Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

Am I Good Enough?

Holy Moly

Photo courtesy of Susan Jarvis/Waterkopf Photography

Several years ago, my sister needed religious-themed stock photos and I posed as a nun. Yes, that’s me in the picture. No, I have no plans to take the vows. I’m not even Catholic.

Still, other than my perpetual singleness, I’m hardly good nun material. In fact, I’ve felt quite inadequate in many ways over the last few years. In 2010 I lost a job to cutbacks — for the second time in less than a decade. My desire to be a novelist has been full of near-constant self-doubt and disappointment. And, as a still-single woman of 50, how could I not feel rejected by men?

Of course, every time I’m hit by another failure, I hear the voices: No one wants you. You can’t do it. You’re not good enough. I know these words are from the enemy, yet they ring so true and hurt so much. As Vivian said in Pretty Woman: “The bad stuff is easier to believe.”

So, for our peace of mind — and sheer sanity, for heaven’s sake — we need to push aside the negative thoughts and not only find our way back to good enough, but to who we truly are in Christ.

You Are Chosen

I love that moment in romantic movies when the man lets the woman know she’s the one, the only one for him. Often he risks all, even his life, to rescue her from her mortal enemy. Like Kevin Costner’s Robin in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves — beating down doors, smashing through windows, and going sword to sword with the evil Sheriff of Nottingham in a fight to save Maid Marion.

And he wins.

“You came for me. You’re alive,” she cries, rushing into his arms.

He replies, “I would die for you.”

Remind you of anyone in particular? Someone who died for you but is alive and will always come for you? No wonder women love scenes like this in movies. They speak to the soul of our relationship with God. “You are the one,” He says. “I choose you.”

Scripture tells us, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9–10).

So we are chosen, but for a purpose: to proclaim the Good News to those who are still in darkness. In our despair He came to us, held out a hand and said, “I have so much more for you.” And, being the cynical, flawed creatures we are, we ask, “Why me?”

You Are Delightful

Before he risks life and limb, though, the Hero falls for the girl. Do you think Robin would have gone to such extremes for just anyone?

His friend asks, “Is she worth it?”

Robin nods. “Worth dying for.”

How we long to be that girl. But so many things in this world crush our spirits, making us feel inadequate, unwanted and stupid. And how do we react? We let ourselves fall into the role of supportive friend or trusted servant, instead of stepping forward as the leading lady. The world tells us we’re not special and, sadly, we start to believe it.

That’s not how God sees us. He considers each of us worth dying for. In Psalm 18:19, King David wrote, “He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” God broke down the walls, slew the enemy and offered up His life to set you free. Take that, Robin of the Hood!

Still, it’s hard to see our own delightfulness with so many flaws in the way — seemingly compelling proof we’re not that great. But isn’t that the point? Doesn’t God have a knack for accomplishing great things despite — sometimes even through — our inadequacies and failures?

As a matter of fact, yes . . .

You Are Flawed

It’s good to remember just how much we don’t deserve the grace and beauty He bestows on us. You are not perfect. And that’s a good thing. Sit back, leave the dishes in the sink, and take that in. Relax into it. You are not perfect . . . but He adores you and chose you anyway.

“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things that are mighty” (1 Cor. 1:26–27).

Not wise, not mighty, not noble, but foolish and weak. It’s not flattering but that’s all right too. This reminds us it’s not about you or me. It’s about Him. Our failures and imperfections flash a neon marquee announcing God’s greatness. You know how a mother sees the beauty of her child even when others cannot? And how she’s the only one allowed to say anything about her child’s shortcomings? I think it’s like that. God as our Creator can see and acknowledge our imperfections, but heaven help those who dare impugn His beloved. Weak, ugly and fragile, we find shelter under His wings.

You Are Not Trusting

I know your doubts because you, like me, are sitting there mumbling, “Well, sure that all sounds nice and sweet and very Disney-like . . . for everyone else. But God isn’t going to crash through a window for me.”

We can all fall into pity party mode. After all, haven’t years of canceled dreams and disappointed hopes made our negative attitude not only reasonable but logical?

Absolutely. Everything that seemed so possible for me twenty, thirty, even forty years ago while I gazed ideologically through the sunshine-colored glasses of a youthful heart looks a bit murky and gray and kind of pathetic now. Why? Because I moved from trusting in dreams of a bright future to not trusting in anything. Including God.

It’s all a tactic of the enemy, castrating us at the very essence of who we are in Christ and moving us back into the mindset of believing the worst.

And that’s when we must return to our King, our Prince, the One who chose to rescue us against all odds, the One who battles daily to defeat our doubts and fears and insecurities, the One who brings us into His perfect freedom.

Why? Because, as mentioned earlier, we are chosen and loved.

The world will continue to tell you you’re not good enough, pointing out your flaws and ignoring all the wonderful attributes that make you unique. God sees all those things and, despite your faults and shortcomings, says you are more than good enough.

You are His.

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The Sanctuary of Romance

Image courtesy of digital art/freedigitialimages.com

Image courtesy of digital art/freedigitialimages.com

Before I began my summer adventure in Cape Town I prayed and hoped a summer romance — leading to marriage and babies and matching drapes in the living room — might be on the agenda. Now that I have arrived and have begun to experience some of the city and the people, however, my prayer has changed to the exact opposite.

“Lord, please hold my heart in check and DO NOT let me become infatuated with anyone here.”

Here’s why: I forgot that the people I am meeting are mostly in my ministry setting. Romance, under the circumstances, would be disastrous. This is a fact of life that I have learned the hard way.

This got me to thinking, though. How many of us singles have attempted romance, successfully or not, in our local churches?  My instincts tell me that probably not many of us. From what I have heard from fellow Christian singles, we are not in the position of lamenting romance that has gone wrong in the church, as much as we find ourselves lamenting the lack of opportunity for romance in the church.

Sometimes, though, the inevitable happens and some new, single man arrives at our house of worship.  He loves God, serves faithfully in ministry, is cute and has the same quirky sense of humor that you have. Unbidden dreams of a happily-ever-after with this man, and prayers to God about hopefully dating this man, and imagined reciprocated romantic feelings from this man, commence. And persist. Either until he ends up with someone else, or until he leaves the church, or both.  You are then left alone and disappointed.

You are familiar with this scenario, right?

What I wonder is if there is any way of avoiding this. Are we singles supposed to not notice a new cute guy? Are we not supposed to hope that this new cute guy might be someone special? Or are we supposed to be friendly and open and make it clear we are interested?

What should we older singles do about romance in the church?

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Have You Asked God to Bless Your Plans When You Knew They Were Wrong?

Photo Courtesy of Stockimages/Freedigitalphotos.net

Photo Courtesy of Stockimages/Freedigitalphotos.net

In the 90s, I dated a guy for quite a few months. I knew from the start there were problems, but I chose to ignore them. As time went on, it became very apparent that this wasnt a good relationship. I still chose to ignore the signs.

Instead of taking a good look at the relationship and doing what I knew was the right thing, I went to the Lord in prayer. My cries were for Him to fix the problems. To miraculously make this mess the perfect love story He had for me. What I was thinking I dont know, but thats another story.

Years later I did an inductive Bible study on the book of Genesis and Kay Arthur did a series of lectures on the book. In one lecture, Kay talked about Ishmael and Isaac. We all know the story: God promised Abraham that he would be the father of nations, but then God was slow in making that happen. Dont you love how we say God was slow when things don’t happen in our time frame? God promised, but He didn’t say when this was going to happen.

So, Abraham and Sarah decided it was taking too long and they made their own plan. Abraham and Sarahs maid, Hagar, had a baby together. They hoped God would bless Ishmael and let him be the start of the nations. This wasnt Gods plan and it created more problems than it was meant to solve.

Kay explained how we like to imitate Abraham and Sarah. We create our own Ishmaels and then take them to God for blessing. Thats what I did with my relationship in the 90s. I created an Ishmael. Even though I knew this wasnt the plan God had for my married life, I took my Ishmael and asked God to call it an Isaac.

Just as God did with Abraham and Sarah, He refused to bless my Ishmael. Quite honestly, Im thankful He was insistent on not blessing this scheme of mine. I still dont know when my Isaac will happen in this regard, but God rescued me from the Ishmael I created and put me back on the right track.

Are there times in your dating life when youve tried to make a situation fit your dream? Have you created Ishmaels?

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Orange Deliciousness

Memorial Day Family

Photo courtesy of Susan Jarvis/Waterkopf Photography

With Memorial Day just around the weekend, we not only remember those we’ve loved and lost, but we officially welcome summer. The local pool opens, we can be fairly certain warm weather is here to stay, and — at least for my family — vacation is close at hand since we usually head to the Outer Banks of North Carolina the first week of June.

Do you have plans for Memorial Day? Any fun traditions you’d like to share? What about recipes?

Speaking of recipes, I thought I’d post a favorite I came across not too long ago. It’s easy, refreshing and a great potluck option, as long as you can keep it cold. The site where I found it calls it “Orange Jell-o Salad” but in my family it’s known as “Orange Deliciousness.”

Here’s how it’s done:

Start by dissolving 1 large package (4.3 ounces*) of orange Jell-o in 2 cups of boiling water. I usually just do this in the disposable 9 x 13 aluminum pan I plan to serve it in. Next, stir in 1 6-ounce can of frozen orange juice, 2 small cans of mandarin oranges, drained, and 1 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple with the juice. Once it’s all mixed together, put it in the fridge and let it chill until solid.

And now for the delicious part that takes it to a whole other level: When the Jell-o is ready, beat together 1 package of instant vanilla pudding** and 1 cup of milk until it’s well-mixed, then fold in an 8-ounce container of Cool Whip. Spread this on top of the Jell-o. This will make you — and everyone you share it with — very happy.

Is it, in fact, a salad? Is it a dessert? Who cares? It’s delicious! Let me know if you try it and if it was a success.

Memorial Day

Photo courtesy of Susan Jarvis/Waterkopf Photography

Orange Jell-o Salad

1 lg package (4.3 oz) orange Jell-o
2 cups boiling water
1 6-oz can frozen orange juice
2 small cans mandarin oranges, drained
1 20-oz can crushed pineapple with juice
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 cup milk
1 8-oz container Cool Whip

Dissolve the orange Jell-O in water. Add orange juice, mandarin oranges and pineapple. Put the combined ingredients in a 9×13 dish and chill until solid. Beat pudding and milk together and then fold in Cool Whip. Spread on top of Jell-o.

* I have not been able to find a 4.3-ounce package of Jell-o. The packs around here are either 3 ounces or, if I remember right, 6. So I buy the smaller ones and use about one and a half. It always turns out fine.

** If I’m in a hurry, I’ve discovered it’s just as good — and quicker/easier — to mix four of the ready-made individual servings of vanilla pudding with the Cool Whip. And a little cheaper too.

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“Therefore Go…!”

One of the best things about being single and without children is that one’s life can become a great adventure with the Lord. An internship that is a part of my studies has taken me on a fully funded overseas adventure! Can you guess from the pictures where in the world I have been sent? I will give you some hints. I am living in a major world city, in an apartment in the city center, with floor to ceiling windows and amazing views like this:

City and Mountain view from my apartment.

City and mountain view from my apartment.

And this:

Lion's Head

Lion’s Head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(The Lord’s extravagant grace is written all over these accommodations!)

The city is near the beach:

IMG_0262

There are famous landmarks in this city, like this church:

St. George's Cathedral (former parish of Bishop Tutu)

St. George’s Cathedral (former parish of Bishop Tutu)

It’s Cape Town, South Africa! Did you guess correctly? The beginning of my adventure with the Lord has been astounding. I will be sure to keep you posted over the summer with all the Lord is showing me! Do share your exotic — or local — adventures with the Lord. We’d love to hear about them!

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Learning from Our Friends

Father Jesus, the priest at my family’s church, spoke one Saturday night of the importance of fellowship. Much of our Christian faith is relational. We see this example in Christ. One of the first things He did when He began His public ministry was to surround Himself with His disciples. I believe the purpose of this was two-fold: He knew someone would need to carry on after He was gone and He knew when life got tough He would need these men to lean on.

The topic of the sermon was serendipitous as I have been thinking recently about how important my friendships are to my faith walk. I saw the importance of friendship right from the start when my friend Jan took my hand so many years ago and led me to Christ. Her friendship continued to sustain me as I was a new Christian.

Since that time I have been blessed with many good Christian friendships. Over those turbulent years when my mom was sick, my friends walked beside me through it all; they held me up both physically and in prayer when I needed it. And, like the disciples, they helped me to fulfill the mission God gave me.

Today I want to share with you about my friend Maggie. She not only has walked beside me through those tough years, but she taught me much just in being my friend. She began as my boss and, over the years, we came to find we had mutual interests and our friendship blossomed.

An incredible woman of God, Maggie is not afraid to let her faith show. In a world where it isn’t always kosher to speak our faith in the workplace, Maggie doesn’t mince words. She speaks openly about what drives her — love of God and love of family.

She too has taken her cue from Christ and has learned to surround herself with people who share her faith. When times are tough she quickly comes to those of us she has chosen as friends and confidants and asks for prayer. Often during conversations she will say, “I really need prayer for this.” And she is quick to share ways God is answering prayer in her life.

The other thing I have noticed about Maggie is that she walks the walk. During a recent conversation she related a situation that she and her husband were facing. She knew the choice they had made was what God was requesting of them. It wasn’t easy because they couldn’t see how God was going to make this request come to fruition. Still, they leaned on God, not on their own abilities. They basically had a month in which God could provide. They stepped out on faith and within a week I received a text saying that it was done — God had seen their faithfulness and fulfilled the request.

Maggie and her husband have two young boys. They are incredibly devoted to their children. She was recently in a position of making a choice at work that would affect her career and her family. It was a tough decision and she was honest about her pride and how that was factoring into this. Yet, when it came down to it, she chose her family over her pride.

Through the years, Maggie has been there for me. She taught me much about the work we did, but so much more about walking in faith. She was there through that tough year as my family weathered the storms of my father’s quintuple bypass surgery and my mom’s accident and death. Maggie cried with me and prayed with me. She was the arms and ears of Christ to me when I needed it most.

Yes, God created us to be relational for good reason. He knew we would need not only the example of other Christians, but also the support. We should all be like Christ and surround ourselves with true friends in the faith.

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A Dream Come True

Broken Beautiful BOLD 4 05Last Saturday I was given the opportunity to do something I’ve longed to do for years: be a speaker at a women’s event. When I learned I’d been chosen as one of seven presenters at the Broken Beautiful BOLD live event in Marion, IN, I was surprised and honored … and had just over a month to prepare. The goal was to encourage women to “boldly seek a Spirit-filled life.”

This was, finally, the chance I’d been waiting for to share my heart for single women. Which is ironic because that ties in perfectly with what I spoke about: Trying to find purpose in my singleness.

What surprised me was how much fun it was. I started the day as nervous as my cat in a thunderstorm but when I was standing there, sharing my story, it was as fantastic as I always imagined it would be. Jokes came to me that I hadn’t included in my script.

 

Do you see God as your dream come true or as the provider of your dream come true?

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The Treadmill

Image curtesy of Naypong/freedigitalphotos.net

Image curtesy of Naypong/freedigitalphotos.net

For months I have been busy plotting my next course of study — the illusive PhD program. In order to be successfully matriculated into such a program one is required to obtain as close to a 4.0 grade point average as possible. I have been striving toward that 4.0 GPA ever since I decided I wanted to pursue doctoral work. Suddenly, however, I’m struck by how tiresome the whole pursuit seems.

I left the achievement grind of corporate America seeking to fulfill my passion and live my calling. Instead, these days it seems as if I am once again grinding in order to achieve the next goal I’ve set.

There’s a part of us that is set like a clock to achievement, to validation from the outside, to stamps of approval and success from those whom we’ve empowered to be our validators and approvers.

“I want an A (or to be accepted at that prestigious school, to win a prestigious fellowship, to be published, to win an award for my book, to sell a million books or be on the New York Times best seller list or be at #1 on the NYT best seller list, to get a six-figure advance, to have my book optioned for a film, etc.) and I’ll do what I have to do to get there!”

This achievement grind may come to us — the perpetually single — in the guise of what we have accomplished and what recognition we have received for our accomplishments. But the achievement treadmill reaches us at other stages of life as well. We want to get married. Then we want to buy a house, and then a better house. We want the newer kitchen and the newer car. We want to have a baby and another baby. Then, because motherhood doesn’t seem like enough, we go back to school. And we begin priming the next generation for the treadmill of the achievement-grind as we fuss over their walking at 6 months and talking at 3 months and reciting the 23rd Psalm at only 3 years old!

The achievement treadmill is never-ending, and success on this treadmill is too often determined by other people’s validation of who we are and what we do.

This is a problem.

Our validation is found in being the beloved of Christ. The approval we need is not that of peers or critics, but that of the Lord. Our hearts aspire above all to hear from Him, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” God offers this approval not so much because of the things we have achieved, but because of the people we have shown love to.

Does it matter that I like the way you — or you like the way I — write or dance or sing or run or knit or paint or speak or style your hair, as long we are out there writing, dancing, singing and living faithfully into our purpose and calling, and in devotion to our Lord?

 

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Where Is Your Trust and Confidence?

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.  ~Jeremiah 17:7

I recently had a problem related to my home. It wasnt insurmountable, but when it first happened, I was fearful, imagining the worst. Thats a part of my nature that I try to control, not always successfully.

Honestly, I dont like dealing with house issues. When they occur, my first response is usually to throw my hands up and tell God I should have a husband to deal with these things. Its easy to feel like theres something wrong with me or that Im being punished because God hasnt sent my Mr. Right yet.

Jeremiah 17:7 came to me shortly after this house problem — a vivid reminder that God is with me even through this extended journey of singleness. Granted God cant get down and dirty to deal with an issue like I had, but He is there.

My downfall was that I placed my trust in a non-existent husband when I should have been trusting in the Lord. God wants me to come to Him when stuff happens and trust Him. I fussed and fretted and got all worked up. Then I got quiet before the Lord and asked for His help.

Things worked out in the end. And I was reminded that even though I am without a husband, I am never alone. My trust and confidence needs to be in the Lord and not in a husband who isnt even part of my life at this time.

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The Bride of Christ

Sorry my post is late today. I  was out of town this weekend for my nephews graduation and didnt get everything done that I wanted to get done. This  post isnt directly related to single life, but I wanted to share how I came to know the true meaning of being a bride of Christ.

***

Years ago I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of my dear friend Erlinda as she married her best friend, Mike. As Erlinda spoke her words of commitment to Mike a tear slipped down his cheek. He tried to control his emotions, but was overwhelmed by the love he felt and the joy at hearing Erlinda’s words. It was beautiful and sweet and soon the tears ran down my own cheeks.

Erlinda and Mike had walked a long road to meet at the altar that day. Erlinda had been married before and from something the pastor said I believe Mike may have also. They had dated for several years as their friendship grew and, finally, they were united as one.

Often at weddings my mind turns to thoughts of what my own would be like. I have never been married, but have to admit that I have thought, many times over the years, of having a wedding.

While sitting in the congregation witnessing the ceremony, I was suddenly overwhelmed with an image of being the bride of Christ. Isaiah 62:5 says, “Your children will care for you with joy, O Jerusalem, just as a young man cares for his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.” In all the years since I have become a Christian I have never had such a clear picture of this aspect of our relationship with Christ.

As the ceremony began, Mike waited patiently at the altar for Erlinda to come down the aisle to him. When he saw her his face lit up in a huge smile. The love shone through his eyes. I imagine it was the same for the Lord as I lingered in coming to Him. He waited patiently. When the day finally came that I walked down that aisle to Him the love illuminated His face and His eyes were deep pools of emotion. I, the bride, approached nervously. This was the moment when rejection or acceptance could come. What joy when the bridegroom came down off the altar and took my elbow to guide me to my place.

Like Erlinda I spoke the words of my commitment and love for Christ. Oh what beauty of knowing that He was so overwhelmed with emotion that tears fell. He had waited for so long for me to come to Him and accept His gift of love. Finally, there I was and His love could no longer be contained. He rejoiced over me there at the altar.

The day I came to Christ, just as Erlinda and Mike were joined on their wedding day, I was joined with Christ. I left behind an old life and began a new life. This life was built on love, trust and respect. Just like Erlinda and Mike’s marriage, it is intended to last forever. From this day forward I am a new person united in love. And, from today forward, I will never think of being the bride of Christ without thinking of Mike’s tears of joy over his bride.

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