My one year challenge

I’ve been putting off writing this post because there’s so much going on in my heart, that I don’t know how I’ll possibly do it justice. I’m not sure where to start, but I think I need to go back to last fall…

In September I met a really great guy who I truly thought could be the one. He was just what I was looking for – Team Realtree, Ariats… antlers and turkey fans on his living room wall… drove a big lifted Ford and loved Jesus… Sigh. Be still my heart. The problem was, he was still so broken from his divorce and his wife’s affair with (several) of their close friends, that he had built a wall up so high around his heart, he was afraid to let me in.

It wasn’t just that he was afraid. He was absolutely terrified, and would have a complete panic attack as soon as he started to feel anything. It didn’t matter if we were cooking dinner together or watching a Heartland marathon – as soon as he started to feel comfortable, he’d get scared. We could be laughing til our sides hurt, and he would just suddenly clam up. He eventually admitted the truth that broke my heart.

Amber, you’re more than I ever hoped for, and you treat me like J- never did, ever, in our entire relationship. If I fall for you, and you hurt me, I won’t get over you. It will kill me.

So this was the story of our brief relationship. We were on opposite ends of the pendulum. His past hurts caused him to hide his heart and lock it up. My past hurts fuel my faith to find what I’ve never had before. I refuse (blatantly refuse) to be afraid to love again. I may get my heart broken – but I will never miss out on loving someone because of fear. It’s not in me.

He flip-flopped so much that it was torturing me. He loved me – he just wanted to be friends. He loved me – he couldn’t give me what I needed. He loved me – he was too afraid to get hurt.

I was sitting in church the week before Advent started, and pastor Pete was preaching on “rolling out the red carpet” for Jesus at Christmas. He challenged us that if there was anything stealing our attention from Christ, that we give it up for the Advent season and get back to it after Christmas. Immediately, I heard a resounding dating echo in my heart. I decided then and there that I was done with the flip-flop, and he was getting moved to the back burner so I could focus on the birth of my Lord. We became just friends, period.

It was a really, really rough Christmas, and not because of him, but because I was still struggling with being “alone.” I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to not be married, but I so desperately miss being a wife. I crave the comfort and contentment that comes with having someone to bestow all my affection and devotion on, which is likely why God is asking me to wait. My heart needs to crave the Lord more deeply than a man.

So. As my 30th birthday approached, I began to panic. My birthday is January 1st, so I always feel this epic need to get my life together and know exactly what I’m doing for the year when my birthday rolls around. It’s more than a new year’s resolution thing. And since I was turning 30, I felt like I had to get my whole decade together. I put way more pressure on myself than God ever has.

With this decision to put an end to the yo-yo relationship I had been trying so hard to make work, I felt a peace and a certainty that this was the right thing to do. So, like I always do, I tried to be more devoted and more faithful and more self-sacrificing. I promised God that I would take my entire 30th year off from the dating game. I was going to give him the first year of my 30’s and focus only on him.

Epic promise. Epic fail.

In the spring, I went on 3 dates with a really nice cattle farmer (I should have known when he showed up in a Silverado, but I wasn’t being too picky since it was at least lifted). But by date 3 I knew he wasn’t the one. I kept going back to my promise and wrestling with it in my mind.

I wasn’t sure if this was a silly rule I had made up myself to try to prove to God that I love him, or if God was actually asking me to take the year off. I had so many friends tell me that my heart just needed to be in the right place – I didn’t need to swear off dating for a whole year! I just needed to put my focus more clearly on Christ. I didn’t know what to think. I was all over the road.

Then, out of nowhere, I started getting emails from a cattle farmer/trucker from eHarmony. He lives in Manitoba and that gave me a huge sense of safety because I was getting to know him over the distance and there wasn’t a chance of me getting swept off my feet over text/email. We texted a lot. A lot, a lot. And I was completely blown away by his faith and his desire to “date holy” and his unwavering integrity. We would text for hours and hours on end. His conversations were deep, and Christ-focused, and I was definitely a huge fan of his farm upbringing and the photos he would send me of his horses and loads of hay as he fed cattle. But righteousness is a huge, huge turn-on for me, and I loved his respect and honourableness. And a tall, stocky cowboy to boot? I was going to lose my heart over text after all, and fast.

I work for a wonderful Christian couple and I run the office for their business. We build grain handling and storage equipment and service existing systems. My work vocabulary consist of augers, drag conveyors, down spouts, distributors and legs, hoppers, etc. I’m truly a farm girl at heart. And I love my job because I can wear my cowboy boots and pink Realtree hat to work. I also love my job because of Tina, my boss. She and her husband are truly the best example of what Christians should be, that I have probably ever seen in real life.

So I confide in Tina a lot, and she is amazing at speaking discernment and wisdom into my life. I had told her about my one year commitment and told her about my dates with the cattle farmer, and finally about M-, the amazing guy from Manitoba. She patiently listened and constantly reminded me, “Don’t settle for less than God’s best for you.” I kept wrestling with this one year off dating promise I’d made, and the possibility of my dream man right in front of me.

A dear friend of mine had sent me the link to a series by Andy Stanley that she really wanted me to watch called “The New Rules For Love, Sex & Dating.” She hadn’t seen it in a long time but in our brief talk after church it triggered her memory and she thought I would enjoy it.

I had it on in the office while I was re-organizing all our filing cabinets one week. I asked Tina if she minded and she said she was enjoying listening to it too. I kept being blown away by the things he was saying and Tina and I would chuckle whenever he said things that totally lined up with what I had been talking about over the last few months.

And then it happened.

Andy said something along the lines of this…

I want you to go in your calendar, on your phone or wherever you keep it, and skip ahead to one year from today. And I want you to not date until then.

I gasped out loud. I literally gasped, and Tina laughed out loud! “Wow Amber, do you think the Lord is telling you something?”

So there it was. I knew it. I couldn’t put a question mark behind that thought anymore. God had clearly put a period.

No dating for a year. Become the person the person you’re looking for is looking for.

I stood up and circled April 15 on our giant Varco yearly calendar in front of my desk on the wall. No questions. I was sure.

And then I thought about M-. He was very busy with his cattle and his trucking company and contracts, so we had pretty much decided that he was too busy to date for the time being and we were going to step back and not put pressure on it. But I still felt drawn to him. He had talked about giving it a shot when things slowed down in the fall. I was going to be patient. But a whole year was a lot.

I texted him and sent him the link to Andy’s series and told him it had changed my whole heart, and that I was doing the one year challenge. And then silence for 6 days.

Then, on Good Friday, in the middle of my Passion of the Christ meltdown, my phone whistled. It was M- and he said, “So I watched that series u suggested… It was amazing… I want to take the one year challenge too…” And we had a good talk about it.

So I’m not talking to him anymore. He’s somewhere in Manitoba, and I’m praying for him. But my focus is on Christ.

Andy talked about how important it is to become the very best version of yourself before you find your partner. Become so deeply in love with the Lord, and rid your life of everything that holds you back from being the person God wants you to be.

I deleted all my playlists and started fresh. (That was a tough one – I love my Eric Church and Jason Aldean…) But listening to those love songs was only making me more and more unsatisfied with my relationship status, and made my heart long for a lover to park the truck and take off running to go listen to the night train. So I decided to take a break from secular music too. I made new playlists with all my Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin and Tim Hughes and Hillsong music. I’m focusing on Christ, and it’s insane how much just changing my music has changed my heart.

And may I randomly add, that someone needs to market some seriously good country worship music? Hey Luke, could you stop shaking it for me and sing some praises instead? Mmm-kay? Thanks.

So here I go. I have a little over 11 months to go (but who’s counting) and I am soaking up my Bible and being more careful of what I put in front of my eyes. I stopped following a bunch of facebook pages like I want to marry a country boy that occasionally posted sexy cowboys without their shirts on, or love song lyrics that just made me lonely. It’s absolutely baffling to me how much things like that can affect my contentedness.

I don’t know what kind of challenge this year is going to be, but I’m sure of one thing – Anyone who asks me out this year isn’t the one God has for me because He isn’t going to ask me to take a year off and then send me someone to break that commitment. I got asked out on the weekend and didn’t even have a hint of a desire to say yes. I truly believe that anyone I meet now would only end up breaking my heart, because it’s not God’s plan for me. I’m not settling for less than God’s best for me.

I’m sure it will be difficult. I’m sure it will push me and challenge me. I’m sure I will wish I hadn’t made this commitment at some point over the next year. I do live in a farming community and I’m a sucker for a lifted pickup truck and a man in muddy boots. But I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is God’s will for my life. And I know He only wants good things for me. So I’ll wait and see what He brings instead of searching myself.

Not only that, but I realized in listening to Andy’s series, that if I’m spending this year becoming the kind of woman that the man I’m looking for is looking for – then I want a man who is doing the same for me! I want a man who’s heart is longing for ME, and who God is going to prepare for me as well. Maybe he’s in the middle of a really horrible divorce right now and God has some healing to do in his life before he’s ready for me. Maybe he’s never been married and he’s not sure what he wants yet and God is still directing him. Maybe he’s one of the farmers we will work for this year. Maybe he’s a cattle farmer in Manitoba. The point is – I don’t have to worry about it. God knows exactly who he’s preparing my heart for. And until I want to love Christ more than I want to love a husband, I’m not deserving of such a man.

I have a song on my playlist called “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” by Matt Redman. I had it cranked up as I was driving the other day and was singing about all the time I have ahead of me to sing praises to my God. The line “10,000 years and then forevermore” just grabbed my heart and gave me a good spiritual shake. My heart is so out of line with where it should be. Praying for a husband when I have eternity to praise Jesus? I’m such a weak, broken woman. I need some serious priority adjustments this year. And I need a completely new perspective.

Please pray for me, and please listen to that series! I’m sure not everyone needs to take a one year challenge. But I am certain that God is asking me to, because I need to.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come! – 2 Cor 5:17

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You Are Enough

The first day of my training class in Toronto was the most intimidating day of my life.

Here I was in a corporate board room with 7 other professionals in suits when I, a stay-at-home-mommy-turned-career-woman-overnight feeling like a poser in my suit, sat nervously playing with the handle of my purse. It was surreal.

I looked around the room at the other women. They seemed so put-together and professional. And then my trainer came into the room.

All I had known was that her name was Leigh, and that she was very friendly, as per the introduction & welcome email she’d sent me the week before.

Leigh was gorgeous. She had a smile that lit up the room and she was trim, had beautiful hair, great style, and she carried herself with a graceful air that spoke volumes.

And I have to admit, my first reaction was that she wasn’t going to like me.

She shot that down within the first five minutes.

I have never, in my life, met such a beautiful woman who had such a kind heart.

I’m not saying all beautiful women are conceited, I’m saying that’s been my experience with women who look like they belong on a magazine cover. They usually know it and they usually work it to get whatever they want. At least the ones I’ve known.

Not Leigh. Her kindness and her genuine sweet personality were a breath of fresh air and we all became huge fans instantly. She was a brilliant teacher, a wonderful example of poise and professionalism, but she also met us on our level and never once became condescending or unapproachable.

My third or fourth week in Toronto was really hard. I was starting to miss my kids so much I could barely focus. I remember texting my colleague Adam one night around ten as I was sobbing in my hotel room. His reply (as he always shoots straight with me) was: “Breathe. Sleep. I miss my kids too. We’re almost done.”

I was also really struggling with whether or not I could make it in this career. I didn’t know if I believed in myself. The job was hard, and there was so much to learn in five weeks that I began to doubt I could do it when training was over. All the things I had been told over the previous eight years were ringing in my head and I was sitting on a very dangerous fence.

We were doing role playing, and Leigh was acting as a client, and we were going through a meeting and proposal in front of the class, one at a time, and then giving each other feedback on our pitches.

I asked Leigh if we could practice alone in another room first. All the others in the class had business degrees and had worked in sales before. My expertise was in diaper changing and making a mean meat loaf.

So Leigh and I went next door to the adjacent board room and she began to coach me. And I broke down.

I poured out way too much about my personal life, my divorce, the things I was still hearing him say in my mind, and my doubts about whether I would make a good rep. And this beautiful woman, who at first glance I thought would judge me, gave me the most monumental pep talk I’ve had in my entire life.

“YOU ARE ENOUGH.” She pushed my books to the end of the table, made me look her in the eyes, and said to me from her soul, “You can do this. You are beautiful. You are capable. YOU ARE ENOUGH.” I honestly don’t remember the details of the whole conversation, because I was crying my eyes out, but she sat there and chip, chip, chipped away at the shell of fear and doubt that I had built up around me. All of the “you can’t’s” and “you don’t’s” fell silently to the floor, and as I looked into her eyes and saw the sincerity behind her words… I began to think, maybe she’s right.

I dried my eyes and she gave me a hug and spoke some beautiful words of comfort to me, and went back to the class. I gained my composure, and joined in.

Leigh wasn’t easy on us, but she wasn’t unrealistic either. She was giving it to us like a real client would. And one by one, we took our turns roll playing. I was the Paula of the group – I scribbled down notes about all the things I loved that they had said or done and my feedback was purely encouragement. We learned a lot from each other. And then it was my turn.

I was nervous, and my mind went blank. I fidgeted and kept glancing at my paperwork instead of just having the conversation with the client. Leigh’s eyes told me “Just go for it, you can do this!” So I forgot about the 7 pairs of professional, experienced eyes, and gave my first sales pitch. And I was the only one that day who closed.

I know Leigh wasn’t just taking it easy on me. I actually rocked it. And Adam has reminded me of that fact several times since training when I start to freak out about a specific client or my net gain that week or the job in general. “Hey Amber? Who was the only one in the class who closed the deal in role plays?” I started to believe in myself, not because Leigh told me I should. But because I knew Leigh did.

I IM’d with her this morning and gave her a little update on how I was doing. I told her “I’m so much stronger than I ever thought I was,” to which she replied, “I always knew that.”

SO today’s post is twofold.

One: Don’t assume all beautiful women are conceited.

And two: YOU ARE ENOUGH. Whatever you’ve been told – you are beautiful. You are capable. You are worth so much more than you will ever know. And you are enough.

Waiting

Another blog post I had on my secret blog, that I’m ready to share… This was from November 11, 2012

 

James 1:2-8 (NIV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Wow.

So I used to do Bible quizzing. Yep, I was a super hyper turbo church girl. And I loved it. I got to travel all over Ontario with my teams and billet with interesting people, competing against other teams for Bible college scholarships.

James was the first book I memorized.

I’ve always loved it, and because I was so gung-ho about quizzing in the beginning, I memorized the entire book beginning to end.

We quizzed out of the New International Version, so all of my memorization is in the NIV. I went to pick up a new Bible on Friday as my dog ate mine (no word of a lie) and so of course I went straight for the NIV section and picked out a cute purple pleather quilted covered NIV.

I sat down this morning to read and my first instinct was to go soak up some James. The words have changed a lot, as they’ve updated it since I was in quizzing (which makes me feel old even though I’m 28) and I found myself a little disappointed.

I don’t like change, unless I’m the one initiating it. If people make even the most minute changes to things and I come back without having known, I feel thrown. This is likely the reason I’m struggling with going back to the church I grew up my whole life in, now that I live here again, because it has changed so much. I feel like it should still be exactly as it was and still is in my mind. Silly, I know. I have issues (don’t we all?) and it’s part of my brokenness. I like the things I love to stay the same or at least change with me. I don’t like going back to something different.

So. Tangent.

I loved this text because, although it wasn’t what I memorized verbatim, it seemed to speak more to me this time. I thought throwing in the “brothers and sisters” instead of “brothers” and changing “he” to “you/them” was unnecessary, and I’ve never been a feminist so I didn’t see the point.

But it spoke a little deeper to me.

The text came alive to me, not as me knowing the words about a man going through some hard times and being double-minded and all that – but I saw myself in it.

I’m going through trials of many kinds. Hokey snot am I ever. I NEED perseverance. I’m developing it a little more every day. Each morning when I get up and get ready and go to work, when all I want to do is stay in bed and cry and wallow in the current state of my broken life – I get a little bit stronger. I gain a little more perseverance.

And my problem has been trying to rush God’s work in my life.

“I’m ready, Lord! Bring on the good stuff now!”

He must roll His eyes and think “Oh, sweetie. You’re so silly.”

Let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Isn’t that what I’ve been asking for? Maturity? Spiritual and emotional? Completeness after years of brokenness? Fulfillment – nothing lacking? I continue to showcase a sense of entitlement to joy and peace and fulfillment, without actually doing all the leg work. I ask God to gimme gimme gimme… When He’s already given me the recipe for success in Him.

Yes, of course, the joy of the Lord is free in Christ, and it is MINE, and if it were not for it I would be lost. But the extra stuff – the maturity and completeness – that I have to work for.

In my case it’s been dating.

Blech. I hate to even admit it.

I’ve been on several dates since O and I separated. I think I’ve selfishly and at times naively thought that since he’s living with his new girlfriend, and I’m only going out on dates and not having sex, I’m better than he is and more holy.

I feel so old and wise but really, I’m a child.

When I continue to understand that I need to wait on the man God has for me, why do I feel the need to jump the gun and go for it? I became totally content to wait. After my relationship earlier this year with a beautiful man (R), I was afraid of hurting someone else by thinking I was ready and then pulling out when things got serious. So I put my nose to the grind, focused on my kids and my job, and I was getting better. I was finding who I am as a woman, as a mother, and in Christ.

I fall so quickly when I’m not focusing on prayer and meditation first, but just leaping into situations hoping they turn out for the best. You’d think I’d learn by now.

I’m tired of being tossed and thrown on the waves. I am craving peace… so I have to wait for it. When I hear Him whispering in my heart “Wait… Wait darling, I promise…” – I have to listen to that. Or I’m double-minded and can’t expect anything from God. I lived with bipolar for 8 years. The last thing I want is to become double-minded myself.

This fear I have in my heart is surely not from the Lord – the fear that tells me to hurry up and find a good Christian guy before they’re all taken. It’s so ridiculous! If God has someone perfect for me, he certainly won’t be perfect, as I most assuredly am not. He’s likely going through his own trials of many kinds – perhaps even the same struggles I’m facing. But if God is orchestrating it, then he’ll be ready the same time I am. It’s a relief to be able to give it up like that, and trust. How do people without faith do it?

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

God, I’m begging You for wisdom. I know I only have to ask You, but here I am on my knees crying out for You to show me Your will in my life. You will not fault me if I come to You in all sincerity, with all kinds of trust and faith in Your perfect will. Please… give me the grace to carry my head high when I feel so alone, and help me to find security in knowing YOU rather than having an arm to hold onto. I don’t want to find my identity in being a wife to a good man – I want to be found in You and ONLY You, and someday have you reward me with a man whose heart matches mine, to serve you as a team together with.

But there I go again. Aching for a husband.

Be the only man I need, Father…