Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

What I Learned About Singleness from a Field

A few years ago a trip took me to the small farming community in southern Indiana where my mother grew up. Grandpa was a farmer all his life. I am a city girl but, over the years, I have learned a little about farming.

With the end of the summer growing season, some of the fields were still full of their bounty while others had been harvested. All that remained in those harvested fields were the dried stalks of what was previously growing there. They were brown and seemed somewhat desolate. Not pretty at all.

I spent a week in the area and drove by one such harvested field as I came and went from the place I was staying. Every time I drove by, the words of a song came to mind. It was written by Roger Hutley, the music minister at the church I attended while living in Oregon. I can’t remember the whole song, but I do remember the song asking God to break up the fallow ground in my heart.

With these words running through my head, I began to think about those fields that would lay fallow for a season or more. This is a common practice in farming since it allows the soil to replenish itself of the nutrients that are depleted while crops are growing. Time is needed for nature to run its course and rebuild.

The fields don’t look pretty while they lay dormant. They lack the vibrancy and color of a crop in full bloom. We tend to think of the growing fields as more alive and active. Yet that’s not necessarily so. The rebuilding and replenishing is an active process and is just as important for the health of a crop.

Our lives are like fields. We have times of great produce and harvest. We blossom and grow. We have seasons where our days are productive and God is able to use us.

Don’t we wish our lives could look like that all the time?

But then we have months — even years — of dull, brown fallowness.

Sometimes our extended season of singleness can feel more like the fallow fields than the growing ones. But what we may see as dullness and lack of vibrancy may well be God replenishing and rebuilding us for His plans.

The seasons come and go in our lives just as in nature. We need both growth and rest to live a full Christian life. If your singleness makes you feel empty and lifeless, let God nurture and replenish you during this time.

 

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Oh, Just Hug Me Already!

Hug Me

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We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.
                                                                                                            ~Virginia Satir

In other words, I’m way behind. For a good portion of my life, I was fortunate if I fell into one hug a week. Since moving close to my family, though, I’ve seen that number increase exponentially … to maybe 12 hugs a week. It’s been nice.

That’s per week, not per day, however, so I’m still behind. Which means, according to Virginia, the dearth of affection in my life is killing me even now. So this has become another one of those things I don’t let myself think about. Apparently I’ve spent most of my life barely surviving.

But I did survive.

Knowing you are proof that a person can survive without physical touch should be somewhat disheartening. And, in several ways, it is. Over the years, though, I’ve become quite adept at shrugging off stuff like this. A person can’t spend her life moaning about unfairness. In fact, I would go so far as to tell Virginia that working out how many hugs people need a day might just be a sweet attempt to fix a first-world problem.

[Except for infants and kids, of course. Anyone still working through the process of becoming a grownup should be hugged as often as possible. I make sure my nieces and nephews get plenty of cuddles with their Aunt Sharyn, whether they want them or not. Fortunately, they don’t seem to mind.]

I don’t mean to diminish the importance of physical touch in our lives. But is it a good idea to measure our success as a human being by what’s missing? To do so seems to say God may not know what He’s doing and has, somehow, made a horrible mistake.

“Just FYI, God — if you don’t send someone to hug me on a daily basis, I’m going to die! Do you want me to die?!”

Silly children that we are, we tend to see things — OK, I tend to see things — through the lenses of what would enhance our lives, like getting more hugs, instead of how we can speak Gospel truth into someone’s else’s day.

Advertisers know that to get their audience’s attention, they have to plant their feet firmly in the shoes of the person they’re trying to reach. And they do that by recognizing their audience’s one basic question: “What’s in it for me?”

That’s a fine question to ask when it comes to spending your hard-earned cash. But not so much when we’re working on our holiness.

After all, if “my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19), I don’t see any need to count hugs.

But I still won’t turn one down. 🙂

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Fast Food at Home

My body loves protein. Which means that I will likely never be a vegetarian or a vegan. I am a meat eater and love a good steak. But I’ve eaten enough tough and overcooked steaks at friends’ homes to be convinced that making steak well is an art form that few master.

But one day when I was perusing the meat section of my local supermarket, gazing longingly at the steaks that I could never buy and cook myself since I am nowhere near an artist in the kitchen, the butcher came out and asked if I needed help with anything. So I started asking him about the different cuts of steak. And about marinades. And preparation. And before I knew it, I’d purchased a couple of ribeyes and a bag of salad and was headed home to make dinner. That butcher changed my life.

It turns out that steak is one of the easiest foods in the world to make. The packaging comes in the perfect portion size for one or two, and it takes hardly any time at all for prep, cooking and clean up. It’s a great dinner option for singles, and especially for singles who are novices in the kitchen.

Here’s how to make a super-delicious steak:

Start with a cut of steak you like. I usually go for a ribeye or a NY Strip. The ribeye tends to have more marbling (fat), which adds flavor.

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Next, turn your stove up to medium heat. Put your fry pan on the burner and add enough butter or olive oil (or both) to coat the bottom of the pan. Let the pan and the oil heat up for a minute or so.

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While the pan is heating, season your meat to taste with salt, pepper and onion powder. Or use any seasonings you like.

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When your pan is hot and your meat is seasoned, place the steak in the pan. There should be sizzle (and possibly smoke for us novices). For medium steaks, cook the first side for 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steak, then turn the steak and cook for another 1-2 minutes. See how nicely charred that gets!

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Note: It is always better to cook the steak for too short a time than for too long a time. (Undercooked meat can be fixed.)

Take the pan off of the heat and let the steak sit in the cooling pan for another 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the steak to a plate and enjoy! You can’t tell from this picture, but this steak has a perfectly pink core inside. And when I cut it juices flowed out!

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Happy eating ladies! If you try this recipe, or have any variations on how to make a good steak, be sure to comment!

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Learning to Follow the Leader

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life …
–Psalm 23:6, NIV

Life is a journey. It winds, like a mountain switchback or curvy road. Often we cannot see around the bend what is next.

As you make your way out of bed and into the world each day, think about whom or what you are following — your plans or God’s? Faith or doubt? Do you truly believe that our loving God is willing and able to lead you, or do you choose to cling to the predictable and familiar?

In The Healing Path, Dan Allender says, “Relationship with God requires leaving, letting go, in order to pursue His promises. He calls His followers on a journey that takes them beyond the limits of their sight.”

Following God by faith is challenging. It requires us to trust someone we cannot physically see to lead us down an unknown path. And yet, if we come to know the One who is leading, we can be certain He will lead us toward what will accomplish His good purposes.

One of the most popular definitions of faith is found in the book of Hebrews — “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for” (11: 1, 2). Look at some of the ancients and their struggles:

In this great “Hall of Faith,” we learn about Noah, who was warned about a coming flood — something he could not visibly see — and built an ark to save his family. Abraham was called by God to leave his home and obeyed, even though he did not know where he was going. In addition, an elderly Abraham believed God was faithful to his promises and had faith God would come through when he said Abraham and his barren wife, Sarah, would have a child.

Consider Moses, who refused to be known as royalty, even though he was, because he knew he had a greater calling and reward. He crossed the Red Sea along with thousands of other people on dry land and fled his pursuers, the Egyptians.

Likewise, we are called to follow by faith the One who said, “Follow me.”

Lord, help me to follow by faith and trust in Your goodness, mercy and love to lead me into Your good purposes for Your glory.

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In All Things I Have Learned to be Content

Sometimes in the evenings when I am sitting on the couch I will look over and see Wilson, the kitty cat, stretched out on his back, paws outstretched, white belly exposed. When he notices me watching he will give me a look of pure bliss. If I move slow enough he will allow me to rub his belly which will produce a contented purring. His belly is full, his litter box is clean, and his momma is home–all is right with his world and he wants nothing more.

Often when I see him stretched out like that, content and happy, I am jealous. He looks so peaceful and relaxed; it takes so little for him to be happy. Then I remember that I, too, want for nothing. Really, in the scope of things, I have a lot–a house, a car, so many clothes and shoes the closet is bursting, food in the kitchen, money in the bank, loving family, friends, a good job–what more could I need?

The reality is that contentment doesn’t come from things. Wilson can attest to that since he doesn’t have a car, clothes, etc. Wilson can be at peace because he knows that he is loved and taken care of. And that is where my peace should come from also. I know that my happiness and worth isn’t the result of the material items in my life. It isn’t because I have great things. My happiness comes from knowing a loving God who loves me more than I love myself. It comes from wanting what I have and knowing it’s enough.

It’s not always easy. Seeing someone who has a bigger house, a more expensive car or a spouse can cause me to want more. The desire to achieve more and better things is ingrained in our human nature. Our culture provides impetus to be content. Ads scream at us every day to be younger, be sexier, to acquire bigger and better things. They imply that we are not okay as we are. But we are okay even without the things the world would suggest we need.

Years ago, I was laid off from my job. It was the first time in twenty-some years that I didn’t have a source of income. The first question I was asked was “What are you going to do?”

And then as the weeks went by the question became, “Haven’t you found a job yet?”

The idea that a person could be without a job and still be okay was foreign to many people. During the months of unemployment, I found that there was more to life than my career. I learned that I could live without expensive toys and eating out. I did have everything I needed and it was okay. The time allowed me to slow down enough to look at life and enjoy it again. It showed me that my contentment came from things that weren’t tangible, but were an important part of my life none-the-less. Honestly, I often think I was more content being unemployed than I am when I am pursuing a career. My challenge since has been to be content no matter what.

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Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.                                                                                               –Philippians 4:11

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When Faith Goes Beyond Words

Praying

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I grew up in church, which means I know all the lingo — saved, called, sanctified, redeemed, just to name a few of our favorite buzzwords. And I followed all the steps a good Christian girl takes. When I was five, I walked the Romans Road to salvation.*

Shortly after, I put on a robe and our pastor baptized me in a giant tub of water behind the pulpit. We avoided movies, never went dancing and couldn’t wear jeans. My parents helped with the youth group and I sang in the youth choir. Yeah, I knew all the lingo and followed all the steps. Being a good Christian girl was how I lived my life and it was good.

Then, when I was 17, my mother died. And everything I had believed up until then crumbled. My faith had been based on trusting what I’d been taught about God. In a moment, that trust was destroyed. After all, if God could snatch my mom away — the worst thing I could imagine at the time — then who was safe? Anyone I love could die and, apparently, God couldn’t — or wouldn’t — intervene. I couldn’t trust Him.

So I pulled away. I tried to put a safe distance between us. And a tiny part of me started building up those walls that would keep men away for the next 30+ years. After all, if I didn’t love, I couldn’t hurt.

I ran away — over miles and across state lines. And, in my rebellion, I fell apart.

But God.

Many of the best verses in Scripture start with those two words. But God drew me back to Him. In my darkest hour, I stood in a Pennsylvania train station with forty bucks and nowhere to go. Until He whispered a destination in my heart, then made sure I got there.

He rescued me. He guided me out of a dark place and switched on the lights. Do I still struggle with trust? Yes. My active imagination can scare up all kinds of terrible things happening to my loved ones. It’s a constant decision of my heart to choose not to let the fear in.

I choose to believe God loves me and has a plan for my life. It might be a small plan, but it’s a reason for me to hope. Most importantly, I realize my faith is far more than words and a list of steps. It’s a relationship with the God of the universe, who loves me and gave Himself for me.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.                                                                            ~ John 3:16

Now those are words worth remembering! If you have not yet put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, here’s *the Romans Road route I mentioned previously. More than just words, it’s an unforgettable journey. If you make that choice, please let me know. I’d love to celebrate with you and encourage you!

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God Is Up to Something Good

When I moved to my thriving Brooklyn church, where God was doing awe-inspiring things in people’s lives, it was very common for we newcomers to enquire of one another, “So what’s your testimony?” Being asked this question was so anxiety-producing for me, though, that I was driven to deep prayer in order to get clarity from God about my abnormal salvation story and what it all meant.

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“Mary of the Annunciation” by Jan Van Eyck. c.1432

Let me explain.

I grew up attending the same church that my mother and grandmother grew up attending. The church held an annual “Youth Day,” which was a pretty big deal. The youth choreographed marches, wore matching uniforms, sang new songs, and invited guest churches and a guest preacher. It was always one of the best services of the year for the church. The Youth Day when I was 15 and had my salvation experience was no exception.

The church was packed. I sat on the risers with the rest of the youth choir. After the sermon there was a time for testimonies or remarks. Most of the youth, including me, got up to say they were grateful or happy or wanted prayer for their family or something.

Near the end of the service, the youth president, Sister Moore, took the platform to make closing remarks. In her message, which I was only half-listening to, she talked about how proud she was of the youth, how God was surely working, etc. Then she started to become animated about how terrible it would be, in light of their testimonies, if some of the youth left the service without ever having the chance to welcome Jesus into their hearts, or something like that.

The next thing I knew, Sis. Moore was calling out my name, telling me to come forward to the altar! I was in shock. But what could I do? She called me (and only me) forward. So I went. And after I gave appropriate answers to a few questions about Jesus, I was declared “saved.”

I have never, before or since, seen anything like this.

Astoundingly, that Q&A at the altar turned out to be a confession of real faith that was in my heart. I have been a devoted follower of Jesus Christ since that event.

But you understand why I would have cause for concern about my salvation story. For over 10 years I had real doubts about whether I was actually really “saved” since I was practically coerced to the altar by my youth president. Was that non-voluntary church procedure valid or not?

I prayed about it. And in a tender moment when we were alone together, the Lord answered me in these verses that will be etched on my heart forever:

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine…
Because you are precious in my eyes,
 and honored, and I love you…

~Isaiah 43:1,4

God assured me that my salvation story, though unusual, was not of my own nor of Sis. Moore’s doing, but it was God at work in my life even before I was aware of it. God is God like that — and good like that — sometimes.

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My Journey to God: My Great Awakening

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Over the years I’ve seen many of Julia Roberts’ movies, like My Best Friend’s Wedding, Runaway Bride, Ocean’s Eleven and others. I’ve watched her on awards shows and read about her in magazines. But I’ve never met her in person or had a conversation with her. (Now, that would be fun!) I don’t know her personally.

Knowing about a famous athlete or celebrity—like Michael Jordan or Julia Roberts — is one thing; knowing him or her personally is quite another.

Likewise, many people confuse knowing about God and with knowing Him personally — getting introduced and having a relationship.

What an honor. What a joy! Only, I never knew that was an option … until I turned 17. Here’s my story:

I grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We lived in a ranch house on an acre of land. Where our land ended, the forest began. It was green and lush in the summer and blanketed with pristine white snow and icicles in winter. I loved growing up there.

As for my spiritual life, we attended a denominational church every Sunday as a family. I knew about God. I knew He existed. I knew Jesus was God’s Son and I was familiar with a few Bible stories, like Noah and the ark. However, while life may have looked idyllic on the outside, things were crumbling on the inside.

The summer after I finished eighth grade, my parents divorced. We moved to another city and the trajectory of my life changed forever.

It was autumn of my senior year of high school when my best friend, Lisa, and I went out for lunch one day and ran into the young man who was painting her house. He sat with us and shared about Christ in a way I’d never heard before. I was intrigued and wanted to know more.

The God he spoke of was kind. He was interested in our daily lives. He cared. This was new to me.

The painter, who was just a few years older than Lisa and I, invited me to church. It was the first time I heard that Jesus loved me, that He had a plan for my life, and that I could know Him. I pondered all of this.

A few months later Lisa invited me to her denomination’s youth conference. Imagine 18,000 high school kids in a large conference center!

One night, speaker Josh McDowell gave an altar call — an invitation to come to the front of the auditorium and accept Jesus as your personal Savior. I was sitting with two other friends and they went down; I stayed back.

Suddenly, a woman I had never met tapped me on the shoulder and asked me why I didn’t go with my friends.

I said, “I don’t know.”

She asked, “Do you know Jesus?”

I was very confused. I had a lot of new information in my head, but I didn’t know what to do with it.

Thankfully, this kind stranger explained the Good News to me simply and clearly in about ten minutes. I prayed to accept Jesus as my personal Savior with her in that auditorium.

The Good News, I learned that day, is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth for you and for me — for the entire world. He came to help us, heal us, and give us the amazing gift of forgiveness. When we come into a relationship with Christ we have a connection to the ultimate source of love, power and mercy. We get to know Him, not just about Him. We get to do this hard and messy life together and know we are never alone.

God loves us each so much that He sent Jesus Christ, who died to overcome death forever and rose again to life! Because He did that we are forgiven and free, when we accept that gift He has to offer.

God is reaching out to each and every one of us; it is our choice to reach back.

So I accepted that wonderful offer that day at the youth rally. And decided to attend a Christian college so I could learn more as I furthered my education.

I’ve learned a lot about God since then. I continue to be amazed at His goodness, faithfulness and His love that never leaves. I have experienced firsthand His provision and protection.

God, the One who loves you most, is there for you, too. Why not take a moment now and talk to Him?

Your life will never be the same.

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Little Church in a Farmer’s Field

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Of all the places Ive been in my life, a little church in the middle of a farmers field ranks right up there as one of the most important.

My childhood included church every Sunday and Sunday school class. The family said grace before meals and prayed each night before going to bed. I always knew there was a God out there somewhere, kind of like I know the earth is round and gravity keeps us from flying off into space. It was all head knowledge.

At times throughout the years, people crossed my path who had a different kind of faith than I did.

In the fourth grade, my friend Dallas took me to Kids Crusade at her church and I learned about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Lauri knocked on my dorm room door my first night at college and invited me to dinner. She also took me to a David Meece concert and told me that I should let Jesus be my boyfriend. (Thats a whole other post!)

Somewhere deep in my soul I felt the call of God through these people, but the babble of the world made it hard to tell where the voice was coming from. So, I went along my way and thought, Someday Ill figure it out.

Then there was Wes. Curly brown hair, big blue eyes. He came to Saturday morning classes smelling of Old Spice and coffee. Cute as he was, the most appealing thing about Wes was the amazing smile and the way his face just radiated joy when he talked about Jesus. He knew something I didnt know and I set out to discover what that was.

I went to my friend Jan who had been very open about what God was doing in her life. She patiently answered all my questions about what it meant to be saved and how you hear Jesus.

Then she invited me to church.

On Sunday morning, with a light drizzle wetting the windshield, she and her husband took me miles out of town to a little, bitty church in the middle of a farmers field. And that morning I felt it! I walked away knowing I had been in the presence of the Lord and it felt good.

A week later, I went back to that little church for an Easter musical. While I watched Jesus whipped and scourged, I was transported in my mind to that dusty hill. Feeling as if I was there, I witnessed the agony of His death on the cross and the truth broke through my heart. My sin put Him on the cross, but He stayed because He loved me.

Later when the pastor asked if anyone needed Jesus, I raised my hand. That little church changed my life. It isnt always easy, but Hes always just a prayer away and that still amazes me . . . if I slow down enough to let it soak through me.

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Testify!

Easter

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As we look toward Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, we want to remember all God has done for us, starting with His great mercy in drawing us to Him.

With that in mind, the writers of Girls Night In plan to share their testimonies this week.

We hope you will join us. And if you want to share your Story of Grace with us in the comments, please do!

 “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered His words.

                                                                                 — Luke 24:5b-8

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