Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

The “C” Word

A few weeks ago I realized that I was living in dishonesty.

During a conversation about a male friend, LW, I began to relay that I needed to end the relationship. Though I did not say so, I am pretty sure that the person that I was conversing with assumed that my relationship with LW is sexual.

Actually, LW lives several States away and the relationship is as platonic as can be, physically. When I said that I needed to pull back, it was because LW and I have become overly entangled emotionally. He opens up to me and shares things that I don’t think he could or would share with anyone else in the world. He tells me how he feels. He talks about the things that hurt him. He shares his hopes and dreams. He connects with me as if I am his significant other. Yet, we both agree that marriage between us is not a possibility.

You see the problem?

The LW situation is worthy of a post of its own, though.

The point here is that it occurred to me, after I had the conversation about LW, that most people that I meet these days probably assume that my dating relationships involve sexual intimacy. It also occurred to me that, for the most part, I allow this assumption to stand. Somehow, I think, it has made me feel like less of a woe-begotten misfit to be perceived as being sexual.

But this is all a lie. The idea that I am somehow less-than or a misfit is not true. The truth is that I am deeply loved and desired. The idea that I am having sex, even on an irregular basis, is also a lie. I’ve been celibate for years and years. Why have I been allowing these false ideas of who I am to take hold?

About two weeks ago, I began saying out loud to people that I am celibate. If a conversation about my dating, or falling in love, has come up, I have mentioned it. It’s been effortless on my part. So effortless, in fact, that it took me a minute to realize that my using the “C” word was something new that was happening.

Probably in another post I will say more about what celibacy means to me. For now, though, it is enough that I have been able to see myself, love myself, and be myself. I’m not gay. I’m not married. I’m not seeing anyone. I am single. And for me that means celibate.

What assumptions are you resisting in your singleness?

 

 

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Carry Each Other’s Burdens

Have you heard the story about the boy who was carrying his younger brother on his back when a friend said, “It must be hard carrying your brother. Surely he’s heavy.”

The boy responded, “He’s not heavy; he’s my brother!”

I imagine Jesus must say the same thing while He carries me through the tough parts of life. “She’s not heavy, she’s my sister.” Just as Jesus carries our burdens, Galatians 6:2 encourages us to carry each other’s burdens. It’s an act of Christian love for us to help each other make our way through life.

Sometimes we singles feel we’re alone in the weight we carry. There’s no one at home that we can share the burden with, so when others need help sometimes it’s hard for us to reach out a helping hand.

A few years ago, I was dealing with my own heavy weight. All week it had been a struggle for me. I felt my own burdens pressing in on me. With the additional pressure of things friends and family were experiencing, my shoulders grew weary.

It felt oppressive and one day I reached a point of frustration. In my car, on the highway, I yelled and berated another drive because of some “fault” in his driving. Afterwards, I felt defeated and small. With a huge sigh I declared to God, “I can’t do anymore.”

Still, the words from Galations haunted me. The Bible says to carry one another’s burdens and I was telling God I couldn’t. Others have carried my burdens over the years; I want to be able to respond in kind.

I began to question God about why I was being asked to bear this much. Why didn’t my load lighten and how could I continue when I was feeling worn out, tired and frustrated? Slowly, the light began to dawn. It always does when I slow down enough to listen to the still, small voice of God.

Once again I was trying to do it all myself. Like a three year old, I was asserting “I can do it myself!” I am a strong person and can take on a lot. Sometimes I pride myself in that. At times, I forget that my strength comes from God. He waits patiently until I finally get a clue. He gently reminds me that I can’t do it all and I don’t have to. He is there to help.

He still wants me to be there for my loved ones as they deal with things that make their lives hard. He just doesn’t expect me to be there alone.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden in light.   ~Matthew 11:28-30

As I searched in the Bible for the passages I quoted in this post, I felt the burdens drop away. My shoulders relaxed and my breathing slowed and calmed. I had finally been able to put down the weight and it felt good. I had rest for my soul.

When I got up the next day, I felt refreshed despite having little sleep. I was once again ready to face the world. I knew that my cares were being carried by God, and I knew that would allow me to bear other’s burdens with love and kindness.

So, as you read this, I encourage you to cast your burdens on Him. Let Him help you carry the weight today and all days. He is there for you and He shares the weight of your burdens. He will give you rest for your soul as you allow Him to shoulder your burdens with you.

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Can Passionate Love Last?

Call me cheesy. Call me old-fashioned. Call me a hopeless romantic, but no song speaks to my sighing heart quite like “Annie’s Song” by John Denver. From the simplicity of the first chords, it beckons to me with strings of hope before cresting in a declaration of love I imagine any woman would love to hear:

Come let me love you
Let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter
Let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you

Let me always be with you
Come let me love you

Come love me again.

The song has one verse and this chorus, yet I listen to it over and over and feel like crying every time. And I think, “He wrote this about his wife? What must it be like to have someone feel that way about you?”

I found this quote by Annie herself: “It was written after John and I had gone through a pretty intense time together and things were pretty good for us. He left to go skiing and he got on the Ajax chair on Aspen mountain and the song just came to him. He skied down and came home and wrote it down. … Initially it was a love song and it was given to me through him, and yet for him it became a bit like a prayer.” *

For John Denver, the beauty of the earth inspired him to write about his wife.

But that’s not the end of the story. According to biographies, he was unfaithful and, less than a decade after writing these words, the couple divorced. Things got so bad, in fact, that one article said he admitted choking her and cutting their bed in half with a chainsaw. ** Which is ironic, if he’s the one who cheated on her.

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise us that such passionate love would lead to equally passionate anger. Plus, he was, as they say, a “tortured artist” who struggled with alcoholism.

Later, Annie said, “The music came out of a very deep place. And oftentimes, out of that deepness, John felt very alone. If you listen to his songs, there’s a lot of loneliness there.” ***

Speaking as a writer, I would say that when he wrote this song, he felt every bit of it. But what he experienced during those ten minutes on a ski lift, soaring over the mountains of Aspen, could not stand against the realities of life and, sadly, his sin nature.

When I dream about marriage, I’m in danger of doing the same thing — creating a fantasy that floats to music but can’t stay above water when the waves come. I do hope that, when love happens for me, I’m able to see it through the lenses of reality, not tinted by a song, no matter how much I love it.

So, what do you think? Can passionate love survive the realities of life?

What’s your favorite love song?

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Denver#Personal_life
** http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1994-11-06/news/9411051052_1_martell-chainsaws-annie
*** http://www.notablebiographies.com/supp/Supplement-Ca-Fi/Denver-John.html

 

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Singleness Is Academic

Image courtesy of Surachai/FreeDigitalImages.net

Image courtesy of Surachai/FreeDigitalImages.net

One of the things that I have enjoyed most about my time in Cape Town has been my conversations with my supervisor.

Recently, during one of these conversations, we discussed the possibility of my going on from my current program of study to do doctoral work. I shared a couple of topics I might be interested in researching before saying, “But what I am passionate about is singleness in the church.” I then went on and on about why. My supervisor listened, and said it sounded like I wanted to write a theology of singleness.

And that was exactly it! I had been unable to name precisely what I was trying to accomplish in thinking and writing about singleness in the church. But now I can. I want to take a broad theological view of what singleness means. My supervisor’s insight was like a gift from the Lord.

I have never heard of or read such a theology (but please let me know where it is if you have!), so I am extremely excited. I’ve been doing much thinking about what a theology of singleness might entail, and what approach I might use to tackle this vast matter. I want to do more than a review of the historical place of singleness. I want to go beyond discussions of pastoral care. I want  to not be restricted to a review of well-known passages of Scripture that explicitly mention singleness. But that’s as far as I have come in organizing my thoughts.

What do you think? What overarching themes must be addressed by a church thinking theologically about singleness?

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Married at First Sight

Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

 

Recently at dinner with a couple of friends, our discussion turned to TV shows that have captured our attention lately. A friend admitted she’s been watching the new reality show on the FYI network called Married at First Sight. I’ve seen the previews for the show, but never really thought about watching it. Later that evening we all decided to watch an episode of our shows with each other. She was appalled at Tiny House Nation where a young couple with a 2-year-old moved into a 172 square foot house. I was equally appalled to watch six people marry each other without ever having met.

The premise of the show is that four experts — a psychologist, a sociologist, a sexologist and a spiritual adviser — match a man and a woman to make a perfect married couple. The people have been extensively interviewed on all aspects of their life. They’ve been grilled on likes and dislikes. Deal breakers in a relationship are discussed. The experts then ponder the information until they hit upon a perfect match for each person.

Upon agreeing to try the marriage for six months, the couples are offered the services of the experts who made their match. They are also promised a free divorce if they choose to end the relationship anytime within those six months. Once the agreements have all been made, the couple finally gets to meet. But unlike other first dates, they dress in wedding finery and meet at the altar to say their vows.

Would you get married on a blind date?! That’s essentially what this is: getting married to someone you’ve never met.

I watched the show with morbid fascination. Every fiber of my being screamed, “This is wrong!” Still, I couldn’t stop watching. I was amazed at some of the observations from the contestants. Shock that they weren’t physically attracted to their spouse. Uncertain about their decision. One contestant actually talked about how this was supposed to be the happiest day of her life while she sat in the corner of the venue crying. And they weren’t happy tears.

Even the one couple that seemed to connect the most had reservations. At picture time, the wedding photos were stilted and stiff.

As I watched this train wreck of a show, I considered what would drive a person to try this. I can’t even imagine marrying someone I’ve never met. Those close to us are vital in helping to make the decision of whom to marry. Often times when we are blinded by love, our family and friends can see the red flags we might miss. Putting your whole marriage in the hands of strangers is a little extreme.

For me, the most concerning part of the show is that these couples start out with the idea that if this doesn’t work, they can get a free divorce. What a way to start a union. Once the door is open to that thought, it makes it easy to go there during the tough times. And there will be tough times for these couples. They may be well-matched, but they are still two people who are not only getting to know each other but they’re having to do it while also learning to live together as a couple.

The show disturbs me, and I never thought it was something I would be interested in, but now that I’ve seen this much I have to watch again. I’m curious to see what happens with these couples. Will any of them make it? Or will they all go through the stress of being on this show only to then have to go through the stress of a divorce?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this TV series. Do these couples have a chance?

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The Calling No One Wants

The Calling

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

One of the questions writers are often asked is, “Do you feel called to write?” Lately, I’ve noticed people responding with something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t know yet. I guess we’ll find out if my book gets published and it sells.” Implying that success alone proves it was a calling. So, if they’re not successful, then what? It was more of a suggestion than a calling?

As a writer I have a problem with this. I believe I was called to write even though I have yet to see any real success — certainly not financial anyway. In fact, I believe God asked me to write with the caveat that He wasn’t promising me a bestseller or even that one person would read it. The calling was, “Will you write what I ask you to write, regardless of what I choose to do with your work?”

And when I said, “yes,” He suggested I write about my singleness.

Not quite what I had in mind. Why would I want to write about my deepest wound? All my life, in fact, I’d dreamed of being a romance novelist. Kind of the opposite of writing about grieving spinsterhood.

As I’m sure you can imagine, I didn’t exactly jump at the chance. I fought it. Not only did I not want to talk about being single, but I didn’t even know what to say. I hadn’t reached a place of healing yet. I wasn’t even close.  What would I write? “Yeah, it stinks but at least we can slog through the muck together”?

It took seven years of scribbling words out of hurt and confusion for me to get it. Recently, a friend shared this quote on Facebook:

“God often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad of our greatest calling.”

In other words, He just might ask us to do the last thing we would ever dream of doing. Without any guarantee of the outcome.

And when He does … how will you respond?

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Older Women

I have had the most striking experience here at my church in Cape Town. I’ve been adopted by the older women of the congregation. The verse in Titus that tells older women to help train and guide the younger women has been made real to me.

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Image courtesy of imagery majestic/freedigitalimages.net

Over the course of the summer, different women have taken time to get to know me and — over lunch or dinner or tea — have discreetly given me the lowdown on the men around the church. They have said things like, “You are such a lovely person. A good number of women have been hurt by men who come to our church. Sometimes it happens like this … Please be careful. I don’t want to see you get hurt too.”

Never, not ever, have I experienced older women in the church drawing close to me as a single woman to give me guidance and advice about love relationships, or to give me insight into the men who are around.

How amazing and wonderful!

Particularly because these women are older in the Lord and understand a little better about human frailty. They know how to love and to speak lovingly about men, but at the same time speak clearly about the struggles these men may have had.

I’ve decided that, by God’s grace, I am going to be like them when I grow up!

Now you tell me — is this a South African thing? Or are there singles out there who have been blessed to experience the friendship and counsel of older women in the church with respect to love relationships?

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Table for One – Chipotle Burrito Bowl Knock-off

I have to admit that I kind of like fast food. One of my favorite places is Chipotle. A few months back I found this recipe on Pinterest for a burrito bowl that, while it’s not exactly the same as Chipotle’s, it has great flavor and is so easy to make. It’s a quick, easy way to make a meal for one or many.

Ingredients

1/4 cup black beans
1 teaspoon chicken broth
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of garlic powder
1/2 cup red cabbage, sliced thin
3 ounces precooked grilled chicken breast, sliced thin
2 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh salsa
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
Sliced green onions, for garnish

Directions

  1. Microwave black beans with chicken broth, oregano, cumin, cayenne and garlic powder on high for 30 to 45 seconds until heated. Set aside.
  2. Add red cabbage to your bowl and spoon the black beans on top. Layer sliced chicken, Greek yogurt, salsa, cilantro and green onions, and enjoy immediately!
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Confessions of a Night Owl

Night Owl

Image courtesy of thawats/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The world is not kind to night owls.

Take me, for instance. I am not a morning person. Never have been. Just ask my dad who, during my terrible teens, would tiptoe into my room and douse me awake with a glass of water. His preferred method of alarm, though, was to stand just inside the bedroom door and whistle “Taps” with the loving intensity of a train blast.

Rubbing my eyes, I would mumble, “OK, I’m up.”

“You’re not up.” Deep breath and —

I would stumble out of bed. “I’m up!” And, by then, I was.

The world is not kind to night owls.

Especially those who struggle with insomnia.

Every 8-to-5 job I’ve had has been a torment — shuffling into the office after another sleepless night, struggling to make it through the ubiquitous and interminable afternoon meetings without giving my oh-so-sleepy self away, trying to get something done even though my brain and body betray me with thoughts of soft pillows and quiet, dark spaces. Often I would take my work home at night, then astound my boss the next day with the brilliant new ideas I came up with, ahem, that very morning.

And it’s not just at work where the world is unkind. When I lived in Colorado, my singles group would head into the mountains near Breckenridge for a weekend of hiking, biking and as much laughter and games as we could cram into 48 hours. The handful of night owls, like me, would stay up late, snacking on M&Ms and diet Coke, playing “I have never . . .” and telling funny stories.

Eventually, we’d call it a night. In deference to those who were already snoozing, I’d slip into the shared sleeping space and get ready for bed in the dark as quietly as possible. When I finally crawled onto my bunk, it was with the assurance I could sleep through breakfast and join everyone later.

Alas, my weekend roommates saw things differently. In their minds, when the sun comes up everyone should be awake and ready to greet the beautiful day! Lights blink on, blazing into the peaceful darkness. Loud laughter and comments about shampoo and what shirt to wear pierce the silence. The showers run continuously in the adjoining bathroom. And then, the pièce de résistance, the you-cannot-sleep-through-this-no-way-no-how final insult to any night owl: the hairdryer.

All of this made me feel there might be something wrong with my up-all-night, sleep-til-ten proclivities. It certainly seems the world treats being a morning person as right and normal and rewardable while night owls must be punished for their . . . what? Overindulgence?

And yet, I don’t get more sleep. My average is six to seven hours a night. So I’m not snoring my life away. Just my mornings.

After Midnight

Writers, it would seem, are expected to be morning people. One summer, I signed on for Jeff Goins’ 15 Habits of Great Writers challenge. I didn’t make it through day two. Oh, I read every lesson and learned a lot. But as soon as he said to get up two hours earlier, my shoulders slumped in disappointment. Earlier? Couldn’t I stay up two hours later? Or, better yet, couldn’t I commit to writing more on my own timetable?

Still, it makes me wonder if, perhaps, I need to change. Maybe I could train myself to be a morning person. But do I need to?

At least part of the negative attitude toward late-nighters might come from 1 Thessalonians 5:5, which points out: “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.”

Does not speak well for night owls.

Before Dawn

So, I decided to look for more positive Scriptural thoughts about “night.” And I soon found a verse that appealed to my poetic nature, written by the sons of Korah. These long-gone men just might be my soul mates.

By day the Lord commands His steadfast love,
and at night His song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life
(Psalm 42:8).

The world might not be kind to night owls, but God is. He gives us lyrics. At night. While our half of the hemisphere slumbers. In fact, I found several instances where biblical authors spoke of the songs, visions or, of course, dreams they received at night. No wonder I’m often awake until 2, 3, even 4 a.m., desperately trying to get down all the words pulsing through me.

After years of guilt-ridden night owl-ness, I’ve finally been able to make my peace with it.

We are surrounded by people of all sorts and kinds and oddities, each with their weaknesses, joys, sorrows and strengths. It’s what gives life to our worlds. And it’s what makes each of us unique.

So, are you a morning person or a night owl? What makes you unique?

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Risky Business

This weekend I went to see the movie “Hateship Loveship.” The storyline revolves around a perpetually single woman who takes a great risk for a chance at love.

While I was watching this movie’s poignant and dead-on accurate depiction of the lonliness and longing of the long-single woman, I found myself closing my eyes and covering my ears because the realistic portrayal of the life of the heroine was too much for me to bear. I didn’t want to watch, even as I couldn’t look away.

This movie made me think about the risks we perpetually single take, or don’t take, for love.

Sometimes it feels like the message I am getting is that making a fuss over love is mildly juvenile. Marriage is hard work. Romance wears off, an in the long term love barely exists. Singles are just as well-off as those who are coupled. Enjoy singleness! Be Content! Maximize your singlehood for the Kingdom! These are the messages of wisdom and maturity that I hear.

The dream of love between a man and a woman, a perpetually single woman like me, becomes akin to dreams of fairy dust and flying horses. It’s just not real. And if it’s not real, if it’s only so much fantasy and illusion, then certainly it is not sensible–one might even regard it as foolish–to take risks for love. Why risk oursleves financially, or emotionally, or physically on something so whimsical, so ephemeral, so unrealistic?

I wonder, though, if we can’t risk ourselves for love, then what on earth could be worth taking a risk on?

In spite of divorce statistics, of the culture we live in of casual hook-ups, and of the grim prognostications of unhappy spouses, in my heart of hearts I believe that love between a man and a woman is a magical thing. The love that comes home every day, that is considerate, or at least tries to be, that sees the other person for who they are and loves them anyway, this love works magical wonders in the people in the marriage, and also in the people who bear witness to the marriage.

What’s more, I think the enemy knows this as well.

I think not taking risks for love, is to close ourselves off from a realm of magical possibility. Or in more familiar language, to risk ourselves for the possiblity of loving a man is to live by faith and to make ourselves available to receive abundantly from God.

Knowing this as I do, I ask you, why does fear nevertheless hold me fast in its grip, and how can I break free? How do I say what I need to say? How do I let a man past my outer facade and welcome him to see me as I really am?

What risks have I really taken lately for love?

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