Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

Do What Makes Your Soul Happy

“We must not creep along when our souls cry out for us to soar.”                                                                                                                       ~Helen Keller

Over the years, I’ve met too many single women who are waiting for marriage to do all the things they plan to do. I have to admit that for many years, I was one of those people.

How many of you have been told that you will find Mr. Right when you stop looking for him? “Go take a class that interests you.” “Travel.” “Join a club.” These people will tell you that you’re more likely to find the right man if you are out there living your life.

Truth is I have fallen for this advice. I’ve taken classes, traveled (some) and joined clubs. All things I was interested in, but guess what!?! Yeah, no Mr. Right.

There have been times when bitterness has eaten away at me. I’ve been frustrated at all the money that I’ve spent without any sign of the elusive goal.

But there you have it, folks, the wrong reason for doing any of those things. If it’s simply to try to find a companion, you will be disappointed every time like I was with my endeavors. When I stopped focusing on whom I might meet and started anticipating what I might learn or experience, I had a whole lot more fun.

Trail Lincoln Boyhood 08

Several years ago, I ended up in southern Indiana by myself for a few days after spending time with family. I decided to venture out to visit Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home. For several hours, I wandered the property, the visitor’s center, and the mile-long path that wound through the woods to a replica of what the farm was probably like in Lincoln’s time.

Cabin Lincoln Boyhood 08

Throughout my time there, couples and families passed me, but it seemed I was the only single one around. I didn’t let that stop me as I snapped pictures and stopped to smell the flowers.

Me Lincoln Boyhood 08

That day I learned some things about history and some things about myself.

But guess what!?!

I didn’t meet Mr. Right. Nope, not a single guy on the whole trip.

But that’s okay. The day made my soul happy. It was a great afternoon and inspired me to try more trips like this.

What do you do to make your soul happy?

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Socks, Gravity and Other Things That Make Me Angry

The new Marvel’s Avengers movie, Age of Ultron, opens a week from today. As a big fan of superhero movies, I’m looking forward to it. The action! The adventure! The Chrises’ (Evans and Hemsworth) abs!

Hulk

Sometimes I just need to smash something. . . .

Still, it’s Bruce Banner/The Hulk I most relate to. When he said in the first Avengers movie, “I’m always angry,” I got it. No, I’m not always angry, but I think we all know what it’s like to feel that way and can sigh in gratitude that we don’t turn into large, smashing-stuff, green monsters when the anger takes over.

Well, not to a Hulk extent anyway.

For instance, last week I went into a mini-rage over socks. I had done laundry the night before and had a basket of socks that still needed to be matched. All I wanted was a pair of black ones. I didn’t care which pair. But all I could find were singles. I had four different socks clutched in one hand while I searched for a match with the other. It didn’t make sense. I knew they were there; I’d seen them. Socks might disappear in the dryer but not in the basket … right?

And the next thing I knew, I was flinging laundry in the air and throwing the basket across the room. That’s about the time I realized my reaction was what didn’t make sense. Take a deep breath, Sharyn. Let it go.

Of course, I knew I didn’t have to wear matching socks. But my OCD-ness rebelled against the idea. Besides, I knew the socks were there. The common sense telling me to calm down was at odds with my frustrated determination to not give up the quest.

Yes. The quest for socks.

That’s not all. As the title states, I sometimes feel anger because of gravity. Like when I push up my sleeves to wash my hands and they immediately fall back down and get wet anyway. Or when something spills or I drop something and it rolls away and disappears. (Seriously, how does that happen?)

As we all know, though, getting angry about such silly, can’t-do-anything-about-it stuff doesn’t help. At all. And, fortunately, I don’t have moments like this very often. In fact, I told a doctor about it in the early 2000s, and he prescribed Xanax. I think I took two or three over the next year or so and threw the rest away when I realized they’d expired.

Besides, I don’t want to medicate my feelings. Expressing anger can be almost as cathartic as a good cry. I’ve certainly needed to have moments where I let myself be angry about my singleness.

Just like I don’t think we should medicate emotions, unless necessary, I also don’t believe we should ignore them. For too long that’s exactly what I tried to do—push aside the negative emotions rather than face them head-on. It didn’t make me feel better. Instead, it made the ache more pronounced.

So, this is my conclusion: let it out in a safe, healthy way then, hopefully, you can move on.

I mean, if you’re going to smash something it might as well be a laundry basket of hosiery.

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What about you? How do you handle anger?

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Time for Gladness and Male Friends

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image courtesy of Stuart Miles/Freedigitalphotos.net

I am in that last mad dash before school ends. Papers must be written, projects completed, and coursework studied for exams.

This year, though, it’s a little different for me because I am graduating! The strange part is that, though the celebrations have begun, though my graduation gown has been ordered and received, though I am two assignments away from completion, I don’t feel a sense of the occasion yet.

Maybe it’s that I have had so much school work to do and getting ahead of that is taking most of my attention.  Or it might be that things have been busy at church and I have been trying to stay on top of the classes to be taught, the children’s sermons to be preached, and the youth activities to be planned. It could be that I am really not sure how my next steps post-graduation are going to unfold. I am in the ordination process, but it’s a long one and, in the meantime, I will probably need to get some kind of job before I head back to South Africa (which is a whole OTHER story).

Mostly, though, I don’t think it’s any of that. I think my friend from South Africa is arriving within the week (!!), and it’s all I can do to think of anything else. I have to vacuum and dust because he’s coming.  I have to have my car’s interior waxed because he’s coming. I have to make sure all my schoolwork is done and out of the way because he’s coming. I have to review my wardrobe, make sure I’m groomed (I need a pedicure!), and put together a nice little welcome package to give to him when he arrives. I have to have ideas in mind of where to go for breakfast, coffee, lunch or dinner–he prefers super casual spots and no seafood. I have to not think about how I should’ve stuck to my diet.

He’s not my boyfriend. He’s just a friend. But you wouldn’t know it as excited as I am.

Is it a mark of unhealthy singleness when the thought of seeing a dear male friend eclipses (by a lot) the thought of other good things happening in my life? I don’t know. But his visit is a limited one, and that makes the time precious.

There is a time for everything. I will plan to get excited about graduation after he leaves. 🙂

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Summer Fare – Salad for One

Ah, can you hear it!?! Summertime is knocking on the door. Before you know it, the sun will be warming our worlds and making life a whole lot brighter. With summertime comes the desire to not be in the kitchen all evening cooking elaborate meals.

One thing I love about summer is that salads are such a quick, easy meal, especially these days with such a variety of bagged lettuce mixes.

I thought I would share with you one of my favorite summer meals, which I like to call the Kitchen Sink Salad. Yeah, it’s called that because I often put everything but the kitchen sink in my salad.

Start with bagged lettuce for a little-effort meal. Last summer, Dad and I had lots of lettuce in our garden, so I used that. If I go with the bagged lettuce, I like to combine a couple of bags of different lettuces to get a good mix. So, like a spring mix with some butter lettuce. Use whatever kind you like best.

Then I go through the fridge and look for what I have. Some of my favorite add-ins are:

Sweet peas
Cauliflower
Carrots
Sunflower Seeds
Pecans
Walnuts
Apples
Strawberries
Banana (yeah, sounds weird, but I like it)
Orange sections
Mushrooms
Olives
Cheese
Ham, turkey or chicken
Boiled eggs
Cranberries
Raisins
Croutons
Cilantro

Be adventurous! You never know until you try. I once added a baked potato to a salad. That was pretty good, but if the potato is cooked too soft, it makes it hard to eat.

Once you’ve added everything you like, top with dressing and enjoy!

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When You’re Afraid of Everything

BBB 2015

Last weekend at the Broken Beautiful BOLD Fear Not event in Marion, IN, I had the opportunity to speak about being afraid.

I have a problem with fear. And yes, I realize it’s come up before. But I’ve been thinking through those fears lately and how much they really don’t help. At all.

Take, for instance, high school gym class—specifically, dodgeball. Or, as I like to call it in retrospect, the Hunger Games. Seriously, I think that’s where Suzanne Collins got the idea for the book. She was in junior high being forced by the adults to fight for her life as all the big kids slammed her with rubber balls and she thought, “This is crazy! Do they want us to kill each other?!” Ooh. I smell a bestseller!

Anyway, you all know how to play, right? The class is divided into two tea ms and they line up all the rubber balls they can find down the middle of the gym. At “Go!” you run to the line and grab a ball, back up and start throwing. If you hit someone on the other team, they’re out; if they catch your ball, you’re out.

Now, I can see that lobbing one into the air to the other team would have guaranteed I was out and could sit on the sidelines in unbruised comfort chatting with the other non-athletes. But I didn’t think of that. So I cowered in the back, hiding from the pain and embarrassment of not being a contender. I suppose I hoped my team would win and there I’d be, standing triumphant with the rest of the athletes. But I have a better memory of being the only one left. Which meant it was me against the best players on the other team. And they would smirk and laugh and let me have it.

Did my fear protect me? Not one bit. In fact, it made it worse. It left me vulnerable and alone. That’s what fear does.

This whole fear thing is all a bit ironic because for most of my life 2 Timothy 1:7 has been my favorite verse. Paul wrote this book to his friend and protégé, Timothy, to encourage him. To strengthen his faith and remind him of the truth he has known his whole life having been raised in the genuine faith passed from his grandmother to his mother to him. But Tim must have been hesitant because Paul felt he needed to remind the young man of the gift he had in Christ. Then Paul wrote, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

I’m glad Paul straight-up acknowledges the existence of a spirit of fear. He knows we have one. Plus he says “us” not “you.” It’s universal.

Fortunately, in the same breath Paul lets us know this fear is not from God. The Holy Spirit doesn’t work that way. Being cowards or, even worse, shrinking from our responsibilities as believers because we’re afraid is not from Him. God has given us spiritual gifts, but they don’t include fear.

Instead, He offers us a three-item Fear Combat Kit: power, love and a sound mind. What amazes me about this is that it means we’re covered.

Let’s start with power—our physical strength. The strength of mind and body to withstand temptation—even temptation that comes in the form of fear. Fear restricts us. It makes us cower in the back of the gym instead of marching to the front and taking a stand. It makes us choose the easy road instead of one that could lead to pain or abandonment.

That does not come from God. Set it aside.

Next, we have love—our emotional strength. We all know what that is but how does it combat fear? Well, what is love? It is 1st Corinthians 13. Love is sacrifice. It is freely giving of yourself to the benefit of others. It doesn’t shrink from self-surrender but constantly asks, “What can I do for someone else?” When we’re focused on love, we won’t have time to be lonely. And we might just discover that future we’re so afraid of takes care of itself. Fear of loneliness asks, “But what about me?”

That does not come from God. Set it aside.

Finally, there’s a sound mind—our intellectual strength. God gives us the ability to be well-balanced in our minds. We know where we stand, we just have to claim it. I’m a dreamer with an imagination I have a hard time turning off. And, whether I like it or not, the dreamer in me can take me to tough places—whether it’s imagining horrible things or even beautiful things. My desire to fall in love and get married can lead to really sweet daydreams. It can be easy to get lost in them. Did I mention I’m also a hopeless, hopeful romantic? Oh, yeah. Hopeless because the dream will never die and hopeful because dreams do come true.

It’s perfectly fine to have dreams but a sound mind gives us perspective. It means the possibility of a dream not coming true doesn’t destroy us. Over the last few years, I’ve watched my lifelong desire of being a mother slowly die right along with my ovaries. And, to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll ever understand why God said no to that longing. But can I take a breath every day and say life is good because He loves me? God has given each of us the power to control our minds so we can say, “I have learned to be content, yes, even in this. Because my hope is not in any earthly thing but in God.”

Fear stands between us and the work God has called us to do like an aggressive goalie. It leads us to focus on the gift that didn’t come from God instead of the ones that did. So step to the front, grab that rubber ball and get in the game. Most of the stuff we’re afraid of doesn’t even happen. Fear just keeps us from acting on God’s call on our lives.

Set it aside.

My prayer for each of us today is that we’ll remember the strength we have in Christ and to take hold of our Fear Combat Kit: power, love and a sound mind.

As I said: He’s got you covered.

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Disappointment

“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord.  Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.”

 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.                                                                                                                                                  ~1 Samuel 1:15-18

Have you ever wanted something so bad you could taste it? I know. Silly question. We’ve all had those things that are good and noble, but that, for one reason or another, God doesn’t have them in His plans. Yeah, this is a blog for single women who have never been married, but that’s not really what I’m talking about today.

Recently, I’ve had several things I really wanted. I’ve worked for them and put myself out there for them. And, for whatever reason, God has chosen not to give them to me.

Disappointment is a word that romps through my life right now.

I’ve always loved the story of Hannah because she kept right on trusting the Lord. She kept believing even when it didn’t seem possible. Today as I deal with the disappointment of not getting what I wanted, I’m encouraged by Hannah once again.

My desire is to respond as she did. I pray to find favor in the Lord’s eyes, and I work on carrying on without a downcast face.

 

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Sometimes It IS the Destination

So, last September I made the crazy decision to publish my novel, Spinstered, independently. I followed that up in December with a little novella titled Cold Read.

Spinstered NonfictionBut neither book would exist if I hadn’t felt God nudge me in 2008 to write about being an older single woman. And now, seven years later, we have Spinstered: Surviving Singleness After 40. Yeah … it only took seven years.

From the beginning I knew I wanted to take a look at the seven stages of grief–denial, disbelief, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression and hope–through the eyes of older single women. I’m not sure what I was thinking because it’s been a rough journey. At one point, I just wanted to finish it and be done and never look back.

Now that I have, though, I don’t regret it. I not only learned a lot about myself and God and being single, but I met some amazing people as a result, including my fellow GNI writers, Leasey and Tammie. Who, by the way, both contributed to this book!

Of course, the next step in a story’s journey is to share it. Right now, only the ebook is available but you should be able to get the paperback soon, if that’s your preference. I know how much I like to write notes in my nonfiction books.

You have all been a part of this … and you might recognize some sections from previous GNI articles. Also, I included study questions at the end of each chapter. I hope you’ll take advantage of those to journal your own thoughts. Writing it down has proven quite cathartic for me and might do the same for you.

Thank you for being a part of this journey!

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Goodbye to All That

Have you ever noticed that when women reach a certain age they tend to cut their hair and adopt short hairstyles? I have been observing this phenomenon for years.

It seems my time has come. This week I am cutting my hair. Doing “the big chop.”

For quite a while I have held off, instead choosing to wear extensions that make hair styling and maintenance a breeze.

Also, though, I’ve been subconsciously ruled by the notion that men would like me less if my hair was not long. Like Beyonce’s. You know what I’m talking about. Haven’t we all had to reckon with the barrage of media images that create standards for us of what beautiful looks like? Of what an over-40 body looks like?

As I prepare to transition from life as a student, I find internal transitions occurring as well. I find myself desiring to be seen as I am, without the adornments of youth. Loved as I am–forty-something with weaker eyes, thinner hair, fuller hips, greater grace, wider circles of love and deeper peace. I want to present to the world the true beauty of me.

 

Me sans extensions

 

Did you cut your hair short after a certain age? What went into your decision-making?

 

6 Comments »

Are You Living in the In-Between?

Once I sat in a doctor’s waiting room for more than an hour. There wasn’t any explanation from the receptionist as to why I was still waiting. When I finally questioned her, I was told the doctor was held up and that was all I got. I had to make a choice of sitting down and continuing my wait, or rescheduling.

It was frustrating. I felt forgotten and invisible.

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I was stuck in the in-between.

Sometimes I feel like that is my life. I feel stuck in the in-between. That area between my past life and my hope of someday participating in married life. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the waiting. Sometimes it feels as if I’m missing something here in the in-between. I want to get to what is coming next. I’m that way in everything, not just my singleness. I don’t like the in-between.

That’s the problem with single life, it’s easy to focus on wanting to be part of a couple and forget there’s nothing wrong with where we are right now. God has us here for some reason. He has purpose in what we often view as the in-between. And sometimes we forget that.

Singleness is not some great waiting room for what comes next. If we just sit and wait, we’re not only missing out on great things, but we’re also missing out on what God has created us for in this time frame.

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If What Jesus Did Wasn’t Enough

We have a tendency to think in terms of fairness. Well, I do anyway. Why does she get a husband but not me? Why is he so successful? Why can’t my dreams come true like everyone else’s?

Easter 2015 - artur84

Image courtesy of artur84/freedigitalphotos.net

But this Easter weekend, I’m reminded again that Jesus didn’t suffer and die so I could have a fair life. He didn’t take on the sin of all humanity in order to make me happy. His sacrifice was so I wouldn’t, in fact, get what I deserve.

King David wrote in Psalm 103:

He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

I spend so much time being caught up in my needs and wants, completely forgetting to fall on my knees in gratitude. But I realize that’s like saying, “What you did on the cross wasn’t enough, Jesus. I want more. Your sacrifice gave me eternal life, sure, but what about this other stuff? What about my husband, my big house, my great job? When are you going to see to that?”

The fact is, God doesn’t deal in fairness but in holiness. My life exists for His glory, not my happiness. If my singleness brings honor to Him, then I should strive to excel in the life He’s given me and find my contentment there. Not in anything I feel I deserve.

Here’s the amazing thing: God understands us. He doesn’t condemn us for our selfishness, but lovingly and graciously gives us time to learn and grow. Yes, He addresses our sins and tells us to fear Him and change … yet I find so many Scriptures that offer us hope, even in our self-centered me-ness.

Psalm 103 continues:

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the East is from the West,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

David continues by reminding us that our days are short. Our lives are made meaningful only in our relationship and service to God. Not in any earthly thing we think we might deserve.

Because the truth is, we don’t want what we deserve.

Father, help me remember that each day of my life is a gift. Remind me of your mercy throughout the year. Your forgiveness and grace are beyond comprehension, and I am enamored of You. Thank You for Your sacrifice. May my life be a continuous expression of Your love so others may see You in me. Amen.

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