Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

You Are So Beautiful — Yes, You!

He will rejoice over you in singing

“You look beautiful tonight.”

The words rolled off his tongue and wrapped me in a shawl of happiness. Sometimes he would sing to me, “You are so beautiful …”

One of the nice things about being in a relationship with someone who was so vocal with their compliments was the affirmation I received from him. It was always great to hear that I looked nice and was attractive to someone.

As single people, we can often go long periods without someone appreciating our new outfit or the way we look. We can forget that we are attractive, desirable people. While it’s not the most important aspect of being in a relationship, it does play an important role.

It can wear us down and make us forget our worth. But there is good news.

I’d like to remind you–yes, you reading this right now–that God thinks you are precious. He created a beautiful creature when He knit you together in your mother’s womb. Even when you don’t hear it from another human, you have the assurance that the King of All cherishes you and adores you.

Today, when you look in the mirror, give yourself a big smile, and know that you are beautiful to the one who matters most.

He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you in singing.                                                                                                                                                                                                               ~Zephaniah 3:17

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At Least She Has a Good Personality

Good Personality

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalimages.net

A few years ago I had moved to a new state and started a new job and decided I needed a new haircut to go along with it. Naturally, all of these changes inspired in me a hope of potentially meeting new men. Why not go for it and actually pay a pretty penny for a pretty and different look? One of my co-workers recommended a specific stylist at a nearby salon, so I made an appointment.

Maybe I shouldn’t have had such high expectations, but I was excited to see what this guy could do. I typically don’t like to give a hairstylist too much direction since she—or he, in this particular case—is the professional. Maybe I’ll offer a few suggestions. Still, I dream of the day when the stylist says, in a sexy French accent, “Zis is ze perfect look for your face shape and style and personalitee. You are going to love eet!” Sadly, that’s never happened.

I told him the basics of what I wanted—a few highlights and an easy-to-style, flowy cut that would frame my face. I’d had highlights before and always liked how it looked, feeling the streaks of pale gold made my skin brighter and my eyes a little bluer. But because my hair is so blonde, the stylist usually has to bleach in highlights to get a color that will show up. I don’t mind, though, since I love that beach-y look.

This guy, however, said I couldn’t do highlights, my hair was too blonde, and he wanted to give me lowlights instead. Since I believed my earlier experiences with highlighting had been quite successful, I initially disagreed with him. He insisted, though, and, like I said, I trust a professional hairstylist to know what’s best. So, I acquiesced, he colored my hair his way, then gave it a quick cut and styled it.

Now, I rarely like how they style my hair and usually “fix” it after I leave. But when I saw what he had done, I almost cried. I couldn’t fix the fact that I now had brown—yes, brown—poufy, soccer mom hair. Not new. Not pretty. Absolutely awful.

A few days later, still trying to make my hair morph into something I could live with or, at least, not cry over, it hit me. The scale of how I felt about my looks as far as attracting a man did not tip in my favor. So, I believed, if I “lost” one of my good attributes, I’d be left with even less to offer. And, as we all know, men are visual creatures and you have to appeal to his eyes before you have a chance to introduce him to your winning personality. I know I’m clever, interesting and talented. I’ve been told I have a sexy voice and a great sense of humor. But would that make any difference if I’m also overweight and fifty and trying to hide a bad haircut?

Oh, sure, we can tell ourselves, “The right guy will like me just the way I am!” But do any of us really believe it?

We definitely want to believe it. What a dream-come-true to find someone who thinks you’re beautiful, even in sweats, not a stitch of makeup, with a muffin top and paint-peeling bad breath. Fortunately, from what I’ve seen, once a man is head over heels in love, the object of his affection remains beautiful in his eyes regardless of age, size or infirmity. Love is blind, I do believe that. But until he’s actually in love with you, his vision is twenty-twenty. That’s the way things are, more often than not, and the sooner a woman accepts it, the better off she’ll be. Which means I wear the makeup and make an effort to accentuate my good features, while still being true to myself.

This isn’t some anti-feminist rant nor is it the secret to finding a man. (Obviously!) I just think women do themselves a disservice when they don’t at least put some effort into appealing to a man’s eyesight. After all, I want a guy who’s clean, dresses like he cares, and has a good job. We have superficial expectations for them as they do for us, and it’s unrealistic to demand he be everything you want without making any concessions for him. The good news is that looks are subjective. We are all beautiful to someone. It’s finding the right someone that’s tricky. In the meantime, it behooves us to look our best.

Which is why, after a month of trying unsuccessfully to learn to like my sad, boring hair, I went to a place I trusted and paid another fairly decent bit of cash for a fresh, new cut and platinum blonde highlights. It didn’t lead to a man—and that’s not why I did it anyway. I felt better about myself, which is vitally important when it comes to being confident. Besides, I’ve been told, men like that too.

Sigh. I’m such a mess. No, really. Because that’s what I think about. Is this attractive to men? Or this? What about that? Short hair? Long hair? A manicure? Should I wear jeans or a skirt? Does this make me look thinner? Hotter? Happier? Yes, some colors make me happy. If you feel happy, you’re more likely to look happy. Right?

Anyway, I think about these things even when I know there’s slim to no chance I’m going to be in the presence of a Guy With Potential in the near future. But I want to be prepared. After all, I could meet someone in the grocery store, at a comedy club, even at my sister’s New Year’s Eve party.

I find myself trying so hard to be what the next available guy might want when, deep down, all I really long for is someone who wants … me. Me, with all my goofy idiosyncrasies and mannerisms, my love of flannel shirts and fuzzy slippers, my tendency to sing big band tunes in the shower and make snarky comments at bad drivers. Someone who thinks all my oddities are kinda cute, in fact.

It could happen. I believe! I do! I really do! (What you can’t tell is I’m clapping my hands because I also believe in fairies!)

Okay, but I am trying. I was about to say, “at least I’m trying” as if I’m getting better at my attempts to believe love is still possible, but that’s not true. At one time I found it a lot easier to imagine someone could like me for me. Now I feel a man could only fall for me if I made changes—lost some weight, had a gentler personality, was not writing a book about being single, and stopped saying what I’m thinking without first thinking about whether I should say it. A kinder, gentler, quieter, thinner Sharyn.

Yes, I suppose it’s a little ridiculous. We’ve all seen enough Disney movies and Afterschool Specials to know how important it is to be yourself. For all I know, I could make those changes and still never meet someone who likes me. Besides, the kind of guy who would like a quieter, gentler Sharyn sounds a bit boring. I would much prefer someone as loud and weird and goofy as I am. Well, maybe not as loud.

Now I just have to believe he’s still out there.

Which reminds me of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. That’s right. Words of wisdom from an Indiana Jones movie. At the end of the film, Indy’s dad is mortally wounded by the villain, Walter Donovan, as an incentive for the younger adventurer to brave death in search of the Holy Grail. Since the Grail purportedly has the power to heal, finding it now appears to be the only hope Jones Sr. has to survive. But two men have already died in the first of three booby traps that await anyone who tries and Indiana hesitates. Donovan leans in and says,

“It’s time for you to decide what you believe.”

I need to put that on a bumper sticker or a T-shirt; I don’t care if it was a movie villain who said it. The line whispers to me at expected—and unexpected—times.

“Sharyn, it’s time for you to decide what you believe.”

What do I believe? Do I believe God loves me and that His plan is good and perfect and emanates out of His compassion for me? Or do I believe I’m destined to be alone for the rest of my life?

The point, though, is that I need to decide every day what I believe about God’s involvement in my life when it comes to my spinsterness, and I certainly can’t base it on what I see in the mirror.

So … what do you believe?

 

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Living Today

Walking in a Meadow

Image courtesy of adamr/freedigitalimages.net

Single life may be only a stage of a life’s journey, but even a stage is a gift. God may replace it with another gift, but the receiver accepts His gifts with thanksgiving. This gift for this day. The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived—not always looked forward to as though the ‘real’ living were around the next corner. It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.

                                                           ~Elizabeth Elliott

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Here’s Hoping

Lately I have been quiet because I have had nothing to say. Not only have I not been speaking, but in the midst of life’s happenings I have found myself losing track of my deadline to post. I pondered this week what was going on with me and did not have long to wait before finding an answer. My pen is stilled, because my heart is stilled, because my hope has been stilled.

Part of what made my summer the transformative experience that it became, was that I had the opportunity to preach fairly regularly. Preaching ended up being a tool that God used to help me to sift myself out. Just like with writing, you cannot preach from a place of inauthenticity. God walked with me on my journey toward authenticity and truth. The Word working in me became words in me, through me, out of me. Be-ing became preaching.

This role as a preacher ended when I returned to the States. The proclamation of words that had been given and formed and refined through the fires of living and being was over. And much of the vividness and vibrancy of my living and being also seemed to go.

School began, and with it my preaching class, which I anticipated with joy. My joy soon turned to sorrow, though, because words were not coming. When I stilled myself and considered why, I realized that I was hiding from my classmates. I did not trust them enough to be honest with them, and if I could not speak honestly then I could not preach. So I took a huge risk, and shared with my small preaching group the daily cross that I carry. We talked about the woman with the issue of blood. I talked about my issue, desiring to love a man and to be loved in return, for which I am still waiting on Jesus.

The response, from my mostly coupled and married classmates, was generally : “Well, do you need to be married or do you just want to be?”

This response hurt. I did not feel heard. I stopped talking.

When class was over, Liz, a young, married mom of 3 little ones who began seminary when her last (surprise) baby was only weeks old, who brings her kids to school when childcare gets dicey, who preaches about community and being present for one another, came up to me and said when one of us is sitting in a painful place and is feeling no hope, that’s when the church steps in and surrounds the grieving person and hopes for her. Liz is hoping for me.

I didn’t realize how much I needed her hope. Her hope has given me words.

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I’m Okay

Do not be in a hurry, the right man will come at last.
                                                —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Denial

Image courtesy of photostock/freedigitalphotos.net

I’m smack dab in the middle of editing my nonfiction version of Spinstered, which takes a look at the seven stages of grief through the eyes of my single life. As I worked on this section in the chapter on denial, I decided to share it with you this week.

***

During my 30s and, especially, my 40s, I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the truth of my life. And, to be honest, there are still days when it feels rather surreal. During my mid-forties, though, this was especially true. At times I would shrug and insist I was perfectly fine walking my journey alone. What difference did it make? One path was as good as another. The next minute it felt so completely wrong. I would lift the spear of my marriage dream like Don Quixote, prepared to fight windmills—or God, in my case—if that was what it took. This isn’t my life, I insisted. I’m supposed to be married with children, like practically everyone I know. Being single was the illusion.

You know those movies where the main character hits her head or makes a wish or puts on a pair of pink bedazzled shoes and wakes up to find herself living a completely different life? That’s how I felt. Maybe I really was a wife and mother who’d forgotten what a blessing my family was. Then I’m in a car accident. As my body lies mangled and tube-attached in a hospital bed, I have a chance to find out what it’s really like to be single, a magical opportunity to learn to appreciate my husband and kids more. Soon I’ll wake up from this illusion and find a strong arm around me as charming, towheaded mini-mes bounce on the bed. Just like it’s supposed to be.

But life isn’t a movie. I’m living my reality. I’m not sure when that moment came; that day—if there was a specific one—when I made the decision that landed me so firmly in Spinsterville. Did some great guy ask me out and I turned him down? Was someone interested but I never knew and, as a result, never gave him the encouragement he needed? Or was it a series of minor events that took me down, like termites destroying a home?

On the other hand, maybe there was nothing I could have done, no choice I could have made that would have resulted in marriage for me. And I didn’t know which was sadder: that I missed my chance . . . or I never had one. So, I forced myself to not think about what I couldn’t change. If I truly believed God was in control, then I had to accept the truth that if He wanted me married, that’s what I would be.

I tried to let the idea of love and marriage go. I really did. But for years the only way I knew how to do that was by living in denial about what I wanted … or just refusing to think about it at all.

Still, being the romantic I am, I also spent a lot of time trying to convince myself it could all still happen. Turns out, that was just another form of denial. Next time, I vowed, I’ll make the right choice. I’m not that old. I’m not that unattractive. I’m not that stuck in my ways. I’m still fun and interesting and passionate. My friends and family would agree. I think. For the most part, they’re very supportive.

What would I have done without their heartfelt reassurances that “somewhere out there is a fantastic man that God has saved just for you. And I can’t wait to see what happens when you meet him!” Of course it was encouraging, hearing someone I love say exactly what I wanted to hear. Maybe it was more than just encouraging. Maybe, I whispered to the part of me still clinging to the dream, it was a direct word of promise from God.

Because that’s what you do when you’re living in denial. Everything can be explained. Or excused. I heard hidden meanings in the pastor’s sermons and tried to interpret the smiles or gestures or nods of the Guy With Potential I had my eye on. I could convince myself of just about anything … then had to live with the disappointment when I realized I was wrong.

Over the years, I had to slowly work my way out of denial by making myself come face to face with the truth of my singleness. And why God chose me to be so.

***

Are you living in denial regarding your singleness … or any other part of your life? If so, what truth does God want you to see?

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Dead Car Batteries and Feeling Alone

Last week I drove to work in that morning light that is just about full light, but not quite all the way there. It felt dark so I turned on my car lights. Problem is sometimes my lights will ding if I leave them on when I get out of the car. Other times they do not.

When I left work, I was running to get to church on time for a meeting. I pushed the magic button on my key fob and absolutely nothing happened. So I did what any reasonable person would do, I pushed that stupid button harder. Again, nothing happened.

Then I glanced down into my car and saw the light switch showing on and I knew. That battery was dead as could be. But, ever the optimist, I got in the car, put the key in the ignition, and turned. And nothing happened.

Can I tell you that very few things get me worse than car problems? Yep, car issues can reduce me to a blubbery mass of independent woman quicker than you can call triple A.

See, I’m pretty independent. I even have jumper cables in my car, so a dead battery should be no big deal. But last week it was and, honestly, the help of a friend got me through it. When we couldn’t get the hood of her car open, she went looking for additional assistance. Thankfully, we were able to solve the problem pretty quickly and I made it to church only a few minutes late.

But this incident reminded me that I’m alone. It’s times like this that I often feel forsaken. These are the moments when I have to remind myself that being single is not a punishment or curse. It is the path God has put me on for this season and, despite what I feel, I am never truly alone.

Image courtesy of Stoonn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stoonn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Summer’s Last Gasp — Sand Pudding

Temps dropped significantly this morning and some trees are already tinted orange and yellow, indicating fall has arrived. Sure, things might warm up here and there over the next month or so but, for all intents and purposes, summer 2014 has come to an end. Since it was slightly cooler than usual and included a week on North Carolina’s Outer Banks with my family and half a month in Colorado Springs with friends, I have fond memories of the last few months.

So, in memory of warmer days, I’ve decided to share this fun recipe for Sand Pudding. I recommend having a cold-weather beach party as on Ode to Summer and serving this. It’s like Dirt Pudding but, like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way.

In the meantime, you might want to keep your eyes open for on-sale beach buckets. I bought mine for a buck-fifty.

Step One:  Crush a package of vanilla wafers and three or four Oreos (for color texture) in a food processor. We didn’t have one so my friend, Denise, used a coffee grinder. It worked out just fine.

Step Two:  In a separate bowl, mix one large package of Oreo Cookies ’n Crème pudding with 2¾ cup milk:

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You’ll want to whisk it until it starts to thicken (about two minutes):

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Step Three:  (This is my favorite part!) Gently fold in a 12-ounce container of Cool Whip:

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(Is it just me or does that look like a bit of heaven on earth?)

Step Four:  Put a layer of “sand” in the bucket:

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Step Five:  Then a layer of pudding:

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Step Six:  And just keep layering, topping it off with sand:

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Step Seven:  Now all you have to do is make it pretty!

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The “official” recipe includes a mixture of cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar but I left that out when I realized I forgot to buy cream cheese. And what we ended up with was light, creamy and very tasty!

You can tell my friends and I enjoyed it by the satisfied smiles on our faces:

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Of course, you can’t have a beach party without a perfect Hawaiian song, like this one by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole:

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Make New Friends but Keep the Old

One of my friends from Cape Town is visiting next week and I am too excited. It always amazes me when I find that I’ve made a new true friend at this stage of my life. I thought my inner circle was closed. But the Lord continues to surprise me with the gift of true friendship with new people.

Have you been surprised by new friendships you’ve entered later in life?

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Do You Know What Love Is?

Love is patient

Do you know what love is? This line from a Guardian’s song had been running through my head for a few days. It started when a friend put out a request for guest posts for her blog on the subject of true love. I volunteered to write a post and then a little voice in my head said, “What do you know about true love?”

Truth is, I don’t know that I’ve ever been in love in the sense that most people use the term. You know, “I met this guy and I’m in love.” But I do know that true love is not always about the romantic, Valentine’s Day kind of love.

Do I know what love is? When I think of love, I picture my parents. They had been married for 47 years when Mom died. They did life together through the tough times, through raising four kids, through better and through worse. Then sickness came.

Mom had Lewy Body Dementia for at least the last 10 years of her life. The disease slowly took her ability to handle the basics of life. As she progressed, Dad gave up more of his life in order to care for her. He was so gentle and sweet with her. He was constantly looking for ways to make Mom comfortable and happy. Things like buying her a doll like one she had as a child that had broken. He would buy the food she loved to eat. He walked and prayed with her when she couldn’t sleep. His whole life became about how to serve her.

Do I know what love is? Yep, love is sacrificial and caring. It is giving to another even when you don’t think you can give anything more. Love is a melding of lives until they become one.

Love is patient, love is kind …
                                       1 Corinthians 13:4

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God Talk

Last weekend, I joined almost 200 men and women in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, NC, at the Living Out Loud Labor Day Singles Retreat.

To be honest, I didn’t go to this event planning or even thinking I’d have a God moment, though the anticipation of something unexpected is always there. I just hoped to have fun, make some new friends and tell people about the novel I self-published the week before.

A few of us stood in a group before leaving and prayed for safe travels. So I took this Prayer Feet photo.

A few of us stood in a group before leaving the retreat and prayed for safe travels. So I took this Prayer Feet photo.

That all changed on Sunday. After our big group session that morning, they sent us off to prayer rooms, each one focused on a different aspect of love: Loving God, Loving Yourself, Loving Others and Loving the Lost. I saw the value in all four, so I slipped into the first one I saw—Loving Others. Definitely something I need to work on. I thought I’d invest a little time there, then move to Loving God next door.

It didn’t work out that way. I spent the entire prayer time in that room. Because, as often happens in prayer, one thought led to another and, in about 15 minutes, I went from praying for others to wondering why God doesn’t answer my requests and questioning if prayer is really worth the trouble if He’s not listening anyway.

Then, in the middle of feeling lost and dripping tears and questioning the very foundation of my faith, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up to see a friend standing next to me. Now, I don’t remember her exact words, but she said something like this:

“Sharyn, I feel I should tell you that God hears you. He knows you’re strong but you don’t have to do this on your own.”

I can’t remember a time when I felt God answer my prayer so quickly or clearly. And I cried even more, knowing He loves me enough to reach down and touch my heart with His assurance.

Now, six days later, it feels a little surreal, and it would be easy to question whether it actually happened. So I keep reminding myself that it did. And I wrote it down here to make it even harder to forget. Hopefully, the next time I question God’s silence, I’ll remember this moment as His promise to me, regardless of circumstances.

How does God speak to you? Do you question whether you’ve heard His voice or are you confident you have?

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