A breakup of a different kind…

broken-heart-pic-1150866My first breakup was in 8th grade. It was short and to the point.

“Andy don’t wanna go out with you no more.” Click.

My boyfriend of four days (we had started “going together” at Friday’s football game) had his best friend call me after school on Monday to give me the bad news.

It hurt, but I managed. Little did I realize that I’d go through so many other breakups, too many to count, and that they’d increasingly get more difficult.

I’ve been through breakups that I initiated. I’ve been through breakups where I was flat out dumped. I’ve been through a breakup where I considered a restraining order. I’m 35. I’ve been dating since I was 16. I’ve seen my fair share of breakups.

 

Breakups as an adult are especially difficult. It’s not mature to take to Facebook and announce how your feeling or what happened, and if you’re like me, your “relationship status” isn’t visible on Facebook anyway. But if you’ve often posted pictures of the two of you doing life together, and all of a sudden they stop… some people do notice. And some bold people even ask, “Are you two still together?”

And then what? You don’t want to lie, but you also don’t want to get into what happened. Unless…. well, unless you do because you want people to know that your love story was beautiful, but God had something else in mind for the future.

My mom will read this and probably call me before she’s finished reading, just to say, “Why are you putting your business out there? Does everyone really need to know about your breakup?” My answer is, “Because I’m a writer. It’s what I do. And because I want to share how this breakup, the toughest of my entire life by a long shot, hasn’t completely destroyed me.”

Nearly three weeks ago, my boyfriend and I broke up. We’d been together for a year. One blissful, amazing, out-of-this-world year. All the while, we both knew there was something that could eventually end our love story.

He loves me. I love him. There was no falling out or fight. We still love each other, but there are three boys in Iowa who need his love more than I do. Him moving to be with his sons, because he wants to be a good father, just makes me love him more.

Although he’s doing the right thing, it was a devastating decision for the both of us. Two people who love each other, who had a virtually flawless relationship, who put God first, who had just spent a year together, could no longer be together. Our hearts were ripped to shreds. No one had done anything wrong. No one had been unfaithful. It was just time for things to be over.

I remember when he first told me he loved me. It was in September, about four months into dating. It was the most meaningful and beautiful moment of my life that I had ever experienced with a man. I knew I was all in after that. This man was unlike any other man. I was right there with him, and I had no hesitation in saying it back. But that night, when I went to bed and said my prayers, I told God, “Thank you for sending me such a wonderful man. I love him so much. But God, I love you more. I will always love you more.”

I prayed that every single night after that. And it has made all the difference in the world. I have a peace about this breakup. I know God has a plan for each of us. I have faith that God knows what He’s doing because He has NEVER steered me wrong.

So did we breakup, hug, and then I skipped away into the sunset? Not on your life. I cried, he cried, and to be honest, I still cry every night because my heart hurts. I miss him more than I’ve ever missed anyone in my entire life. I still hold onto hope that maybe God is just breaking us apart for a few years and down the road we’ll end up back together. I’m still going through all the grieving that is involved in a breakup.

But it’s different this time. It’s unlike all the other breakups.

Why?

God.

I’ve always had God. He was there when I went through all my other breakups. But I ignored Him during most of those relationships. Having Him at the center of my life while also being madly in love with someone made all the difference in the world.

A person cannot be the center of your universe.

I repeat: a person cannot be the center of your universe. Not your boyfriend. Not your husband. Not even your children. (Check out Matthew 10:37) People are flawed. People are selfish. People will leave you, either by choice or by death. You have one being in this world who will NEVER leave you. And that’s God. He is the only safe choice to put at the center of your universe.

That’s made all the difference in this relationship and breakup. It’s actually made all the difference in every single part of my life. I trust God has a plan. Sometimes His plan involves pain, but it’s always for the best of the “big picture,” which we don’t always see.

This breakup has been so different for a number of reasons. It’s breaking my heart in a way it’s never been broken,  but I’m OK. I’m not destroyed. I’m certainly not interested in dating again for a very, very long time (if ever), but that’s OK. Finding a guy isn’t what life is all about.

“And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

His purpose. Not mine. I trust He has something amazing planned for me that I can’t even imagine. He’s proved that to me time and time again.

 

Life is not a word search… stop looking for love!

I was just starting to dig into my adult mac-and-cheese when the 23-year-old sitting across from me sighed.

“I just don’t know where to go to meet a guy. I’ve tried church, the gym, the bar scene, everywhere! I can’t find anyone!”

I remember being in her shoes. I remember that ten years ago I used to feel the same way. Almost everything I did was in hopes of meeting a guy. My friends were getting married, starting families, and all that other stuff you’re “supposed” to do in your early to mid-20’s, and then there was me: single.

Ten years later, and that’s still me: single. But oh-so-much has changed.magnifying-glass-967211-m

My young friend’s frustrations with being single reminded me of how so many women are missing the boat on finding love. We can’t force it to happen, and we certainly can’t live our lives constantly in search of it. Life isn’t some giant crossword puzzle where we’re all looking for the word, “Love.”

“They” say when you stop looking, that’s when you’ll find love. While that hasn’t happened for me yet, it’s not changing the fact that I live life for other reasons now. I don’t do anything simply to meet a guy. And I’m completely ok if it hasn’t “paid off” yet in the form of a boyfriend or husband.

When I was in my 20’s, practically everything I did was in hopes of meeting someone. Not just any someone, but someone who would transform my life, make me happy, and give me butterflies! I tried different churches, joined the gym, went to trivia nights at the local pub, joined a “Christian Single’s Group” in town, etc. etc.

Obviously, nothing came of any of that.

And why would it? No guy wants some chick who is spending her entire life waiting on him. Guys want a woman who is living her own life, without him, because he’s likely been doing the same without her.

I go to church now because I want to stay close to God and learn more about His word. I go to the gym to work out because I know it’s good for me. I watch football at Buffalo Wild Wings because I love football (and wings!). I volunteer at the homeless shelter because I love helping people- not because I hope there will be a cute, single guy volunteering with me.

Single ladies- just live your life! Stop looking for something that you can’t make appear. You can’t rush God. He won’t bring the right guy into your life until HE says it’s time. So in the meantime, why not love the life you have? God has lots of great things planned for you. If you’re living in His will, He won’t let you miss out on that perfect guy because you were too busy and not looking.

sand-heart-2-1421655-m“If it seems slow in coming, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”
Habakkuk 2:3

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
Psalm 27:14

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 37:3-4

“Marriage sucks!”

Years ago I went out to eat with a male friend not long after the end of a relationship. It wasn’t just the end of IMG_1674any relationship, it was the end of a relationship in which after our first date I called my mom in tears and said, “This one is different. This is different.” And it was after our second date that my gut told me: he was “the one.”

I knew he felt the same way, because only a month or so into our relationship he told me, I remember exactly when and where and the tone of his voice, “I can’t wait to make you my wife someday.”

He never did make me his wife. In reality, he isn’t sure he ever even wants to get married. This was all made evident when we broke up. I was heartbroken and confused as ever.

But on a cold January night when I was out to eat with my friend, everything became clear.

We ran into three of my ex’s best friends. His “boys.” The guys he talks to on a regular basis. All of them are married.

Somehow my friend and I ended up at a table with these guys, and we got to talking about marriage.

“Marriage sucks!” one of them said. “I love my wife and family, but being married sucks!”

“I’m so sick of having to constantly report to her,” one of them said. “It’s terrible. I’m a grown man! I can do what I want!”

One of the guys kept pretty quiet, but did chime in at one point after one of the other guys said, “Women are crazy. Hands down. They’re all CRAZY.” He piped up and said, “Did you ever think that maybe we make them that way?”

The conversation shed so much light on marriage for me. Men hate marriage. As one of the guys said, “Marriage sucks!” No wonder my ex wasn’t excited about the idea of getting married to anyone- most of his friends and a lot of society tell us that marriage isn’t a wonderful thing. It isn’t about love and companionship; it’s more like a prison sentence.

I remembered that conversation from years ago after last week watching an online sermon called, “The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating,” presented by Andy Stanley. He mentioned something about the “good side of marriage that no one ever talks about.” And I realized he was right- we rarely hear the good stories or what people love about being married.

While I was raised by a happily married couple, my parents, I realized I still kind of have a skewed view of marriage based on what I’ve heard, been through, and seen in society. I decided to turn to Facebook for inspiration. Marriage is a GOOD thing, and I knew there would have to be people who had good things to say about marriage and about their spouses. I ended up with so many responses that I can’t list them all, but here are some of my favorites.

IMG_5166These quotes come from people married for a few months to many years, Christians and non-Christians, men and women, and people from all sorts of walks of life. I hope these words encourage people who are married and those like me who are still waiting on their match:

“The love he has for me and the boys just goes to extraordinary levels when someone is sick or hurt…”

“I love knowing that she has my back in any and all situations, and even though I am her rock, she will be mine when I start to doubt myself. She will also be there to bring me back down to earth (when I need it).”

“I love being married for all the normal reasons that everyone gives, but the best reason is knowing that you never have to date again! No more awkward first kisses, dates, conversations, none of that. It’s nice to know someone loves you and has seen everything and willing to be there. For me, there’s comfort in the predictable.”

“I love that he vacuums the house and takes care of the car when it needs oil or fixing!”

“I love that God has one special person for me and that putting God first in our marriage helped our love grow and our relationship become what it is today. After almost 30 years of marriage, he can look at me and warm my heart. I still love holding hands and just being with him. And now, I love spending time with our beautiful family that was brought together through God’s love and grace. Being married isn’t always easy, but the rewards are great.”

“Just love the relationship we’ve molded over the years, great communication and understanding, the love, loyalty and respect that we have for each other. Being the young couple, people do doubt us, but it makes us stronger.”

“He knows what I am thinking or how I feel, sometimes even before I realize it myself!”

“I just love that I am with my best friend, day in and day out!”wedding5

“Love having history together. He knows why I react a certain way, because he knows the experiences that have shaped me. Also love being exposed to new things. Without (him), I would never have gone winter camping, on canoe trips, learned about identifying birds, etc.”

“I love that, when needed, you can take turns being the strong one.”

“I love that we’re on the same page about life. Where we are and where we’d like to be 10 years from now.”

“I like being married (to my husband) because I LIKE HIM. I like doing stuff with him- any kind of stuff. I like going to Home Depot and looking at faucets. I like going to the grocery store. I like going out to eat with him. I like riding down the road and talking non-stop… I just like him.”

“I love that he is my warrior. He has a heart of gold and is willing to do anything for me. He is willing to fight for me and my freedom, daily. We have our own dreams and goals, but we also have dreams and goals as a couple. I also love the little texts that he sends me every day, just to say hi.”

“I love that if he is home before me, at the end of the day I walk in the door and he will say, “Is that the love of my life?”

“I love that sometimes we can just sit in silence and just hold onto each other. It’s so powerful to know that someone gets you and sees your good and your bad and loves you anyways!”

“I love being with my best friend. I love that he is a man of God, and that we make each other better people. I love that he is such a wonderful leader and protector for our family.”

28309_396535656572_5388461_n“Sorry, it’s not just one thing. Companionship, the joy (she) brings to our marriage, and her many acts of kindness.”

“In my marriage, there is unconditional love. I was completely sighted and in good health when we married eight years ago. Since that time, we have encountered a rare eye disorder that is stealing my sight, and I’ve had to battle rare health issues (for my age). My husband married me, never knowing he would face these issues with me and that his wife would become visually impaired… My husband has sacrificed his own desires to satisfy mine and has shown me unconditional love. Simply put, he has honored his marital vows.”

“I love that my husband’s not perfect, because neither am I, and that makes us perfect for each other.”

The curse of seeing someone’s potential…

1237608_trophy“Potential has a shelf life.”
– Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

It’s typically thought of as a positive thing, to see the good in everyone. I am one of those people who instantly recognizes someone’s potential. In all honesty, it’s both a blessing and a curse.

If potential were a trophy, I see almost everyone I know carrying it. The problem is, not everyone is lifting that trophy up, some aren’t even looking at it, while others are kicking it around on the ground with no plans to ever pick it up.

Seeing the potential in people can be heartbreaking when they don’t reach that potential. It’s a dangerous road to travel when you see potential in the wrong people and when you let it consume you. I’ve experienced this heartbreak as a teacher and as someone who has been in relationships with guys who have so much “potential.” Right now I’m struggling with the latter.

Seeing potential in the opposite sex

Seeing someone’s potential as a future husband or wife can be very dangerous. Seeing what someone “could” be is so intensely different from what they actually are. When it comes to dating, I have learned that you must see someone for what they are at that present time.

I’m not saying you might not meet someone who just needs a little encouragement or support. I’m talking about the jerks, the players, the non-committers, or some other type of guy or girl who has qualities that make them a poor choice for a life partner. You can’t consider their potential. You must consider the present, and if it isn’t good, move on.

Potential… according to who?

There are two specific guys from my past that I have always believed have all the potential in the world, but they refuse to grow up. I see they have the potential to be two of the greatest guys in all of Fort Wayne, quite possibly all of Indiana or even the entire country, but both of them refuse to live up to this potential I see in them. They are nowhere near reaching their full potential as professional, beautiful, outstanding men on this planet!

They might not ever reach their full potential. But “potential” according to who?

According to me.

 If their potential is just my opinion, the only one they’re really disappointing is me. Why am I so concerned about them reaching what I think their potential is, especially when it’s only disappointing me? Probably because I love them both way too much. It’s not a situation of being “in” love or wanting to be with either of them, I just plain love these two guys with all my heart. When you love someone, you want them to succeed and be the best version of them they can possibly be.

Letting go of potential

If you’re like me and you see the great potential for someone who isn’t interested in reaching it, maybe it’s time to let it go. Pray for that person, but stop letting it tear you up inside that they aren’t what YOU think they should be. If someone doesn’t want to be a better person, that’s their choice. You can’t force them.

It’s a beautiful thing to be able to see people’s true potential, but I guess I need to just see that potential and then let it go. Otherwise, I’ll continue to fall for guys and their awesome potential, not who they really are.

What about your own potential?IMG_20130504_232645

I think people like me get so caught up in other people’s potential that we forget about our own. I’m sure if I asked God if I was living up to my potential, He would say I’m not. I imagine He would say no one is. Who knows, maybe there’s a guy out there who wishes I would live up to my potential.

If seeing someone’s potential is tearing you up inside, let it go. Spend more time worrying about your own potential. There’s a good chance you’re not reaching yours either.

It’s not about being judgmental…

“I smoke, by the way. I hope that’s OK.”1391828_untitled

It was the text that took my heart from, “Could this guy be my happily ever after?” to “Take care, it was nice meeting you.”

In November I went on a few dates with a guy who seemed pretty cool. I wouldn’t say we “totally hit it off,” but we certainly had a good time, and there was potential there. But then he let me know that he was a smoker. At first I thought he was kidding. There was no way this athletic coach was a smoker. Turns out, he wasn’t kidding.

I let him know that I don’t date smokers, and then before I knew it I was being called judgmental and that him being a smoker didn’t define him.

There’s a huge difference between being judgmental and knowing the habits you don’t want your boyfriend or future husband to have. I have friends who smoke, and while they know I worry about them for health reasons, I don’t think any of them would say that they feel I judge them.

557070_alcoholic_dream_Another example is drinking. I don’t mind a guy who drinks socially, but I do mind that guy who posts on his Facebook, “About to get WASTED tonight!” For me, that’s an insanely huge turn off. It doesn’t mean I am going to un-friend the guy and no longer speak to him, it simply means he’s not a guy I would want a relationship with.

I’ve noticed a few things this week in the opposite sex that I definitely don’t want in a mate. Some of my guy friends have these traits or habits, and they know I’m not judging (I’m also not trying to date them).

If someone doesn’t want to date you because you smoke, drink too much, have too much debt, or some other reason, it doesn’t always mean they are judging you. It just means you have some qualities they aren’t looking for in a mate. Respect that, and move on.

A letter to my 18-year-old self

18-year-old me
18-year-old me

I was thinking today about how my life as a 32-year-old woman is nothing like I imagined it would be. I wouldn’t ever want to know the future, and it’s not that I have any regrets, but if I could write a letter to my 18-year-old self, a girl just a few months away from graduating high school, this is what it would say:

Dear 18-year-old Natalie,

Things are exciting right now, aren’t they? You’re about to graduate high school and head off to Indiana Wesleyan where you will study art. You won’t be there long, but you’ll figure all that out, and it’s for the best.

There are some things I want you to know. I could tell you what’s going to happen to you, about your college career, the places you’ll move, the jobs you’ll have, the hearts you’ll break and those who will break your heart, but you need to experience that on your own.

What I want you to know is that things aren’t going to turn out like you think they will. That’s not a bad thing. Your family, friends, society… will all make you think that there’s a playbook of life and that it’s the same for everyone. They will make you think that there’s only one definition of success and happiness, but that’s not true.

You will not find happiness in a man, Natalie. You will try. You will try very, very hard, but there are other things in this life that will make you much happier. Don’t let anyone make you think that where you are in life isn’t “normal” or that there are things you are “supposed” to want.

God is going to use you to do things other people can’t do- in the same way He uses them to do things you can’t do. You have to trust that all your frustrations and hardships are leading up to something wonderful that God has planned for you.

Relax. Enjoy the ride. When you’re 32, you’re not going to be where you think you’ll be. Instead, you’ll be exactly where God wants you. And I can say with confidence… you’ll be the happiest, most confident, and most peaceful you’ve ever been.

All my love,
Your 32-year-old self

32-year-old me
32-year-old me

“Some of your friends are… terrible!”

I’ve heard that phrase quite a few times from my out-of-town friends since I’ve moved to Fort Wayne.

“Isn’t she supposed to be a good friend of yours?”

“None of my best friends would ever do that to me.”

“What’s with these people you know in Fort Wayne? Some of your friends are… terrible!”

Becca, me and Heather - these two girls are two of my true best friends. They know the meaning of the word "friendship."
Becca, me and Heather – these two girls are two of my true best friends. They know the meaning of the word “friendship.”

Of course at first you don’t want to see it. It’s hard to believe that you have “friends” who are actually the people in your life pulling you down, holding you back, and stabbing you in the back while they’re at it.

I think about some of my female “friends” here in Fort Wayne, and I kind of see what my out-of-town friends mean.

More than a year ago I was the best of friends with someone here in town. She was very manipulative and took advantage of me and my kindness on many occasions. She didn’t know the meaning of the word “loyal” by any means. This girl was a liar to me and to the people around me, and she destroyed relationships I had with other people because of her lies. She also tried to hook up my ex (who I was still in love with at the time) with his ex-girlfriend (who she barely knew). Wow. Some best friend. When I told an out-of-town friend this, she was shocked. Not one of my best friends from IU would ever, EVER do something like that. I believe my friend’s words were, “Why do so many of your friends suck?!”

Well, I ended that friendship more than a year ago, but it appears I’ve still got some snakes in my life. This weekend I was telling a friend of mine in Texas about a conversation I had with a “friend” this weekend. She was like, “Are you serious? Isn’t she supposed to be your friend? Why on earth would she say those things to you?” And she was right. Those things shouldn’t have been said to me, and they wouldn’t have been said to me by anyone who was a real friend.

It’s very sad to me that so many of my out-of-town friends have pointed out that some of my female friends here in Fort Wayne are pretty terrible friends. (There are other times it’s come up with other people, more than the two I mentioned here.) I know there will always be selfish people with ulterior motives in the world, but how did I become “friends” with so many of them? And forget trying to explain to a guy that another woman is a bad friend. That’s just a waste of everyone’s time – especially if the girl is “hot”.

Sure I’ve been burned in relationships with guys before, who hasn’t? But in the past couple of years I’ve really, REALLY been burned in female friendships, and it has me putting my guard up with any woman I meet who could be a potential “good friend.” But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe guarding myself a little more when it comes to friendships is exactly what I need to do.