Sunday, June 30, 2013


Yesterday some of my gal cousins and I reunited for a glorious beach day.

Hot weather inland = cloudy cool at the beach

Here we are on the private beach at my aunt and uncle's house:


Lucky for the gentlemen in my cousins' lives, they all look like super models. And even luckier for the gentlemen in my cousins' lives, they have the loveliest, most vivacious souls.

There are 23 of us cousins on my dad's side, and we're scattered up and down the coast. Five of us gals, however, live within two hours of each other. So we took advantage of our geographical proximity and met halfway in Laguna Beach.

My cousin, B, brought her darling son.

He has the cutest little nose, the longest little eyelashes, and the sweetest little disposition.

I had to refrain from squeezing and nuzzling him every 30 seconds or so.

There's something wonderfully mysterious about the cousin connection. You can live in different cities or states, have grown up with limited interactions, go over a year without seeing each other, and yet still just get each other when you reunite.

You can spill your guts about all the dark, hard stuff in your life; you can dance without inhibition, sing at the top of your lungs, and laugh together over the stuff that no one else really thinks is funny.

I feel a wonderful sense of belonging when I'm with my cousins. It's not just that we feel safe to share the deep stuff, and understand nuances and body language that non-Jacksons might not understand. We also share a number of the same quirks.

For example, I have this thing about taking pictures of feet. I love it. There's something about documenting an adventure from my feet's perspective that tickles me. Some of my friends think it is hilariously ridiculous, and like to poke fun at my affinity for feet-documenting.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was yesterday when a cousin whom I haven't seen in close to two years said,

"Okay girls, I have this thing about taking pictures of feet. I just love it. Do you mind?"

*Mental blackflip, triple spin, cartwheel, victorious arm raise.*


I mean no! Of course I don't mind!

I also have this thing with the word "glorious." I try to be careful about not over-using it, but when God hands me something beautifully delightful, "glorious" is the best way I can think of to describe it.

The word has become one of my trademarks.

"Was that workout glorious?" my college teammates used to tease.

"Isn't it a glorious day?" my friends like ask me with a knowing smile.

This morning I get a text from my cousin thanking me for the pictures I texted her of our time together. "Have a glorious Sunday!" she says.

A few minutes later I'm texting with a different cousin about the technique she used to curl her hair when I saw her yesterday. Our conversation about curls turns to talk of dry shampoo. My cousin tells me she loves the stuff, and I explain I use corn starch as a sort of dry shampoo because, boy, it cuts back on the number of times I have to wash my hair each week.

"Isn't it glorious?!" my cousin responds.

Yes, I say. It's glorious.

Glorious to use dry shampoo, glorious to have fellow feet documenters, glorious to be a Jackson.

And I'm reminded what a powerful bond blood is. It can connect people with the the most disparate lifestyles, unite people scattered across the world, be responsible for the funniest shared quirks, make deep conversations natural and necessary, make silly jokes even funnier, put hearts at ease, cultivate deepest loyalty, and make sacrifice a no-brainer.

It's an amazing thing, blood.

In middle school, I remember singing about how Jesus' blood covered me, and realizing how weird it was to be singing about blood. Blood-talk isn't terribly common in Western culture. Being covered in it is not the average Joe's idea of a desirable experience.

But when I hang out with my cousins, I get it. I get how wildly, wonderfully crazy it is that God wants to mark us — bind us to himself— as his children by covering us in his blood. I get how off-the-hook fantastic it is that God wants to plant his seed in us, so that we start to look like him, act like him, get him. 

I get why Jesus said you will find your truest self and experince your fullest life if you are willing to follow him and let him cover you in his blood.

The opportunity to be bound to Christ, grafted into the family of God, and re-created into the image of the good and perfect Father.

It's glorious, is what it is. Absolutely, wildly glorious.

© by scj

Friday, June 28, 2013


First, I would like to say that it’s hot. The backs of my knees are sweaty. I’m chugging water like there’s no tomorrow. I refuse to sit in the sun after nine A.M.

When I say it's hot, what I mean is the thermometer has crept several degrees higher than our usually mild, 70-something-degree weather. We’ve *gasp* reached the low 90’s.

All the folks in Florida, Louisana, and Texas are groaning right now.

Sorry guys. Maybe what I’m really trying to say is…California has made a weather wimp out of me.

Second, I have been restless and strangely agitated this week. I’m not sure why. I don’t think it’s the heat, because this feels similar to my first few months of college.

Those months were the first time in my young life that I was away from home. I was relatively independent, and waiting for my adult life to start. Like, isn’t this whole adult thing supposed to be radical, and exhilarating? Why did adulthood feel…anticlimactic? SURELY I hadn’t actually entered adulthood yet? And so I waited for life to start, and felt restless while I waited.

So maybe, now that I’m feeling so much healthier, I’m ready for the next, healthy phase of my life to start. Perhaps, deep down, I’m assuming that SURELY something exhilarating will happen very soon. And I’m getting restless waiting.

Who knows.

What I do know is that my agitation had my shoulders in knots yesterday. So, as my friend Tiffany and I headed to Orange County’s finest line dancing establishment, I asked God for an extra fun, agitation-dissipating, knot-relaxing night.

Isn’t it lovely that God cares about the fun we have on a Thursday night?

Tiffany’s school was hosting a national coaches conference, and a lot of the coaches decided to don their wranglers, boots, and cowboy hats and join us on the dance floor.

Just kidding.

They wore tennis shoes and workout pants, and stood out like the towering, muscular, former college and pro athletes  players they are.

But they did join us on the dance floor.

It was great.

Very few of them knew how to two-step, but they knew how to have a good time. And following a lead who’s making up all sorts of two-steps is nearly as fun as dancing with someone who knows what they're doing.

So I spent the night spinning, hopping, kicking, and learning the “tootsie roll” from my especially rhythmic friends.

And then God allowed me a dream come true.

The place we go line dancing is pretty slick, as you would expect in Orange County.

It’s bright and clean, and has a big dance floor surrounded by tables. There’s a stage on one side of the dance floor, and a couple of elevated bars on the other sides.

At one point I was up in the bar/restaurant area talking (well, shouting is more like it) over the music with some of the coaches.

And then a Michael Jackson hit came on, and J, a former NFL football player who’s got to be at least 6’5 and 250 pounds of pure tenderness and kindness, grabbed my hand and started dancing with me in the restaurant aisle.

Waiters squeezed past us; fellow eaters and drinkers tried not to bump into us; and then, about a minute into the song, I noticed half the restaurant was up out of their seats, their food cooling on the tables as they danced in the aisles with us.

And guys, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

I’ve always had a secret wish for my life to turn into a musical.

When I taught third grade, I’d sometimes notice how tired my students seemed as they sat and practiced multiplication, so I’d say,

“Hey guys! What if we write a song about math and come up with accompanying choreography, and then pretend like we’re in a musical? I’ll give you a cue phrase like, ‘please take out your notebooks,’ and as soon as I say it, you’ll jump out of your seats and begin dancing and singing!”

They loved it. Almost as much as I did.

It was the closest I’ve ever gotten to having the people in my normal life burst into spontaneous song and dance.

Until last night, when God answered my prayer for a extra fun, agitation-dissipating, knot-relaxing night.

Isn’t God fun?!

© by scj

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Online dating adventure, day 4: Fun

Okay, after a day of strange, unprecedented anxiety, I'm starting to have a bit of fun with this.

I mean, laugh out loud by myself whilst surrounded by people at the coffee shop fun.

Some of these guys, I tell you.

Some of their messages are really thoughtful and specific. Some of them are so generic I can't help but wonder if they actually read my profile. Some of them are witty. Some of them are playful (one guy asked me, in fun, what I thought of the Oxford Comma).

Some of them are off-the-wall. Take, for instance, the message entitled, "Purple Monkey Dishwasher." It was an...eye-grabber. Got to give him that. Some of them are fascinating. For example, one man sent me a clip from a reality t.v. show he recently was on. In the clip some sort of professional something or other diagnosed him as a charming narcissist whom girls should avoid dating at all costs. I still haven't figured out what he wanted me to do with that information...?

A lot of the messages seem to follow a similar "template," making me wonder if there is some sort of online dating messaging etiquette.

And then I got this message from a young man and realized — bingo!—there is unspoken messaging etiquette:

"Generic overexcited greeting! Obvious reference to profile information, with or without drawing a comparison between what we put on our profiles. Rhetorical question? Rhetorical answer! Unnecessary semi-forced semi-witty remark. Laughing onomatopoeia! Humble request for further communication?"

And then I laughed out loud. And then I remembered I was by myself in a public place. Which made me laugh out loud again.

See, this is sort of fun!

© by scj

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Oh boy

Friends. I have a confession. But before I get there, I need to tell you I have dating fatigue. I am really tired of going on first dates. Like, really really tired.

I think this is partly because I'm introverted — I'm energized by alone time, and often feel drained after hanging out with people, unless they're close friends. Hanging out with virtual strangers in a date setting is most exhausting of all.

I don't think my introversion is the only thing to blame, though. Because I rarely meet a man to whom I am drawn romantically. I meet loads of fantastic, godly men each month, but I rarely feel that thing with them. You know, that inexplicable chemistry and connection.

I've tried to talk myself into feeling that thing with many of the amazing guys that have asked me out. I've gone out with dozens of good men with the hope that an evening with them would kindle a spark. I've told myself that x-factor attraction fizzles with time, and then all that's left is character and commitment.

But it's so disappointing to go on date after date on which nothing develops, and I can't bring myself to maintain a purely practical approach to love.

And I've realized that if that thing is not there, it's not there. Sure, it could develop over time, but it's probably going to develop in a comfortable friendship setting. Not over a few forced dates.

So I've recently changed my dating policy. I'm game to go on a first date with a man if I initially feel some spark of attraction and chemistry; otherwise, it's dinner and dancing with my girlfriends for me.

Typically, a guy with whom I have chemistry and connection comes along every two years or so. And since I recently got out of a relationship with an "x factor" man, I realize it could be awhile before I go on another first date.

But...what if I got more exposure to men? Would that lessen the gap in time between meeting men who are romantically interesting?

I've been asking myself this the last couple of months with the knowledge that I'm already meeting so many men in my social circles that I don't think I could do much more to meet others. So if I'm going to try to meet more men it's going to dating.

And folks, this has never, ever been an option for a number of reasons.

Reason #1: Um, hello, welcome to LoserVille. Population: Me and 500 other desperate singles in my area.

Have any of you ever felt the stigma of online dating?

I can't figure out why, but online dating has always seemed dreadfully embarrassing to me. What if people find out I'm doing online dating? What if men I know are on the same dating website, see my profile, and then suddenly realize I'm a loser??? 

The possibilities make me squirm.

They shouldn't, though.

Because I know online dating is normal and accepted nowadays. At least in Orange County, anyway. A ton of my attractive, fun, godly friends are online. Some of the best men I've gone out with over the past year are currently online. Many of my friends met their spouses online. Heck, even my most recent 'x-factor' guy is online! So this stigma thing should be for the birds ... it should be.

Reason #2: How can you possibly assess attraction potential via an online profile? Won't I have to meet lots of guys in order to see if there's actual potential? And won't it be exhausting to meet up with all these random men — so exhausting I just avoid it all together?

Reason #3: Do I even have stamina for this? I mean, dating is like a part-time job. And if I do this online thing, I'm going to have to go out with guys with whom I'm not sure there's attraction. I'm not sure I feel up to taking that on right now.

So I've told myself I will join an online dating site when I'm no longer getting regular opportunities to go out with the men I meet organically. When that day comes I'll consider crossing the online dating bridge. In the meantime, I will try not to think about online dating, and when I do, I will make sure I have my inhaler and a paper bag nearby.

And then, yesterday, something came over me.

I don't know if it's that I started feeling like I was coming down with a cold, or if I sat in the sun for too long, but I decided to do a three-day trial with an online dating site.

And I don't know what happened between yesterday and today, but I decided to sign up — I mean actually pay — for a few-month membership with an online dating site.

Someone call the medic. Or the shrink. I am not myself and do not know what happened.

I just felt a strong impulse telling me I need to try it, and now is the time. It was such a drastically different attitude than I've had the last few months that I promptly signed up before I could chicken out. And then I got the shakes and felt like throwing up.

But still, I did it. I'm in.
And it feels vulnerable. Like I'm standing on the top of the pole jump on a ropes course, wobbling
wildly as I survey the landscape.

But it's also kind of fun. Because I like new adventures, and I like getting outside of my comfort zone.

So we'll see what happens.

And as my sister reminded me this afternoon, if nothing else, I can write about my experiences. And I will.

Somehow that makes me feel loads better.

© by scj

Monday, June 17, 2013


Yesterday my sister spent the afternoon at my parents' house looking through their boxes of old photos. As she perused, she periodically texted me pictures of the cutest photos you ever did see. Except for the photos of you when you were little, of course. Or the photos of your kids when they were little. No doubt those pictures are just as cute as these.

Here I am learning to ride a bike. As you can see, my sister's support and sending-off was an important part of me learning to ride a bike. All these years later I am so blessed to still have her and my dad's support as I wobble along.

My dad was a master story teller. I do not remember him using this furry puppet mitt to tell stories. But I do remember the stories he would tell at Christmas, as we all laid around the Christmas tree and gazed at its twinkling lights. I remember them so vividly I will tell them to my kids one day, if I God decides to give me kiddos.

My sister and I adored dressing up when we were little. Here my little sister is wearing one of our favorite dresses. Its twirling capabilities were fantastic.

This picture cracks me up. Our littlest brother, Marc, has just joined the family. He happened to be born on Rebecca's birthday. Rebecca is wearing her newest Cinderella gown (sewn by my ever-ingenious mama), Cinderella crown, and pink wig. Every Cinderella needs a pink wig. Aaron is talking. He was an expressive little guy. And I am gazing up at someone I appear to admire very much. Probably my mom.

Aaron thought my dad was just the greatest. He loved being near him. My dad tells a story of one afternoon when he got home early from work. As he walked through the front door, Aaron dropped what he was doing, ran to my dad, jumped in his arms, and exclaimed, "This is the best day of my life, Daddy!"

Rebecca has always been an artist. Here she is sketching a portrait of Marc. He must have been wiggling, and needed a steadying hand. Notice the intensity with which Rebecca is focused. Notice how you want to reach through this picture and squeeze little Marckie.

And here is Rebecca with one of our many pet snakes. I am not sure if this is the snake that escaped in the house (and couldn't be found for weeks), or the snake that escaped in the car (and couldn't be found for days), but I do know that we kissed this snake for kicks. We kissed all our pet snakes for kicks. Now, however, I will not touch a snake with a ten foot pole.

Rebecca, on the other hand, is a much braver soul than I.

Some things never change. And boy am I glad. Because I loved those little expressive, squirmy, artistic, daddy-loving, dressed up kids, and I love it when I see traces of them in my grown up siblings. 

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope you had a lovely Father's Day yesterday!


© by scj

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day to my bestest Pops

It's hard for me to explain why my dad is the bestest, greatest, amazingest, frendaplest. See, normal words just don't work. Sometimes you have to make them up.


1. Marvelous beyond words.

I tried to explain why once. (Here).

Actually, I've tried to explain why lots of times.

Whenever people ask me about my dad I try to explain. I tell them he's brilliant. He's incisive and insightful — a blend of intellect and wisdom that makes him a sure-fire problem-solver, situation-improver, and direction-giver.

I tell them he's committed — to Christ, my mom, my siblings and me, his church community, his friends, his role as a church shepherd.

For 34 years he's been married to my mom. For 28 years he's been present at scores of his kids' track meets, soccer games, music recitals, awards assemblies, and graduations. For 27 years he's pastored the same church. For 40 years he's cultivated friendships with people from his youth.

He's the kind of man you know you can call at three in the morning tomorrow, next year, ten years from now. You can tell him that stupid thing you did last week, or the secret longing you've never confessed, and know he's safe and will guide you toward Goodness and Truth. You can trust that, if he can, he will help your soul to grow and heal and hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I tell them my dad's a great one to laugh with. He'll slap his knee, throw his head back, and laugh until he wheezes, until everyone in the room is wheezing too because there's not much better than laughing with him.

I tell them he's adventurous and strategic, and if they ever need a guide for a European family vacation or a summer backpacking trip, he's their man. If they're wanting to do target practice out in the boonies, he's a good one to ask. And if they want a lesson in fly-fishing, well, he can do that, too.

I tell them he's thoughtful. Every time he comes to visit me he buys me flowers — sometimes a bouquet of roses, sometimes a Heliotrope for my patio. When he visits he'll go grocery shopping, cook dinner for me, and then clean up the mess. He's a fantastic cook.

And I tell them that if they met my siblings they'd probably notice that they're committed to Christ, are honest and hard-working, and like to laugh. That's because they wanted to be like my dad when they grew up. We all did. Because there's no one quite like our frendaplest dad.

Happy Father's Day, pops.

I'm thankful for you, and I love you somethin' fierce.

-Sarah Christine

© by scj

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Garden tour

Since moving to my newest abode, I've noticed that the guys I date tend to be quite interested in my gardening endeavors.

When they come over to my place for the first time they almost always ask me about the potted plants on my patio, at which point I launch into a thorough tour through my dozens of potted beauties.

These *detailed* tours always seem to fascinate them. I tell myself that this is because these tours are objectively riveting. I'll keep telling myself that.

Then, if the mood is right, I give them an extensive tour of my vegetable garden, in which I detail the plants' complex histories, unique characteristics, and the plans I have for them.

I know how to show a man a good time, no doubt about it.

But it's been awhile since I've gotten to the "let's have dinner at my place" stage with a man, which is a shame because my patio flowers are in full bloom and my vegetable garden is bursting with yummy potential.

So today, because my plants are just begging to be seen, I shall give you a tour of my potted flowers and garden. Lucky, lucky you.

I'll give you the abridged tour, though. I realize you have places to be, people to see, and grand plans to execute. I wouldn't want my zucchini to interfere with your world-changing.

So let's get her started.

First things first: smell this Heliotrope and then tell me what it smells like.

Vanilla? Cherry pie? Root beer?

Because not only does this flower attract our neighborhood butterflies, it also smells different to different people.

I'm not joking. It's like the love potion in Harry Potter that smells different to everyone because it reminds them of the things they find most lovely. Except this flower only has three smells.

I am working on constructing a complicated psychological analysis of people based on how the flower smells to them. I'm quite certain it will help my dating career immensely.

Okay, now check out this pot:

I only planted daisies in this pot last year, but this spring the wind blew these other white flower seeds (I'm horrible with flower names, people) into the pot. Such a fun surprise.

Now I'll show you my rainbow flowers.

This red, orange, and yellow rose reminds me of starbursts. Probably because I used to squish red, orange, and yellow starbursts into one sticky ball and then stuff the thing in my mouth. The ball sort of resembled this rose. Sort of.

I salivate when I look at this flower.

These remind me of Rainbow Brite's socks.

Just look at those water droplets. Exquisite. Also, if you could just multiply the colors in these pictures by a vibrancy factor of 13,000 then maybe they'd look as brilliant as they do in real life.

Vibrancy factors are real things, aren't they?

Okay, okay, I see you looking at your watch. I'll skip the other pots on my patio and take you to the vegetable garden.

Here we are.

Isn't this a magical entrance? After you, kind sir or madam.

One day soon this flower will be a cantelope. I can't wait to slice that juicy baby open.

Come to me, you beautiful, spicy things. I shall make a hot dip out of you!

I didn't plant tomatoes this year. The wind did all the seed-scattering work for me, and now I have seven rogue tomato plants growing. Thank you, Wind.

These tomatoes look like little peas.

I just said that sentence in my head with a French accent, and then I laughed my deepest French laugh:


I can't think of peas without also thinking of the French Peas on Veggie Tales. And I can't think of them without emitting my most grovelly (how do you spell "grovelly"?) French Pea laugh:


The neighbors have grown accustomed to hearing my loud French Pea laugh coming from the direction of the garden. Maybe that's why they move to the other side of the road when they see me on my evening walks.

Just kidding. They're very gracious.

Isn't this basil beautiful? I just used some of it to make a big ol' batch of pesto.

Pesto is one of my favorite things to feed to guests. If you come over for dinner, odds are I'll give you some.

There's much, much more. But I'll not drag this tour out any longer. So let's grab some mint, and I'll make you some sort of minty treat back at my studio.

I've had lofty goals of making fancy mint dishes for months now, but they usually involve blueberries.

And I have a horrible habit of buying a flat of blueberries and then eating the entire thing in one sitting.  I've done it twice this week.

So I'll make you something minty without blueberries. Maybe a refreshing, minty drink.

What say you?

And then, if we have time, I can show you the remaining 27 pots on my patio, okay?




Are you there?

© by scj

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The verdict is in...

...and it's totally okay to flirt with single-ready-to-mingle cops, as long as they're not pulling you over.

Just in case you were stuck in the "Flirting with this cop feels inappropriate, but wait, what if this cop is my future spouse — then shouldn't I be flirting with them so I can meet them?" quandary.

No doubt many of you face that dilemma often.

Which is why I'm here for you. I'm always here for you.


© by scj

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Confessions

A list of silly, trivial confessions. Also known as this week's blooper reel.

1. I haven't done my dishes in almost a week. Today is the day I do that, folks. Mostly because I need something with which to make and eat my breakfast.

2. Not too long ago I noticed a tall, broad man with a pony tail. He had me at ponytail. So I checked him out, and then checked him out again. And then he turned around and he was 75.

Moral of the story: ponytails can do a lot for an aging backside, gentlemen.

3. Last week I wore yoga pants and socks with flip flops to work every day but Thursday. Thursday I wore cute shoes that showed off my orange-y red toenails. It was one of the worst decisions I made all week. And so I rang in the weekend with yoga pants, and socks with flip flops. My colleagues pretended not to notice. God bless them.

4. It could also be that my colleagues didn't notice. This is because we were shut away in a room assessing student portfolios all week. We graded hundreds of them, with very few breaks. And oh, if only I'd video recorded the general delirium and insanity that ensued by day four of non-stop grading. Talk about amay-zing blooper reels. I love my colleagues. They're some of my favorite people.

On a side note, if you run into me this week and notice that I'm in a cross-eyed daze, flourishing my red pen whilst muttering to myself, "3.5, give it a 3.5 for organization of ideas," well, you know why.

5. Recently, a young cop pulled up next to me at a stop light. His windows were down. My windows were down. He seemed single and ready to mingle. I was single, and working up the courage to mingle.

But instead of initiating contact, I gulped and stared stoically at the red light. I did the same thing when we pulled up next to each other at the next light, and the light after that.

It seems irreverent — or at the very least inappropriate — to flirt with cops, don't you think? If you could weigh in on this terribly important issue, I'd appreciate it.

Happy Monday, everyone!


© by scj

Friday, June 7, 2013

Dating to dignify, part 5 of 5: Better than Houdini

This year I've interviewed dozens of my single Christian friends about dating. I've taken their ideas about the best ways to navigate the initial stage of a dating — getting a first date and moving past it —  and have compiled them in this blog series. 

Check out:
Part 3: "Making a move"
Part 4: "Laying out the welcome mat"

When I interviewed my single friends in preparation for this series, all of them had something to say about rejection. And they all agreed: directness and kindness dignify best.

Let's say you've met lots of young people, you've found someone who's interesting, you've gone out with them, and now you know you're not interested in a second date. 

Gents, if this is you, then tell your date, rather than performing an unexpected and altogether confusing Houdini disappearing act. This can have the last-person-picked-at-dodgeball effect.

A little over a year ago I went out with a great guy. He was a tall, handsome, successful, and kind Jesus-lover. And yet, there just wasn't chemistry between us. Our date felt flat. I was prepared to give it another go with the hope that a second date would kindle some sort of spark, but he wasn't. So he called to tell me.

He prefaced the tricky conversation by telling me the good and beautiful things he'd observed about me on our date. And then he said that, although he saw I was a good woman, he wasn't interested in anything beyond friendship. 

It was natural and sincere, and eliminated any agonizing guesswork on my end. It made me feel dignified, like he'd observed the worth of my soul and felt my worth warranted follow-through. Should I run into him again one day, it will not be awkward.

Ladies, we can take our cue from my date's approach, too. When a guy asks for a first or second date and you're not interested, be direct.

Don't ignore his texts and calls. Don't tell him you're really busy and can't go, or have prayed about it and aren't interested, or are in a season in which Jesus is your boyfriend. Don't tell him you'll go on a date, and then later retract your yes when he calls.

Instead, affirm him and be honest. Tell him some of the ways you've identified he uniquely bears God's image, and be specific. "You are funny and seem really thoughtful, but I'm not interested romantically."

Don't patronize him with pity dates. He wants you to be clear.

Ladies and gents: When a date rejects you, show them they are esteemed, even when their rejection disappoints and makes you feel silly. Show them they're not just valuable for what they have to offer you. You'll be in heaven with them forever and ever. And in the meantime, you're fighting the same fight and building the same Kingdom.

I've had men use that awkward moment after I've turned down their offer for a date to say,

"You are really lovely, Sarah, and I'm glad I met you. Thank you for your directness."

I haven't experienced anything that mitigates the humiliation of rejection as much as a man's kindness in the face of my rejection, and vice versa. 

Sure, the directness will probably always sting, and dashed hope is horrible, no matter how kind the dasher is. But who knows, in addition to dignifying the soul in front of you, your directness and intentional affirmation may allow for a friendship to blossom. The best fruit of my dating the last two years has been the friends that have come of it.

So here's to you meeting lots of people, going on lots of dates, making lots of friends, and, hopefully, finding someone special!  *raising glass of orange juice*

As you get out there and date in the coming months, let's talk about the next stages of dating at some point, shall we?! 

Because now that it's become more natural for me to meet men and either welcome or decline their interest, I find I'm grappling with stuff that goes beyond the first date, like how to be single, celibate and yet still a sexual being; and how to confront lust (and how to define and understand lust, for that matter!); and how to resolve conflict; and how to discover marriage potential; and so much more. 

I've gotten good feedback from some of you about this series. You like discussion about dating. So I'll do my best to sort through these issues now and then on here, as I continue to date. I hope you'll grapple with me. 

Until then,

Happy weekend and haaaappy dating, folks!


© by scj

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dating to dignify, part 4 of 5: Laying out the welcome mat

This year I've interviewed dozens of my single Christian friends about dating. I've taken their ideas about the best ways to navigate the initial stage of a dating — getting a first date and moving past it —  and have compiled them in this blog series. 

Check out:
Part 3: "Making a move"

A couple of years ago I spotted an unfamiliar man at my seminary's library. He was tall, broad, and handsome. And he wasn't wearing a wedding ring. What a rarity at my seminary! And lucky me, I was standing just feet away from this hot, single, Christian guy.

And yet, I avoided eye contact and began mumbling to myself as he walked by. Surely he'd recognize my worth and approach me, despite my complete lack of effort to be open and inviting?

I never saw him again.

Story of my life. For awhile, anyway.

My interviews with my single male friends and my experiences dating over the last year and a half have helped me to understand that it often takes guts for a guy to ask a girl out. It means possible rejection, and even humiliation. 

So I learned that, if I met a hunk at the library or a party, it was helpful if I sent him encouraging signals that made him comfortable to make a move. Avoiding eye contact and muttering to myself was no longer an option. 

One of my male friends told me that a female's encouraging signals are like "laying out the welcome mat." They invite the guy to walk on over and knock on the door. My college girlfriends and I called this "Pulling a Ruth."

Today's post is a series of suggestions for laying out the welcome mat. This list is for the ladies, since yesterday's post was for the gents.

But first: Remember my single friends? The ones I interviewed for this series? Most of them agreed that both men and women can lay out the welcome mat to make an introduction more natural. But we were also all pretty traditional. We have no problem with women being proactive, but we liked the idea of the guy asking the girl out, and not vice versa. These lists will reflect our values.

1. When you see that guy you'd like to talk to, smile and maintain prolonged eye contact.  We're talking one full second here, people. This is hard. Very hard. I have timed myself doing this (naturally) and have concluded that I could swim across the English channel in the time it takes to assure a guy with my eyes and smile that he can talk to me. One second is an eternity. But if you can muster up the courage to do it, it will give a guy good encouragement.

2. If his gaze continues to dart your way but he doesn't come up to you, then move closer to him. He may be too shy to walk across the room. And if he's still too shy to say anything once you've relocated, then initiate contact. Ask him which pot luck dish he recommends you taste at the Super Bowl party you're both attending. Ask him what book he's reading as he sits there sipping his cappuccino. Ask him if he's winning the game he's playing on his smart phone. Ask him how his night is going. Be playful. Make jokes. Keep it light. 

3. Once contact has been made, if Hot Stuff wants to talk, then talk! Ask him interesting questions. (Be sure to maintain good eye contact!) Try to go beyond the ol' "Where do you work and what did you study" go-to questions. You're both looking for a spark, for a magnetic connection that isn't created as naturally when you're limiting the conversation to reciting the title of your college majors ten years ago.

So ask him what he'd do if he had a day to himself and could teleport anywhere in the world. If he says he'd teleport to Australia so he can go snorkeling, well, wow, now you have a lot to talk about. Ask him what he loves about snorkeling. Ask him about his most dangerous snorkeling adventure. Use your questions to discover what he values. Maybe you and he will discover shared values — a great start to a relationship, yes?!

4.  Want him to know you're open to hanging out? Figure out what he's good at and ask him to teach you. Does he like to surf? Play the guitar? Is he an avid gardener? Be casual about it: "I'd love to learn how to surf. Maybe you could teach me sometime?" Asking him to teach you the thing he loves is a natural way to show your interest in seeing him again. 

You could also figure out your common interests. Do you both like music in the park? Great. Tell him you're going to an outdoor concert this Friday with a group of friends, and you know what? He should join you! If you're not going to the concert this Friday then just throw it out there that, hey, there's a concert this Friday! If he's hoping to hang, then he'll probably suggest you go together.

5. Adjust your expectations. Unreasonably high expectations when you meet and interact with new men (or women — this is for both sexes) will sabotage your efforts. They did mine, for years. 

Your goal shouldn't be to convey yourself perfectly. You are not working for a marriage proposal and a subsequent wedding and family. You will not be doomed to singleness forever and ever if you don't make eye contact for a complete second and then maintain playful conversation. 

You're working in a yoke with Jesus! So just work on making a connection in the best way you can. Practice being open and approachable, and one day your efforts may reap marital rewards. You're growing and doing what you can; God will use it.

6. Okay, this one is super duper cliche, but it's surprisingly difficult: be yourself. Don't lapse into uncharacteristic monotone, or talk more quickly than normal due to nerves. Don't converse about things that normally bore you because you think it's what you're supposed to do. Just relax. Be animated. Talk about things that make you laugh and get you fired up. Try to find the things that make his eyes light up. You are attractive. You. Confident, interesting You. 

Yesterday I wrote about how guys can make their "first moves" in a way that dignifies us. There are a few things we can remember, too, as we welcome men's interest in a way that dignifies them.

1)  It's easy to welcome a man's interest because it feels good. Gosh, we often struggle with insecurity, and it's nice to feel attractive and appealing. So it's tempting to lay out the welcome mat, not because we're genuinely interested in a man, but because we want male attention to make us feel better about ourselves. 

In order to fight this temptation, I've learned to observe myself when I'm around men. Am I laying out the welcome mat because I'm really interested in getting to know them romantically? Or am I just craving attention?  

When it's the latter, I'm learning to roll the welcome mat back up, and invite the Holy Spirit to step in and remind me of my worth. 

2) Let's say you get that first date and want another. Then let him know. Tell him you had a great time. If you're feeling super confident, then let him know you'd like to go out again. Be direct with him the way you want him to be direct with you. 

One of the men I interviewed for this series told me he took a girl out once whom he really enjoyed. He'd hoped to see her again, so he texted her a couple of times after their date to try to feel out her interest. 

Her responses didn't indicate interest, so he didn't ask her out. Later he found out she'd really liked him, but was going to "let him pursue her." 

My friend could have been much more direct about his intentions on the front end, which would have given the gal more confidence to be equally direct about her interest. 

But ladies, if a guy isn't as direct as he could be, we can still be intentional about encouraging his continued interest. The gal my friend liked didn't have to ask him on a second date in her texts, but she could have expressed what she liked about him and the extent to which she enjoyed their first date. 

This sort of directness makes us really vulnerable which is probably why we avoid being direct, and instead "let the guy [blindly] pursue" us. Our ambiguity or lack of effort is a shield to protect us from rejection and disappointment. 

But, as I wrote yesterday, being direct can be like putting guardrails along the dating "cliff." The rails don't eliminate the possibility of getting hurt, but they do give you and your potential guy freedom to explore without being paralyzed by the fear of falling. It's counterintuitive, but making yourself vulnerable by being clear about your interest will actually protect your burgeoning relationship to an extent.

Buuuut, let's say one of you isn't interested in date #2. Ay. This is where things get sticky. So tomorrow's post will suggest some helpful ways to navigate rejection. 

© by scj