Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

Angry Enough

I’ve discovered being single so long turns us into loners, if we weren’t already wired that way. Though I’m an extrovert by nature, over the years I’ve come to love being alone. At times, I even look forward to it, especially after a busy day.

But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Not when I stumble home and collapse into solitary nothingness. My backside has a far too personal relationship with my couch, and the TV has become my way of escaping the quiet of a two-bedroom house that only sleeps one. Though I try to fill my days as much as I can, I tell myself I need my downtime. And for singles, downtime equals alone time. So I scroll through Facebook while watching romantic movies, and try not to think about how angry I am at God.

That’s how I handle it, but there are variations … we’re all different. Some women completely swamp their lives with activity. The more we do, the less time we have to think about the way things are. But whether we’re doing everything or nothing at all, we’re only throwing a quilt over the anger. It’s a way to distract our minds and try to forget how many times we’ve prayed that prayer, wept our grief, and begged for answers we never seem to get. Just push the anger aside until tomorrow. Then, when we do think about it, it’s easier to resign ourselves to our lot in life and slip into a woe-is-me pity party with the underlying anger always hovering right beneath the surface.

“What’s the point?” we say. “It’s obvious God doesn’t care.”

That, my friends, is our quiet, frustrated dig at God. And even if you have the presence of mind to remind yourself of all the evidence you have that proves how much He loves you, it’s not enough. Because if He does care but, for whatever reason, remains quiet, that silence still slices and dices its way through our hearts. How could continued silence feel like anything but apathy? And it’s this overwhelming sense of indifference from the One we’ve come to believe loves us the most that twists the dagger into our gut.

Still, we try to remain faithful. It hurts. God, You know it does. I have to believe You love me. And yet, this deafening quiet.

If you’ve seen the movie Amadeus, you probably remember the scene where Salieri turns against God. All he claims he ever wanted was to serve God through music. When he sees Mozart—an uncouth, vile, blasphemous child with an innate gift for musical genius that Salieri could only dream about—he reacts with an intense anger bordering on hatred.

Salieri“So be it!” he cries out. “From now on we are enemies, You and I.”

Many of us have felt that way—even if only for a moment. And I don’t like it. I don’t like anything that makes me feel separated from God. Yet the potential to react like Salieri is there, rapping at my skull with wicked-sharp fists.

Are you sure God loves you?

Yes, in my heart and soul, I know He does. But I am only human and the doubts come and the thought that He could love me and still not care about my lonely, grief-soaked heart drags me down to an angry place and anchors me there far more often than I would like.

How could it be that God loves me … yet no man on earth could? This question would burst out of me in tearful screams, when I was driving in my car or lying in bed in the middle of the night, or even in a room full of friends, where I had to bite my lip and pretend I got something in my eye. I never felt the anger with the finality of Salieri, but always with equal passion.

Fortunately, God can take it. And though He didn’t always comfort me in those times like I wished He would—and He rarely responded—I still felt safe enough, loved enough, to be angry. Angry enough to spit, yell, stomp my feet, and shake my fists. Angry enough to feel abandoned by God.

Hopeful enough to never give up hope.

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Let It Snow!

The internet has been out due to snow. But the silver lining is that my classes were also let out. Yayyy! Another plus is that this southern snowfall is positively beautiful. It’s the same snowfall as in other parts of the country, I suppose, but because it is so infrequent it brings with it a kind of joyousness that lingers with it.

My favorite thing on a day like this is to curl up in front of the tv and watch a good, sappy love story. This morning I was all ready to settle in with my DVD when I remembered I am forgoing movies during the Lenten season. Even on snow days. I have lots to pray about and prepare for regarding the next season of my life. So no escapist romance for me today, alas.

Instead of the movie, I went out and marveled at God’s awesome creation. I cleared off my car, and had such fun with the snow that I cleared off two of my neighbors’ cars too.

I love snow days!

What do you do when you are snowed in?

View of my street.

View of my street.

Courtesy of the neighbor's children.

Courtesy of the neighbor’s children.

My backyard.

My backyard.

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Call on Me

It was one of those nights when I sat by the phone, waiting for the call that never came. As I cried myself to sleep again, I asked God why it always ended this way. Why couldn’t Bill* love me and call me when he said he would?

That night I came to realize that much like me, God often waited for me to call when I said I would. My quiet times would be put aside for every little thing, and soon it would be days without even cracking my Bible.

The Bible does say we are created in God’s image, so it makes sense that He feels the same things we do.

When Bill finally called, he was full of talk about his week and how bad it was for him. He never bothered to find out how my week was, or how I was doing. Sadly, when I finally call on God after a time away, I’m the same: it’s all about me. I go on and on without giving God an opportunity to get a word in.

Thankfully, God is always glad to hear from us, no matter how long it’s been. He will always have time to listen.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a call to make …

Image courtesy: anankkml/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy: anankkml/freedigitalphotos.net

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.                                                                                                        ~Jeremiah 29:12

* Yeah, I changed the name to protect the innocent. 🙂
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Precious In His Sight

This past Wednesday I started a new Bible study. It’s specifically to help women love and, therefore, take better care of their bodies. We’re going through various Scriptures, dissecting what they mean and determining what the lesson is for each of us. It was all good and friendly and somewhat old-hat for this life-long church girl.

Near the end of the study, our leader asked us to turn to a page in our workbook where she had included the definition of the word precious:

… of high worth, greatly valued, highly esteemed, dear, beloved, irreplaceable.

She asked us to read it, then to read it together, out loud, only, she said, this time start with your name and make it a sentence: Sharyn is … etc. Like good soldiers, the other dozen-plus women chimed in, saying their name, followed by all of those delightfully strong and optimistic adjectives.

And I couldn’t do it. I mumbled something nonsensical instead of my name before joining in on the rest of the mantra. It’s just hard for me to see myself that way. While, on the one hand, I’m confident in the knowledge that God created me and loves me as I am; on the other, I’m far too aware of my flaws.

I suppose we all are.

A few weeks ago, someone posted a website photo album that showed a series of grooms’ faces as they saw their bride in her wedding dress for the first time. It was sweet, almost tear-inducing. And my first thought was, “No one could ever look at me like that.”

Precious by adamr

Are you seeing your true reflection? Image courtesy of adamr with FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

My low self-esteem isn’t anything new. It started early—in grade school, I believe—when I liked boys but they didn’t like me back. And continued through high school, when I didn’t get asked out or have dates to important teenage events like homecoming and prom. I did stop by our prom my senior year with some friends to check it out. We stood around for a bit then went to a movie.

Over 30 years as a single since, and you’d think I’d be better—more accepting of who I am, more content with being who God created me to be. Yet I continue to see my worth through the eyes of men. Flawed humans, just like me, who file people away in categories. Cute. Not Cute. Thin. Fat. Boring. Weird. Fun. Interesting.

Dateable or not dateable.

So when my Bible study leader asked me to give myself these different, better labels, my instinct rejected the idea. I don’t see it, even if it’s true. As Vivian (played by Julia Roberts) said in Pretty Woman, “The bad stuff is easier to believe.”

But the bad stuff is not always the truth. We are precious in His sight. I am precious to Him. And, someday, I know I’ll be able to say those words:

Sharyn is … of high worth, greatly valued, highly esteemed, dear, beloved, irreplaceable.

How about you? Do you see yourself that way? Can you say it? Try. Out loud:

[YOUR NAME] is of high worth, greatly valued, highly esteemed, dear, beloved, irreplaceable.

Now … do you believe it?

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Valentine’s Day 2015–Postscript

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles and Freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On Friday, February 13th, I began the day with a 5+ mile walk.  It was so cold outside in the morning that I froze all the way down to my core, and spent the remainder of the day trying to warm up. I was unfocused, unproductive, and by the evening I felt very ill.

When I found myself eating cheddar popcorn and Tate’s Chipless Wonder chocolate-chipless cookies I realized that I wasn’t physically ill so much as emotionally troubled. Something was bothering me. But what could it be? It couldn’t be that Valentine’s Day weekend was here, that I was reading all about everyone’s plans and gifts and love lives on Facebook, and that I was planning on spending Valentine’s Day alone and that I was not happy about it, could it? Alas. I admitted to myself my loneliness and went to be early.

Amazingly, when Valentine’s Day actually arrived the next morning, I felt full of vitality. I spent the day doing my favorite things. I gave myself permission to finish that bag of cheddar popcorn. I chatted with friends. Then, before I knew it, my happy, sunshiny, Valentine’s Day was over.

The next day, as I drove to church at 7 a.m., I chatted with the Lord. I reminisced about how I used to hear from Him with such regularity and clarity.  “We used to have such sweet times, Lord,” I said.

I arrived at church for our pre-worship meeting, where the senior pastor told me a minister friend of mine from South Africa–whom I had mentioned at church in the past–would be visiting our church. I was stunned.

I do not speak to or connect with this minister very much, and only I and the Lord know of my love and prayers for him.

It’s like this:

Imagine that you are a Royal Watcher. (This is actually a thing.)  Imagine that, perchance, you met Prince Harry during the course of your travels and had a lovely, lovely conversation with him. Imagine that since that perchance meeting, you have a particular affection for Prince Harry among all the other royals. Imagine that you pray for the Prince as often as you pray for your dearest loved ones.

Now imagine you go to church one day and your pastor says to you, “By the way, I thought you might be interested to know that Prince Harry is coming to town in a few weeks and will be making an official visit to our church to have lunch with us.” Of all the churches, in all the cities, in all the countries in the world, Prince Harry is coming to yours!

I do not have the words to tell you how astonished and delighted I am by the news that my friend will be visiting my church!

Yet, as delighted as I am at the news of my friend’s visit, I am even more bowled over by the love of the Lord. This felt like His Valentine’s Day gift to me. Only the Lord knows how much I would love to see this man again. Only the Lord could arrange to have this man come to my humble church. Only the Lord could surprise me like this. Only the Lord could give me a gift that is so sweet, so personally meaningful, so mind-blowingly unbelievable, that it makes the thought of a bouquet or a box of chocolates or a seven-course meal, seem … paltry.

He sees me. He knows me. He loves me. We are still having our sweet times together.

Happy Valentine’s Day indeed.

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Broken Beautiful

Well, I had great plans for this President’s Day weekend. Our office was closed on Monday, so I had a nice, long four-day weekend.

Things didn’t work out as I had planned since I came down with a nasty head cold that started Friday and finally started to ease up on Monday afternoon. In light of my inability to think straight, much less compose a whole blog post, I thought I’d switch things up a bit and share an artist I’ve recently become acquainted with and a song that I’ve been loving.

A friend recently introduced me to Ellie Holcomb’s music through her blog. I love the folksy, easy tone of her songs. This song has been one of my favorites, so I hope you enjoy it also.

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This Blog Post Is Not About 50 Shades of Anything

When I first started mulling over this week’s article—and that was about a month ago—I knew I had to take Valentine’s Day into consideration. Of course, my first thought was to write about romance or, more realistically, the lack of any in my life. Maybe something like “A Dozen Ways to Enjoy the Love Holiday in 2015” or  “Eight People to Give Valentine’s Day Cards to If You Don’t Have a Significant Other” or “You Can Turn S.A.D. (Singles Awareness Day) Into Glad! Here’s How!”

Then I realized today is Friday the 13th. Maybe the creepy side of romance would be a better way to go. But the 50 Shades of Grey movie opens this weekend and, from what I can tell, they pretty much have that covered.

My apologies. As promised, this post isn’t about that.

Kissing by David Castillo Dominici

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Anyway, I’m a romantic and even though my personal experiences are somewhat limited, I like to write about love. So it seemed only natural to include a few kissing scenes in my novel, Spinstered.

Somewhere in the midst of pondering this post, I thought, “Why not share one of my favorite first-kiss moments from Spinstered? The idea appealed to me. And I knew just the scene.

The following takes place about halfway through the novel. Jolene and her friends are at a singles retreat in the mountains of Colorado. During a video scavenger hunt the first night, Jolene ends up strolling down a mountainside road with her best friend, Trevor. Their other teammates—naïve Ellen and good-humored Kate—have walked ahead. And that’s when everything changes. …

***

“So,” I (Jolene) say, “are you having fun?”

“Sure.”

“Really? You’re glad you came?”

“Why not?”

I stop walking and look him in the eyes. “I know this isn’t your thing, Trev. I know you’re only here because I … persuaded you.”

He grins. “You can be very persuasive.”

“When you’re a social worker, it comes in handy.”

We start moving again. And then, in the dark, under a sky punctuated by stars, on the side of a mountain dotted with snow, his hand brushes mine. One of those quick, accidental moments. It’s nothing. Less than something. But Trevor takes a sharp, quiet breath. All of a sudden I want it to be intentional. And I want it to happen again. It’s like someone flipped a switch I never knew existed.

“This will never do.”

He looks at me.

Yep. I said it out loud.

“Why not?” His fingers curl around mine.

It was definitely intentional. Oh boy. This is all so unexpected and confusing and … dreamy. Still, in a move that shows I’m more clueless than Ellen, I say, “We’re friends.”

“Yeah. Good friends.”

I slow to a stop but can’t look at him. Not yet. With most men I’d be coy and flirtatious, but Trevor is different. “The best.” It’s barely a whisper. I’m not even sure he heard me.

He glances ahead to Ellen and Kate, who disappear around a bend. His grip on my hand tightens as he pulls me off the road and behind a tree. I do a skip and a jump to keep from falling over. Stumble against him. Grab his arm and look up. In the star-lit silence he stares down at me. I can see the hope in his brown eyes. “Who better to fall in love with than my best friend?”

I barely squeak out, “In love?” and he kisses me. Lord have mercy, he kisses me. It’s short and sweet and my whole body melts. My hands clutch at his shirtfront. He pulls back, his eyes searching mine. For some reason I whisper, “Heaven,” but in truth it’s a miracle I can speak at all. So he kisses me again. I might as well kiss him back.

Time slows until it moves as languidly as a lazy river. I’m not sure how long we’re there, making out like two teenagers in the back of a station wagon, only this is so much better. We float under a starry sky, surrounded by the scent of pine trees and the rhythmic sounds of a forest at night. His hands pull me closer. Then Kate calls my name, and I push him away. For several seconds we just stare at each other as Kate and Ellen head back our way, getting dangerously close to our hiding place.

“So,” Trevor says, a grin I’ve never seen before lighting his face, “we’ll talk about this later?”

I take a deep breath and somehow manage to smile back.

“Oh, absolutely.”

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Stuff Girls Like (or Why A Little Frivolity Never Hurt Anyone)

A friend said to me recently, after complimenting my nail polish, that she had neither the time nor the money to care for her nails.

IMG_0267Her comment prompted me to feel slightly embarrassed, and a little extravagant for prioritizing my manicures.

I said, “Because I’m ministering up front I have to make sure that my hands always look presentable.” This is true. Just that morning I had served Communion in chapel, and was thankful my hands looked well-maintained when I was breaking the bread.

“I talk with my hands,” I continued, “so it is very noticeable when my nails are not manicured; it’s distracting.” This is true. My hands are a big part of how I communicate. When my nails look cared for, I feel less self-conscious about waving them around. I speak more freely.

And I said, “The Southern ladies and gentlemen in the congregations down here really tend to notice these things and expect me to have nice nails.” This is true. When I first began attending church down here, my nails might be polished, or might be chipping a little, or might really need tending to. They were not high on my list of things that mattered. But when I took care of them one week (in anticipation of a date) several people at church remarked on it. I realized people actually notice these things. Which led me to commit to keeping my nails tended to, since most of my time would now be spent in churches, with congregations, full of people who notice my nails.

I said all of these things to my friend, which were true, but the real truth I did not say is that I love getting my nails done. I love having a nice manicure. I love picking the color I will wear, and getting the hand massage that is included, and the final look of beautiful, uniform fingernails. I love having that hour to just sit, and chat with the manicurist, and think about nothing.

To have official reasons to do something I love to do makes me glad. But I still feel slightly guilty about it because I am trying to care less about these kinds of things. Fingernails seem so frivolous. Also because, as my mom would say, manicures are a “waste of money,” amounting to about $40/month.

My friend, hearing the discomfort in my words, used the opportunity to encourage me.

She agreed that my hands are a very necessary part of my life, and that I touch people with my hands.

She said there was nothing wrong with doing something nice for myself.  Especially in a profession like the ministry–where you are serving people all day every day–self-care is important and should not be neglected.

She said I should keep getting manicures.

Thank God for friends.

Do you have any frivolities in your life that bring you joy? How do you manage self-care?

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Fake Patty Melts

Image courtesy: Jackthumm/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy: Jackthumm/freedigitalphotos.net

I’m a lover of comfort foods. One of my favorites to order when I’m in a diner is a patty melt. It’s not something I ever make for myself at home. Recently, though, I was hungry for something and didn’t feel like going out. So I put my brain to work and came up with a fake patty melt which wasn’t too bad. It’s quick and easy and even a little healthy.

I started with a Spicy Black Bean Veggie Burger from Morningstar. I love these burgers and usually have them in my freezer.  I sautéed some onion in a skillet while the burger was in the toaster oven. Cheese was added at the very last minute so that it just melts over the top of the burger. Instead of frying the sandwich with butter in the skillet, I toasted it and then added the burger and onions.

It turned out pretty good. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures before I ate it!

 

 

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Too Picky … Or Not Picky Enough?

Another excerpt from my soon-to-be-released book, Spinstered: Surviving Singleness After 40:

The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!                                                                                                                                                 —Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Just as I try to bargain the wrong man into my life, I can also bargain someone out of it by nitpicking every little thing. Over the years, my excuses haven’t matured or become more logical. This one’s too short, that one’s too tall. He doesn’t have a good enough sense of humor; he doesn’t have the right sense of humor. He’s too boring. Too young. Too old. Too … whatever.

Musketeers

One of my current favorite shows — The Musketeers on BBC America. See? I’m not too picky. 🙂

As I said, I’m too picky. But that’s not the whole story.

A while back I had a writing assignment to interview a woman who had just celebrated her ninety-fifth birthday. When I discovered she had never married, I decided to ask her about it if I had the chance. I had recently started working on Spinstered and thought it might be interesting to get the perspective of a woman who was looking back on a single life.

As we sat in her living room, surrounded by years of accumulated knick-knacks and delicate pieces of china, Ruth was relaxed and easy-going and more than willing to answer my questions, even though, at first, she seemed unsure how to express her thoughts on singleness. Because, she told me, she had never talked about it before.

Never.

After a moment’s hesitation, she said, “Well, I guess I was too picky.” But then she added, “I never really felt good enough.”

How can a single woman be too picky and have low self-esteem at the same time? It’s actually quite easy. You already suspect there’s something wrong with you. The idea clings to you like a frightened cat. So you believe you’re not good enough and, at the same time, look down your nose at anyone who might be interested. You get to a point where you can’t accept that anyone truly worthwhile would ever want to date you … which means if such a person shows up there must be something seriously wrong with him.

And there you go: You’re not good enough for him and he’s not good enough for you. Groucho Marx said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” And, apparently, I won’t date someone who would want me as a girlfriend.

We obsess over our inadequacies, like needing to lose weight or get our finances in order or grow in our relationship with God. At the same time, we stay with someone far longer than we should out of fear of being labeled too picky. We are pulled in every direction in an attempt to understand our situation and figure out what needs to be done to fix it. It’s no wonder that, when I meet a man, I put him on a scale where he either weighs too good for me or not good enough.

In other words, I doom myself. But that doesn’t mean I give up. I was, am, and will always be a hopeless, hopeful romantic who can’t relax and let God handle it. You might not be quite as date-free as I’ve been, but don’t we all know what it’s like to hope? And then we do all those silly things to get his attention: talk too loud, flip our hair, touch his arm, giggle at every ridiculous thing he says. Or we wear too much makeup, show too much skin, all while trying not to seem desperate. Sheesh.

It’s so easy to latch on to optimism, only to find ourselves going completely overboard, isn’t it? And, in doing so, we drown our dreams in our misguided attempts to be what we think he’s looking for. My friend, Lisa Anderson, director of Boundless.org and author of The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage with Purpose (releasing August 1, 2015), wrote this in an article titled “Finding a Great Husband Doesn’t Just ‘Happen’” for Today’s Christian Woman:

Women are notorious for giving up too much for very little in return. In relationships, it’s usually time, attention, emotional connection, affection, and sex. We give it all with no expectation of commitment or even exclusivity. For me, I gave guys access to my time and emotions far too early on in a relationship. I was always available, always willing to talk, and always an open book. Where was the mystery? More telling, where was the motivation to pursue me when I was already throwing myself at their feet?

We just want them to notice and, when they do, it’s so easy to get caught up in making it work, come what may. Even that single guy you met at the office party, the one you know is completely wrong for you, can meet your minimum qualifications—male, the right age, and a decent job—to make you willing to go out for a second time. Then a third and a fourth and who knows how many dates you can bargain yourself into because he’s there and he’s interested and, please God, you want to move forward into something for a change. Even if it’s the wrong something.

Though past experiences say I’m far more likely to end things too early, I have watched many a girl hang onto a relationship long past its expiration date, hoping it will, magically, become what she wants. I can understand that. No one wants to let go of a good thing, fearful she’ll make the mistake of missing out on a great catch because she was too hard to please. It’s the same concept as not wanting to pursue a man too aggressively because you don’t want to come across as desperate.

But why shouldn’t we be a bit choosy when it comes to the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with? We all have our ideal—and heaven only knows what that has become after years of romantic comedies and sweet daydreams. Is it so wrong to want that first kiss to lift you off the floor, a few butterflies when he walks in the room, a certain something in his eye he saves just for you? Or is it enough to know he’s a good man who serves the Lord and will love and care for you and, if you have any, your children?

But who am I kidding? We want it all. We’ve been saving up our love and passion for years, decades even, and we’re ready for all of those dreams to come true.

Okay, so, we’re hard to please. But are we too unbending in our requirements? The older I get the more I re-think my preferences on looks, even chemistry. Still, we also need to get to a place where we believe we’re worthy of something beautiful. If the God of the universe delights in us, His children, why can’t a man? A simple, normal, godly man who truly loves you just the way you are.

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