being a college student is…

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{for le blog aesthetic // not mine.}

curling up in places too small for you and closing your eyes for just one more minute.

writing papers at midnight and then being horrified at your incomprehensible “logic” the next morning.

constantly wondering why your coffee cup is empty but not having the motivation to refill it.

spending your hard-earned cash on ice cream because your professors make you cry.

always just wanting to lay down on the floor.

generally wanting to lay down in general because you’ve never been this tired in your life.

worrying about cell phone bills, car insurance, food, budgeting, grades, social life, etc all the time.

finding new study music all. the. time.

in that same vein, finding new tv shows to watch.  (and sometimes they’re disney shows and that’s okay.) (meaning i discovered boy meets world while i was in college and honestly it helped me get through it.)

junk food. so much junk food.

developing weird ways to learn the stuff you’ve gotta learn.  (need to learn the kings and queens of england for your western civ class?  say no more.)

watching your friends get into relationships???  and get engaged???  and get married???  AND HAVE BABIES???

constantly wondering what the crap you’re doing with your life because of the above.  (“oh, that’s right.  i’m getting an education.  which will help me… how?”)

losing motivation.

gaining motivation.

meeting new friends.

saying goodbye to old friends.

setting aside hours a day to psych yourself up for something because adulting is hard.

taking tests.

sobbing in your car because you failed tests.

celebrating with junk food and movies because you passed tests.

being scared about moving on because sweet buttered crumpets, you’ll have to really adult and enter *gulp* The Real World.

moving on, despite whatever happens, because this is your education and DANG IT, you’ll get it done.


i only have a few weeks of school left.  i’m trying to live in these moments – to really relish them, despite the mixed feelings they bring – because i’m such a schoolaholic that i know i’m going to miss them.

today’s my baby sister’s birthday.  she’s four.  i distinctly remember living at a friend’s house while her adoption paperwork was going through, discovering pinterest while trying to figure out this college thing.

i’m totally scared at the prospect of a school-free life.  i’m obviously still going to learn (hello, french lessons), but it’ll be different.

more than that, though, i’m excited.  i’ll have a more flexible schedule, i’ll be able to live without a major stress-inducer in my life, i’ll have more writing time, i’ll be able to get a job without worrying about having enough school time…

saying goodbye is always hard.  but saying hello is such a bright, optimistic new opportunity, and i’m totally ready to see what i’ll greet in the next few months.

travel | charleston.

(((warning: i haven’t done a travel post in a while (like, literally, the last time i remember posting about trips i’ve taken and included tons of pictures was a vacation from like two years ago – WHOA), so i’ve kind of forgotten how to “do” one.  hence, lots of pictures and rambling follows.  proceed at your own risk.)))

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low quality picture, high quality friends.  this is us a month before the trip, fancied up for a wedding.

A few months ago, my amazingly poised and classy friends and I (simultaneously the baby of the group and the infinitely less classy one) decided to go to Charleston for a weekend. Katrina, the Monica of the group had an Airbnb booked about a week after we threw the idea out there, and we started making official plans soon after.  A few weeks after that, Kat asked if I wanted to just ride home to Florida with her after our weekend, since my siblings and I had planned to visit them the following weekend anyway. My weekend trip quickly turned into a ten day trip. Needless to say, I was excited.

On the way to Charleston, we stopped off at a college near me so that Kat could check it out.  While she was in a meeting, I read a book under a tree and people-watched, feeling a lot like Rory Gilmore in that one episode.  We had a long – long – talk with a friend who went there, and ended up not getting to Charleston ’til about 10pm. (Rachel, who met us there, had gotten there at a more decent hour and scoped the area for us.  What a pal.)

Coming from a very homeschooled family where every trip has to have some kind of educational value, my last trip to Charleston (literally about ten years ago) involved an abundance of historical sites and no shopping whatsoever.  That said, the girls’ plan to “just shop a little and maybe find Rainbow Row and that pineapple fountain and do a coffee shop hop” sounded like bliss – and so incredibly foreign.  (I’m still so homeschooled, even though I’ll be finishing college in the spring.  W h y.)

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we found a brick wall.  pictures were necessary.

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so many pictures were necessary.

LIMG_1089.JPGiterally half of the first day was just spent exploring – and wishing we were rich enough to afford one of the houses.  I was obsessed with the doors that led to the porches and the cobblestones.  There was this one house with an assortment of pumpkins all scattered on the porch steps.  It looked so beautiful.  I know pumpkins are relatively cheap, but I want a fancy house to put them on.

We walked through a cemetery, which was the only historical/learning thing we did.  (PRAISE.) However, Kat and I geeked out over John Rutledge’s grave (and an Alexis de Tocqueville mention on the plaque), so I think that qualifies – and cements how crazily obsessed with history we both are.

We spent the rest of the morning walking around, ducking into random bakery/coffee shops, and taking entirely too many pictures.  Again, it was so chill, and my little heart enjoyed it so much.  The closest I got to going to an actual historical site was taking a picture of Fort Sumter across the water.

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I also took way too many pictures of food.  I have about three dozen pictures of half & half being poured into my coffee from the last day we were there because I’m obsessed with how it slowly mixes itself in and swirls around.  (Rachel did an entire blog post solely about our food, so click here if you’d like to read that – and then follow her because she’s amazing.)  The above is the “Homemade Greek Lemon Chicken Soup” from Taziki’s, the first place where we ate lunch the first day (and it was phenomenal, by the way).

After lunch, we walked around King Street a little more, then watched people protest Trump’s presidency for about two seconds before we ducked into a hat store to get away from it.  We ended up talking about it for like fifteen minutes with a twenty-something guy who worked there.  It was enlightening and super encouraging.  Then, we ducked into Anthropologie and we all decided that we’d like to live there.  (I swear one day I’ll have enough money to buy a fancy house with a porch to put pumpkins on and a cute Anthropologie outfit to wear while doing it.)

We walked around a lot (and got super tired), we sat in a little bar inside a hotel and listened to a man play piano.  I ordered a Shirley Temple, Rachel got creme brulee, and Kat got a fancy cocktail that I tried and liked.  Although it was only afternoon, we started thinking our 9:45 reservation at a fancy restaurant (the only open one when we’d booked it the night before) wasn’t such a good idea.  Kat called and got it changed to a much earlier time, and we slowly made our way back to the parking garage where our car was parked. We ended up changing in the car.  (Cross THAT off my bucket list!)

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look at how hard we slayed.  #womanUP.

We ate at Magnolias, and it was fabulous.  As per the usual, we talked about dating and relationships and how we’re all so glad we’re single because we didn’t have to clear the Charleston trip with anyone (except our parents).  That was basically the theme of the weekend – appreciating our singleness.  I’ve been around too many girls who pine after guys (and I’ve definitely been that girl too many times), so it was so great to spend time with girls who not only enjoy being single, but embrace it!  Love these two.  ❤

That night, we thought about crashing a wedding before deciding against it, going back to our little apartment, and watching The Nanny Diaries.  SO GOOD. I’ve seen it about five times, but it just gets better every time.  I love introducing it to people, especially fans of Chris Evans.  We started it at the exact same time our earlier reservation was, and were so happy to be in our pjs, in bed, watching a movie, instead of wearing pinchy shoes and just starting dinner.

The next morning, we were in Charleston by mid-morning.  It started raining right when we got there, and we ended up turning around and heading back to where we’d parked Kat’s car to get umbrellas out of her car.  I took pictures of the rain on the window (because I’m also obsessed with rain on windows).

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We realized we’d hit everything we wanted to see the day before – King Street, the pineapple fountain, and Rainbow Row (which we didn’t even know we’d seen ’til we drove by there again and said “Hey, didn’t we take pictures of that yesterday?”).  Since it was raining and since we had no further plans, the girls got biscuits at a cute hole-in-the-wall place, and then we parked ourselves at a super hipster coffee shop.  (I loved the inside and took a lot of pictures, but the coffee ended up being kind of gross, so I won’t post them.)  For the next, like, three hours, we talked about our five-year plans.  It was amazing. (And it also made me feel super young because in five years I’ll only be a year or two older than they are now.  I mean it when I say I’m the baby of our little trio.)

IMG_1295.JPGI’m gonna brag on these girls a little more.

Some girls would include marriage in their future plans, but not these two.

Now, obviously we all had something akin to marriage on our five-year plans (which we actually wrote down and are going to hold each other to, BLESS THESE WOMEN).  But these girls aren’t married to the idea of marriage (heh…heh…).  They know it’s not guaranteed, and that really blesses me because I know too many girls who have their hearts set on marriage, and are so depressed when it doesn’t happen when they want it to.

These girls are pursuing other things – master’s degrees and good jobs and traveling and moving out and hobbies.  It’s so refreshing to be around like-minded girls who are pursuing the same goals and I love them very much.

 

 

Anyway, back to food.

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i’ve been obsessed with bread ever since going gluten-free.  figures.

We found this little house-turned-restaurant and ducked in literally only because it was warm, but it was so cute on the inside that we were really happy we did.  (Not to mention the fact that the food was amazing.)  And we sat and talked about being single some more.

If you think the only thing we did was eat and drink coffee and talk about being single… yeah, basically, that’s what we did.  But it’s okay because we walked miles and worked all the food and coffee off – and the conversation was SO INCREDIBLY GOOD.  And single people talk about being single and relationships and stuff.  #getoverit

Then we jammed out in the car to Hamilton – obviously – and took one last picture.

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cold and wet and happy and sad.

All in all, I think we’d all count the trip a massive success.  Even though it rained – which we didn’t plan on – and even though we changed some of our plans as we made them – like that reservation, which wasn’t even a good idea in the first place (honestly, who goes to dinner at 9:45?  only people who are actually fancy, unlike us absolute fakers)… we still really enjoyed ourselves.  It was my first official “girls weekend,” and my first trip without any siblings (I missed them but HALLELUJAH), and I think it set a pretty high bar for the next one.  Which will happen sometime soon.  We’re already planning it.

Anyway, then I went to Kat’s house for a week and then my siblings came down and we went to Disney and Universal.

But that’s another post for another time.

what courtship-advocating parents don’t understand.

Disclaimer: I love my parents.  I love my friends’ parents.  This isn’t about anybody’s parents in particular.  This is just something I’ve been thinking about, with no particular set of parents in mind.  AND this isn’t meant to offend anyone.  This is for you, my readers – to encourage you and to let you know that you’re not alone.  Anyways.  Onward.

(Disclaimer #2, or In Which I Realize I Should’ve Talked To My Parents Before Posting This…. See the end of this post.)

Courtship.

Depending on how you grew up and what you were taught, that word can either send shoots of awkward pain through your body or make you feel all warm and tingly.  The same can be said for the word…

Dating.

(Half of you just hissed and scurried back to the shadows, I just know it.  XD)

I’ve talked about how I grew up before a little (especially my thoughts on purity rings), but if you don’t know, I was raised with the courtship mindset.  (And, before you freak out and unfollow, I’m still holding to some of those beliefs, though not all of them.)

To twelve-year-old me, courtship meant finding That Special Someone (or, rather, him finding me), getting to know him and his family better, him asking my dad for approval of our relationship, and us moving forward with a deeper relationship.  To be honest, that’s still basically what I’m hoping for, but some aspects look a little different.

As I’ve grown up, though, I’ve realized that it isn’t that easy – not by a long shot.

Although never explicitly said, it feels like our parents and the books we read and the Bible studies we did implied that if we courted (and saved ourselves and all that), then a great guy would find us and we’d be happily married and ride off into the sunset.

As some of my friends and I have discovered, the courtship mindset isn’t a formula.  It’s not waiting + courtship = relationship + marriage before 22.  Agreeing to save ourselves and wait and court and all that jazz does not guarantee marriage.

In fact, it seems far from it.

Growing up with a courtship mindset kind of skewed my mind a little… and it did the same for my sisters, too.  I realized the other day that I’d always assumed I’d have to court a few guys before I “got it right” – essentially that I’d make a ton of mistakes before finally meeting “the one.”  For my sisters, one grew up so scared of making mistakes, and the other was at the verge of throwing caution to the wind.

(I’m feeling a pull to go off into a “Since when did pursuing more than one guy before landing on the right one become a bad thing???” tangent, but I’d better not.  That’s another blog post for another time.  XD)

One of the worst parts about growing up with this mindset, though, is being a girl in this sub-society where girls have to wait for the guy to approach them – or, in extreme situations, to approach her dad before she even hears of his interest.

What’s even worse (and here we finally come to the reason for this post) is that sometimes – sometimes – our parents don’t understand.

Obviously, if your parents courted, they know how you feel, and this post isn’t really for you.  But if you’re a first-generationer like I was (and still am – gosh, I’ve got to get that figured out)… it’s hard.

“Wow, you’re really bashing my parents, aren’t you?” you say.

No, I’m not.  (At least, I’m trying not to.)

I’m just trying to say that these parents who strongly encourage their kids to court all their lives really don’t understand how hard it is.

How hard it is to be in your twenties and never been on a date.

How hard it is to be this age and never know that a guy has ever been interested in you.

How hard it is to look on the past twenty-plus years and wonder if that’s what the next twenty will be like – with an absence of romance and a multitude of worrying.

I once tried to explain this feeling to my mom.  My sister got it, but my mom didn’t. “You’re saving yourself!” Mom said.  “You’re going to have the best marriage.”

It took everything in me to not say, “Yes, I know – you keep telling me that.  But you started dating at fifteen, and I’m almost twenty-two and I’ve never been on a date, so it’s looking pretty bleak!”

I’ve since gotten a lot more content in my state of singleness, but it’s still hard sometimes.  (Especially now, when families are starting to get together for the holidays and everybody’s asking about your love life cAN I GET AN AMEN?!)

HOWEVER.  I’m not going to throw away the last ten years of waiting just because it’s getting hard.  Because that would be stupid and negate all the time I’ve waited.

I’m not telling you to rage against your parents and renounce everything they’ve ever taught you.  I’m just telling you… I get it.   If you feel this way, you’re not alone.  Your thoughts are valid.  Just because some people don’t get it doesn’t mean that nobody does.

Our parents are wonderful people, and they may understand more about the world than we ever will.  But if they dated and you’re not planning on it… this is one thing they don’t really get. And that’s okay.

“I get it,” you’re saying (hopefully).  “I’m not mad at my parents for not understanding this, but I’m still confused about what I do from here.”

I’m confused, too.  The only thing I’d recommend doing is the only thing I’ve found that works – to just accept it and wait.  Pray for understanding for them and peace for yourself. You’re not a terrible person for thinking that they don’t get it (and you’re definitely not unlovable just because you’ve chosen to wait).

I’m not going to say that you’ll find love, because I can’t guarantee that.  I’m also not going to say that your parents will understand in time, because I can’t guarantee that either.

However, I will say that we’re blessed with a God who does understand and that, as His children, we’re given the freedom to approach Him with confidence, knowing that He cares for us.

Therefore, since we have such a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  (I Peter 5:7)

What are your thoughts?  Have you decided to court or date?  Where do your parents stand? Let me know in the comments!

ADDENDUM: Waiting is hard.  I’m not trying to blame my parents for how hard waiting is, and I’m not trying to blame the courtship system.  And just because it’s hard does not mean that I’m going to throw away the last ten years of protecting my heart.  I’m not going to go get pregnant just because I’m tired of waiting.  There are some days where I’m done with waiting, but that’s not the majority.  I went to Charleston two weekends ago with two single friends, and we had a blast.  We even talked about how great it was that we were all single and didn’t have to clear it with our significant others.

I know that waiting is hard, guys.  But I think it’ll be worth it.  And waiting is a decision I made when I was like eleven, and I’m sticking to it, no matter how hard it gets.

(Also, if you don’t think your parents understand what you’re going through, talk to them.  It’s something I should’ve done before I posted this, and I’m sorry for representing them poorly by posting this without talking to them about it first.  I love them very much.)

don’t you worry, child.

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Flashback to May of this past year.  I was obsessing over something to the point of exhaustion.  I wanted something to happen so badly that I didn’t know what I would do if it didn’t happen.

I spent hours thinking and overthinking about this thing, texting friends and coming up with multiple scenarios in my head.

To be completely honest with you guys, I didn’t handle it well.  The only thing that got me out of this abyss of overanalyzing and obsessing was the knowledge that what I was doing was INCREDIBLY STUPID and that no amount of worrying would make it happen.

By the time The Thing came around, I wasn’t worried about it any more.  I’d given it to God (daily, y’all – d a i l y), and I’d forced myself to stop thinking about it and trust that God had my best interests at heart.

And guess what?  Nothing happened, and I was okay with that.

I’m not perfect, guys.  Far from it.  I just wanted to share this small thing I learned – that sometimes it’s okay to stop thinking, stop obsessing, stop placing your entire happiness on one small event that may or may not even happen.  Give it to God, trust Him, and (if you can) forget about it.

God wants your best, guys.  Even if you can’t see it, even if you don’t believe it.  His ways are best and you’ve just gotta trust that.  Ask Him for strength and then wait on Him.

I’ll be back later with some ranty posts I’ve been thinking about for a while (look forward to it *smirky emoji*), but I just wanted to share that with you guys.  What has God been teaching you lately?

“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.}

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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!

why i took off my purity ring.

{inspired by this post, and partially by this one}

{The reason I’m writing this post isn’t because I love controversy – and this post hopefully won’t be super controversial.  I just want to write about things that matter, rather than about movies or books all the time.  (Although I’ll probably be back on Friday with my thoughts on Captain America: Civil War.)  This matters to me, and this is what I’ve been thinking about lately, so here I am.}

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here’s the picture of my ring that i couldn’t add last night bc wordpress was being stupid.  isn’t it gorgeous?

If you’re a conservative, homeschooling Christian, there’s a 98% chance you’ve heard of purity rings – and there’s a 76% chance you’re wearing one right now.  Even if you’re not, there’s a 62% chance you know what they are.  (And those percentages are all accurate.  Even if I made them up. *wink*)

I grew up learning about purity.  I read all the books.  I participated in all the Bible studies.  I signed the paper (and I’m pretty sure I even gave it to my dad).  I didn’t get the ring for my thirteenth birthday because my mom forgot, so I got it for my sixteenth.

By the time I was twelve, I knew all about saving myself for marriage.  (At least, I thought I did.)  I swore I’d never kiss before marriage, never get into a relationship that wasn’t destined for marriage, and that I’d probably never date, either.

I’m still sticking to those commitments (except maybe the dating one – we’re a little fuzzy on what courtship looks like around here, especially as my siblings and I are getting older).  I have no intention of starting a more-than-casual relationship with a guy unless I’m pretty sure he’s a possibility.  I’m going to save my first kiss for my wedding day (and everything after that too).

But I’m done hiding behind my purity ring.  I’m done with the legalism and I’m done with the completely unbiblical stereotypes it puts on me.

Maybe it’s just me, but the purity ring thing always made me think differently about people.  When I was younger, I would subconsciously judge someone based on whether or not they had one.  If they did, fantastic – they’re pure.  If they didn’t, well… they had some learning to do.  (After all, how could you claim to keep yourself pure for marriage and not wear a purity ring?  GOSH.)  And if a guy wore it… WOW.  Hashtag marriage material, amiright???  (I knew guys whose mother forbid them from wearing them because rings were too feminine.  My sister and I walked away from that question wondering how wedding rings were different… and how wearing a ring deprived a man of his masculinity.)

When I consider how I used to think, it makes me laugh – and shudder a little.  I was a really judgmental teenager.  (Oh if only I could go back and give my teenage self a good talk – and a slap across the face!)

I’m not a perfect person.  I haven’t done everything right in my relationships with guys.  I’ve made quite a few mistakes.  Not purity-shattering mistakes, but things I still cringe over and issues I wish I’d handled differently.

It wasn’t until last year that I started thinking really about my purity ring.  I usually wore it on my left hand, but I switched it to my right for a conference (so none of the guys would think that I was married or engaged or whatever).

That’s what got me thinking about what it really meant.  I asked myself over and over, Why did I do that?  Am I looking for attention from guys?  Am I wanting to proclaim to the world that I’m pure, but I’m available?  (*wink*)

Let me tell you something I’ve learned: Those are all bad reasons.  It should say something that one of the first things I thought was that taking off my purity ring would encourage guys or bring unwanted attention to myself.

My desire to remain pure is mainly between me and God – and my future husband.

I’m not saving myself because Josh Harris or the Botkin sisters or Sarah Mally told me to.  I’m not wearing a purity ring is the “right thing to do” or because most of my Christian friends did it.

I’m doing it because I’ve been convicted by God.  I’m not going to settle for less than His best for me.  I’m not going to compromise.

More than that, I’m not going to sit around and wait for a guy to knock on my front door.  I don’t like the assumption that “waiting” looks like me in my late thirties, sitting by a window in a rocking chair and crocheting.

I have a life to live.  I have a calling.  God put me on this earth for a reason, and while marriage is a wonderful thing that I’m really looking forward to… it’s not my main goal in life.

My only desire is to glorify my Savior while I’m here – nothing less.  If writing novels glorifies Him, so be it.  If marrying a godly guy and having a few children with him glorifies God, so be it.

I’m not here to bring honor to myself.  All of my actions should be for Him and Him alone.  (I already encourage too much exultation of myself because of my wicked pride.)

I still think about my purity ring, even though it sometimes gets lost in the jumble of jewelry on my bedside table.  My ring was always too big, so I’d spin it around on my finger when I needed to fidget.

To be completely honest, that’s actually the main reason I took it off that last time – my finger always somehow got smaller during the winter, and I was afraid I’d lose it.  I was afraid I’d lose it at one of our orchestra’s five Christmas concerts, so I took it off.  Then I just never put it on again.  I thought about putting it back on a few times, and it made me think about why I was wearing it in the first place.  Coming to all of the above conclusions reaffirmed why I didn’t feel like I had to wear it.  It’s been seven months now and I sometimes move my thumb to spin it around before remembering it isn’t there anymore.

Taking off my purity ring wasn’t a huge deal.  It wasn’t an open rebellion of what I’d always held dear – actually the opposite.

Since I’ve taken off my ring, I can tell that my commitment has gotten more intimate – more precious, almost.  I haven’t felt the need to proclaim to the world my purity in a long time, or for more conservative girls to judge me while I’m casually talking with one of my guy friends (whose friendships I highly value).  My commitment is strictly between me and God, unless someone asks or the topic comes up.

It’s incredibly freeing and I’m so grateful.

Disclaimer: This is my personal decision and I’m not trying to encourage you to do the same.  If you’ve made a commitment to stay pure for your future spouse, I applaud you.  If you’ve decided to wear a ring to show that, I still applaud you.  Purity rings are a wonderful thing – they’re just not for me right now.  I may slip mine back on at some point in the future, but it probably won’t be any time soon.  Right now, I’m focusing on God more than my relationship with my future husband.  I’m focusing on not having any other gods before Him.  And, like Grace said in the post I linked to above, I’m focusing on learning that “having Him is everything, not a means to the life we think He would want us to have. … I already have Him, and He is everything.”

P.S. I mentioned legalism and unbiblical stereotypes earlier, but didn’t go into what I meant.  If you’d like to hear more, I have a ton of pent-up opinions I’d be more than happy to share with you guys.  (If you want them, that is.  That one would definitely be controversial, lol.)  Let me know in the comments!

love is a risk {a follow-up post}

Surprise!  I’m back for another love post!  (Actually, a kind of follow-up post to my ‘actively waiting’ post, now that I think about it.)

I wasn’t going to do any more posts about love, but I started reading this blog post about it, and I was just like, “I have got to reblog this.

But first, my unsolicited opinion!  (Because it’s my blog and I do what I want.)

I’ve been talking to so many people about love lately – my sister, my best friend, some other friends – and it’s just been really interesting to hear so many different opinions from my friends in different stages of life.  One girl is in a complicated friend relationship that may turn into something more (which she’s slightly afraid of), one is swearing off guys for the moment, one is reaching that age when she feels like she’ll never be married, one is swearing not to date a guy unless he’s marriage material, and one is afraid of guys.  (You know who you are!  Hugs and kisses. *wink*)

Confession time: I’ve been in all of those places.  (And right now, honestly, I’m constantly swinging between trying to be satisfied in Christ {and I’ve been trying to learn how to be satisfied over the past like five years} and wanting to just scream “DATE ME!” at a guy I like.)

My views of marriage and guy/girl relationships have changed so radically over the past five years that I wish I could go back in time and give my sixteen-year-old self a firm shake, a hug, and a promise that it’ll all be a little more clear in the future.

Relationships aren’t complicated, guys.  That’s my revelation from the past few years.  Guy/girl relationships can be a little complicated at times… but only if you make them so.  If you’re constantly worrying if you’ll ever get married or if a certain dude is THE ONE, congratulations, you’ve set yourself up for a few weeks/months/years of worry.

(Tangent: And hey, guess what?  The only way to know if a guy likes you is to ask.  Plain and simple.  I thought asking the dude was stupid… when I was twelve.  And it is stupid… when you’re twelve.  At eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-five… DO IT.  There’s no use pining over some guy you have no chance with.  Ask his sister, ask his mom, ask him… but don’t think about him sporadically {or constantly} and worry if he likes you or not.  Ask and move on – either with him or away from him.  And if you’ve done that, WELL DONE – you’ve saved yourself loads of time!  Trust me; it’ll be far better in the long run when you’ve moved on instead thinking you’ve moved on and being reminded of your feelings towards him when you’re invited to his future bride’s bridal shower.  Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything… *cough*)

As Phylicia says in her post, Dear Girl, It’s Just a Date, we as Christians have made guy/girl relationships too complicated by insisting that they be destined for marriage.  When I was younger, I swore I’d never date – and I’d only court someone (whatever that means) when I was absolutely, positively, one hundred percent SURE that I’d marry him.

Golly Pete, was I naive or what?!

Over the last year or so, I’ve realized that it isn’t that simple.  Courtship does not equal marriage.  Dating does not equal divorce.  Yes, if your definitions of the two are wrong (especially excessive, serial dating, or even excessive, serial courting), you’re setting yourself up for failure.  I’m not saying that dating is wrong and courtship is right (or the opposite), but we need to reevaluate our views on the two.  Is a failed courtship a failed relationship?  Nope, not if God taught you something through it.  Is going out on a date with a guy sinful?  Nope, not if boundaries are set and God is the focus.

I’ve seen both dating relationships and courtship relationships end in disaster.  Dating where neither is fully committed and boundaries get crossed and, hello, babies get made.  Courting where the couple is never left alone to figure out if they’re comfortable with just the two of them and then marrying and finding out that – heck, no – they’re not comfortable at all.  Both are wrong and both have lifetime consequences.

The way I see it, a guy/girl relationship (be it courtship or dating) is only a failure if, when it ends, it scars you for life and radically negatively alters your perspective.  If you’ve been in a courtship and it failed, that is okay.  We need to stop pressuring people into thinking that you can only “get to know someone on a deeper level” if you want to marry them.  Can you imagine how much pressure that must make the guy feel if he does ANYTHING wrong?!  Not to mention how much pressure is put on the girl!  “Getting to know someone on a deeper level” only means that – getting to know them.  How can you know if a person is compatible for life if you don’t get to know them first?

Don’t make relationships more complicated than they already are.  I’ve seen relationships falter and die a tragic death because of too much talking, too much bad counsel, too much worrying, and way too much analyzing.  Yes, relationships are a risk (especially guy/girl relationships), but that’s faith – trusting in God and moving forward even when you can’t see (II Corinthians 5:7).

Okay, enough rambling – to my original intent for this post!

As the following isn’t my post, I’m just going to put some of it here and encourage you guys to go read the rest.  ‘Cause it’s amazing.

just a date

Dear girl,

We the Church – we’ve made relationships heavy.

Relationships are a serious thing – serious because they involve real hearts and raw emotions. We have to walk wisely and think clearly. But not all relationships are meant for marriage.

Maybe you already grasp that concept in your head. But I want you to grasp it in your heart – and on your next date.

Don’t try out his last name.

Don’t picture the Facebook status.

Don’t go there.

It’s just a date.

I’m not saying to lose the romance and I’m not saying to abandon all common sense. I’m not suggesting you settle for less or that you approach relationships carelessly. I’m saying that your truest self – the self you want a man to know and see and love – isn’t revealed when you’re knee-deep in the Christian-relationship mating ritual. There, we must bear the weight of a potential future, and bear in mind that marriage – marriage could be on the line.

All on the first date.

But despite the best efforts, we can never guarantee a first date will lead to marriage. No one can.

These days we move strategically, chess pieces navigating the game. We have to know if he’s ready to spiritually lead and financially take on a family. We have to know where it’s headed because otherwise, it’s a waste of time – right? Dating is supposed to lead to marriage – right?

Not always.

We the Church – we’ve made relationships complicated.

We meant well, really. We seek to protect purity and uphold marriage. We want to embrace God’s design. But we keep missing a consistent gospel theme: freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17). In relationships, that means if you’re walking by the Spirit of God you are free to go on a date without demanding a DTR. [Ashley’s note: Define The Relationship]

We want it all in order from the beginning. We want the promise of no broken hearts, no disappointment, no struggle through the just-friends-but-not stage. We want to guard our hearts from hurt by only dating people we could see ourselves marrying, but the pressure is too soon, too heavy. A Starbucks hour won’t tell you if this guy is marriage material. It takes time.

Girls wonder why the guys run scared. I would run scared. I don’t believe Christian men are afraid of commitment. I believe they are afraid of commitment expected on the first date. In a church culture where a date equals intention of marriage, the pressure is on. You can’t just ask a girl out and get to know her; you have to know your intentions first. But how can you know your intentions if you don’t even know the girl herself?

Read the rest of the post here, then leave a comment and let me know what you think!  Do you agree or disagree with what I and Phylicia said?