preface · part one · part two · part three · part four · part five · part six

vii. remarkably beautiful

The better things in life are messy. I am late in discovering this . . . painting and projects; water and relationships; color and emotions. The good and gracious lovingkindness of God continually unscales my eyes to uncover what it really means to be human. So much of it less glamorous and more glorious that what I’ve previously had the capacity to appreciate.

I feel so much closer to where my heart belongs with all of this . . . where I’m supposed to be and being able to actually receive what God has for me. In life, in general. I don’t have to hide my emotions in melodies, or only let them leak through water colors. I get to be a whole, entire human.

What I have recently come to realize is that I have quite literally had nothing to lose emotionally. And that has significantly impacted my approach to dating and relationships. Much of what I have thought of as wildness and risk and freedom has been yikesy dysfunction. There has been such rich grace for me in this area, in that I know God and He fills me. I am so entirely contented in my relationship with Him, and I was taught by my mother the importance of enjoying my own company. So my struggle has not shown up in ways that create the kinds of mistakes that are hardest to recover from. For that, I am thankful.

But something still hasn’t been working. I have had so small a view of friendships with men . . . in that I considered them largely unnecessary, ha. My line and thinking was that I have brothers and cousins; I don’t need a bunch of guy friends. What I wanted was a husband. I genuinely thought other people were odd or otherwise kidding themselves with being able to be full-on friends across genders with any amount of attraction and it not be a little bit extra. And I still think that most people are kidding themselves. The world we inhabit is not particularly conducive to health and purity in this regard.

However; it is possible. And it is beautiful when it happens.

After my friendlationship with Barnabas collapsed my heart disappeared like Te Fiti’s . . . the imprint of a sleeping goddess without the true fullness of rest. But I kept going. I drove to the ocean and worshipped. And I kept looking for what God was doing ‘instead’.

I have not had an appetite for emotion, but the reason is because it wasn’t fed. Like a physical appetite that wanes over time and dwindles down to mere survival, my emotions have been similarly stunted. It’s not just me being a middle child or a rational woman. I have been missing something significant.

Only recently have I known what to name it, but what I have needed is what I thought I didn’t . . . emotional attachment. And if I’d had it all along, I probably wouldn’t’ve still been swiping around Barnabas on three different dating apps. As it started to come clearer to me, I jested about it in profiles, completing pre-scripted prompts with “middle child seeking attention.” But it was too true.

In the midst of all this, I was realizing that I am called to a marketplace vocation. Which meant to me that I’d need a different kind of husband than I had been thinking {or so I thought, ha.}. And ‘John’ seemed more like what I was needing. I had always noticed him, but I decided on the day we met that he wasn’t him. I had solid reasons. Three years later I found myself enumerating my troubles to him on a Sunday morning before church. And it hit different than our other conversations. In part because of the way he was looking at me, in part because of several other things. It was all the stuff it always is that does’t mean as much to me any more. I have new emotional equipment. 

A little while after our bible study ended, Barnabas had yet another shindig that everyone was invited to, and I rsvp’d to show up after months of not showing my face. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but he said about a dozen words to me so I enjoyed the company of his roommates, whom I had genuinely missed, and I left in less than an hour.

After that and a frustrating observation about the ‘messy’ people in my life and how they managed to find themselves in relationships {I am aware of how judgey and ridiculous this is, but bear with me, ha.}, I lamented to my brother that I didn’t understand why neurotic and ridiculous and emotionally expensive people manage to succeed in this area where I *an emotionally composed and independent intellectual* {ha}, couldn’t seem to figure it out. We concluded that:

A} there was probably a bit more margin to be had in my scale of emotional vulnerability vs neuroticism;

and B} it is – in some sense – just like that . . . something in the messiness that’s perceived as emotional availability and softness . . . evidently.

So in my moment of Sunday morning weakness when I saw that me sharing candidly about my troubles seemed to endear me more deeply to John, I was intrigued and considered that our hypothesis held some water . . .there was a slight but significant nuance between the emotional vulnerability that was so often guarded by self-composure that affects men in ways emotional recklessness does not.

In other words, I have lived my own case study in insecure attachment. Ha. Because I have at least developed a very strong and textured relationship with God, “I’ve got a heart that ain’t afraid to break” as The Lone Bellow sang.

In dating, I have been thoroughly selective on the front end – overly so at times as a function of perfectionism – but once I decided on someone I have gone all in and overboard. Sabotage born of unskilled ignorance and the belief that once I express any degree of emotional need, I will likely be Too Much. Better to rip the bandaid of abandonment off before too much time passes . . . because with few exceptions, I have not experienced that emotional endurance or unconditional attachment. Humanly speaking, I didn’t get it from where it was supposed to come from, so I have not come to expect it. I honestly didn’t have much framework for what is normal emotional need. And so even though I am filled in Christ and don’t walk around feeling empty, there is something weak in me that has needed to be strengthened.

For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weAk knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joinT, but rather be healed.

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal . . .

Hebrews 12:11-17

In August these verses were great for dating. John never did make a move, and my excursion to Barnabas’ midday soiree snuffed out any flickering hope I was holding, so I broke my adamant declaration that I’d Rather Be Single For The Rest Of My Life Than Ever Try Online Dating Again. It was easier to say while perched on a barstool in the kitchen of who I thought would be my Person, all systems seeming ‘go‘.

Approximately six hours after perfecting my dating profile of choice, I matched with Gypsy Pete. The timing was everything. He happened to be in town for the weekend visiting his sister and August made it seem like lyrics I’d written were finally going to come true. And. I was nearing the end of my real estate pre-licensing course and a week into a brand new job and approaching the 10 year anniversary of my mother’s death and a hot mess and a wreck. I was more stressed than I had been in about the 10 years since she died, and Gypsy Pete was a noble and romantic comfort to me.

The day after an hour-long phone call in which we discovered ourselves to be refreshingly kindred, we ended up on an impromptu traipse through a tropical storm and spent 6 hours together. I needed every minute of it.

To my pleasant surprise, I didn’t get carried away. I was tempered like I had been for the first eight months of Barnabas. I let the day be what it was and I didn’t chase him. Between the texted pictures of chickens he was raising and his niblings {nieces & nephews} and life updates and all the grand plans he espoused for weeks down the road and the playlist I listened to too closely, it took all of a week for me to think I’d come across someone that my intensity wouldn’t overwhelm. But I was wrong. And it was difficult. But I also was inexplicably not surprised. Not in the way of a bitterness root, but perception. I just kind of knew that for all of the compatibility and the ways that he reminded me of Blake, there was something about it that was . . . out of joint and probably not going to last.

Oh, but I wanted it to. I was tired and lonely and he was a wild and rugged escort. And*fine*. Ha. Not even in the common colloquial connotation, but in aesthetic. Which he would totally troll me for saying . . . but there is something about his features and the tone of his voice and the way he purses his lips when he’s formulating phrases . . . his bone structure and subtle athleticism. A speciman. {with whom my terrible puns were a hit or miss.}

But the glorious thing in all of this is that we made it through to the other side as friends. Siblings in Christ and kindred. And I am thankful. To have hard and honest and emotional conversations and not run away or be bailed on and abandoned has been extremely restorative to me; such gracious fruit.

In the few short weeks of Gypsy Pete, those verses from Hebrews came to pertain to our relationship – by way of relating as humans and friends – but also for me, conceptually. I see now that my emotional underdevelopment and narrow view of friendship were lame things that The Lord has been wanting to heal. As hard as the summer was to walk through and as messy as my heart has been, I am so thankful that God is committed to my cultivation. He would above all else that I prosper and be in health – free from dis-ease and without bitter roots – even as my soul prospers . . . the painted canvas part of me that deals in desire and emotion.

I am so thankful for a God who continually gardens me.

. . . & &


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