Dating The Man Of My Dream

Dating_The_Man_Of_My_DreamFrom the moment Nathan told me that he wanted to date me, he switched into another gear. I never knew that dating and falling in love could feel so safe, so good and so intentional. With every day that went by, he methodically and gently pursued my heart. Never rushing anything, never putting pressure on any situation.

And for the first time, I realized I wasn’t leading the relationship. I wasn’t emotionally ahead of the man I was dating. Instead, I was alongside, at the same pace, moving with someone toward the same awesome, exciting thing.

On some level, I knew that Nathan wouldn’t have asked me to date him if he wasn’t already thinking about marriage. I knew that, as friends, I had come to mean a lot to him, and to risk that arbitrarily wasn’t something Nathan was willing to do.

With all the joy and love and excitement I was feeling, it would’ve been easy to rush things and let my heart take off with all the possibilities that now seemed to be coming to fruition. But during the year of silence and during the year of friendship, I learned to hide my heart in Christ—in His plan, in His timing, in His care. I didn’t learn this absolutely, but I learned it well enough to be able to practice it as I stepped back and God unfolded the relationship for me.

For six months, Nathan and I dated and never once did I mention marriage. We talked generally of the future and what sort of houses we liked or how many children we wanted. We talked about perspectives on the parts of life we found most valuable—things like, if either of us had children they would have to love the Georgia Bulldogs and listen to Coldplay. We talked about what-ifs and why-nots. But never once about our (inevitable) wedding. I never left a hint. I didn’t look at rings. I didn’t talk about weddings. And I did this on purpose.

Until I heard from Nathan on any subject about our future, I didn’t let myself wander there. I stayed in the moment, in the now—hoping, for sure, but still—enjoying every sweet, thoughtful, microscopically meaningful—to me—moment . . . something I didn’t know how to do before. In this, I found God’s peace and safety, and I basked in the warmth of knowing—and feeling to the deepest core of what I wasn’t yet—that I was exactly in the point in time that God carefully and strategically designed for me and only me. I felt, more than any other time in life, that I was in the flow of God’s will for my life. To be in tune with the Lord is something most precious and only a small glimmer of what being fully restored in Him will feel like some day.

Because I was so in the moment, I didn’t see it coming when he asked me to marry him. Not even a little bit.

At the least, I figured Nathan and I would date for a year before we would talk about marriage. So, on March 15, 2012, not even six months after beginning our courtship, I was oblivious to his creation of a ruse in the form of a portrait sitting—with his sister as the photographer—at our favorite hiking spot.

Earlier that day, when my coworker, Ryan, asked what I was doing that evening, I told him that Nathan had called to ask if his sister could practice her photography on us at the waterfalls near the covered bridge on Concord Road. Upon hearing this, Ryan said, “He’s going to ask you to marry him.” To which I scoffed and said: “No, way. We’re a long way from that. It’ll probably be another six months before we talk about that.” And with that, I literally put it out of my mind. No joke, no exaggeration. I didn’t think about it again.

When I arrived at Nathan’s house, his sister was already there and was helping him find a shirt to wear. Soon enough, we loaded in my car and drove to a parking lot near the covered bridge and waterfalls. We walked down the trail, then trudged through the woods and undergrowth to find a way to the beautiful rocks around the waterfalls.

As Nathan and I got into position to begin the photography session, he insisted that I be on a rock that placed me higher than him. And I absolutely didn’t want to do it. I told him it would look weird and disproportionate and it wouldn’t make a good picture and all of the other things I said in order to prove my rightness and get my way. But he would have none of it. I think I recall he literally lifted me up on the rock. And as I protested, he started to step back. Still completely unaware of what was happening, I asked him where he was going and what he was doing . . . when I caught the movement of his hand reaching into his pocket.

I don’t remember precisely what he said as he pulled out a shiny bursting-with-meaning adornment. Something about so happy, spend the rest of our lives . . . and that’s when the graceful, beautiful, dainty, delicate-as-a-flower Jen came out and shouted: “HOLY $#!^! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” Hands over the face, shouting, incredulous, looking at his sister, looking at him laughing at me, the ring he held out, and me shouting, “HOLY $#!^!”

I’m sorry. I know that was disgraceful. One, for using the word holy, and two, for pairing it with a curse word. But I’m just being for real here. Getting engaged on Thursday, March—beware the ides—15 was about the fourth from the last thing I ever expected. And the surprise and shock of it all brought out probably my truest, most human self.

It was maybe thirty seconds before I realized that I hadn’t said “Yes” and the Bauble Of Tremendous Meaning wasn’t yet on my finger. So, I said my most favorite “yes” to that point in my life and held out my hand. The ring went on, the kiss happened and then the most fun pictures commenced.

It was a good day. A day full of beautiful and joyful things. Another day showcasing God’s mercy, love and faithfulness.

Read our story from the beginning:
how we met
a dream about my husband
between the dream and dating
meeting my husband again
we tried to date but didn’t
a year of silence
how we became friends again

©2015 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

How My Husband And I Became Friends

How_My_Husband_And_I_Became_FriendsA week into my renewed friendship with Nathan and I was in deep trouble.

After a year of silence between us, we’d gone to a Georgia Bulldogs’ football game together where we laughed and talked and were extraordinarily comfortable with one another.

All the cells in my heart and mind were screaming: WE SHOULD BE DATING! The cells in my tummy and elsewhere were screaming: CHOCOLATE! Which is what they always scream.

And I told him that about a week later—about the dating, not the chocolate.

He explained and repeated that he didn’t. want. a girlfriend. And really, we could’ve skipped all of that part anyway. Let’s just go straight to marriage! No, I wasn’t that crazy. I did not say that to him.

So, weeks turned into months, and our friendship became rather solid. We saw each other about once a week, talked three or four times a week and had some great conversations. Sounds like dating, doesn’t it? It might. But the key difference was that Nathan was very conscientious and intentional about guarding my heart.

I made it no secret that I wanted to date him. Many lesser men could’ve taken advantage of that in part or in whole in order to feed their own self-esteem. Nathan didn’t. He said nothing and did nothing to appeal to my heart, to lead me on or make me think that something was happening besides what was really happening: friendship. He treated me with the utmost respect at all times, as any man should treat a woman.

Around the middle of June 2011, I peeked out from under the scales on my eyes and began truly believing that friendship is all there would ever be between us. And because I still ever-so-much wanted to get married, I decided to jump into the online dating pool with a cannonball as my opening dive.

Profiles were filled out, free trials were exhausted, and the rubber met the road as I pulled out my debit card to sign up . . . for real . . . but only for the cheap three-month packages. I made myself a rule that I would go on at least two dates with anyone who asked before making any ultimate judgements on compatibility.

Fortunately, two or three guys did want to go on more than one date with me and even one guy took me on three dates! And throughout all of this dating, I still maintained a friendship with Nathan, though I spared him stories from my dating drama.

As the summer of 2011 began to wind down, I planned for one big jam-packed, over the top, blow your socks off, birthday extravaganza for Nathan. In a way, I could see our time hanging out was coming to a close. Of course, we’d always be friends, but I could tell that something was shifting. I was giving up on Nathan being the man of my dreams. I’d come to consider that the dream I’d had, which I believed revealed him as my future husband, may have been a dream about God and how He has every. single. thing. in my life taken care of—that I was to rest in faith knowing that God had a plan. And with that new perspective on my dream came abiding joy and peace. It was not a resignation. It was not a demotion. It wasn’t a change of plans. It wasn’t a rationalization to ease the loss of the idea of Nathan as my husband. Rather, it was the lightest, most hopeful perspective I’d had in a long time. I became unshakably assured that there was life after the dream.

I didn’t know it at the time, but things were shifting for Nathan as well. A few weeks after the Spectacular Spectacular birthday extravaganza, something about Nathan’s words and actions became more. There seemed to be a different kind of energy building, but I wasn’t sure what it was or why—and I didn’t ask.

Now, Nathan and I are both exuberant Coldplay fans. We’ve seen them several times, have their songs as our ringtones, and generally geek out over anything they release. On September 24, 2011, Coldplay was headlining the Saturday of the three-day event, Mid Town Music Festival in Piedmont Park. Nathan and I had tickets.

As per usual when we hung out in Atlanta, I drove down from my house—because I lived far north of the city—to his house which was about 20 minutes from any events we’d ever want to go to in Atlanta.

When I arrived at his house, he was sitting on the couch watching TV. He was clearly not ready to go. He motioned for me to come in, I did and eased down onto the sofa. We chatted for a second and I just kept wondering: Why aren’t you getting ready? It was then that he turned off the TV, placed the remote control on the coffee table and turned to me.

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot,” he said. “I mean, really a lot. . . . And I . . . would like . . . to date.”

In the nanosecond between his words and their registration in the auditory cortex of my temporal lobe, I squashed any hope, any assumption, even any registration of emotion and told myself: “He’s not talking about you. He’s ready to get out there and date and he’s letting you know because he knows how you feel about him. Be cool. You’re okay with this. You’re dating around too.”

And on the tail end of that lengthy internal monologue, I said—as unaffected as possible—”Oh, that’s great,” and smiled. To which he urgently responded, “You. I would like to date you.” To which I responded: “OH! That’s great! Okay!”

And so, that’s how we came to build a friendship, how I gave up on the dream, and how we had our second first date of our relationship at a Coldplay concert.

Read our story from the beginning:
how we met
a dream about my husband
between the dream and dating
meeting my husband again
we tried to date but didn’t
a year of silence

©2015 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

A Year Of Silence Between Us

177233425So, what do you do when the guy your dream revealed would one day be your husband, and who you were actually seeing—on the verge of dating, even—tells you that he doesn’t like you like that?

After Nathan and I stopped seeing each other at the end of July 2009, I knew that I needed to completely block him out. I needed to completely regroup. I’d had a DREAM. A very specific, very important, very life-defining dream that God gave to me. And now, it looked like I had been very, very wrong. I was afraid I was crazy. I was afraid I didn’t know the voice of God. I was afraid I’d made it up. I was afraid it would never come true. I was afraid I’d never get married.

I leaned in to my relationship with God more than ever. I worshiped for hours each week, read Scripture every day, journaled until my hands were cramped, attended Bible studies each week, went on retreats. And prayed. And prayed. And prayed. And I heard from God, and my relationship with God grew, and He ultimately healed my heart. He restored my hope, calmed my fears, worked through me in spite of myself, and renewed a steadfast spirit within me. I prayed for the renewal of my mind, and He gave it to me. Even now, tears come to my eyes when I think about all the things God gave me over the course of that year—how He poured into me every single thing I asked for: peace, mercy, hope, love, joy, courage, strength, comfort, grace, and so much more. There was no good thing that God withheld from me; His generosity was, and still is, overwhelming.

Though I prayed to move on, deep in my heart I stubbornly held on to the dream God had given me years before. I just knew there had to be a way for it to work out.

And during this year of leaning into God, reordering my heart and renewing my mind, I kept an eye on Nathan from afar. Yes . . . I Facebook-stalked him. He knows this. And even when I was doing it, he knew it.

For a long time, I would check Nathan’s page three, four, okay, fifteen times a day. But as the year wore on, I checked it less and less. Until I finally stopped focusing on what didn’t happen, what I didn’t have, and what I wasn’t.

That year of silence between Nathan and I has been one of the most important years of my life in terms of spiritual growth. And even for all of the pain I felt at the time, I wouldn’t trade it. That was the year that God built a faith in me and a strength in me that could come about no other way. And I’m grateful.

The year of silence between us ended by my own hand.

First, you have to know that I’m a devout and loyal Georgia Bulldogs fan. Go DAWGS! And a friend of mine had tickets to a Georgia game in Athens, Georgia, for a game only two days away. I just had to go, but I didn’t have anyone to go with. I could’ve gone alone, but I was nervous to do so for an event so far from my home.

I called my dad. He couldn’t go because he was out of town. I called my girlfriends. None of them could go. I called my best guy friends, none of them could go. I called thirteen of my most important people over the course of Thursday and Friday night. And no one could go.

Friday evening, around 7:30 p.m. (the game was at 12:30 p.m. the next day), I asked myself if it was possible for me to hang out with Nathan again and only be friends. I quickly decided that it was possible. So, I texted him this: “Random question: would you be interested in going to the Georgia game with me tomorrow? It’s a free ticket.”

Not five minutes later, he called me. Yikes! Cue the nerves and the hands shaking and the awkward pacing around the house as I answered the phone and tried to sound aloof, cool . . . unaffected. He said, yes, he wanted to go, but had to get his dives covered at the Georgia Aquarium for the next day (Nathan is a volunteer diver at the Georgia Aquarium. How cool is that, right?), and he would let me know. A short time later, he called and said that he’d gotten his dives taken care of and that he’d pick me up in the morning to drive to Athens.

Awesome! A new attempt at being “just friends” with Nathan. Except, when I saw him standing in my doorway the next morning, my heart revealed that my interest in him would not be confined to friendship. The reality was, nothing had changed for him—he still only wanted a friendship. Would I be able to set my feelings aside, even remove them completely, and move on? Yes . . . and no.

Read our story from the beginning:
how we met
a dream about my husband
between the dream and dating
meeting my husband again
we tried to date but didn’t

©2015 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

How To Break Up Before You Start Dating

How-To-Break-Up-Before-You-Start-DatingMy whirlwind romance with Nathan was supposed to begin immediately following our reunion at Kim’s house—Nathan’s cousin, and one of my bestest friends (she’s got dirt on me and said I could use her name in this story. Thanks, Kim!). I mean, we knew each other fifteen years ago, I’d had a dream where God had revealed Nathan would be my husband, and now—through the miracle of Facebook—I was reunited with him and his cousins. Happy day!

But . . . crickets.

Maybe I was hoping that Nathan would ask for my number at family lunch (yeah, right) or that he would at least ask Kim to get my number for him. But that didn’t happen. In hindsight, a healthy evaluation of expectations would’ve come in handy.

Instead, I spent months talking about him, wondering about him, scheming about him, and praying about him, wondering how I could put myself in his path so he could—of course—fall head over heels in love with me and ask me to marry him. God told me it was gonna happen!

Alas, after months, I finally was encouraged—to the point of beatings if I didn’t—by some friends to ask him out. So, I did. Via email. Because I was super confident and sophisticated and not at all scared out of my mind to talk to him on the phone and be faced with possible rejection.

I sent the email. I waited. I checked email. I saw his name. I closed email.

It had actually happened. I sent him an email. He read it. And sent an email in response. After freaking out for a few minutes, I opened my email again, clicked on his name to open his email, and with one eye closed I read his response: “Sure, that sounds like fun.”

Details were established, times set, wardrobe shopping commenced.

Our very first date was to a Jason Mraz concert at The Tabernacle in Atlanta on November 29, 2008, with dinner prior at Ted’s Montana Grill across the street.

Everything about that night was awesome and comfortable and easy and so very significant. And when we parted ways, he said: “That was fun; we should hang out again.” To which I confidently, excitedly and maybe a little too quickly said: “YesI’dlikethatlet’sdoit.”

And then I didn’t hear from him until Christmas Eve at which time I received a “Merry Christmas” text. I texted back, of course. And that was all there was.

Thankfully, Kim was well aware of my crush on Nathan and helped me along as she could, including inviting me to family gatherings around the holidays where he was required by family law to be. One of those events was a Christmas party to which I brought Paula Deen’s Three Cheese Hot Artichoke Dip, and where he sang Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” to me and told me he had memorized the whole song. Swoon and faint and swoon and faint!

As we left that family party, because I’m totally patient and willing to let things unfold naturally, I asked him out again. In person, like adults do. To Cirque Du Soleil at Atlantic Station the following week. He said YES!

Details were established, times set, wardrobe shopping commenced.

And to my surprise and delight—which was, by the way, way before that phrase became a marketing cliché—Nathan called the next day and lined up another outing together.

And from January through April, 2009, Nathan and I traded back and forth, the setting up of “dates” between friends who flirted and sometimes held hands.

Ladies, please know that, yes, I was all kinds of confused and knotted up mentally over these goings-ons. Nathan and I had a great friendship and I believed a chemistry and attraction for one another, but there were no moves made on either side to take us to the next level—where kissing would happen.

That is, until May 2, 2009, when sitting on his couch in the afternoon, watching a movie and about to head out to dinner he sat forward, leaned around and gave me a big ole smooch! To which I thought: This is it! This is it! The dream is coming true! How awesome! Let’s get married! My weekends in June are clear!

But things weren’t exactly smooth. I was probably acting a lot weird because I knew many important and gargantuan things about our future that he didn’t know, and we didn’t communicate well, and sometimes we went for weeks without talking to each other. And finally, in July, 2009, whatever it was that we were doing—dating, hanging out, seeing each other, whatever it was—came to a screeching halt.

See, Nathan was at a point when he wasn’t actually interested in having a girlfriend—not even one that was God-ordained, apparently. And it wasn’t even that Nathan didn’t want to see me anymore. He did want to see me, but just as friends. Then and now, I realize that he let me down sweetly and gently . . . but it hurt as badly as one thousand cardboard paper cuts—not only on your finger, but on your hopes and dreams as well.

Because, see, I’d been given this thing, this vision—a DREAM that God had set Nathan aside just for me. For me. And I had all this hope and all this expectation and all this love ready to give, and it came to an end. And I couldn’t be wrong about this. I just couldn’t. It was from God, wasn’t it? How could we break up before we even started dating?

Read our story from the beginning:
how we met
dream about my husband
between the dream and dating
meeting my husband again

©2015 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

Meeting My Husband For The Second Time

meeting-my-husband-for-the-second-timeBy now, I’ve written about how I met Nathan, how I had a dream about my future husband, and what happened in the years between the dream and reuniting with him.

When I learned that Nathan was single, I was thrilled, but tried to act normal as I spoke with his cousin. I’m sure the pitch of my voice jumped into first soprano register as I said, “Oh, really?”

As I tried to figure out how to get reunited with Nathan—because I thought I could and should be in control of making this important thing happen—I heard my friend inviting me to family dinner on Saturday . . . where Nathan would be in attendance.

What to wear?

We all know that’s one of the main things to obsess over when meeting the man of, literally, your dreams. That, and wondering what’s the best liquid diet to abuse for the next week to drop some pounds before the Big Meeting.

But relax, I didn’t throw my physical health into jeopardy. My self-confidence was in place. I didn’t even buy anything new to wear. What I did do was pray. In fact, I came closer to adhering to the biblical instruction of “pray continuously” than any other time in my life! Reuniting with Nathan again and having a dream tucked in my heart was a large burden to bear. I told my coworkers, “I feel like I know something about him that no one else knows.” It was a strange feeling.

Finally, the day of the family meal arrived. When I pulled up in my 10-year-old, paint-peeling-off-of-it, no-wheel-covers, PAID-FOR Sentra, I scanned the cars in the driveway and tried to ascertain which one he might drive. The only car that even looked remotely his teenage-style (because surely he still wore steel-toed boots and baseball caps) was an SUV. But it was a wimpy SUV so that caused me to question who he might’ve become—all of this based on a car that maybe he drove. I walked to the door, rang the bell, was greeted by his cousin, walked in and . . . he wasn’t there yet.

For an introvert, this is great. This way, I could establish comfort with my surroundings without his witness. I could catch up with everyone and establish security so that it would be easier and faster to establish stability and security with him when he arrived.

And then he arrived. Nathan the man, not the kid, and not the teenager I last saw. This was Nathan, the bearded, tall, broad, handsome, strong, talented (he brought baked nachos to the meal) man. Whew! The first sighting was over. The “Hi’s” exchanged. The awkward side hug—oh, but I fit just perfect there! And the bobbing and nodding of heads as “How are yous” and “Goods” were exchanged.

And then I moved away from him. Because nerves. And catch my breath. And calm down!

Then he sat next to me with his plate of food, and though I can’t remember now what he said, he clearly, and cleverly zinged me. And it began, flirting by way of poking fun at each other. The only seventh-grade thing we didn’t do was hit each other.

We talked for a good while, even after most of his family had gone. His cousin, obviously aware of how I felt about Nathan when we were teens and now seeing our interaction, did her best to persuade Nathan to go to the movies with her, her husband and me. He was unable to, due to prior commitments.

I was disappointed. After all, I’d had a very vivid, precise dream. He was supposed to fall for me today. Our romance was supposed to just . . . start. I write those last couple of sentences tongue-in-cheek. I wasn’t forward-thinking enough at the time to truly set expectations for myself and for our first meeting in 15 years. I didn’t think I had any, but, based on my disappointment and my nervousness over how to make this love affair a reality, I did. It would’ve saved me some worry and wrestling with God if I had written down my expectations for that first meeting and for pretty much all the interactions I had with him for nearly the next year.

Read our story from the beginning:
how we met
dream about my husband
between the dream and dating
meeting my husband again

©2015 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

Weight Loss Won’t Solve the Problem That Plagues You

Weight Loss Won't Solve the Problem That Plagues You

In 2008, I weighed 100 pounds more than what my BMI said I should. Disruptive and difficult things were happening in late 2007 and into 2008, and I slowly began losing weight.

After losing about 15 pounds, I plateaued for about a year. Plateaued is a nice word for stopped-trying-and-luckily-didn’t-gain-weight. But in 2008, I knew I had to change if I was going to have the future I always envisioned.

So, I flipped the switch in my brain and wanted health more than I wanted anything else. Without saying it audibly, I told myself, This, That, and The Other will all be solved when I lose the weight.

It’s taken six years for me to lose 70 pounds and maintain it. That’s a turtle-race kind of timeframe—that’s not even 12 pounds a year.

In reality, it’s a good thing it took that long. For one, research says that taking weight off slowly means you’ll actually keep it off. And that’s been true—except for the first year of marriage when I put on the newlywed 15. But I digress.

Additionally, taking the weight off slowly allowed me to manage expectations over time, and the struggle to maintain consistency matured me and taught me how to manage my thoughts and perspectives. Did I want to lose 70 pounds in six months? Absolutely. I see it as a blessing that I didn’t. I probably would’ve crashed and burned, and would’ve gained it back the following six months.

So, when I arrived at the 70-pound loss, I realized that This, That, and The Other didn’t get solved for a while. And it was frustrating. Weren’t girls this new-to-me size supposed to have boyfriends, better attitudes, be happier, have better cars, nicer clothes and less worries?

After grumbling through this in my brain for a while, I had to change my perspective—to accept that not all of my problems would disappear with the weight. Rather, I’d need to unravel what I thought about myself, my worth and my appearance. And fortunately, this time—I attribute this to age—I didn’t navel gaze. I accepted that what I thought was going to happen didn’t happen, and I determined how to move forward and to get out of life what I wanted.

I’ve heard of others who were not as fortunate to bounce back from the disappointment of unsolved problems that weight loss was supposed to solve. They lost significant amounts of weight in short amounts of time and lost themselves. What they thought weight loss was going to solve, didn’t get solved, and they were wrecked to learn that they had internal work to do.

I didn’t lose weight slowly on purpose. But in hindsight, I’m glad it happened that way. Weight loss didn’t solve the problems that plagued me. But the struggle, the renewal of my mind, the persistence and the gradual results appropriately paced a total transformation. And suddenly those plaguing problems didn’t bother me anymore.

Has there been anything in your life you’ve changed because you thought it would solve all your problems? What happened? What did you learn?

©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

Running Lessons in Self-Esteem and Vulnerability

Running Lessons in Self-Esteem and VulnerabilityYou could say I’m into social media. I have accounts on all of the main share-my-life portals and even on some of the not-so-main ones. Based on my social media presence, you might think that my life is an open book. And that’s what many on social media like for others to think. Many of us, however, are very precise about what of our lives we share and what we guard. Mostly, for me, I guard stuff of which I’m self-conscious.

For instance, you may have seen that I post about running. Though you could probably dig into my online profiles a little bit to find out how fast of a runner I am, or how far I’m able to run, I try not to publish that information directly to social media. I’m still a running-work-in-progress. So, when I hit the goal I’m seeking, then I’ll post it to all of social media!

One of the not-so-main social media apps I use is called Strava. It maps my runs, and tells me what my times are for various distances, what the elevations are, and what my pace is. It also keeps track of the races I run. I can save running routes and track my pace progress as I run those routes.

People who have the app can follow other users of the app. Currently, I follow only two or three people. And typically on these apps, I keep my profile private so that others can’t follow me unless I approve their follow request. With Strava, I decided to be somewhat bold and keep my profile public for other registered users of the app. I didn’t know of any friends who used the app, so I thought that my public profile would be somewhat private since only registered users could access profiles.

A few months ago, I was faced with the reality of this running insecurity when a friend started following me on Strava. This is someone who I am inspired by, who I’ve always held in high regard—she was now going to be able to see a vulnerable part of me. At my age, you’d think insecurities would be a thing of the past—in a lot of ways, they are. But my current running achievements are not something I’m proud of. For instance, I feel like I’m lying if I tell someone I ran a half-marathon. In truth, I completed a half-marathon by walking approximately three of the thirteen miles. So, I didn’t run it completely—I’ve bought into the lie that it’s less of an achievement if I didn’t run the whole thing.

It’s a small thing, right? My contribution to running as a sport won’t likely be consequential. This realization makes me wonder: Is that what I’m doing it for? To make some sort of mark?

In short, no, I’m not looking to make a mark.

Having a friend follow me on Strava has challenged my insecurities and has helped me realize that it’s not running I’m trying to conquer. Rather, I use running as a tool to conquer things within me. I’m slow, yes. Sometimes I have to walk. Often, I want to quit. Lately, I haven’t run at all. But when I run, I say things to myself that I don’t say enough to myself: “I’ve got this;” “Keep going;” “I’m strong;” “I’m in charge of my body;” and other self-affirming mantras. And when I meet whatever daily or weekly running goal, there isn’t another feeling like it—because somewhere in the middle of that run or that training schedule, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. But I did.

©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

A Letter to a Teenage Niece

A Letter to a Teenage NieceMy nieces are growing up faster than I’d like to realize. One minute they’re six, the next minute they’re driving and dating and rolling their eyes—in a bad way.

My oldest niece turned 14 last month. She’s beautiful, tall, innocent, sweet and thoughtful. It’s a beautiful time to watch her grow. It’s also probably a nerve-wracking time for her parents. As I wonder what she’ll experience as she grows and matures, there are a few things I’d like to tell her. . . .

Madison, I am so proud of who you are—your effort in school, your compassion, your musical talent, and the development of your friendships.

You should know, above all things, that you have a heavenly Father who made you, who loves you and who wants to be your friend forever. You can know Him and communicate with Him personally. He will not fail you. There will be many times when you’ll wonder what He’s doing in your life, or why something did or didn’t happen. Trust that He is good, and He fulfills His promises. Remember the times in your life when His power, goodness, grace, mercy and love were evident to you—you’ll need to remember those times when your world gets rocked. Until that time, be grateful, abounding in joy—He is constantly moving to be closer to you. Let Him in to every part of your life—school, dating, family, health, finances, all of it. Read the Bible cover to cover, and read books about Him. Ask that He will reveal Himself to you. He will! Ask Him to speak to you and He will! Ask Him for wisdom, discernment and mercy. He will give them! And learn to wait on Him well. Wait on Him with an attitude of positivity, not one of a petulant, pouting child as I have often done. Resist temptation; and when you don’t know how, call His name. There is power in the name of Jesus.

Know your worth. You are a child of the most-high God. You were chosen, hand-picked to be who you are. Your name is written on the palms of His hands; you are His. You are worthy of love, respect and honor. Resist those who knowingly or unknowingly try to bring you down, to make you less than you are. Create boundaries physically and emotionally of what you will allow in your life and what you will keep out of your life. Any pressure you feel from others to be less than you are or want to be is only that—a feeling. It is not real. What’s real is what God says about you. Ask Him what He thinks of you. He will tell you!

Remember that you are in charge of the way you think. You can choose things that bring life—hope, love, faith, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, etc.—or you can choose things that bring despair, like anger, doubt, insecurity, and greed. You have the ability to train your mind to think good thoughts, to dwell on good things. Practice now to think on good things.

Do not follow your heart willy-nilly. You’ll hear the “follow your heart” mantra again and again. Instead, follow your heart when you’re sure that there are good things in your heart that are leading you. These good things get into your heart when you put them there. Read Scripture, talk to God, worship, share with others, and practice serving, giving, and loving in the context of community.

Scripture says that the heart of man is deceitful. Time and again the Bible talks about guarding your heart or putting the right things in your heart. When your heart pulls you one way, examine it, even if for only a moment. Check the pull of your heart against what the Holy Spirit says about the situation. Then follow, or don’t. Don’t rely solely on emotions in any situation. Make it a practice to incorporate your brain. You’ll miss experiencing a lot of craziness if you balance yourself.

Be spontaneous and grasp opportunities! Now is the time to think about what you want your life to be about—even though you’re only 14. If you start thinking about it in college or even after you’ve graduated from college, then you may have missed some things. I’m not talking about being some super-focused brainiac who racks up scholastic achievements (though that’s not a bad thing). I’m simply talking about deciding whether you want to take time off from college and travel, or study abroad or start your own business. Decide if you want to be a daredevil and pursue kayaking, sky diving, scuba diving, rock climbing or hang gliding. If you have some things in mind that you want to do before you die, I suggest writing them down and trying to do them before you get married, or before you have kids, or before your kids graduate from college. Get some fun life events under your belt early and often—they will develop your personality and interests.

And finally, your family and I love you more than you’ll ever fully grasp—and that’s how it’s supposed to be. When you crash and burn or get in trouble or make a bad choice, we’ll all be there to pick you up, comfort you and move you back to functioning. It’s what families do. Don’t feel guilty about it or uncomfortable. Lean on us when you’re in need. We are your support and your resources. What we have, you have. There is no end to our love and our belief in you.

With all peace, love and hope, your aunt,

©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

6 Tips for Family History Interviews

6 Tips for Family History InterviewsOnly recently am I coming to understand and recognize my passion for family history. Growing up, it was not uncommon for unofficial family reunions of 100 Dortches to descend upon a central homestead several times a year. We love a good gathering. As the older generations have passed on, it’s hard not to notice that our gatherings are sometimes smaller and less frequent. Realizing that times are changing has pressed me toward taking action on some of the family-centric projects I’ve delayed for years.

Since I first watched my grandmother draw out a beautiful tree on a piece of notebook paper—to which she labeled (from memory) six generations of our family—I’ve known that having roots is important. From the slide shows my grandfather conducted on most Friday nights, I learned that recording memories made connections between others.

I’m only now slowing down enough to realize that my projects of recording my family history, tracing my family tree, and establishing my own family traditions, are passions that have lain dormant for too long.

Several months ago, I set out to video a series of interviews with my dad. His thoughts on life and his memories provide treasured insights for me and future generations of my family. In a previous post, I listed the questions I compiled from my online research that I used as a guideline to spark my father’s memories.

However, having a comprehensive list of questions and barreling through them is not going to make for a good interview. Recording memories is a marathon, not a sprint.

Provided below are six guidelines I used while interviewing my dad. I implore you to make these ideas your own, print the questions from my previous post, and learn about yourself and your family through this process.

1)   No pressure; be conversational! Your father or grandmother may feel nervous to be on camera. Therefore, it’s a good idea to establish a no pressure attitude. Reassure them, that this is not a one-way street—they will not be expected to recite their life story from beginning to end without stopping. Rather, this is a time of conversation, to learn more about family and to document unique memories. As the interviewer, and as the person in relationship to the subject, you have the ability to discern what questions to skip and which questions to reword. Use your knowledge of the subject to banter and engage during the question-answer process. This will make the event a conversation instead of a documentary.

2)   Ask them to tell the stories you’ve heard but can’t quite remember. There will be some stories that you remember hearing from your subject that aren’t related to the list of questions you’ve compiled. Ask for permission to talk about various stories and ask them to fill in the details you’ve forgotten.

3)   Be in a good space. You want everyone involved to be comfortable. I’ve found it best to place the camera to the side and not directly in front of the subject. It usually provides a more complimentary viewing angle, and it’s less intimidating than a straight-on shot. Make sure the subject is in a comfy chair, has water accessible to them, is comfortable with the temperature and feels at home. Also, be sure the lighting is not glaring into their eyes and isn’t too hot. Indirect lighting, bouncing off of white walls, or even makeshift reflective boards can be used to diffuse light.

4)   Take breaks. This will be a lengthy process. There will be many tangents, and you’ll unearth memories that are emotional. Take a break every hour to stand up, walk around, get a drink, eat a snack, etc. The breaks will help keep the emotions at bay, and will provide the brain a few minutes to rest.

5)   Be spontaneous. Memories often spark memories, so be prepared to be spontaneous. Know that your subject is going to wander after many rabbit trails. And that’s great! You want those stories and memories that you haven’t heard before; you want those insights. Don’t get bent out of shape because you’re not “sticking to the script” of your questions list. Engage your subject with questions about their tangent. This proves your interest and validates the importance of what they’re sharing. Also, be aware that some questions may get answered because of a tangent on a previous question. No worries, skip ahead and adapt. And it’s perfectly acceptable to take a moment—while the camera rolls—to find your place, or make adaptations to your interview plan. This is not a film festival entry . . . unless it is. But, there’s editing.

6)   Roll with the emotions. Things will get emotional. Have a discrete box of tissues within sight of the subject. If tears emerge, he or she can see to grab one if needed. It would be best not to point out the tissues or hand them over. Allow the subject to feel what they are feeling and to reach for a tissue on their timeline. If you’re able to, remain calm and breathe deeply so that you can support your subject through the difficult memory. Once their story or this emotional moment is passed, take a break for a few minutes and regroup.

Have you interviewed a family member? How did it go? What did you learn?


©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

Between the Dream and the Dating

Between the Dream and the Dating

Why would anyone doubt God after they’d asked for and received a vision of their future? Why would anyone return to a pit after they’d seen a vision of the mountaintop?

There is no lack of reasons for why I didn’t trust what God had shown me in a dream about Nathan. But chief among them is that I wasn’t much for standing on my faith back then. In those days, I believed when I saw proof—seeing was believing. And for a long time, the scenery around me didn’t change. I was in direct opposition to what Hebrews 11:1 says: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see,” (NIV).

To understand the Marianna Trench depth from whence my life has come, I have to tell you a little about the story with my ex-boyfriend—the eight years of on-again-off-again. I don’t care to dredge up details or disclose names, so you’ll find that I skim over a lot. But I want you to have an idea that I was a mess back then, involved with someone just as messy.

He was the first guy to intentionally pursue a relationship with me rather than “fall in” to a relationship with me by default, familiarity or boredom. He was charming and witty and loved by many. From the outset, I was uneasy and felt like I “shouldn’t” date him . . . for reasons ranging from social to spiritual to emotional to factual.

Because I wanted a relationship so badly, and because I thought I knew that he loved me, we started dating. Weeks later, I broke up with him but we kept hanging out as friends.

As in everything, I prayed fervently for clarity. During a prayer retreat in Jacksonville, Fla., God impressed on me very clearly that I should stay away from this man. So, I did. And for a while, I was able to refrain from our friendship. However, eventually, we started hanging out again. Soon, my conflicted feelings returned—until I literally told God to leave me alone about this relationship. Within days of rejecting God’s leading, we returned to dating.

I realize now that our relationship was never fully what I wanted it to be—I was never fully who I wanted to be within that relationship. The way we worked didn’t really work. But I was too insecure and too scared of being alone that I ignored what I wanted and who I was; I made the relationship work as well as I could.

In the last years of our relationship, I was clearly being strung along—I even knew it myself. And I accepted my place on his line because I thought he’d grow up and change and be the man I thought I’d seen glimpses of—restoring our relationship and moving toward marriage.

How dysfunctional is all that, right? Oh, goodness.

Even though I was in counseling this whole time, things were not untangling (that didn’t happen until much later and via a form of counseling called Trauma Resolution Therapy. You can check out a book about it called Stop Treating Symptoms and Start Resolving Trauma.). As I was going through those years of back-and-forth with my ex, I perceived myself as strong, confident and faithful. Those were façades I portrayed, disguising my internal, psychological survival.

So, during the time between the dream (2006) to the time I reconnected with Nathan (2008), I was not dating my ex, but we had a relationship—he was the fisherman, I was the fish on his line. All of this, DESPITE the fact that I asked God for a dream and He gave me one.

For months after the dream, I grieved the lost relationship and denied my desperate urgings to contact my ex-boyfriend who was then living out-of-state. But something must’ve been missing from his new life because he sought me out again. Despite knowing he wasn’t good for me, I grabbed hold of the line and sought to wait out his relational immaturity.

Over the next two years—as I thought we were building a new friendship, as we traveled and visited one another, as we talked for hours on the phone, as we treated one another as significant others—I was hopeful that we’d work things out, get married and finally start a life together.

But every once in a while, I’d hear from other friends that he was seeing someone. When confronted, he denied it and reassured me that he wasn’t ready for a relationship—that he wanted to continue building our relationship. I opened my wallet and bought what he was selling.

Then, in 2008, my relationship with my ex felt like it was on an upward, positive swing. It seemed that we were on a path to reconciliation. So much so, that I planned to travel to spend my birthday with him. I daringly thought that we would reconcile over my birthday weekend.

Two days before my roommate and I were to depart (she was coming with me), my ex called to tell me he was interested in someone.

I told him to get lost, slammed down the phone, canceled my trip and never talked to him again!

No, that’s not what happened. My roommate and I . . . went on the trip anyway. Collective groan here, right? But that trip literally changed my life.

Maybe I was a little psychotic on that trip. Okay, a lot psychotic—I literally snooped all around his house. You wouldn’t believe the evidence I found of exactly how much he cheated on me while we really were dating and when we were pseudo-dating. I confronted him, he couldn’t deny it and he suggested we take a break. He suggested it, and I realized: I was done with breaks. I told him: “All the times before, when we would ‘take a break,’ I never felt like it was truly over between us. I always knew we’d get back together or make something work. But this feels final. It’s over.” Something in him still wanted to keep the hook in me that I was ripping out of my heart, and he asked if we could be friends someday. To which I replied: “I don’t want to talk to you for at least two years, and maybe not even then.”

Bless my roommate. Through this tumultuous trip, she had to scoop up all my feelings and tears and hold me together. Much of my strength during that time was born from her prayers over me and her undying ability to listen to all the crap I had to say about my ex.

Returning home, I was amazed at the lack of sadness. A switch had been flipped and the sub-station of insecurity, fear and faithlessness that kept me in a relationship with him was unplugged.

Sometime in July 2008 was the last time I spoke with my ex—in an argument over his returning something that belonged to me.

The next month, Facebook suggested that I might know a girl who went to the same high school as I did. We had several Facebook friends in common, so I clicked the link. That click revealed the profile of Nathan’s cousin, one of my best friends from high school. It was her house where I first met Nathan as a teenager.

She and I messaged each other and briefly caught up. She told me her older sister wanted me to give her a call and catch up too.

I called the older sister, Nathan’s cousin, on a Saturday morning, as I was driving to my dad’s house. As we chatted and caught up, she asked if I was married. I told her, “Not yet!”

I will forever remember where I was when she replied: “Well, you know, Nathan’s single. . . . ”

Read our story from the beginning:
how we met
dream about my husband
between the dream and dating
meeting my husband again

©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.