The Valentine Conspiracy

valentineValentine’s Day is nothing more than a marketing ploy.  That’s my consensus on the matter.  By appealing to women’s hearts and men’s pocketbooks, the nameless faces on Wall Street are forcing us to spend money, time, and emotions on a ridiculous, pointless day that nobody would even care about if it weren’t pounded into our heads that we should. 

Valentine’s Day was in fact contrived by a group of financing companies when they saw the economy going in the tank.  Taking a formerly-ignored holiday they managed to push its marketing to an extent that, with revenue from chocolate and heart-shaped candies alone, it has financed the entire stimulus bill.  That’s why it got passed yesterday.

Even more interesting, those financing companies run under false names:  Ghiradelli, Macy’s, Hershey, Starbucks, JC Penney and Victoria’s Secret, to name a few.  With a clever twisting of words and a plethora of deceiving commercials, these companies have taken the nation by storm — convincing the collective that you need to spend money on your “loved ones” on this particular day.  How interesting that the stimulus bill has been debated during this same week.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

As a staunch conservative there was no way Wall Street would snooker me into financing my own extra $13-per-week increase in salary.  What better way to keep the public in ignorance than to have them finance their own pay raise?  It keeps morale high while also filling the government’s black hole of a treasury.  Every Ferrero Rocher truffle is one more dollar into the dining room curtains at the White House.    How innocent that Godive box looks, yet within it lies the means of government control larger than we have ever known.

My patriotism inspired me to forego those wide-eyed sweets beckoning from the shelf at Walgreens.  I know the bankruptcy of the nation lies within their wrappers — so I walked on to the freezer section and picked out a half gallon of Baskin-Robbins instead.  For the sake of America I sat on my couch with a spoon and a box of kleenex, and Baskin and I watched While You Were Sleeping until midnight.  God Bless America!

And I hope He zaps February 14th off the calendar.

I wish I had a real reason to hate Valentine’s Day, but I don’t.  It’s one of those days that is nationally glorified, yet at the same time gloriously exclusive.  Whatever happened to tolerance?  Is there such thing as romantic racism?  I can see myself at the head of the Romantic Rights Movement, banging down the door of the Capitol with a heart-shaped picket sign declaring, “Singles For Equal Treatment!”  That one’s going in the history books.

It’s easy to throw a pity-party when you’re single on the most romantic day of the year.  You think you might find solace in watching Patrick Dempsey and instead find yourself throwing your slippers at the inevitable love interest that appears on the scene.  The fact that she’s always ugly as a horse, fat as a hippo and dressed like a bag lady doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.  She’ll probably have buck teeth and hair like Phyllis Diller too.  You’ll be convinced by the end that she didn’t deserve Patrick at all.  Being delusional has never been so beneficial.

Benefits are scarce for the single girl on Valentine’s Day.  You may try to think of all the people you love, but truth be told, no matter how much you love Aunt Bertha it’s not the same to kiss her as it would be with Prince Charming.  Maybe it’s because Prince Charming remembers to shave.  Whatever the case, counting your blessings can even be hard.  You may have to put some effort into it, beyond “I am thankful I am breathing.”  But that’s a start. 

Just start somewhere.  The government may be behind Valentine’s Day but we don’t have to get caught up in their trap.  Just because Wall Street says it isn’t alright to be alone among the cupids and love darts doesn’t mean we have to listen.  Go look up your friend Baskin Robbins and enjoy what you have now.  It only gets better from here!

People Will Say We’re in Love

I went out to eat with a guy friend the other night, and as we sat across from each other we talked about our classes at the college, and our lives, and what we were doing in our spare time… all the things we aren’t able to catch up on when the business of the day intrudes.  I explained to him a few things that had happened in my own life, people I was interacting with and situations that I had been in, and he gave me some advice in those areas.  His perspective as a guy involved things I never would have thought of if he hadn’t spoken.  “Do you really think that?”  I asked him, somewhat indignant since the topic was one that I held dear.  “Well, I’m just telling it to you as a friend and as a guy,” he said.  “That’s how it seems to be to me.”

As I thought about the things he said over the next few days, the more true they seemed.  I had never thought of my situation from a guy’s perspective before — other than my father’s — and it was interesting to see it through the eyes of my friend, whose genuine concern for my well being and happiness guided what he told me. 

Now that’s a friendship.  As I sat poking at my salad before heading off to a night class, I looked at my table companion and smiled.  How wonderful to have a friend like this, who would tell me the truth out of care — but would never deceive me about his feelings.  He has never been ambiguous when it comes to our relationship – or lack thereof.  “Phylicia,” he had said.  “We’re friends, and both our families know that, so we should be able to do things together on that basis.  There’s no pressure for anything more — and I like it that way.” 

I like it that way too.  The stability of our friendship lies in the fact that both of us have obligations elsewhere — to family, work, church and studies.  We have no obligations to each other.  We have no pressures and emotions to deal with.  We have no jealousies over each other’s friends of the opposite sex.  When we meet, we enjoy the time that we have together — and the rest of our lives aren’t spent pining! 

This is the kind of freedom I have spoken of in previous posts.  In the Victorian era, we would have been out of line to go to the cafe’ for our dinner without a chaperone.  Yet in the mid-1800’s, we would have been perfectly acceptable!  Because we are not in a relationship the guidelines for our interaction our less stringent than they may be in that situation.  This, of course, depends on the family.  However, my friend and I are in no dire straits to gain each others’ attention — and thus, we have no motivation to attain it.  Without motivation, there is no temptation.

If anything, my friend has given me great insight into how young men think, feel, and react.  He tells me honestly his opinion of certain character traits in girls, if I ask.  This in turn helps me in my view of myself and in what femininity is in regard to masculinity.  We never go too deep:  we don’t share feelings, emotions, and establish connections that belong within a committed relationship; but we do have a mutual friendship that transcends opinion, gossip and pressure.

Often “what people think” colors our reactions to the opposite sex, and can limit us in our friendships and interaction with girls or boys.  I call it “People Will Say We’re In Love Syndrome”.  Part of this is rooted in pride — concern over others’ opinons — and part is rooted in fear, but there are really only two causes:  Guilt or Pride. Guilt comes when a ‘friendship’ is not actually a friendship but an ‘illegitimate’ relationship (one not authorized or supervised by parents).  Pride instigates PSWLS when we walk around in fear of what people are thinking or saying about us. 

How do you build an immunity to PSWLS?  Two steps:  first, evaluate if you are above reproach in your parents’ and God’s eyes.  If you are, you can eliminate guilt as the cause.  Second, evaluate yourself for prideful intent.  Are you in the friendship to make it look like you’re in a relationship?  Are you so obsessed with yourself that your utmost concern is what people say and think about you?  Why can’t you enjoy the friendship for what it is?  If you work at keeping yourself in line on these two fronts your friendship should be pain and pressure free.

Immunities are built up over time.  They aren’t pills that you pop, although vitamins help in the long run (in regard to PSWLS, I suggest taking Humility, Patience, and Self-Control; write 1 Cor. 13:4-8 on the prescription and Celestial Pharmacy should hand it over  pre-paid).  If you wait until you’re love-sick, emotionally distraught, or fearful of friendships (all symptoms of advanced PSWLS) you will have to take some bitter pills to get back on track, and continue with that medicine until your weakened state is strong again.  Build an immunity now, and you won’t have to take the bitterness later.

My cell phone beeped 5:45 — time to head to class.  My friend was devouring a turkey sandwich and watching the news over my shoulder.  We’d been quite quiet for a while.  “We’re probably the only people who can go out and say nothing and still have a good time,” I laughed, gathering my coat and purse together.  “You know what they say,” he smiled with a twinkle in his eye.  “‘You say it best when you say nothing at all’…” 

Friends don’t have to say anything to know where they stand.  They just know.  And in that knowledge, they’re content.

This Is Your Time!

Whether you are in high school or graduated, if you have committed to maintaining your heart purity for a man who will commit to you, there will be waiting involved.  During this time, we have established several things:

1) Marriage isn’t the goal.

2) Good male friends can be beneficial and healthy.

3) Jesus Christ must be your focus and the Love that satisfies.

4) Finally, this isn’t a time to ‘twiddle your thumbs’ – and this is what we will talk about today.

I am naturally a procrastinator, and have tendency to do the things I like before the things I don’t.  Thus, all the things I don’t like end up having to be done on the same day.  This wouldn’t happen if I did them during the week, but as it usually occurs, my weekends are spent catching up and trying to finish everything before college, church and speaking deadlines.  I’m working on it! 

Now apply my method of organization to your life as a young woman or man.  If the years before marriage are spent daydreaming over a mate who isn’t there, or spent ‘just being a teenager’, or wasted on more trivial things than how to run a house, cook, and clean, what do you think will happen when you ARE married?  Serious catch-up time!  You will be learning by the seat of your pants, and wishing that there had been a few less movies and a few more hours in the kitchen.  Am I a gourmet cook and amazing laundress, who cleans the bathroom every day and scurries about like a magical Mary Poppins?  Far, far from it.  And none of us will ever have every day to be and get things done perfectly.  But these years are years of preparation, not just play.

How do we maximize this time?  There are several things I think are essential for any girl to learn if she hopes to get married.  I have not learned them completely; most are very much still in the works.

Cooking:  “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” is actually very true.  Henry Ford proposed after eating his girl’s apple pie.  Bob Evans married his wife because of her buttermilk biscuits.  Learning to cook is essential to raise healthy children, have a happy husband, and to keep the family finances within budget as well.  Meal planning and using the grocery flier is necessary to make economic choices.  Fast food and eating out are fine once in while — for dates, or when you are in a hurry — but if it is a regular occurrence, the bill soon racks up.  Cooking from the home is a talent too many girls lack and all should learn.  I’m one of them! 

Cleaning:  I don’t know about you, but I hate cleaning bathrooms.  It never lasts longer than three days anyway.  And dishes too — every meal there they are again!  Unfortunately, this will be the story of our lives for… the rest of our lives!  Proper, thorough cleaning has to be done not only for a good presentation, but for health and comfort.  And not surprisingly, there is a way to clean a house that is indeed the ‘right’ way.  Swiffers and dust wipes aren’t going to cut the mustard — or the dirt.  They are great for quick cleanups on an already mostly-clean room, but for a regular cleaning hands-and-knees mopping, dishcloth dusting and edge vacuuming are what make the difference.

Sewing:  I hate sewing.  I don’t have a bit of patience for it, and I always do it wrong. I was the one that sewed the sleeves shut on a jacket and put the interfacing on upside down.  But still, this is a very beneficial talent to have.  My mom taught herself and has been able to sew costumes, nightclothes, dresses, formals, and all the valances in the house.  My best friend is an amazing seamstress.  Not only does she sew her own clothes, but she designs them as well!  While these days buying patterns, buttons and fabric can make sewing just as expensive as buying clothes, there are many times this talent is of great benefit to the family.

Budgeting:  Learning about money and how to use it is the most important thing to learn in these years.  I am still learning it myself.  With the economy in its current state, and with our new president soon to bring much ‘change’ to the nation, we need to be prepared to be frugal.  And we need to know how.  I am reading Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” on my mother’s recommendation, and I would suggest it to other girls as well. Learning these things now is essential, because learning them on the fly in a marriage will just cause extra stress and strain.  One of the primary reasons for divorce is finances. Educate yourself in budgeting and using funds — help your parents with the bills, and watch how money is spent and what it is spent on.

Interpersonal Communications:  Can you talk to a bank teller?  Can you talk to the JC Penney clerk?  Can you call a company on the phone and get the refund they didn’t give you?  Can you talk to an angry person without getting angry yourself?  If you can’t communicate, you can’t marry.  Them’s the breaks, Binky.  Communication is what makes the marriage.  ‘He says, She says’ has to be constantly worked out with understanding and love, and if confrontation makes you angry, or incites a collapse into tears, not much will be accomplished.  This is the time to learn to listen, and think before speaking.  This is the time to develop excellent phone and computer skills.  This is the time to learn how to get what you need from a clerk, teller or other employee.  I was terrified of clerks when I was younger.  What finally broke this was working in a retail environment.  Suddenly, I was the clerk!  I was forced to learn to communicate in many different ways.  I think this is unfortunately a weakness of many girls.  Practice now!  This is the time.

Work and Education:  I guess you could call me a stay-at-home daughter if you wanted.  I am living at home, and staying with my family.  However, I am not ‘staying’ at home in the sense that I am there all the time.  I work Tuesday through Saturday, and Mondays assist as stage manager to a drama troupe.  Sundays I have a few ministries at church to help with as well.  I am also midway through my second year of online college.  I do not intend to have a career in any way, but I have other reasons for getting my degree.  Homeschooling is becoming more and more threatened, and with our government changing hands, it may one day be illegal to teach children in the home without a Bachelor’s degree.  Am I wasting money on a chance occurrence?  Not in my mind.  I am maximizing my time: working to pay for college and insurance on my car,  teaching young ladies in the drama group, helping in my church and gaining a degree in something I love.  If you are at home, rather than just waiting to get married, make the most of these years.  If you don’t get married, what would you do with your life?  Do it now! 

What this comes down to is faith.  My dad told me this.  Did you see Facing the Giants, the movie?  The old man in the movie told a story.  There were two farmers whose land was suffering because of a drought; both men prayed to the Lord, asking that they might have rain.  One farmer prayed and kept waiting for a downpour.  The other prepared his fields to receive it.  This is what we are to do.  God blesses those who ask in faith and then go to work for Him, maximizing the talents they have been given.  Don’t just sit!  Go, seek, find, pray, work and learn.  This is your time.

So… Can I See You Again?

Girls who choose not to date in high school are making a hard but good choice.  Not only does it give them time to focus on God, but it also gives freedom in friendship and time for the family.  These girls are preserving their precious gift of purity as well.  We have already gone over the ‘dangers’ of dating and what to do in the time of waiting.

But now you are eighteen.  High school is over.  What now?

I have watched several girls go different directions when they finished high school.  For some, they ‘put in their time’, and were swiftly seen with a boyfriend, scruffy and short, as soon as their Open House was over.  Others continued on with the exact same commitment they had in high school, perhaps more stringent than before.  Others were married within the year.  Each family had a different system for what they deemed appropriate after high school, and their daughters, for the most part, followed that system.

I turned eighteen six months ago.  No one showed up on my doorstep with a pocket full of posies and ring.  But things do change when you turn eighteen, and how you deal with those changes will determine who you grow to be, who you meet, and how you go about relationships in this new adult life. 

Some of this will reiterate what I said in the post, ‘Can I Have Guys as Friends?’ and for those of you that haven’t read that post, I would suggest it simply so that you can see where I am going on this topic.  Truly, it all comes back to that question — can I have male friends, and how do I interact with them?  There are, however, two different answers.  The high school answer was used in the ‘Guys as Friends’ post, and I have a different answer for those who have graduated.  While very similar, there are a few differences when you become an adult.

Eighteen is the age where guys become bolder.  You are no longer in high school; you are recognized as an adult.  With this in mind, offers for dates will become more common.  How do you answer?  Young men will want to spend time with you in public places, or in groups.  How do you deal with that?  And what about when you can’t stand someone, and they won’t leave you alone??  I have an example of the last question, so let’s start with that one:

There is a young man at my local college named Bill.  I am only taking one class at the college (the rest are online) and it is at night.  So every night I go to class, and there is Bill.  One time, I repeat, ONE time, we walked back to the parking lot on the same sidewalk simply because both our cars were parked in the same lot, and I had no choice.  But he took that one little walk as a sign that we were meant to be.  The next few weeks he made sure we left class at the same time so we could walk again.  I was very much not interested in him, he is not a Christian and also, our interests are just too different.  So I got smart:  I parked in another lot closer to the building so we couldn’t walk together.  That worked at first, but soon he got smart too, and parked in the same lot.  He chased me down the sidewalk to ‘ask my advice’ about a speaking project.  So I got smarter:  my desk was closer to the door than his, so I made a run for it like Eric Liddle as soon as class ended, and by the time he maneuvered around to follow, I was gone!

Unfortunately, that method is not going to work with everyone.  I knew, though, that Bill was the type of guy who would ask you out on his fourth week knowing you if you gave him the time of day.  I was not interested, but I didn’t want to hurt him or make him afraid to ask other girls out, which can happen if one girl turns a man down rudely.  So I came up with a plan.  If Bill asked me out, I would say: ”I’m sorry Bill, we can be friends in class, but I am in a committed relationship right now and can’t date you.”  My parents helped me come up with this.  Am I in a committed relationship?  Yes — with Jesus Christ!  This answer will be true and also unoffensive to someone who enjoys your company but just doesn’t meet the standard.

But what about when you LIKE the guy that asks you out?  This is where it gets tricky.  I have another example for this one:

I went to a concert in the park this past summer, and although I had invited a mixed crowd, I was the only one that showed.  I was sitting by a pleasant older lady when a tall, dark and handsome young man came up to me.  (Yes, it’s true, but I didn’t believe it either, at first) He patted my dog and we chatted generically a moment.  Then it began to rain… or rather, pour.  Everyone ran, soaking wet, up to the Presbyterian church.  I put Lassie in the car and slipped quietly into a pew, dripping from my skirt and hair.  Who comes up but Mr. McDreamy.  “May I?” he asked, gesturing toward the seat.  “Yes,” I answered.  He asked me my name, if I lived around here, and all that stuff they ask in the movies, you know. “I’m Samuel, but you can call me Sam.” He said it as I were receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor.  He went to tell me how well he sang, and how he had a paid lead part in a play, and how he knew all about voice techinique and where he was schooling and how old he was and what his dreams were.  Now, a man’s ego tends to take over a bit when he is nervous, but this was over the top.  He gave me a cordial farewell before joining the choir for the performance.  (He did a good job, too, at least he’s not a liar!)  Afterward, I left the church and walked down the tree lined sidewalk in the summer sun.  The trees were still dripping, the sun was gleaming…  I looked back, and there, on the steps, stood Sam, frantically looking over the heads of the crowd.  He spotted me and raised his hand.  I waved demurely and walked out of sight.  It wasn’t five seconds before he came running down the sidewalk hollering, “Phylicia! Wait!” I turned to face him and he said, “Can I see you again when I come back to town?  I mean, do you have a phone number?”  So I told him, “I don’t usually go out with people I have just met…” “I understand!” “But you can do something with me and my family, if you like.  You can call my dad if you want to.  Here is my card –”  His face had fallen. His manner grew cold.  It was like night and day.  “Alright then.” And he left.  I liked him.  He was proud, but he was friendly and attractive.  My human, girlish self liked him.  But as you can see by his change of manner, he didn’t want family involved.  He didn’t want accountability. And when he read the Bible verse on my business card, his face revealed he didn’t want that, either.  He wasn’t the right one.

These instances will become more and more frequent.  I would suggest planning your responses so you are not caught off guard.  Being distracted by these attentions can cause you to be either rude or unable to answer, which usually translates as ‘yes’ to the normal, confident male! Also, if not already, plan with your parents what you are to do after high school when it comes to relationships.  I will be getting into my own family’s methods next week.  However, now is the time to figure it out, because whether you like them or not, the suitors will eventually come!

Holding Out for the Fairy Tale

There was a certain girl I knew from when I was in kindergarten forward, and we had grown up knowing each other somewhat distantly.  We didn’t do a lot together, because she was older than me, but we interacted enough that I knew how she was doing and what she was up to, as aquaintances usually do.  She had a boyfriend in high school, and had planned to continue the relationship when she graduated — but only weeks after her open house, he dumped her.  I watched her then go through several hair color changes, and several more boyfriends.  We never knew when one relationship began or ended.  While she had remained pure in the prior relationship, she had given away her kiss.  Now she was left with a broken heart, searching for someone to put the pieces back together.  No one stayed long enough to finish the repairs, instead leaving her heart in even more shatters.  For her, fairy tales don’t come true.

That girl is just one example of thousands. 

To choose not to date in high school, and even afterward, it perhaps the most absurd thing people can try to comprehend in this day and age.  They cannot fathom why you wouldn’t, and how you would ‘meet anyone’ outside of their idea of relational correspondence.  Perhaps one the silliest things to me is the fact that these very same people are in anguish over the rates of teen pregnancy and date rape, and are upset over sexually promisicuous teenagers and abortion — yet they cannot understand that letting two young, hot-blooded people go out alone together could be the cause of it. 

The girls who choose to save their bodies for their future mate are often applauded for their wonderful contribution to society.  We are indeed a minority.  But the girls who take it a step further — those who choose to save their hearts — they are the ones who are often greeted with scorn.  They are ‘naive’ and ‘too pure’; ‘prudish’ and ‘inexperienced’.   Their commitment is often viewed by the world as a result of fear of men or relationships — when truly, this commitment is the result of a love for one man, and the protection of the wonderful relationship a woman will have with him. 

The world will mock.  They want no part of purity, for light and darkness cannot have fellowship with one another.  They want solutions for their problems — for unwanted babies, teen mothers and physically involved young people — but they don’t want to do what it takes to achieve that solution.  It takes too much.  It makes you different.  Yet those girls who have chosen Christ have already made the decision to be ‘different’.  Being different is their lifestyle.  Walking in purity is just one facet of the ultimate commitment they have already made. 

God has our lives in the palm of his hand.  He knows that walking in purity, going against the grain of society, turning down dates — it won’t be easy.  Singleness in truth is not a ‘gift’, but a trial.  Gifts are gladly received and usually don’t entail any pain in the receiving.  Trials are what show you for who you truly are.   Trials test you, push you, stretch you and finally mold you into the person that you need to become for God to use you to your full potential. 

So hold tightly to Him.  Trust Him to bring things about in His own time.  I have to learn this right now.  But even in the waiting, never lose faith.  Keep holding out for the fairy tale.  With God, they do come true.

When Dreams Must Die

   Every girl has dreams.  The majority of her life is spent in either the making of or the pursuit of them.  Dreams are wonderful things.  They are what inspires us to move forward, to go onward, discovering God’s will for our life along the way.  But dreams can have a tendency to become our all-consuming passion… or rather, distraction.  Dreams, rather than remaining our inspiration, become our aspiration.  They become the thing we live for, rather than the One behind them. 

All dreams have this tendency, but I think romantic dreams are the most likely to drift this direction.  Or perhaps its we who dream who allow them to drift that direction!  Girls dedicated to purity and/or courtship often place marriage on an extremely high pedestal in their dreams; sometimes it is considered the dream of all dreams.  It is the ultimate goal.  All things work together for that end.  The problem with living life in your dreams, although the world may tell you to do so (and so may many churches), is that the dreams become your god.  This focus on desire and hope distracts from the Maker of desire, and the Source of all hope.  I know from experience.  It seemed sometimes that I couldn’t go one day further.  Every other girl had a fella on her arm, and every relative I had was asking me why I didn’t, and every day went by slower and slower as I felt my dream was the slowest in coming in the history of the world.  How does a girl live with her dreams without allowing them to possess her?  By allowing her dreams to die.

The first time I heard that concept it was the least appealing thing I had heard all day.  Let my dreams die?  What would there be to live for?  Where would my hopes go?  If I didn’t want to be married any more nobody would want to marry me!  But that isn’t how it works. Think of a seed.   When you plant it, the seed itself is absorbed by the earth.  It dies.  Yet out of that death springs forth a life so much greater, grander and broader than the seed could have ever been on its own.  But it had to make the ultimate sacrifice first. 

“Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  (Jn.12:24)

It is evening here in the top of the mitten, and the sun is completely gone now.  As I go to bed, I have to surrender my dreams once again to the Lord.  We all love our dreams, our hopes, our plans — but in order to bear fruit, we must allow them to die, for then the truest dreams, the highest hopes and God’s greatest plans can be fulfilled in us.  And His will is infinitely more fulfilling than our own.