the problem with purity books.

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{for le blog aesthetic // not mine}

As some of you may know, I started re-reading Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Mally last year. It’s taken me a long time to get through it, and I’d wanted to finish it before I wrote this post, but I have too many thoughts on it (and other purity books) to wait.

Plus, why SHOULDN’T I rant about why I always felt so alone on Valentine’s Day today?! These books are one of the main reasons I felt so single on this day of every year as far back as I can remember!

Buckle up, because these thoughts have been festering in my mind for years and I’ve just learned how to express them over the last several months (and they’re all over the place so bear with me).

If you grew up in a conservative bubble like I did, you grew up hearing about, reading, and being heavily influenced by these books. You looked up to the Botkins sisters, secretly wanted to be Jasmine Bauchum, wanted to marry a Harris brother, and maybe even traveled several hours to a Bright Lights conference. (Check off all of those for me.)

I grew up entrenched in this system. My parents had their legitimate and valid reasons for encouraging this mindset. I don’t regret anything I learned while in this phase of life because it shaped me into who I am today, but I do still have some scars and even struggle at times with the lasting consequences that I continually have to deal with as a result of this mindset.

The biggest thing that influenced this purity trend in conservative Christian circles were the books written, starting with I Kissed Dating Goodbye and lasting through newer additions such as It’s (Not That) Complicated and Joyfully At Home.

These books are written mostly by young women who had no personal experience with the real dating world. (And still, in their mid thirties, have no experience. Still unmarried, still living at home. Jasmine is the only one who has some semblance of a normal life. She’s my hero and my hope.) The only things they know about it come in the form of horror stories from older people who want to keep them away from it for one reason or another. Starting a book with only this knowledge is a major recipe for disaster. Well-intentioned, of course. But still a disaster.

These books started an “us against them” mentality – courtship versus dating, Christians versus non-Christians (or better Christians versus less enlightened Christians). They made it a fight, with strong feelings on each side. Anyone who thought differently than us was wrong, with no exceptions. Saving yourself was obviously the best way to go about this, and thus would yield the best results (right???), so why shouldn’t we be confident that we’re right and our everyone else down?

In reality… courtship is not the only way and it absolutely will not guarantee a perfect (or even great) marriage. You can’t make a blanket statement and say something like “all dating is evil” because you also can’t say that all courtship is good. And that’s the kind of mindset that these books encouraged.

I also think it’s such a tragedy that these books shamed girls into being afraid of their feelings – that, just because they have a crush on someone, they’ve given away bits of their heart. So not only are girls afraid to admit that they have crushes, but they feel like they’ve already lost.

I’m sick and tired of the notion that purity is something that can be irrevocably lost.  These analogies about sticky notes, chocolate cake, suckers, and roses – they’re all incredibly and horrifically wrong.  The whole point of the Gospel is that Jesus took what was dirty and made it clean.  Period.  He took the broken and made them whole, and all that remains is a beautiful, flawless testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness.  That testimony isn’t “ruined” by mistakes made.  Once repentance is reached and forgiveness is given, it’s done.  Over.  The mistakes we make are lessons to be learned, not something to be held over our heads for the rest of our lives.

I’m also sick of this thriftstore Jesus Who is somehow bound by what conservatives say about Him and about grace and about purity – that you’re damaged goods if you didn’t immediately jump towards and end up with the first thing that came towards you. That girls are supposed to sit around and wait for guys to come along so we can fulfill our ultimate purpose as a wife and mother. (Hooo, boy, better stop that train before it leaves the station. That’s another post for another time.)

Listen. It’s okay to have feelings. It’s fine to feel disappointed and even sad that you’re not in a relationship. More than that, it’s completely normal.

Just don’t stay there.

Being single is hard. I know. (I was there for twenty-two years before a guy showed interest in me.) There’s no way around that. But being married is hard, too. Every season of life has hard parts. But faking a smile, ignoring the feelings, and saying, “It’s okay! I’m single because I’m waiting for someone God has for me!” is neither productive nor honest. And it’s about dang time someone takes an honest look at relationships – dating or courting or whatever the crap you want to call it.

I’ve toyed around with writing a purity book, but I wouldn’t even seriously consider it for a while because, even with a lot of guy friends and my current dating experience, I don’t think I have enough knowledge – even though it’s a lot more than these girls can say. (For that, go to Leslie Ludy. She has the experience to back it up – and the marriage to prove that it can work and last!)

If I were to write a purity book, though, I’d say this – stop. being. so. serious.  Yes, this is one of the most important decisions of your life and yes, it should be seriously thought about.  But you don’t have to stress over every single facet of your relationship the entire time.  It’ll only bring added stress. Bringing this full circle to what I started to rant about, as the writer of one of a new favorite blog says, “The average neurotic [conservative, quiverfull/courtship] adherent … has been taught that everything is a sin and that they are corrupting every male simply by being alive.”

Don’t be so intent on “finding the one” or “staying in God’s will” that you miss out on actually living. Because there’s so much more to life than someone’s hand to hold.

Precious girl, you’re worth more than that.

{Bonus thoughts: Someone who views everyone as a potential spouse is someone to be wary of. We should look to see everyone as a potential friend. If a guy only saw me as Wife Material and didn’t want to be friends with me first, I’d run. FAST.}

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what christians get wrong about mental health.

There’s been a lot of talk about mental health in recent years, usually in reference to those dang millenniums and their diddly darn safe spaces.

To people who don’t understand, it seems like people with mental illnesses are just coming out of the woodwork.  Suddenly, there are all these people with self-proclaimed PTSD and anxiety and depression.  It doesn’t make sense to them.  It’s almost – almost – as if people are figuring out what’s wrong with them so that they can help.

And then people who don’t understand get all offended for some reason, as if that’s a bad thing.

Listen, I get both sides of the argument.  Completely.  But lately, I’ve been siding more with the people who are finally finding labels for the unknown monster that’s been plaguing them.  Because wouldn’t taking tests to find out if you have cancer be better than shoving down the symptoms and pretending like it isn’t there?

And yet people still keep denying it.  It’s almost as if they’re saying, “You don’t really have cancer.  You’re just overthinking things.  You need to be more chill.”

Now, I know that cancer is on a completely different plane than a mental illness.  But I think the reasons why the two should be treated differently are rapidly deteriorating.

A lot of Christians like to wave off the issue of mental illness with an admittedly well-intentioned “If you’re really suffering from (anxiety, depression, insomnia – you fill in the blank), pray and God will make it all better.”

There are two things wrong with this – first, that they’re ignoring a problem, and second, that they’re assuming that, if it’s a real problem, that God can just take it away.

Sure, God can take it away, but sometimes what even Christians forget is that God is not a vending machine, nor is He a wish-granting factory.  We don’t understand why He allows us to go through trials that He has the power to take away.  Sometimes it’s to better us, sometimes it’s simply to teach us how to rely on Him for strength.

And to assume that mental illness is something that God can and will just take away with a simple prayer is blatantly and horrifically wrong.

I can go into all the reasons why mental illnesses shouldn’t be ignored – from chemical imbalance to issues resulting from childhood trauma – but I’m sure you have people in your life who you can talk to, because the fact remains that one in five adults in the US suffer from a mental illness.  The statistic is the same for children, and for teenagers aged 13-18, the statistic is almost one in four.  (See NAMI’s statistics.)

Even if these statistics weren’t true, your response to your friends dictates how you actually feel about mental illness.  It’s one thing to lovingly care for your friends and ask what you can do to help – it’s a completely different thing to essentially tell them that they’re lying (excuse you?), that it’s “not that big of a deal” (just because it’s not a big deal to you doesn’t mean that it’s something they’re daily affected by), or that it’s “just in their head.”  (“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with people trying to find out what’s going on inside their heads.  How else would they figure out how to deal with it?

Instead of arguing with their findings, I’d challenge you to be a good friend and help them with whatever they’re going through.  After all, God loves us all equally despite all of the reasons we think He shouldn’t, so, since we’re called to be like Him, why should we act any differently?

minirant: there’s nothing wrong with being “basic.”

Starbucks.

Ugg boots and infinity scarves.

Taylor Swift.

Even separately, these things may remind you of something – the Stereotypical White Girl, or a “Basic” girl.

If you love any of these things, you’re instantly labelled this.  To escape these labels, you claim that you don’t like them, and stay as far away from them as you can.

You claim that you’re “not like other girls,” shoving other girls down in order to make yourself more unique.

But just like it’s wrong to build your throne out of all the girls you’ve claimed you’re better than, it’s also wrong to call people “basic.”

It’s okay to like Taylor Swift (especially her new single, which is fire).  It’s okay to like typical fall outfits (because fall is the bomb diggity and heck yes you look amazing in those boots and scarves).  It’s okay to like Starbucks (because Salted Caramel Mocha Frappucinos are God’s gift to mankind).

Since when was it wrong to like things that are specifically marketed to us girls?

The same can be said for guys.  If guys like video games, they’re instantly labeled “gamers.”  If they like Marvel or DC or are really good at robotics, they’re instantly labeled “nerds.”

I think our society makes such a big deal out of being unique that it’s seen as wrong to like stereotypical things.

Everyone tries so hard to be different that they don’t realize that they’re all acting exactly like everyone else.

This is why it’s so hard for us to admit that we like these things.

But the truth is… it’s okay.

It’s okay to like both Taylor Swift and Twenty One Pilots and Jon Bellion.

It’s okay to like both Starbucks and boba tea and that obscure Japanese drink you saw in an anime.

Our uniqueness is already evident, and expresses itself in both the “basic” things we love and the more obscure things we love.

No two people are alike, and to lump people together based on a single likeness is wrong, plain and simple.

This has been A Rant™.

the book tag.

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{for le blog aesthetic // not mine}

My lovely friend Eva over at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness tagged me in this wonderful book tag and I decided to do it!  (I rarely do tags, not because I don’t like them, but because I usually forget.  Keep tagging me, guys!  One of these days I’ll remember to do them.  XD)

Rules
You must be honest.
You must answer all the questions.
You must tag at least 4 people.

1. What book has been on your shelf the longest?
I’m gonna have to go with the trilogy of E.B. White books my godfather got for me when I was a baby, or Spy for the Confederacy, which I’m pretty sure is the very first book I ever bought myself.  It was on a shelf at a homeschooling convention, and little eight-year-old me, with such a massive love of both spies and the Civil War, decided to buy it.  I still love it.

2. What is your current read, your last read, and the book you’ll read next?
Current read: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter.  Oh my gosh, where has this book been all of my life?!  I would’ve liked it a lot when I was a little younger, but I’m super glad I found it now.  It’s about spies and forbidden teen love and it’s just so great.  10/10.
Last read: Always a Bridesmaid For Hire by Jen Glantz.  I enjoyed most of it, as it’s probably a good overview of what my life will look like for the next few years (minus the business part).  See my review here.
Next read: The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker.  The plot sounds great and I’m always looking for random books to try out.  Plus, that cover tho.  *heart eyes emoji*

3. What book did everyone like, but you hated?
I try not to hate books, but I really didn’t like The DUFF or Eleanor and Park (which, arguably, was only my second RR book, and I’m planning on rereading it again in the future to see if my opinion has changed).  I also greatly despise a lot of those conservative purity books that I got pulled into when I was younger – So Much More and Before You Meet Prince Charming, for instance.  (I’ll write a post about it in the future if y’all want to read my ranty opinion, but the short of it is that a girl isn’t a sub-helpmeet for her dad and should be free to decide, with guided wisdom from authorities, what to do with her life – and, yeah, that includes moving out, getting a job, and going to college if she feels like that’s God’s will for her life.  These books basically tell girls that their only biblical place is in the home, under her father’s authority, until she gets married.  I know young women aged 25-30 who still live with their parents, uneducated and jobless.  Do. Not. Like.)

4. What book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?
My goal in life is to READ ALL THE BOOKS, but there are probably a few that I’ll never get around to – the other Mitch Rapp books (unless they’re made into more movies bc Dylan O’Brien tho), and various classics that I have no interest in.

5. What book are you saving for retirement?
What’s retirement???  I’ve got a few books that I’ve been stockpiling for when we move into our internet-less house, including Les MisTumble Fall, Everything Leads to You, The Unexpected Everything, Illuminae, and The Infinite Moment of Us – all of which I’ve gotten recently specifically for this move.  (Except for Illuminae, which a friend sent me.  Oh, and Les Mis, which has sat, in all it’s bricklike, unabridged glory on my shelf for about six years.  I’ll get to it.)

6. Last page: read it first, or wait ’til the end?
I AIN’T ABOUT THAT SPOILER LIFE, FAM.  If the wind flips pages forward and I see stuff that hasn’t happened yet, I get all annoyed and heartbroken and achy inside and question whether or not I want to even finish the book.  Last-page-readers are sub-human and will not survive the winter or the zombie apocalypse.

7. Acknowledgement: waste of paper and ink, or interesting aside?
I adore acknowledgments.  Probably because I’m a writer, but I just love seeing who has influenced the author.  It’s so much fun to also get a sneak peek into their life and the little inside jokes they have with people they thank.  Plus, it’s a great way to find agents to pester to represent my book.

8. Which book character would you switch places with?
Hermione Granger or someone from The Berinfell Prophecies, preferably whoever kisses Jimmy, whom I’ve had a crush on for the last eight years, with absolutely no sign of ceasing.  Or maybe Jo March, since I’m already basically her already.  (I’d say yes to Laurie in a heartbeat.  Screw whatever’s “supposed to happen,” to quote Eliza Schuyler-Hamilton, “THAT BOY IS MIIIIIINE!”)

9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life? (Place, time, person?)
Oh heck yes.  I can’t read Fangirl without thinking of the porch swing at my grandparents’ house where I inhaled it for the first time, or The Final Storm without remembering literally chucking it against a wall in my room while screaming “NO!” and sobbing, or The List without flashbacks to remembering the skiing trip where I was first introduced to Robert Whitlow (and remembering that a friend of mine gave me a signed copy of it because he met Robert), or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone without thinking of all the minds I’d blow by reading it, or The Scarlet Pimpernel without thinking, “This is a classic???  And I’m ENJOYING IT???”  Every single book holds memories for me, and sometimes I reread books just to revisit the memories surrounding them.  True story.

10. Name a book that you acquired in an interesting way.
Besides the previous story about a book personally signed to me by Robert Whitlow (*heart eyes emoji*), I think the next most interesting story is the story behind A Thief in the Theater: A Kit Mystery.  Yes, that Kit.  Ever since a good friend had gotten to go to the American Girl store in NYC back when I was like ten, I’d always dreamed of going.  So when my dad took me to NYC for my high school graduation, the American Girl store was one of the first things on our to-do list.  I walked out of that store with that book and two t-shirts (one for me and one for my doll, of course) with PRIDE.

11. Have you ever given a book away for a special reason to a special person?
All of my books are my precious babies, but I did buy three copies of If You Find This Letter to write in and give to people as Christmas presents.  Still one of the best gifts I’ve ever given someone.  That book is literally life-changing.  Read it.

12. Which book has been with you most places?
Probably Fangirl or The Martian.  When I was reading them (and then rereading both), I couldn’t put them down.  Even when I wasn’t reading them, they had to be by my side, in my “mommy purse.”  Other than that, I’m gonna have to go with Eva’s answer and say my Bible.  It’s been on almost all of my vacations, plus all over Charlotte when I did summer missions.

13. Any “required reading” you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad two years later?
I was never a classics person when I was younger, which I’m not ashamed of, especially since I’m able to come to them now, for the first time, with an adult mindset that I didn’t have when I was younger.  For instance, a friend and I were talking the other day about girls who got into Austen when they were teenagers and loved them purely for the romance – which is fine, but I’m so happy I’m able to see past the romance and enjoy Jane for her satire and wit, not to mention her feminism and the fact that she was so far ahead of her time.

14. Used or brand new?
Used that looks brand new.  I prefer cheap books, and if I can find a new copy of a book for $5, I’ll absolutely get it.  I like my books in pristine condition and will pay a few extra dollars to get a new book over a used one, but I’m blessed with knowing a few different places to get cheap, beautiful used books.  (*cough* 2nd and Charles, where I got 2 books, a movie, and the first season of Graceland for $14 the other day *cough*)

15. Have you ever read a Dan Brown book?
Nope!  I’m vaguely interested in The Da Vinci Code, though!

16. Have you ever seen a movie you liked more than the book?
Mockingjay.  I thought Part 2 did a great job of fixing the problems in the book.

17. Have you ever read a book that’s made you hungry, cookbooks included?
Are you kidding; every book makes me hungry.  There are a few books that make me especially hungry, though, including The Little Women Letters and Harry Potter.  (One word: BUTTERBEER).

18. Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?
Cait (Paper Fury).  I adore her.  Plus, she’s so incredibly sweet and friendly – it seriously feels like we’re friends whenever she replies to my comments on her reviews.  Read all of the posts on her website.  She’s hilarious, too, and I want to be just like her when I grow up.

19. Is there a book out of your comfort zone (e.g., outside your usual reading genre) that you ended up loving?
Classics are a recent pleasure, thanks to the Lit courses I took in college (how is that past tense already it feels like i just started college i can’t evennnnnn) that made me study quite a few classics.  (we’re talking 50+, 12 of which I read and wrote essays on in two months.  college is hard, y’all.)  I’ve also started really enjoying memoirs, thanks to Unbroken and If You Find This Letter.  People are fascinating.

Alrighty, I tag all of my followers who want to do it either in the comments or on their own blogs, especially Jessica and Katelyn.  ❤

LIE: you have a terrible existence if you don’t {xyz}.

Friends

A few months ago, a good friend introduced me to the show Friends.  Well, I need to back up.  Back when it was on TV, my parents used to watch it after they put us to bed and I would sneak out of my bed and watch it from the balcony.  They probably knew I was there, but I never got caught.  *sunglasses emoji*  I officially started watching it from Season One, Episode One back in May… and I’m hooked.

I recently had an almost-meltdown when I found out that my library didn’t have the season I was supposed to start next (seriously, what library buys the first six seasons of a TV show but skips over the fourth season?!), which resulted in taking total advantage of the Netflix free trial my mom got while we were at WITAlive and blowing through the episodes as quickly as I can.  (Don’t worry, I haven’t totally thrown away all of my free time – I’m using them as incentives to get my school done and it. is. working.)

As I fell in love with the show and the characters, I wondered why I hadn’t seen it before. Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody under, say, eighteen, and I’m glad I didn’t watch it until now because I wouldn’t have appreciated it as much.  (I’m three steps behind all of the characters because I’m just about to graduate college and figure out what to do with my life, while they’re a few years out of college and still don’t have it all together.  It gives me so much hope.)  Still, I was so happy that I was finally able to understand references to one of America’s greatest sitcoms (“WE WERE ON A BREAK!”) and enjoy all of the jokes that the generation before me enjoyed.

I typically like to savor shows and books (which is probably why I still haven’t finished Boy Meets World), but for a while with Friends, I kind of felt like I had to catch up.  It felt like the entire world had seen this show… except me.  I love watching episodes in between intense study sessions and as rewards for submitting papers and reading classic novels that I struggled to get through (classics aren’t my cup of tea, tbh, but I’m trying to develop a taste for them) and even just to destress after a rough day.  However, I think part of my (mild) bingeing of the show had something to with the fact that I felt so behind.  I wasn’t pressured by my friend to watch it after she said, “You haven’t watched it yet?!” – instead, I pressured myself.

I do this a lot, especially with books, shows, music, movies.  Just the other day, I incredulously said to a friend, “Wait, you haven’t. read. Harry. Potter?!” even though I hadn’t read them for myself a year ago.  Oops.

Especially with more popular things, I think people pressure others into doing stuff – almost guilt-tripping them into thinking they’re missing out on something because they haven’t experienced it yet.  “Wait, you haven’t played Pokemon Go?!”  “You stopped watching Downton Abbey?!”  “You didn’t like Fault in Our Stars?!”  “Wait, you’ve never had a pumpkin spice latte?!”  “You haven’t seen all of Sherlock – or read the books?!  AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A FAN?!”  I’ve had all of these things said to me.  And, yes, I’m guilty of all of them.  I haven’t played Pokemon Go, I stopped watching DA in the middle of the third season (for no reason in particular except the fact that it’s a soap opera and I have enough drama in my own life), I don’t love TFIOS, I’ve never had a PSL, I haven’t seen the last season of Sherlock or read all of the stories.

Does that make me a terrible person, though?

Nope.

Listen, just because somebody hasn’t seen or done a popular thing, it doesn’t make them a lesser person.  Not doing something doesn’t invalidate someone’s existence.

We can’t do it all.  So why do we pressure ourselves and others?

Just like I thought I was “behind” because I hadn’t seen Friends or still haven’t seen all of Gilmore Girls (and will probably binge on that with my sisters over the next few months in preparation for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life) or haven’t been to ComicCon or DragonCon or GeekyCon, other people feel the same way.  We’re pressured by society to experience everything that’s popular, especially music and movies and TV shows and books, but we’re also pressured to get off our rear ends and do something because all of our friends’ Instagram feeds are full of pictures of mountains and iconic places in foreign countries.

Our lives are expected to look like everyone else’s.  In Friends, all of the characters have finished college (except maybe Phoebe), gotten a job, and found an apartment.  That’s what society expects of us twenty-somethings.  And that’s great and all of those things should be desired.  But I’m almost twenty-two and I’m still living at home while finishing my degree.  I know friends in their mid-twenties who are still living at home, too, and are getting higher degrees or don’t have “real” jobs.  And that’s okay.

Just because something is the norm or part of pop culture doesn’t mean it’s automatically a part of everyone’s lives.  And discovering that that thing isn’t a part of someone else’s life doesn’t make them any lesser of a person – and it doesn’t make you any more of a person because it’s part of yours.

My existence isn’t lesser because I’m not seeing the world like some of my friends are, just like some of my friends don’t have a less fulfilled life because they’re not getting a degree like I am.

Do. not. guilt-trip someone just because they’re not interested in what you or a lot of the world is interested in.  If they want to stay at home and lay on the floor and just listen to music, let them do it!  If they want to use the money they earn to travel, let them do it!

Obviously you should compromise with your friends sometimes and obviously you should get out of your comfort zone and do stuff (or sometimes just relax and forego doing stuff). But it’s never okay to make someone feel bad for what they are or aren’t interested in.

More than that, maybe this friend is on to something.  If they’ll let you, lie down on the floor with them.  Ask if you can go on their next road trip with them.  You may be surprised and find yourself interested in the stuff they like to do, too.

So what do you think?  Have you felt pressured to do something by your friends or society, or have you pressured someone else?  Did you end up liking it?  Did they?  Leave a comment and let’s talk!

{This blog post is sponsored in part by my college coursework, which was gracious enough to be easy and let me finish it by ten in the morning – something that hasn’t happened since I was in elementary school.  THANK YOU.}

“to abstain is to not… is to not.” | a rambly post about relationships.

{Partially inspired by this interview of one of my favorite people, Phylicia Masonheimer.}

girl standing in field

because every purity post needs a random picture of a girl with her hands up.

We’ve all heard the purity metaphors – the sticky note, the cake, the sucker…  As I wrote this post at Starbucks I came up with another.  (Bear with me.)

It was nearing lunchtime and I was hungry.  Starbucks doesn’t have any gluten-free options, so I really wanted to drive over to McDonald’s and get myself some fries (because fries are my one weakness – they’re so good but so bad).  However, I know they’re not gluten-free (which I have to have because of thyroid problems), so I know they’ll ruin my stomach.  Plus, I didn’t have any money to spend at the moment because I’m a poor college student, so I decided to wait.  I knew my mom was cooking a big Sunday lunch and that it would be delicious and healthy and fill me up and – best of all – it’s FREE!  (Bottom line: Instead of filling up on junky stuff, I waited for the thing that would truly satisfy me.)

As stupid and imperfect as that analogy is, it works.  (Sort of.)

I’ve been thinking about my convictions a lot recently (as you have probably noticed) and really trying to figure out what they mean to me. I’ve always understood that your parents’ convictions aren’t grandfathered into your own life, just like your parents’ faith isn’t. It has to be your own.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about purity and what it means to me. I shouldn’t blindly hold to what my parents think about purity and abstinence or else I’ll be swayed when a better opinion (or temptation) comes along.  I have to OWN my convictions so I can stand when temptation comes. (See Ephesians 6:10-18. Paul uses the word “stand” three times in the space of twelve words – I think that means something!)

There’s nothing wrong with thinking critically about your convictions, guys. I thought there was when I was in my teens, but then I realized that it’s just a part of growing up. It’s hard and it’s confusing but it’s what proves you’re maturing.  Owning your convictions – really knowing what you believe – is not something to be taken lightly.

Because of how much I’ve examined my convictions, I have some beliefs that my parents don’t have, just like they have some that I’ve let go of. As my siblings and I have gotten older, we’ve ALL – as an entire family – let go of some things that we used to think were mandatory. For instance, I wear shorts outside the house now, as opposed to up to a few years ago, when the girls in my family mostly wore skirts.  And even though we grew up completely sold on courtship, my sister – with my parents’ blessing – recently went out on a few dates with a guy to get to know him.  It didn’t work out, but neither she nor the guy were emotionally damaged or anything, and they both know a little more about what they want and need in a significant other now.  I’d say their experience wasn’t a “failure” at all.

Some of my family’s convictions have changed simply because my siblings and I have gotten older, and some have changed because our opinions have changed.  For instance, in the above paragraph, the shorts thing was a change of opinion, whereas the dating thing was a change in situation.  (The dates my sister went on would’ve looked a little different had they happened when she was sixteen or eighteen.)

Taking a closer look at my convictions has helped me understand the faults in modern dating and modern courtship and know what I want my relationship life to look like.  It’s not going to be perfect – far from it, knowing myself – but I’m learning from what other people who are, or were, in relationships have to show me.  And even though I was homeschooled most of my life and am now finishing my degree at home, I’ve still made some mistakes.  Shocking, right?  (Sarcasm.)

(And, yes, I think there are some faults in the idea of courtship, just like there are in dating.  HERESY, I KNOW.  I can explain my thoughts in another blog post if you guys want to hear them.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  Katelyn knows this.)

Rest assured, I haven’t given up on purity because of all of my thinking.  In fact, because of my research, both in the Bible and through mentors, I’ve become more firm in my convictions.  We all know the verses about how “your body is a temple” and how we should “set an example in purity,” but do we – and do I – really live like we know it?  And if we do, what does that look like?

I’m not saying it has to look the same in everybody’s lives.  Over the past few years, I’ve had dozens of conversations with people about what relationships look like to us.  Dating, courting, half-joking arranged marriage – I’ve heard it all.  I’ve talked to girls who have courted/dated several guys with no luck, girls who are nearing (or in) their thirties and don’t have any prospects, and girls who are married at or before twenty.  And I’ve talked to guys who have had good and bad experiences with dating, too, but mostly courtship (which I’m planning on talking about in a future post).

Here’s my main question: Does it matter whether you call it dating or courting?

When it all comes down to it, I really don’t think so.  What matters the most is glorifying God through your relationship.  What that looks like is between God, you, and your significant other.  Nobody else.

Who cares if somebody thinks you should always or never have a chaperone, or if somebody else thinks the parents should or shouldn’t be involved?!  Courtship, dating, whatever you want to call it and however you do it – it’s going to look different for every. single. person. and. every. single. relationship.  If that’s what God wants your relationship to look like, that’s what it should look like.

People are too judgmental sometimes, including myself.  Too often, I give unsolicited advice because I think I know best, even if I really don’t.  Just the other day, I found myself thinking, Well, she shouldn’t think that way because…  And then I just had to stop and tell myself, Who the heckydizzle am I to decide what’s right for her life?!  I’d hate it if she were doing this to me, so why am I doing it to her?!

Well, this post kind of derailed, but that’s what my brain is doing constantly.  Blame it on the stress of college.  Anyway, thoughts?  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments.  I love talking with you guys.  🙂

P.S. The title is a quote borrowed from one of my new favorite rom-coms, She’s the Man.

P.P.S. Thanks for all of your help on my last post!  I was able to revise the short story based on your feedback (and other stuff I needed to change), and submitted it yesterday.  I’ll post the final version later when I get my grade!