Loving deeply and learning slowly

I’m independent. A woman in pursuit of God and all He has for my life. I am happy lifting weights, and praising the Lord, and playing with my dogs, and adventuring solo. I enjoy filling up my backpack and boarding a plane or a train all by myself. I don’t mind being alone. But I love love. I love the idea of love, I love being in love, I love being loved, and I love loving another. I love writing letters and leaving little notes. I love doing the little things, and cuddling, and doing partner WODs, and hiking both the mountains of Northern California, as well as, the mountains of life with my adventure partner. There are many beautiful things in this world – from the Grand Canyon, to Lake Tahoe, to the Swiss Alps, to the Cliffs of Moher, to the countless other wonders of the world – but to me, the most beautiful thing to see (and to feel) is real, unconditional, tangible love.

I may lose some of you here, but just bear with me. God is love, and not a subtle kind. He is the love a mother feels for her newborn baby, the love a husband feels as his wife walks down the aisle, the love a community feels for its neighbor after a fire burns down everything in sight. He is the love for a child suffering in a far away land, the love we feel when we see the dogs and hear the music of an SPCA commercial. He is real, raw, true pure love. And his love for us, is the love we should expect in our relationships, and our eventual marriage. Throughout the Bible, our human relationship with our spouse is used as an analogy to our relationship with God. If His love is unconditional, endless, never judging, full of grace, forgiving, and relentless in pursuit, should our marriage not be just that?

I have been in one serious, long term relationship, and I have been in two short term serious relationships. In each situation, I had fallen deeply in love. In the first of these, it was the love I described as above. That unconditional, real, true love. It was built on a solid foundation of respect, and admiration, and friendship. We were crazy for one another, and I was determined that this man was my first love and my last. Perhaps, I was too young. Perhaps, I would have never been able to grow. Perhaps, I just needed to experience the feeling of deep loss. Whatever reason there was, that relationship ended and I felt the deep, cutting, pain of heartbreak. I really don’t think there is a worse feeling than true sorrow after a loss. It changes you. After John, I took a lot of time trying to reassess my life. I eventually found Jesus and began slowly redefining my life. I tried my best to stay the course, and though a few guys popped up here and there, I made a vow to stay single, and not as much as kiss a guy, for the next year.

As time passed, there was interest in a few guys, but pursuing a man just wasn’t in the agenda. I became empowered in my path to God’s plan for my life and made some pretty drastic life decisions, including moving to the Middle East to live on a Navy base for 5 months. In those five months, I felt God’s tangible, unconditional, amazing love in more ways than ever before. And I prayed one thing over and over: God, allow me to live a life of love. Let me love the way you love. To feel deeply. Break my heart for what breaks yours. Let me be a vessel for your Kingdom and to be a light to all. And boy, did He let me live a life of love. Like never before. The soldiers, the sailors, my coworkers, my kids I worked with,the locals, everything and everyone – I loved. And it was in that time that I fell in love for the first time since I was 18. I never had a chance, and I didn’t want one.

When John and I had met, it was expected. Our fathers had set us up. Our families had history. We had everything in common and our lives overlapped in every way imaginable. The moment my eyes had locked on him at the 4th of July party while he played horseshoes, I knew I would love that man. And when we spoke, you’d have thought we were long lost friends. The playful banter, the instant inside jokes, the chemistry that hung thick in the mid summer air, we were a force to be reckoned with. Paddy on the other hand was completely, totally unexpected. I had never seen him before. Here I was, this random MWR intern on a US Navy base in the Middle East, surrounded by thousands of U.S. sailors, just trying to get my snatch percentages in when my eyes fell upon him. This bearded man wearing Virus Int’l leggings, Reebok shorts, a C&K hat, and a Battle of the Beasts competitor tee, front squatting 405 for sets of 5. I knew I would love that man. And when we spoke, I didn’t understand a word he said because I was lost in his thick, and incredibly tantalizing, Irish accent. Oh yeah. Jackpot baby. The only thing I remember was us talking about doing Crossfit together, followed by him asking for my number. And just like that, the girl who had been wild and free in her independence, in her pursuit of the Lord, was suddenly 6 feet under, gasping for air. Falling deeper and deeper in love. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, and before I knew it, I was head over heels, in a way I had all but forgotten until now. We were the talk of the town – the poster children for the US Navy and Royal Navy. The power couple of Crossfit and Olympic Weightlifting. Spending our days lifting heavy, killing WOD’s, eating good food, seeing pretty places, drinking all the coffee, and losing ourselves in one another. I could see it all. All those hopes and dreams I once had of a future with John, I now saw reinvented with Paddy. All the partner competitions we would dominate in the U.K., all the adventures we would have along the Irish coast, all the love we had to build. And just as quickly as that love grew, so it got taken away. A few weeks before my return to the US, our relationship changed drastically. It became cold, distant, and impersonal. Our differences became vividly clear. And my heart began slowly breaking. And I had nothing to hold onto. My support system was thousands of miles away, my friends on base were all disappointed me because they had warned me of falling so hard for a guy just because of an accent and his status as an athlete, and I felt lost. He played me hot and cold for weeks. He loved me, he loved me not. Romantic weekend together, followed by ignoring me for days on end. Things got bad. Toxic. And then he gave me the best last week in Bahrain I could have asked for. Deep conversation was had, tears were shed, love was shared, and I truly, whole heartedly believed we would make it. I couldn’t wait until my trip to Ireland and the UK in July for us to be reunited. And then I discovered the truth. That he had been cheating on me all along. The real reason that we would never work. And I sank. I returned to the States with a gaping hole in my heart. I had allowed myself to fall in love for the first time since John, and my heart was completely broken – and I was left picking up the pieces once again. The difference this time? I had God. I knew no matter what, I had a God who loved me more than any person ever could and that was enough. I loved and I lost, but I learned so, so much.

Fast forward. Time heals all wounds. From May to July, I rebuilt my heart and my life. Stonger and better than ever. Ready to take on the Crossfit world and have the adventure of a lifetime on my solo trip to Europe. Just a girl, her backpack, and her weightlifting shoes. I knew noone, had no plan, no agenda, just travel dates and a very minimal savings. And I prayed. I prayed that I could love the way Jesus loves, and be a light. And I met the most incredible, hospitable people of my life. From Iceland, to Ireland, to Scotland, I fell in love with the people, the surroundings, and everything I experienced. I never have been subject to so much kindness, generosity, and hospitality from complete strangers! I trained at some amazing Crossfit gyms, I went on some unbelievable solo adventures, and I met the coolest people. I got to see places that look like I had jumped straight into a picture book. I was reunited with old friends, and made lifelong new ones. And after weeks of being strong in my singleness, after the funnest and most terrible athletic endeavor of my life, the Spartan Beast in Edinburgh, Scotland, a boy came along and blindsided me. A rescue mission to save me from the pouring rain and freezing cold, a team BBQ, fully equipped with your o’ so typical Saturday night Scottish knight fights and a couple pints of Guinness, a perfect weekend of adventuring and surprises that led to a story book first kiss atop Arthur’s Seat mountain with a professional photographer who just so happened to be there to capture the moment, and two more wonderful evenings together, once again, Jessy had fallen in love. For a girl who didn’t get thrown off balance often, within less than 6 months, here I was, trying to make a long distance relationship work with a boy with a silly accent. And once again, I thought it was real. It felt real. It felt genuine. It felt true. He had given me the sweetest, going away present, he sent me the most heartfelt messages, and within a few weeks, he had booked his trip to California to do the Spartan Race with me. We Facetimed almost daily and sent each other silly gifts. He remembered the little things. He restored my faith. He reignited my hope. I loved this man. I trusted and believed in him. My family and friends were eager to meet the silly Scottish boy that had won over my heart. I looked forward to our silly jokes and our daily conversations. I couldn’t wait for our road trip and for him to experience the awesome life us Californians get to live. But suddenly, I felt a very familiar distance settle in. Emotional distance is extremely more painful when there is 4000 miles of physical distance in the way as well. Days passed, weeks passed, phone calls became few and far between, text messages became impersonal and sporadic. When I would once wake up and go to bed being the first thing on his mind, suddenly I would see him viewing my Instagram story but ignoring my texts. Suddenly, minutes would turn to hours, which would turn to days without us speaking. And my heart was breaking. I tried everything to find middle ground. And all it did was cause deeper wounds and further tension. For weeks I prayed and hoped that something would give. That somehow that amazing man I had met and fallen in love with would come back to me… but he never did. When we did talk, it was pointed and hurtful. Defensive and cutting. My heart was breaking every day. And I was falling into a pit again. Like I did after John, like I did after Paddy, here I was. Lost, alone, and hurting. And so, so sad.

In this year alone, I have had my heart, completely, utterly, broken. I have cried more than I have in two years. I have binged, I have isolated myself, I have prayed, and I have been frustrated. I have felt more pain than I can remember. But you know what? I have felt more love than I ever have. With each relationship, I have loved deeper than before. With each experience, I have learned more than ever before. With each heartbreak, I have grown more dependent on God than ever before. God has taught me to love deeper, feel deeper, and hurt deeper than ever before. You better believe that I rather love deeply and feel everything, than whatever may be the alternative. I rather risk my heart and grow, than to be too afraid to ever know. Love may lead to pain, but pain leads to growth. Pastor Ray made a poignant point last weekend, he said we must never stop growing, never stop caring, never get distracted, and never get complacent. Without the pain, the heartache, guess what? We can easily stop growing! And when we do get our heartbroken, we can easily stop caring! And when we are in a relationship, we can EASILY become distracted, and we can easily become complacent! We need a catalyst of change in our lives to keep us on the right path! Sometimes that catalyst may come in the form of a major life transition, a new job or moving countries, but it may also, and usually comes in, the form of HEARTBREAK. In the #1 best selling hardcover book of all time, Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” there is an ENTIRE chapter dedicated to how we are “Transformed by Trouble.” He says, “God has purpose behind EVERY problem. He uses our problems to draws us closer to Him.” Listen to me friends, it is only in suffering, that we “know Jesus.” Warren goes on to say, “You will never know that God is all you need until God is all you’ve got.” It is in our pain, our suffering, our hurt, that we pray our most authentic prayers, that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to others, that we can truly face the things that are holding us back. Romans 8:28 reminds us “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him.” Let that sink in for a moment. It does not say everything in life will be good. It doesn’t say that bad things will not happen. It doesn’t say that you and I won’t be hurt. God says, that ALL things in our lives will work together for God’s plan. He will bring good out of any situation. Every single situation that we face, that we overcome, allows us to learn and grow.

I have loved deeply three times in my life. And I have had my heart, absolutely, completely devastated every time. Each time, I have wondered why it couldn’t work out, what was wrong with me, why I wasn’t enough, but each time has been an amazing opportunity to learn. Throughout each relationship I learned so much about life and love. I learned what I want and don’t want in a significant other, I learned things about myself that I like or dislike. Each time I have been able to look back and ask myself “did I stop growing? Am I going to stop caring? Did I get distracted? Am I becoming complacent?” And then I can answer those and say “no.” I am grateful for my struggles and the heartaches because they have shaped me into who I am.  I have to remind myself that at the end of the day, I have Jesus and that is more than ENOUGH. I am enough. There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). Our painful situations lead to self reflection and personal growth, dependence on God, gratitude in spite of pain, and opportunity for new and better things to come.

Would I grab coffee with any of those three men if they reached out to me? Absolutely. Do I still love them? I always will. Would I ever change my time with them? Not a chance. But would I go back? No. I wouldn’t. Even now, I still find myself wondering why I had to end things with John. Why I couldn’t have just been happy. Would we be happy now if we had gotten married? Would I have ended up doing all the amazing things I have had the opportunity to do these last 2.5 years? Would I have given my life to Jesus? I wonder why God allowed someone like Paddy into my life if all that would come out of it was hurt and destruction. But at the same time I still smile knowing I had the best training partner in my life and I would love to go back just to share Crossfit with him. And even now. I still have bad days. Days where all I want to do is text or call Johnny and ask what happened? What changed. And you know what? All of those thoughts are okay. It’s okay to wonder. It’s okay to be sad. It’s all okay because it is all going to be okay. Learn. Grow. Plant yourself in fertile soil and watch the beauty that emerges. Don’t stop loving. Love deeper, live more. Guess what, one day, you will meet someone. The right someone. And you two will love together and you will grow together. Just keep chasing God. ❤

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