Real Love is a Choice. But Adult Love is Conditional.

the-broken-heartI was recently directed to an October ‘14 blog post (republished last month here) by Seth Adam Smith entitled “Forget About Feelings, Real Love Is a Deliberate Choice.” I agree wholeheartedly with the author’s contention that love is about what you do, not what you feel. I have said the same for years. As a teenager, a wise youth speaker at a church function gave the following definition of love:

“Love is choosing the highest good for the other person.”

I’ve believed it—and tried to live it—ever since. I don’t put a lot of stock in how others say they feel about me. I do put a lot of stock in how they treat me. Most of all, when I care about someone, I try to keep that question at the forefront of my mind. What would be the best thing for this person, even if it isn’t the best thing for me?

But as a survivor of infidelity who is now living life on the other side of a painful divorce, I find myself in disagreement with this part of Seth’s post (emphasis his):

“I’ve heard it said that real love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.

It’s true.”

Except it’s not.

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What Single Motherhood Has Taught Me

Me with my kids earlier today, 05-10-2015
Me with my kids earlier today, 05-10-2015

Today marks my first Mother’s Day as an officially single mother, though I know, in hindsight, that I started on this road two years ago, when my ex-husband effectively abandoned me during my second pregnancy.

Here’s what the last two years have taught me:

God has special concern for single parents — The Bible contains dozens of references to God’s concern for the “fatherless” and “widows,” two situations that potentially involved single parents (e. g., Deuteronomy 27:19, Psalm 68:5). I believe very strongly that when Christians read those passages, they should think of “single parent” as one solid modern-day application, and a majority of single parents are single mothers. I believe that single mothers (and single parents in general) should be a special ministry concern for even the smallest of churches. It isn’t particularly altruistic to start showing concern for a group after you become a member of that group, no, but I know that when I’m done with single parenthood (whether by re-marrying or by raising my kids alone through it), I will always show special regard for the single parents I know. I hope others do, too.

Parenting as a single is better than parenting with an unsupportive partner — I won’t go into too many details here. I said this is my first Mother’s Day as an officially single mother; it has also been the best Mother’s Day I have had in years. When you are mired in an unequally-yoked relationship, you may not understand just how much of the weight you were bearing for the other person until it’s no longer yours to bear. Divorce wasn’t the end I thought it would be. Instead, it has been a beginning.

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Why I Believe

forget_me_not_heartMy daughter’s tiny body shone slick with my blood as my doctor pulled her from my body. A small, sickly cry rang through the room, the noise like the plaintive wailing of an injured cat. I watched the nurse rinse away the blood with a mixture of wonder and fear coursing through me. I would have to spend the next 18 years (and to a larger extent, the rest of my life) caring for this new person, and now it was time to meet her.

Laid in my arms at last, my daughter had stopped crying but appeared dour, her mouth closed as she looked up at me. Our eyes connected and a sudden, horrible thought invaded my mind. It was irrational. It was nonsense. I was being silly. I knew it. Yet, almost against my own will, I blurted out: “Does my baby have a cleft palate?”

Silence. The doctor and the nurse exchanged an addled glance. How would their patient know about a birth defect that she couldn’t see, even if it was there? I was used to my doctor not taking my questions and anxieties seriously, but I wasn’t having that now. I held my daughter out to them, practically thrust her at them. “Would you take her and check?!”

The nurse gathered my daughter up and took her back to the newborn station to examine the inside of her mouth. I am sure she expected to promptly report back that my daughter’s mouth was fine.

Instead, she called out, “Actually, doctor, can you come and take a look at this? I think there’s something here…” It turned out that my daughter did have a cleft palate. A partial soft cleft palate, the smallest kind of cleft palate that there is, so small that it tends to be overlooked upon initial examinations of the newborn.

My belief in the deity and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a lot like that moment in that delivery room back in 2006. That Jesus lived, died, and rose again is as real to me as my daughter’s cleft palate was that day. I had no proof that it existed, yet I believed it was there, so I spoke out.

Some things are true because they are true, and they aren’t always probable and they aren’t always rational, but they are very much still there just beyond what we can see, waiting for us to come searching.

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The Emotional Affair: What It Is, and Isn’t

(Part 3 of 3)

(Continued from Part 2)

Emotional Affairs

In my first post, I talked about the reason for this series. In my second, I touched on healthy platonic friendships between the sexes (or, what emotional affairs aren’t). Finally, I’d like to talk about what emotional affairs are. My definition of an emotional affair is as follows:

Any type of recurring non-romantic contact with a member of the opposite sex [1] that is excessive, lacks boundaries, and/or makes the faithful spouse uncomfortable or upset when s/he finds out about it

Working from that definition, let’s break down those pieces for clarity:
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Review: Financial Peace University — Mid-Class Review 1

My new budget binder. NERD.
My new budget binder. NERD.

Review: Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University — Mid-Class Review 1

I have now completed 7 out of 9 FPU lessons and also 3 “bonus lessons” (lessons from the discarded 13-week format). Here are some thoughts on the first third of the course:

Lesson 1 — Super Saving ~ I was kind of surprised that the first lesson was about saving. I figured the first lesson would be about getting out of debt. But no, in the first lesson, Dave encourages you to complete “baby step 1” by putting together a starter emergency fund of $1000. (He says the fund can be only $500 if you make less than 20k per year). The reason for this is so that, when you’re  throwing everything you have to spare at your debts (see Lesson 4), you aren’t going back into debt when emergencies arise. So that you can stop using your credit card as your “emergency fund” and begin the transition to “cash only.”

Thanks to this lesson, I now take a small portion of every paycheck or child support check that I get and put it towards my starter emergency fund. Between my tax refund I just received and the lawsuit settlement money that I should begin receiving this month, my starter emergency fund will be in place soon.

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Review: Financial Peace University — Some Preliminary Thoughts

Review: Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University — Some Preliminary Thoughts

money
As I’ve progressed through my divorce and on to single motherhood, the thought has occurred to me: money has been and continues to be a significant source of stress for me.

Here’s the thing: around the time that I got pregnant with my daughter (2005-2006), I began making a lot of mistakes with my money and my credit. Not paying my credit card bills on time, unpaid medical bills, utilities shut off, taking out student loans without a solid plan for repayment, you name it, I have done it or it has happened to me. My mother’s illness and death exacerbated my downward slide as I wallowed in depression and just ignored the bills, leading to my vehicle getting repossessed. By 2009, my credit was thrashed and apartment rental applications were the things of nightmares. Even my parents and then-in-laws wouldn’t co-sign for me.

In 2009, I said, “No more.” (more…)

The Emotional Affair: What It Is, and Isn’t

[Harry was funny. But he was WRONG!]

(Part 2 of 3)

(Continued from Part 1)

Platonic Friendships & Relationships

Let’s touch first on platonic friendships and other types of relationships between the sexes that can be intimate and even affectionate, but are not meant to be romantic or sexual. Doctor-patient, professor-student, lawyer-client, and mentor-disciple are some examples of types of potential platonic relationships between the sexes aside from good old-fashioned “just friends.” What is the difference between platonic relationships and emotional affairs (EAs), and are platonic relationships between the sexes healthy and desirable?

On some level, I am surprised when I find Christians advocating that married Christians should not engage in platonic friendships with the opposite sex. These are usually the same Christians who will readily argue that God is male and proceed from there to some kind of conclusion about male superiority because of it–yet if platonic relationships between the sexes are not possible, if they are not healthy and desirable, then how is it that Christian women are called to have an intimate relationship with this male God? Incidentally, I think the question of God and gender is a lot more complicated than “God is male,” and very much reject that notion. But I think there is little question that, in regards to his human nature, Jesus Christ is male.

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Should you tithe on child support?

money-treeYou are a single Christian parent and you have a goal of giving a fixed percentage of your income to God. [1] You are also either paying or receiving child support. When you calculate how much you intend to tithe, do you include child support payments received as part of your income? Or, if you are the one paying child support, do you deduct child support payments from your total income before calculating how much you are going to give?

Tithing and otherwise giving to God can be a touchy and personal subject. There is always going to be someone out there ready to condemn the amount you are giving or the parties you choose to give to. I want to advocate a position here, but first I want to say: if you’ve prayed about your giving, pondered it out, and are giving with a cheerful heart, I am not here to tell you that you are wrong. I firmly believe that God honors special circumstances and that there is no one right way to give or right party to give to. [2]

Got it? Good. Because, that said, my position is this:

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I Now Pronounce You Man and Spiritual Wife

This is old news to some, but around 7 years ago, emergent church leader Tony Jones had a dirty, nasty, filthy affair with the woman who would become his second wife, Courtney Perry. [1]

Only he didn’t. At least, not according to him and his friend, Doug Pagitt, the latter having called Tony’s then-wife, Julie McMahon, and said, “Julie, this is Doug. You and Tony’s marriage is just words on a piece of paper. You may be the legal wife but Tony has a spiritual wife now.”

(That’s all according to a comment left by Julie McMahon on a September 2014 blog post wherein Tony was, ironically enough, in the process of being wistful about the fall of disgraced evangelical megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll for his “toxic theology.” Given the lack of denial of the “spiritual wife” comment from either Doug or Tony, the intensity with which Julie speaks of the memory, and the fact that a similar idea provides the framework for Jones’ Two Marriages book, I am inclined to believe that some kind of “spiritual wife” justification was, in fact, trotted out to Julie.)

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