Friday, July 8, 2016

173: date-turned-Mormon processing

I want to write more. Originally this blog was supposed to be a place for me to write my thoughts without trying to tailor it for an audience. Maybe I can get back to that more.

So many thoughts.

To tell you the truth, when I see the date-turned-Mormon profile pic, I still feel a pang. The day before he was supposed to turn Mormon I talked with him again on the phone and told him about two articles I read by Mormons about Mormons. I told him what I had learned and why I disagreed. At his request, I sent him the articles and also added the Scripture verses I had brainstormed refuting the main points I had culled from the articles. He said he'd read them. But he still became Mormon. I haven't heard from him again. He joined LDS singles groups on FB.

When we had lunch, he had talked about Mormonism, but I didn't think he was considering joining them. I thought I was talking to a believer--I didn't realize I was engaging in apologetics. When I told him on the phone that I didn't want to touch Mormonism with a ten-foot pole, I didn't mean that I was ostracizing him because I couldn't philosophically deal with someone becoming Mormon. I meant that I couldn't go there relationally, that emotionally I couldn't even continue a friendship with him because it would be too much a temptation to crush on an unbeliever. I am too weak; I HAD to set my boundary. But did he recognize that? Is there anyone in his life that can still dialogue with him about what Scripture says? Not to tell him he's wrong or that Mormonism is stupid, but to truly dialogue with him like he so enjoyed.

The church. Where was the church as the LDS missionaries drew him in, counseled him? One of the main things we talked about in our lunch was how Mormons disciple new converts and keep them accountable and follow through. And the church is so lacking in that area. I know personally that if I want accountability or fellowship, I have to seek it. And I have the spiritual maturity now to be able to seek it. But what about someone who has only be saved a few years? Why are we--why am I--not encouraging one another to follow the Lord? Oh sure, we "fellowship," as in, we hang out, we talk, we "do life" together. But how often, how RARELY, do I discuss with someone how they are doing spiritually, how they are doing at obeying Scripture's commands to love one another, and then follow through the next time I see them, instead of dropping it like the only point of bringing it up was to have a deep conversation, not cultivate TRUE Christian fellowship? And how defensive and shallow do I feel when someone asks me what I am reading in the Word these days or some other spiritually probing question? Are we a community of believers, or are we really just a social club? And what part am I playing in making it one or the other? Because he was looking for something, and the Mormons had it.

What was the draw to Mormonism? That question has plagued me. Because there are similarities. They claim to follow Jesus. But they do not believe that God is God and man is man--that line is blurred--and they do not accept the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture. Those are biggies! And yet, they're "moral." When I asked a friend about why he might have been drawn to Mormonism, she suggested that people are drawn to the idea of "secret knowledge" and a more works-oriented salvation.

The one thing that I am challenged with through this is to better live out what I believe. To more fully live out Scripture. If I am going to be a light, then I need to continue to let Jesus take over more of my life and not worry about what is popular (or even what is old-fashioned). My date was not looking for what was popular. He was looking for depth. My prayer is that he becomes disillusioned with the "secret knowledge" in Mormonism and comes back to basic Scripture as truth. Oh, Lord, open his eyes!

I mourn the loss of a possible friendship and the loss of a brother.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

172: online dating bloopers

Christian Mingle had a sale I couldn't turn down. So amid much prayer and emotions (and despite everything I've said about not being cut out for that world) on Easter I jumped back into the pond. As I told one fellow, "It really is nice to get to know other people, even if only for a couple exchanged messages."

One big positive to online dating (if you don't happen to meet your future spouse) is getting to interact with lots of people you wouldn't otherwise meet and be influenced and spurred on by what they write on their profiles or in exchanged messages. I've had some good e-mail conversations with guys I am truly honored to have virtually met.

But sometimes . . . sometimes you just have to laugh and groan.

I didn't know whether to interpret this comment as a bash on my photos or a compliment to my real self--or maybe he was just trying to say not to judge him by his own photos: "I just got my photos approved so you have an idea what I look like. But like myself, I'm sure you look better in person :)"

A homeschool grad in his late 30s made me realize how weird homeschoolers are if you actually write out everything you think, believe, and want, on screen, for other people to read.

One guy's profile name, with extra symbols removed, is "Love Me." Desperate much? I'm not replying to his smile.

With another guy, after a single chat session about the weather and listing where we've traveled, I was offered his e-mail, FB, Skype, and text contact info. Kudos for being pro-active! (no groaning here, just amused surprise)

Another fellow chatted with me and begged me to ask questions about himself so he could prove he was a good guy. I had never doubted he was a good guy, but he was quite put out when I wouldn't agree to call him the next day after our one chat and two previously exchanged short e-mails.

How soon is soon? "hope i can know about you more. beacause im looking for a person with a good heart and soon to be my partner for the rest of my life." Too soon!

First message: "and dont worry im not a bad guy or a stranger :)" I think we define "stranger" differently.

My profile pic shows me hugging my dog with the caption "tormenting my dog?" A guy replied, "If that is tormenting your dog, torment me too!" A little much? Just a little.

I often get the conversation starter "Hey, beautiful." And I ask myself, would he really walk up to a girl and start a conversation that way?

One guy took out his frustration over me cutting off our brief conversation due to a theological difference by asking me when I was last in a relationship. I soooo wanted to write him back and justify my prospectability, but I refrained.

My coworker likes dubbing the guys I write: "Sketch," "Walt" (he liked Disney), "Red Head," "41 year old."

I had put on my profile that I wasn't going to do much on CM until summer (that ended up being a falsehood), so one guy--who actually seemed like a pretty good guy--wrote this introductory message (ellipses his): "I'll wait until you are ready... I love your profile and find you gorgeous sincerely... Your fan right here..." (I'll admit, I might have felt some flutters despite the hyperbole feel.) When I replied and slightly chided him for assuming so much from a few words on a page, he didn't write back and my coworker chided me upside the head for rebuffing a good guy. *sigh* Apparently I've got issues too.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Book Review: No Way Up by Mary Connealy

Not too long ago, a friend introduced me to Sarah Sundin. Set in Boston during the beginning of World War 2, the Waves of Freedom series has me hooked on this new-to-me author. I finished Anchor in the Storm, thoroughly entrenched in the era, only to have to turn to a book I needed to review, No Way Up by Mary Connealy, a Western. How do you switch on a dime from the 1930/40s to the Old West? I'll tell you how--you get yourself a Mary Connealy, book because she never fails to capture your attention and hold it!

Third page into No Way Up there is an avalanche, people get hurt, the crisis begins. Connealy is a flawless storyteller. She consistently weaves action, romance, intrigue, with a twist in plot. I don't know what else to say! No Way Up had all of the above and kept you moving til the end. If you want a plot summary, check out the description on Amazon!

It also looks like a novella (The Boden Birthright) explaining the father's background is available for free on Kindle, which should be really good because it involves a marriage of convenience. (No worries, in No Way Up they are thoroughly in love with each other.)

Two solid novels in a row. What was I to do next? I had picked up a debut novel at the local Christian bookstore during a 1/2 off sale--Where Treasure Hides (2012) set in World War 2. I went from Sundin to Connealy to Johnnie Alexander, and again, totally hooked!

Happy summer reading!

"Everything that was male in him seemed to awaken all that was female in her. As if she'd been in a deep sleep her whole life...until now." -No Way Up

Disclaimer: Both Sundin and Connealy put a lot of kissing in these books.

Friday, June 24, 2016

171: free verse on a summer off work

Three day weekends and summer vacations are always difficult for me. I excitedly anticipate the time off and then hit the hazard button of no schedule. I am a person who thrives on a schedule. And I'm also a person who will lazily stay up til 2am, sleep til 11am, and eat icecream every day if a higher purpose doesn't shake me into a more productive lifestyle.

School ended, I packed, and then off to Boston and Maine I went with a bunch of wonderful people from around the country that I have been building friendships with over the last two years. You know what it's like when you get back from vacation, especially one involving no sleep and seeing people you won't see again for awhile? You start hitting the return-to-normal blues. Combine that with absolutely nothing to do *cough* okay, I guess I could, you know, clean up these piles of clothes and papers, and, ok, lesson plan for history next school year, and, well, there is lots TO do, but nothing that MUST be done. Anyway, it's summer. And with summer comes adjustments. Some of it is glorious--like being able to cook for my family more (during the school year my mom, whose love language is firmly entrenched in "acts of service" makes my breakfast and lunch every single morning; summer is my time to reignite the homemaker in me and be a blessing back) and being able to hang out with my dog, who is currently depressed that I'm still awake but not depressed enough to go slink into the other room where sleeping is happening.

Summer is my opportunity to make wise choices. I'd rather have those choices imposed on me, like in a work schedule. And yet, don't you dare tell me what to do over my summer because I like making my own choices. See? Confusing.

I've been having fun lately journaling some of my thoughts in free verse. So here is my free verse on summer.

Waddle, waddle--Make Way for Ducklings in Boston Common!

Blank spaces
Where stone stood in solid unity before
Cracked open to allow space
Spread wide to open into summer

Sleep, time, plans
Trips, high, people
Return, restore, amiss
A crevice
A crack between the duties of the year
And the thrill of vacation wanderings
Now in no-man's land
A blank space to be filled.

Thoughts, hopes, habits
Others, conversations, input
Alone, yet not
Full of tasks put off
Yet empty of what is normally done

A canvas splotted with
Haphazard paint

Better, should be better
Summer, should be summer
Intentional, but zombie-ing aimlessly
Like a tumbleweed
Thither I go

Will I find the strength
The fortitude
The wisdom
To pain the canvas of summer well?

Will I rest
Be restored
Find grace and joy and peace
And unique to summer fun
Before the gap closes
And the solid ground of
A school teacher's schedule

lobster traps at the end of a pier in Maine

Sunday, June 12, 2016

170: the love of the bride

I went to a wedding this afternoon in a Japanese tea garden. Jewish tradition merged with Christian faith as the bride circled her groom 7 times, symbolically declaring she would pray a wall of protection around her husband and their love. At the inside reception, under a ceiling strung with lights, we consumed, and had seconds of, Asian-Mexican fusion tacos and kale salad (seriously, some of the best food). Hours of conversation and laughter later, the father/daughter dance started as a standard two-step. It was a song about the Bride, Christ's bride. Then father and daughter parted and stood side by side, lifting hands then twirling, lifting hands then twirling. As the bride looked up, hands raised, the artificial lighting caught the love in her eyes for her heavenly Bridegroom. "The bride," she sang. And suddenly I pictured her representing all of us, collectively, the Bride of Christ. Coming before Him at the end of days, love and joy in our hearts.

As singles sometimes it feels like our love is on hold. No man to love, no children to love, no reason or opportunity to love. And so we store up a little love in our hearts, for children in Sunday School or for family or for God. Sometimes my love for God swells and I am enamored at how amazing He is, how grand, how real. Other times my love wanes a bit as I fill my time with meaningless activities, because what else is calling me forth? Nothing.

Tonight, watching the bride, I realized the love I feel for my Lord is not wasted. It is being stored up. Oh, don't let it be wasted. Don't let it seep out. Store it up, let it grow, so that on that day, the wedding supper of MY Lamb, I can be the joyful bride of which mortal brides are only a reflection. A bride without spot or blemish offering herself, after a lifetime of waiting, abandoning herself into the care of the One who of old died for her to pay the bride price for her, who has been preparing the perfect eternal home for her, who has sealed her with the Holy Spirit and has redeemed her from her filth and shame, who declares her righteous and holy, who has never, ever stopped loving her, thinking of her, expectantly working out the fulfillment of all things for the day when the distance would be traversed, the gap closed, and the two together in blissful, unending fellowship.

Your love isn't wasted. It is what will make that Day of Glory a day of glowing joy.

Clarification: I know as singles God gives us plenteous opportunities to love and serve. I was referring to how it feels sometimes, not how it is when we proactively pursue service.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

169: a date, a connection, a hope, and yet

I went on a date this last Friday. With a guy I met online. Actually, with a guy I had met online 3 years ago and had messaged/emailed with a lot, and then who contacted me again after I viewed his profile recently.

Three hours of in-person conversation later. . . I haven't met many people like him. His philosophical, thinker-kind of conversation and attentiveness to my interaction with him touched a part of me that partly stirred up old demons of when I used to get too much into my own head (too much thinking), and partly stirred up a profoundly personal part of me that rarely sees the light of day these days. I was amazed at how I reacted emotionally after coming home and processing.

I think I liked this guy.

We had a connection (What is that? I don't know, but the glimpse I got made me want more!).

And I barely knew him.

The problem was, I didn't know where he stood spiritually. I knew he claimed to be a Christian, went to a mainline Christian church, and had an obviously Christian worldview. But, because of his personality, and because I was trying to pry without asking point-blank questions, it was impossible to pin him down on his personal walk with the Lord. Like, reliance on Jesus' death and resurrection for his salvation, depth of Bible reading, prayer, and personal commitment to follow Jesus, not just the forms of the Christian faith. So I prayed, and wrestled, and prayed, and wrestled, and texted with him, and got replies, and received texts from him (like, he initiated it!), and was elated, and wrestled with the Lord some more. My journal has been getting good use.

Thankfully, this has only gone on since last Friday. Today is Tuesday.

He called tonight. Thirty minutes of conversation confirmed that we do fit together nicely (at least as much as you can tell from one in-person meeting and one short telephone call). I joked, he laughed his I'm-surprised-you-said-that-but-I-like-it laugh. He made jokes, I laughed because it was nice just to communicate so comfortably and have the hope for this progressing.

And then, somewhere amid the thirty minutes, he dropped the bomb.

He is becoming Mormon.

Say what?

I thank the Lord for answering my prayer SO CLEARLY. And so quickly! I don't have to wonder about his spiritual walk anymore! He is obviously not "the one."

And yet. Not "but," just an "and yet."

I think we actually mutually liked each other. We at least both thought each other interesting. We want the same thing for our future families. We both listen to audiobooks when we drive. I am dealing with the pain of this "prospect"--such a good prospect--draining out of my life. I am sad.

And YET!

Unique as he was, "good" as he was, he was apparently never meant to be a prospect. Why did God put him in my life for such a short time? I do not know, do not need to know. But the hope that my connection with him stirred in me, and the hurt of now-relinquished hope, made me cry out tonight in my journal, "I will keep asking and seeking and knocking until You answer."

Because my God does not give serpents when His children ask for fish, or stones when we ask for bread. Despite how I feel, I'm not missing out, and I didn't lose a good opportunity. And my God says that, like the man who got up in the middle of the night to give his friend food for his traveling guests--how much more will our Father in heaven answer the persistent prayers of His daughters! (Lk. 11:5-8, Mt. 7:7-12, Lk. 18:1)

So that's been my week. On Sunday I wrote in my journal, "I know my God. If He calls me to surrender, it's nothing I haven't done before. He is good". So He is. And so He will continue to be.

How does Admiral Croft's line from Persuasion (1995) go? "And now it's time to begin all over again, with someone else." Something like that. :)

Clarification: God does not promise us spouses. Sometimes He does encourage us to pray for specific things, like a husband, while other times it is enough that we are resting in the joy of His presence without making requests.

girls trip to the beach this weekend

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Book Review: Like Never Before

Melissa Tagg's writing-style is a mix between black and white movie charm and Hallmark feels.

This story is about (A) a news editor who has successfully immersed her broken self in small town life to find belonging, (B) a widowed single dad who just wants to do what is best for his daughter but can't seem to find his way, (C) a long-distance crush that is magically and romantically reciprocated, and (D) the Walker family whose dad you'll wish you could know in real life.

Did I mention the story is Hallmark-esque? It's a feel good, tickle your fancy, warm your heart story. A good way to welcome in summer.

Last time I reviewed one of Melissa Tagg's books I complained that there was not enough difference in how her characters talked. They all seemed to be able to quote old movies, including the football player who talked about Bing Crosby. Thankfully, only the main characters do that this time, and the guy only can do that because those were the kinds of movies his mom used to watch. The author has an amazing ability to write like we actually speak, but I still felt like there wasn't enough differentiation between how different characters spoke. Ah well.

One of my favorite parts is when the main characters are at a fancy dinner with friends and the heroine orders fish, even though she doesn't like fish, because when it came time to order, getting a hamburger suddenly didn't feel dignified enough. Mid-dinner, as she's poking her food, her guy quietly takes a handful of his fries and puts it on her plate, whispering, "You've been eyeing them for twenty minutes." To which she thinks, "God bless him."

I'm sad the story is over, but I follow the author on FB and she's already talking about her next book focusing on brother Beckett.

Because last time I rated Melissa Tagg's book based on a 5 star rating, I'll do so again. I'd give Like Never Before 4.75 stars (because I'm a teacher and I can do that).

Memorable Quotes:
"Again with the questions."

"Just call me Barbara Walters."

He wrinkled his nose. "I just kissed you, [name removed]. And I'm pretty sure at some point tonight--possibly multiple points--I'd like to again. I'd rather not have the picture of you as an eighty-year-old in a pantsuit in my head when I do."


"I was so fascinated by this book."

"Not going to lie, I'm a little fascinated at how fascinated you are."

She looked up, met his eyes. "You interlibrary-loaned a book for me, [name removed]."

He shrugged. "Some guys buy flowers, some guys track down picture books."

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.