Looking for Love (in all the Wrong Places)

  1. wedding2  “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, Lookin’ for love in too many faces, Searchin’ their eyes, looking’ for traces Of what I’m dreaming of … Hopin’ to find a friend and a lover I’ll bless the day I discover, another heart, looking for love.”                                                                                                            

-Johnny Lee, “Looking for Love” Lyrics

“Where are all the nice guys?”  “Where are the stable girls?”  I have been asked these questions a lot recently.  This is not a new question for people, and it even dates back to biblical times.  Solomon asks in Proverbs 31: 10: “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.”  Today we wonder the same thing: Where can I find love?

I have talked to many friends who have expressed the difficulty in finding a person worth dating.  Most everyone would agree that a loving relationship with a special person is something that they desire.  In contrast, finding love is not as fun, and can often feel like a wasted endeavor.  Add to this the distorted view of “love” portrayed in mainstream television, cinema and music… No wonder the younger generations are left standing alone trying to decipher text messages in order to find a future with someone.

With all the benefits of a loving, stable relationship (including the lesser known ones such as lower stress), I think we can all agree that it is still worthwhile to make an effort towards finding love — even through the potential misery of casual dating and “putting yourself out there” to meet new people.

Because the purpose of dating is to find love and marriage, the best advice on the matter comes from consulting God, the inventor of it.

Here are some of the qualities God sees as important in defining a Godly Man and Woman.  These traits are very important if you are looking for long-term love.  Most Christians have heard of “the Proverbs 31” woman, an excellent passage on the description of “The Wife of Noble Character”.  I encourage all women to read this passage and strive to be this type of woman.  Because this passage is so popular, I would like to expose some other verses from God’s word that one might miss about the qualities of godly men/women. These are what single women and men should be looking for in a mate.

Godly Man

  • blameless walk (Psalm 15)
  • does what is righteous (Psalm 15)
  • speaks truth from his heart (Psalm 15)
  • no slander on his tongue (Psalm 15)
  • does neighbor no harm (Psalm 15)
  • honors those who fear the Lord (Psalm 15)
  • despises a vile man (Psalm 15)
  • keeps his oath even when it hurts (Psalm 15)
  • lends his money without usury (Psalm 15)
  • does not accept bribe against innocent (Psalm 15)
  • temperate (1 Timothy 3:2)
  • self-controlled (1 Timothy 3:2)
  • respectable & hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2)
  • not given to drunkenness (1 Timothy 3:2)
  • gentle (1 Timothy 3:2)

Godly Woman

  • women of respect (1 Timothy 3:11)
  • not malicious talkers (1 Timothy 3:11)
  • temperate (1 Timothy 3:11)
  • trustworthy (1 Timothy 3:11)
  • reverent in how they live (Titus 2: 1)
  • not slanderers (Titus 2:1)
  • not addicted to wine (Titus 2:1)
  • self controlled & pure (Titus 2: 5)
  • busy at home (Titus 2: 5)
  • kind (Titus 2:5)
  • Wise (Proverbs 14:1)
  • all of Proverbs 31’s descriptions

Romantic comedies emphasize the feeling you need to be searching for rather than the character you need to be looking for.  Society tells us to look for outward qualities in men such as strong, handsome, rich, powerful, etc., I would say it is more important to search for the inward qualities of a godly man.  What kind of integrity does the man have when no one is looking?  How does he treat people, including family & friends? Also, even though society tells us to look for a woman who is skinny/fit, made-up, popular, “easy”, etc., it is more important to look for a woman with character. Can the woman you are dating be trusted?  Does she respect herself and you? Outer beauty fades with time….When looks go away, can you relate on a deeper level?

If you have not come across someone with godly characteristics, spend your time working on growing godly characteristics in yourself — this is what will attract the type of mate best for you.  Practice getting to know people you admire and take note of what you admire about them.  As Andy Stanley often says “Be the kind of person the person you are looking for is looking for”. My mom has great advice on this matter as well.  She says “you attract the type of person you are”.  When we look for qualities in a potential mate that are enduring and biblical, we are looking for love in all the right places.

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Starting Over – Hitting Reset

“With every rising of the sun, think of your life as just begun.” -Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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Do you ever want to hit the “reset” button on your life, habits, relationships, job?  Do you believe that if you could start over again that you would do things differently?

In Genesis,  God created separation between days, weeks, months, and years. Genesis 1: 3-5 says, “And God said, ‘Let there be light’. and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness he called ‘night’ “(New International Version).  According to the Bible, creating a difference between night and day (and subsequently days and weeks) is the first thing God did after creating the heavens and the earth.

Therefore, if every day, week, month, and year is separated from the one preceding it, we are constantly given a chance for a new beginning or fresh start.  As we enter into 2015, many people see the new year as an opportunity to start fresh with resolutions.  People often make promises to better their health, relationships, finances, career, etc; However, God says that we have a chance to start new every day.  Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (New International Version).  What beautiful grace God displays by giving us a chance to have a new start each day.  With each sunrise, we are given a fresh opportunity to live God’s way.  His grace is always there for us, but I like the visual expression of a sunrise and sunset to show the sunrise of our new chance each day.

Sometimes life forces us to start over at unexpected times.  We may have an “out-of-nowhere” job loss or relational breakup.  We are left to pick up the pieces & start over when an event occurs we did not choose.  Andy Stanley’s Series “Starting Over” was excellent to describe what to do when it all falls apart (http://startingoverseries.org).  Andy talks about the three exercises to complete when starting over: 1) Own it, 2) Rethink it, and 3) Release It.

Owning it means to own your share/part of why the situation went wrong.  Even if you feel like the situation was not your fault, there is always a piece of the fault pie that belongs to you.  In Andy’s sermon, he asked us to draw a slice of the pie that represented our part in why a situation went wrong and we are forced to start over.  Owning your part of why a situation went wrong helps you gain clarity and learn from it (www.startingoverseries.org).

Rethinking it means to ask yourself what you were thinking during the situation that went wrong.  If we think the way we used to, we will do the same things.  Be able to answer the question ‘What was I thinking?” (www.startingoverseries.org).

Releasing it means that even though other people may be to blame in your situation, you have a responsibility.  You must decide to forgive and release the fault others created in your situation (www.startingoverseries.org).  Andy told us to ask the question “How long do you plan to allow the people who mistreated you to influence your future?”

Each new day is an opportunity to start over — We don’t have to wait until January 1st of each new year to change.  Sometimes life events give us no choice but to start over again, usually at unexpected times.  Each circumstance that falls apart is an opportunity to begin again.  We have the chance each day to hit the “reset” button and do things better the next time.  It takes a little reflection and “owning the situation”…but starting over can be a great thing!

Where’s My Perfect Thanksgiving?

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              What do you think of when you imagine Thanksgiving Holiday? Family and friends gathered around a crackling fire?  An image of “the perfect family” eating a fabulous feast together, while laughing with one another?  The Publix commercial image of happiness at the holidays?  We all have expectations about what the holidays should be like built up by social media, retail stores, the entertainment industry, etc., causing us to expect some magical holiday season.   When we arrive for Thanksgiving and it isn’t the “perfect” day and everyone doesn’t “get along perfectly”, we are disappointed.  Our holiday expectations are unmet, and this, along with other factors, can lead to depression.  Many benefits arise from ridding ourselves of unrealistic expectations…and getting to the true meaning of the holiday.  Let’s start with Thanksgiving….

It is important for us to reflect on the idea of thankfulness.  

           Thankfulness is “feeling or expressing gratitude; being appreciative” (dictionary.com).  As a therapist, I have seen many benefits of practicing gratitude and have witnessed its role in the treatment of depression.  Practicing thankfulness is a beneficial antidote in the treatment of depression; similar to the widely known treatments such as medication and/or psychotherapy.

           When a person is struggling with depression, his thought life is typically distorted and negative.  One of the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder is the presence of suicidal thoughts.  Distorted thinking, a client having more negative than positive thoughts, suicidal thinking, and irrational thinking are all symptoms of a person who is dealing with depression.  This is why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is used to treat depression.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors.  During the course of treatment, people learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on their behavior (psychology.about.com).  Our thoughts lead to our feelings which lead to our behaviors (thoughts –> feelings–> behaviors).  If we are stuck in a cycle of negative thinking, we will feel sad, and then we will act depressed.  However, thankfulness allows us to change our negative thinking into positive thinking, thus fighting depression.  For example, a person may have the thought “I am so frustrated that my car keeps having to go to the shop”.  This thought makes a person feel upset which then makes them behave in ways an upset person would (moping/feeling sorry for themselves/isolating self).  However, if thankfulness is added and the person thinks “I am so thankful I even have a car“.  This thought makes the person feel joy, enabling the person to behave in ways a joyful person would (engaging with others. higher energy levels).  Thankfulness has a big role in combating negative thinking, which treats depression.

         A specific exercise used by therapists to fight depression is called “thanking your mind”.  Your mind offers you many thoughts in an effort to protect you–trying to get you to judge whats good or bad for you, predict dangerous possibilities, etc.  Your mind is working to help you survive and overcome problems.  However, your mind can run wild and obsessively focus on thoughts that make you miserable (McKay, Davis, & Fanning, 2011, p. 132).  One way to deal with these thoughts is to thank your mind for its efforts to protect you. As each negative thought shows up, simply say, “Thank you mind, for that thought”.  This helps you to just appreciate that your mind gave you a thought to protect you, but helps you not to dwell on negative thoughts (McKay et. al, 2011, p. 132).

         As a Christian, God’s word tells us to be thankful.  Phil 4: 6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends understanding, will guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus” (New International Version).  Thankfulness creates a form of tranquility, or peace of mind.  We cannot have two separate thoughts at the same time: it is difficult to worry and be thankful at the same time.  We aren’t that smart! Colossians 3:15 says “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (New International Version).  Can you see the connection between thankfulness and peace?  The more thankful we are, the more God’s peace will rule our hearts and minds, combating depression and other forms of despair.

Reference List

Johnson, S.L. (2004).  Therapist’s guide to clinical intervention: The 1-2-3’s of treatment planning (2nd ed.).  San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

McKay, M., Davis, M., & Fanning, P.  (2011).  Thoughts and feelings: Taking control of your moods and your life (4th ed.)  Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

http://www.psychology.about.com

Priorities

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“The most important thing in life is knowing the most important things in life.”
― David F. Jakielo

Lets face it.  Life is busy. With more technology than ever, our world is moving at a fast pace and distractions are everywhere.  At the touch of our hands, we have access to any phone app, games, pictures, music, television, etc.  not to mention when we get home and have Netflix, Redbox movies and such on top of our careers, families, friends, work, and other hobbies.  Only 24 hours in a day–we never have enough time to do everything we hope.  Also, with all of the distractions technology and media provide, we are often kept from doing what is most important to us, our priorities.   We are lucky if we invest in any of the activities we know are important.  Where are our priorities?

Oxford Dictionary defines a “priority” as “a thing that is regarded as more important than another”.

We all have priorities whether we realize it or not–how we spend our time, how we spend our money, and those we choose to spend it with.  If we don’t exercise our ability to set priorities, life will do it for us.  Indecision is a decision.

 What is the #1 priority in your life?  Is it your health, work, family, a hobby?

If you don’t know, ask your friends what you spend most of your time talking about, check your bank account for how you allocate your funds, or glance at your agenda to see where you invest your time.  Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (New International Version).

What IS important in life? 

The Bible says, in Matthew 22:37-39,  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself” (New International Version).   It is clear that God wants us to place a high priority on having a strong relationship with Him. Loving Him with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength means putting Him as our first priority in our lives.  God also sees relationships (loving others) as second in importance.  # 1 is God, with family/friends/loving people as second.

I remember my pastor warning us that only two things last forever: God’s word and the souls of men.  He warned us that investing in anything else is spending your life on something temporary.

Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (New International Version).  This verse reminds me that what needs to be #1 in my life is God, and everything else should follow. I have witnessed the absolute truth in this verse on the days when I wake up early and spend time in prayer and scripture.  After having time with God first thing, my day ALWAYS feels off to a good start, and I see why God wants to be first in our lives.

Family and friends is next on my list of priorities.  A recent quote I read says, “Nobody is too busy, it is just a matter of priorities.” As a person with a job, responsibilities, bills, etc., it can be hard for me to let myself spend time with friends and family and relax.  Its as if i feel I am wasting time when I am not busy checking things off my to do list, not realizing that the people I spend my time with should be at the TOP of that to-do list.  As I wrote about in a previous blog post, we were made for relationship.  Isolating ourselves while excelling in our job, making a lot of money, or getting skinny, may help us feel “successful” but we end up being  lonely.  And whats the point in having all the money in the world and no one to share it with?

Benjamin Franklin once said, “When you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.  When it comes to priorities, sometimes the first step is discovering what yours are.  Next, it is important to plan how to give your priorities the attention they deserve.  It can help to actually write down time spent with God, family, and friends as if it is an actual appointment in your day.  It is not about finding time for your priorities, but making time for them.  Accomplishing your priorities by setting appointed times to meet them brings order and peace to your life.

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(http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/priority)

Vulnerability

“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.”

-Brene Brown

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Relationships are key in life…We were made to be connected to one another!  God created all kinds of relationships, including family, friendships, and love relationships (Genesis 2:18, James 2: 23)..  All of these teach us valuable lessons and about how God loves and cares for us. God also invites us into a relationship with Him through his son — a very relational concept!  If relationships are so important to God, how do we develop them? And why risk having close relationships when we have been hurt by them in the past?

According to Millie Welsh, relationships go through a cycle of several phases.  Every relationship begins at a superficial or shallow level; you don’t know the person and they don’t really know you.  You meet, possibly engage in small talk, and move on — unless one of you takes it to the next level.  If a person never builds their relationships past this superficial level, they will be lonely and empty.

The next phase is Information Gathering, aka “acquaintance”.  This is the point when you ask the other person questions about themselves and get to know more about them (job, hobbies, likes/dislikes).

The next phase in a relationship requires vulnerability.  According to Brene Brown, vulnerability is “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”    It is the willingness to open yourself up to another person… more than just fact sharing, it is choosing to share how you feel about something or someone.

When a person is vulnerable, and it is met with acceptance, this leads to more self disclosure, feeling known/ loved, and a united relationship.  Based on Brene Brown’s  research, vulnerability, when met with empathy/acceptance, has many benefits.  It decreases shame and promotes closeness in relationship.  Also it is the birthplace of every positive emotion, including empathy, compassion, love, belonging, adaptability, accountability.”

However; vulnerability, when met with rejection, leads to a person shutting down, becoming impenetrable, and a superficial relationship.  A person learns to build walls around their emotions in order to not feel rejected again (Welsh, 2012).  It is after these instances of rejection we learn to keep our guard up with people so that they will not hurt us.  We don’t allow ourselves to feel, for fear of what we might end up actually feeling.  Vulnerability, when met with judgement, betrayal, or silence, creates shame and disengagement in relationship (Brown, 2013). Rejection teaches us to build walls around our hearts to protect ourselves from being hurt.

It is important to be discerning of your audience before you jump into vulnerability.  Brene Brown says vulnerability is “…for those who have earned the right to hear your story” and “those who can bear the weight of your story.”  At some point, we all have to decide which relationships are worth the risk of getting hurt on the chance that they can grow into a lasting relationship that changes our lives for the better.  There will always be a risk that someone will abuse your vulnerability, but if God created us to enjoy relationships with Him and one another, we must come to the conclusion that He wants us to courageously pursue the hearts of others in order to grow in Him.

I encourage you to take your guard down & risk vulnerability with trusted individuals in your life.

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Some of my closest friends in college. These were the girls I lived, studied, had class with, exercised with, ate with, etc… I was taught the importance of vulnerability in producing close, meaningful relationships.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable”.

-C.S. Lewis

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Reference List

Brown, B. 2013.  The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, & Courage.  Available from

               www.brenebrown.com/books/

Welsh, M. (2012, May 30).  Made for Relationship.   Crupressgreen.  Retrieved from

                http://crupressgreen.com/made-for-relationship/

Happy Fall!

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall”

                                                           -F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Fall is a season of new beginnings.  The school year starts over for students, TV shows are fresh with new episodes, football teams are given a clean record of no losses, leaves emerge vibrant colors, and the air develops a crisp, cool feel to it.

It truly is my favorite time of the year.  In the fall, I enjoy campfires, pumpkin spice lattes, blankets, and the wonderful sound of ESPN college football/Gameday.  This fall, I am embarking on a new journey writing this blog.  My inner therapist will definitely come through with counseling and psychological terms and topics, along with all that I’m learning and facing in my daily walk of life and faith.  I hope you will join me on my latest adventure!