggles.

Struggle is the wrinkle of Life. It’s inescapable. However, we can also choose to honor struggle for all that it is worth. And it is so worth it! Peace is the acceptance of struggle. As we said before, peace results in freedom.

The problem with struggle, though, is finding the balance in not creating more once peace has been created. So then, how do we not make more struggle?  We listen. This is the key to the door. Listening. We must listen to that quiet voice and tune out the loud one.

This is when we finally realize the door is the object making the noise. There is no fear behind the door, rather the door itself is the frightening part. Yet once it is opened and placed out of the way, the quietness can step forward to embrace us.

When I consider these voices, I think of my faith.

The loud noise, the one shouting hurtful, demeaning, selfish monstrosities at us can only be, in my mind, “bad” things: Sin. Satan. The World. In no way would the harmful thoughts in your mind be from God. Thus, they have no substance. They are meant to deter you from your ultimate goals of true happiness, self acceptance, and all other Good Things that are encompassed in the idea of “freedom.”

It is my belief that God works for the good of all those who believe in Him. Therefore that quiet voice, the one that has embraced you once you learn to listen to it, THAT voice is God. It is His work in you and the sign you need to know what direction to lead your life.

There are two Bible passages that I have been considering lately and I feel they are strong reminders that provide evidence to this belief:

Romans 8:32 – Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?

Matthew 6:33 – But above all, pursue His kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

With these passages in mind, how then can I continue to believe that the storming voice in my mind is the voice of the God who promises me every happiness and blessing in this Life and the next? No. No, I cannot even begin to believe such lies. And so, I with this knowledge, I can move forward into accepting that what the loud voice is saying is absolute ridiculousness and preparing myself to listen to the quiet.

Sometimes the loud voice can harm us though. Sometimes we listen to it for so long, clinging to its hard surface that we receive splinters, cuts, and bruises.

Thankfully, I am the type of person who has the ability to nurture the wounds with which the loud voice harms me. I can take the gifts that time and patience give me and heal my broken heart or crushed self-esteem or injured image. And each time I heal, I become a little bit stronger and healthier as well.

How do I know that I become stronger each time? Because I have opened that door multiple times and been embraced by the quiet voice. I challenge myself to continuously find the key to unlock and open that wailing door. Experience and practice. Those are my liberators. I choose to learn from my experiences of struggle and focus on listening to the quiet voice more than the loud. With my determination, I shorten my search time and find a longer stretch of peace and freedom.

It just so happens that I’m struggling now though. I’m not free. I’m still deciding. I know I can choose to make an easy decision or I can make the choice that will challenge me. The choice that will help me grow.

My problem is I’m not quite sure which choice is which… I haven’t found my key yet. The loud voice blocks me at the moment, a voice shouting lies of “You’ll never be good enough.” and “You try too hard.”

But as I continue to hunt for the key, I know this: the choice to follow the voice of my spirit takes a lot of effort, determination, and tenacity. Sometimes it is too simple to take the easy way out, to become a coward and huddle in front of the door rather than look for a way to push through.

Honoring our spirit takes time, patience, trust, and faith.

So I continue to pray for the World and it’s sinful screams to stop battering me while I search for the key to my friend and companion, the quietness.

If there’s anything I can be sure of, it’s that I won’t stop looking for the right choice, I won’t stop listening for the correct voice.

I’ll be free soon.

Let Other People Happen

When contemplating what you want in life, it’s interesting to consider that you don’t necessarily always want your life to be better, but rather different. I came upon this article once upon a time and finally see what the author meant by this perspective. One path in life does not always mean it is the best one, just different from another. And to one person this may or may not be good thing. However, one thing I’ve learned for sure: different is always good. You either succeed in the end or learn from the experience; both are wins in my book.

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

There are few things worse than not living up to the expectations you put on yourself. I understand the strain of obligations and pressures piled on by friends and family, but frankly the only ones that end up mattering are those accepted as your ‘own problems.’

Anyone can say to your face what he or she expects from you, although unfortunately on some occasions they wait three months and then blow up in your face, leaving you nonplussed yet inexplicably speechless. That’s neither here nor there and I suppose there are some things better yelled than calmly stated, but the way you imagine someone to be when you should know as well as anyone it isn’t who they are is nothing to break down over. But, ah, this is one of the many problems with less than a quarter century of life experience; you don’t really know anything.

Well, not literally.

I absolutely fall into the aforementioned demographic, and so of course I’m lacking in the substantial, ever-vague, and commonly accepted truths of life that appear to vary from personality to personality but essentially all play out to the same end. I mean I know extremes are bad and consequently, moderation of almost everything is good. I also know that life tends to work itself out, even if it’s not necessarily for the immediate, perceived best. What’s better than a surprise you don’t comprehend and don’t know is coming anyways? Not much. Still I’m absolutely baffled as to whether there’s a pattern to any of it. I don’t believe in luck or tempting fate, but I can’t imagine there’s no way to get a grip on this stuff.

The more you want something involving more than yourself, the less likely it seems to work out. The biggest hindrances to unexpected, welcome tricks of fate seem to be lofty and baseless to expect. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing exactly what to do in most situations so you tend to push your ideal agenda, never thinking that maybe, just maybe, your ideals are irrevocably askew from reality.

We’ve all been there before: first impressions worked a little too hard on, straying too far from yourself to fit in with the picture perfect group or frame, the unappreciated good things, that ought to, but never will satisfy, and of course, the monster, the champion of all things kidding-yourself: love in vain; in spite of all the facts and advanced metrics. There is no worse kind of blind misunderstanding than the disbelief brought by flat out, straight up, not being wanted by the proverbial one.

It’s one thing to want a better life, whether via a job or healthier lifestyle, etc, but those kinds of expectations never leave you shaking on the steps at midnight, unable to breath through your nose, just staring. Ambitions to be with someone aren’t about knowing your life will be tangibly better, they’re about knowing your life will be tangibly different, and that they’ll be a part of that incarnation. Unmet expectations are a drag, but I suppose it’s worse than not wanting anything at all.

This article was originally written by Alex Johnson on February 5, 2015.