Crushing

I didn’t like math, but I looked forward to class because he was there. He sat in the next row, one seat back.

I had admired him all year, hoping that somehow, someday, he would notice me in return.

One day, we said hi to each other. We exchanged actual words!

His picture was in our small-town newspaper once for a great high-school golf accomplishment, and I kept the clipping. (Back then, we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, so newspaper clippings were as good as it got!)

At a casual all-school dance, the DJ announced a girl-ask-guy slow song. A friend and I made a deal: She would ask a guy she thought was cute, and I would ask him. I asked, and he agreed, and we swayed back and forth.

That night, I journaled that it was “like dancing on pink clouds.”

When the exhilaration ended, I only felt embarrassed. Did he enjoy it? What if he only said yes to be nice? Would anything happen, or had I just made a total fool of myself? What once seemed like a brave idea only led to awkwardness and disappointment.

* * *

I admit, crushes can be fun. There’s something special about sharing a giddy moment with a friend after that special guy walks by. In the cafeteria, you and your friends “just happen” to sit at the table next to his. When you see him in the hallway, your best friend gives you a knowing glance. You even make up code names for the guys you like.

You are certain that you’re the girl of his dreams. He just doesn’t know it yet, and it’s your job to show him.

You put energy into getting his attention, but nothing seems to work. Eventually, you start to wonder, “Aren’t I good enough?”

Eventually, the crush just leaves you, well, crushed. 

I’ve tried a lot of tactics to get the attention of different guys. Most of them didn’t work. Some of them led to fleeting romance, but nothing lasting.

My best relationship began when I wasn’t looking for it.

I went to a dinner party a new friend was hosting. Along with some of my close friends, there were a few other people there. I had a great conversation with the guy seated near me, but the thought of getting a new boyfriend out of the evening didn’t cross my mind.

When I got home, I had a Facebook message from him. He had enjoyed meeting me, and he wondered whether I would be interested in going out sometime soon.

There were no vague hints, no flirtatious games, no guesswork. He was interested, and it was obvious. We had our first date the next night.

A favorite snapshot from early in our relationship. This wasn't long after our first date.

A favorite snapshot from early in our relationship. This wasn’t long after our first date.

I had all the usual first-date nerves going in, but those soon faded as the long, comfortable evening passed. I didn’t need to impress him. I didn’t have to try. All I had to do was be myself.

The next year, we got married. We’ll be able to be ourselves with each other for the rest of our lives.

One of my friends just began an unexpected relationship of her own. There’s a guy at her church who she’s known for a couple years, and he recently asked her if she wanted to get together sometime.

It quickly became obvious that he’s very interested in her. When a girl finds flowers waiting in the passenger seat of the car, there’s no question about it!

She wasn’t trying to catch his eye. She was just being her sweet, wonderful self.

I could tell you several other stories like this, but you get the idea: The best relationships happen when you’re not looking for them, and they happen because you’re just being yourself. 

Oh, and when a guy is really interested, he’ll let you know.

According to my husband, if a guy is not interested in you, he may not even see all your hints. Or, if he does, he might just get annoyed.

Sometimes, the guy you like just isn’t going to be interested in you. But remember, it also works the other way. Sometimes, the guy who likes you just isn’t someone you want to go out with, so you give him a firm but polite, “No, thank-you.”

This doesn’t mean you have to avoid your crush. It’s good to say hello, reach out, and get to know him. But put your energy into building a relaxed friendship, rather than draining your energy, and your heart, by putting on an exhausting show.

If you feel like you have to struggle for his attention, he’s not the guy for you.

If you are more stressed than peaceful around him, he’s not the guy for you.

And if you feel like you have to change any part of yourself to be his ideal girl, then he’s definitely not the guy for you.

You deserve a guy who is going to appreciate you for exactly who you are. You’ll bring out the best in each other, and you’ll inspire each other to grow. It might take a long time for you to find each other, but trust me: No matter how long it takes, it is worth it.

Broken

God’s taught me a lot through broken things.

In high school, it was the family nativity set. It crashed to the floor when my little brother accidentally overturned the table.

Life was already shattered enough – Mom was in the hospital, and Christmas was just a few days away. Broken pieces of porcelain lay scattered on the rug.

Broken.

But the shepherd piece didn’t break, didn’t chip, didn’t have a scratch. As I held that porcelain shepherd in my hands, the Good Shepherd held me in His.

The Good Shepherd held us together. He spoke to my heart, “Trust me.” And Mom came home for Christmas – our own Christmas miracle.

* * * * *

After college, at the beginning of graduate school, it was my dishes – not the practical everyday ones, but the ones I treasured: mugs I’d received as gifts or bought as souvenirs, teacups passed down through my family.

Alone in my new apartment in an unfamiliar town, I wept as I unpacked the box and saw the damage. Shards of memories lay scattered on the carpet.

Broken.

Broken cups can’t hold anything, and I felt empty. But when God poured out His love, my cup overflowed.

* * * * *

This time, it was a teapot.

I’d admired that teapot in a quaint shop in Texas, and my husband noticed. He secretly ordered it and had it shipped to my grandma’s house for Christmas.

But the box was too small. The bubble wrap popped, the paper didn’t help, and the pressure broke the teapot. When my husband opened it to wrap it, he was crushed. His first Christmas gift for his wife, broken.

My heart leapt when he showed me – what a surprise! – yet sank at how he must feel, and how broken that teapot was.

IMG_1174I picked a pretty new teapot from a fancy department store. But I kept the old one, too.

The fancy one went on display.

The other one waited. It waited until this week, when I bought some glue and decided it was time to fix it.

Gently, I lifted it out of the box, out of the wrinkled brown paper and popped bubble wrap.

IMG_1132As I held that broken teapot, I recognized myself.

Broken. 

I’d cried more in the past few months than I cared to admit. Stress with work, stress with money, stress with life, stress with stress – all had brought out a surge of raw emotion.

The sun shone, the birds twittered, and the leaves rustled in the breeze, but I cried. There were precious good days and beautiful joy-filled moments. But lots of days felt dark, and I didn’t know what to do.

I wondered, “Is this where You want me to be?”

I felt sad, dry, lost.

And thanks to the teapot, I realized: broken.

I set the teapot on the table and examined it.

IMG_1146Unwrapped and out of the box, it didn’t look too terribly awful. The base wasn’t broken, so it could stand on its own. The tape meant to hold the lid on held most of the teapot together, so though a few big pieces came loose and left gaps, it didn’t fall apart completely. Some pieces hung a little, suspended by the tape.

It had the illusion of being held together, kind of. But the reality was, it was still broken. Very broken.

Before it could be fixed, it had to be taken apart, broken down all the way.

Gently, I began pulling off the tape, piece by piece. It left traces of sticky residue I had to clean off. And with each piece of tape I pulled away, the damage became more clear.

IMG_1151It was worse than I thought. I saw cracks that had been hidden before, held together by the pressure of the tape.

Now, all the pieces lay before me on the table.

And I knew I had to lay myself bare before God. I had to let Him take off the tape, let go of the illusion of “having it together.” I had to let Him clean off the residue of my stubbornness. I had to admit the truth.

I surrendered and fell to pieces.

Broken.

* * * * *

IMG_1153 One piece at a time, I started putting that teapot back together. It took longer than I thought – a few evenings, instead of one afternoon.

One piece at a time, God started putting me back together. He’s not done yet, and it’s taking longer than I’d like. But that’s God’s timing, not mine.

Jonah was in the fish for three days before that fish spat him out on the shore. Paul was blind for three days before the scales fell from his eyes. And Lazarus wasn’t healed – he died. But Jesus did something more miraculous than mere healing – He raised him from the dead.

Stubbornness guided Jonah, persecution drove Paul, and death defeated Lazarus. But what sin and death crushed, God repaired.

IMG_1182I fixed the teapot. The lines where the pieces come together still show, but I like it that way. Those lines say that this teapot was broken, but it was too precious to be thrown out.

More importantly, God is fixing me. My flaws remind me of who I’ve been and point me to who I’d like to be. They remind me that in God’s hands, I’m too precious to be thrown out, even when I’m broken.

And God knows something more about brokenness than mere observation and repair. He’s felt it for himself.

Jesus was broken for us.

His precious body was bruised, pierced, crushed, so that we could be put back together. But God doesn’t use glue. He uses Grace.

Out of our brokenness, He does His most magnificent work. All those broken pieces that make up each and every one of us – God shapes them into something beautiful. IMG_1180

Let’s talk about the “bad boy”

My phone lit up with a text from my sister.

She’d been talking to a sweet guy she’s friends with, and he’d wondered: “Do you think all girls want a bad boy? Or just a hint of bad?”

“I have a really long opinion on this one,” she told me. “But what is your opinion? Thought it would be fun to ask. :-)”

It turns out, we both have rather long opinions that go beyond a “yes” or “no,” and they’re basically the same – we’re sisters, after all! But before I get into that, I want to clarify something: What, exactly, do we mean by “bad boy”?

First, I want to be clear that in this particular post, I’m not talking about the people out there who might actually want to hurt you physically or emotionally. If you are ever in a situation where someone is manipulating you or seriously hurting you, or where you feel threatened, get out, and get help. I’m also not talking about those who are out breaking laws – that’s a situation you really don’t want to get into.

Here, I’m talking about something milder, yet somehow much more enticing. When you hear the words “bad boy,” you get a certain picture in your mind, right? The idea of “bad boy” might vary from girl to girl, but in general, I think he’s something like this: He’s not the kind of guy who’s going to go break in and rob anyone, but he probably likes to break curfew. There’s something charming about him, but he’s not the kind of guy you want to invite home for dinner with your parents. He’s super attractive, but if your big sister dated someone like him, you might worry about her. He’s a lot of fun, but you probably wouldn’t trust him to babysit your little brother. Everyone at school knows who he is – but his reputation’s not exactly the best.

He’s independent, rebellious … and there’s just something irresistible about him! You wonder how he could ever possibly like you, so you try to be “cool” enough for him. But … well, it seems like for all his good qualities, there’s a “but” to go with it.

Can you picture him? Good – now let’s get back to the question. Do all girls want a bad boy?

The easy answer would be something like this: “Of course not ALL girls do – it depends on the girl!” That’s true, I supposed, but I’d like to take the answer deeper than that.

Here’s what I told my sister, with some edits and expansions, of course.

I think some girls like the idea of dating a bad boy, because there is something that sounds adventurous, wild, rebellious, and even romantic. Think of Sandy and Danny in Grease! (I do love that movie, by the way – but remember, it’s a movie, not real life.)

The bad boy might be fun to think about, but not to actually date.  Or, he might be fun to go out with once or twice, but he’s not who you’d want for a steady boyfriend. Or maybe he is boyfriend material – but just for a little while, because you can’t really imagine a long-term relationship with him.

But when it comes down to it, most girls don’t think of marrying the bad boy.

DSC_1460 copy_2Picture yourself, years from now, on your wedding day. You’ve never felt so beautiful. You’re in a white dress that fits you perfectly, and your shoes feel as magical as Cinderella’s glass slippers. You walk down the aisle and see the man you’re about to spend the rest of your life with. The man who’s going to be the father of your children. As you walk, your mind fills with all the reasons you love him.

In your imagination, your dream of your someday-self, what are the qualities you hope that man has?

They’re probably not the qualities of the bad boy.

The bad boy might sound fun, or even be fun for a little while. But he’s not really the kind of person you want to be with long-term. So if that’s the case, then what’s the point of even getting started? Why start something when you know you’ll have to end it? Why begin, if you know it’s not good for you, and that it’ll only get harder and hurt deeper to tear yourself away?

The bad boy might seem like a good idea at the time, but he’s just that – an idea. It’s the idea of him, not the reality of his character, that seems so enticing.

Think about Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You were Trouble.” It’s about knowing someone is trouble, yet falling for them anyway. The beginning says it all: “Once upon a time, a few mistakes ago.” That’s right – a few mistakes ago. It seemed like a good idea, but looking back, it was all wrong.

For those who are into action and comic book movies, let’s look at another example. In X2, the second X-Men movie, Logan (more popularly known as Wolverine)  is in love with Dr. Jean Grey. She cares for him, too, but ultimately, she chooses someone else – someone she can trust to be there for her when she needs him.

“Girls flirt with the dangerous guy, they don’t bring him home,” she tells Wolverine. “They marry the good guy.”

“I can be the good guy,” Wolverine says.

“Logan,” she says, “The good guy sticks around.”

You can see the chemistry between them, but she knows that she’s better off with the other guy. (Her character goes through some crazy changes later, but still, that scene says a lot. I should also add that Wolverine is one of my favorite characters – but again, it’s a movie, not reality!)

CV1_2284_bwLet’s picture your someday-wedding again. You’re walking down the aisle, and you see the most wonderful man you’ve ever known. You were so excited the first time he met your parents, and now, your family is with you, watching you join your lives together as one. You feel so safe with him. You trust him. You know he’ll encourage you when you’re sad, and he’ll inspire you to pursue your dreams. You respect him for his honesty and integrity, and you love that you can totally be yourself with him.

You help each other to grow in faith, in hope, and in love – love that is patient and kind, and doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 for more).

When you think about the Fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) – you see them growing in him, and he encourages you in your walk with God, so those same qualities may continue to grow in you.

When you think about thatand the beauty of it all, even the idea of the bad boy starts to sound way less glamourous!

To all the sweet good guys out there, don’t worry. Don’t ever think you have to be a “bad boy” to get the attention of the girls. Be the good guy you really are, deep down inside. And for all you girls out there, the bad boy might be fun to think about. But at the end of the day, it’s the good guys who are really going to be the best. Tired of waiting for them? I promise you, the good guys are out there. But that’s a subject for another day!

. . .

P.S. Thanks to my sister for texting me that day – it was that conversation that led to “A Good Girl’s Guide to Life” being created!