Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

Nobody Cares about Your Bad Hair Day

Bad Hair Day by imagerymajestic

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net.

I’ve never had any illusions about my ability to fix my own hair. In fact, I’ve often described myself as “hair-impaired.” So I’m happy any time it looks halfway decent. Typically, I prefer a messy look since, in theory, messy is easier to do. And I tell my stylist to think “simple.”

But even the best cut eventually grows out, becoming harder to manage. I’m at that point in the hair cycle right now. In the past week, I’ve liked how my hair looked once. The other times? I would pull and curl and shake and fluff and still not be happy with it. Eventually, though, the truth would hit:

“No one cares what your hair looks like, Sharyn.”

And I would cease my struggles and move on.

Now, before you say, “bless her heart,” let me share why this is not such a bad admission. People notice—and sometimes compliment you—when your hair looks good, or they might cringe when it’s a serious disaster, but my bad hair days are, I’m convinced, something only I’m aware of. It doesn’t look like I want it to. (And since I’ll never have Meg Ryan hair, it never will.) God in His wisdom and mercy has arranged things in such a way that no one else is in my head, sharing in my disappointment. This hair standard is mine alone.

Unless I tell them.

Years ago, I worked with a 12-year-old girl who wanted to perform a song in sign language for the talent portion of a local fair pageant. During one rehearsal, she made a mistake. Her face fell and she stamped her foot in frustration.

“Here’s a secret about performing,” I told her. “It’s unlikely anyone in the audience will know sign language. But whether they do or not, the only way someone will know you messed up is if you tell them with your reaction. Just keep going, pretend it’s perfect … and it can be your little secret.”

To make a short story shorter, she won the pageant.

I’ve given this advice often to actors I’m directing and students I’m teaching in public speaking classes. For the most part, people want us to do well. (And we shouldn’t worry about those who don’t.) They’re in our corner. That’s why we do tell them when life is hard or we’re struggling to find work or we’re feeling sadder than usual or we just need prayer.

Speaking of, this past week I asked for prayer on Facebook about a potential job and was overwhelmed by the show of support. So, when I say nobody cares about my bad hair day, which is really just a symptom of a bad day, that’s okay.

They care about me.

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Questions about the Gift (No, Not THAT Gift)

Photo courtesy of nuttakit/freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy of nuttakit/freedigitalphotos.net

We singles have had ample discussions about “the Gift of Singleness.” This post, rest assured, is not about that. I am curious, instead, about gifts from humans that we actually do want to receive.

What do we older singles do about gifts from men?

The way I learned it was, generally, that a woman should not accept gifts from a man with whom she is not in a relationship. And even in a relationship, a woman should not accept most expensive gifts. Whether the man is a suitor, a friend or any other male non-family member, expensive gifts are to be politely rebuffed. This gift ethic had something to do with either not leading a man on or avoiding expectations of sex being owed, as far as I can recall.

But what are we to do now that we are older? We have quite a lot of friends and not a lot of suitors that we need to be conscientious of. At various milestones in our lives, our friends—some male and single—want to celebrate us and give us gifts.

Under these circumstances, it would seem that gift giving by men who are our friends would have to be okay, right?

But here’s a wrinkle: If this stage of life finds our male friends with comfortable careers and bank accounts, and from a place of financial abundance a male friend wants to give us gifts that are expensive, is that okay?

It surely must be. The cost of a gift is not what gives the gift from one friend to another its value. It wouldn’t make sense to put an arbitrary dollar figure on gifts that are acceptable from male friends.

What’s money got to do with it? to paraphrase Tina Turner.

Yet, here’s another wrinkle: What if instead of simply giving a pricey gift, one of our flush male friends asks us, “What should I get you to celebrate this auspicious occasion?” And, to be honest, there are a few items we might like to receive that we are certain are well within his ability to afford.

Let’s say you are having a housewarming for your first home. Would it be appropriate to suggest to your male friend—or friend who is male—that you would like a big chair from Pottery Barn? Let’s say you are throwing yourself a swanky party for your fiftieth. If unexpected circumstances mean you will have a last-minute difficulty paying the caterer, do you ask your friend to take care of the catering bill? Let’s say you passed your nursing certification exam. Could you let a guy friend buy you a diamond tennis bracelet?

What do we do these days about men and gifts?

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Greater than the Sands on the Beach

This past week I’ve been blessed with being able to attend Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. After the conference, I had the good fortune to be able to make a quick trip to the Atlantic Ocean. I learned a lot about writing, myself and God during the last week. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a post done for today. In the place of my own words,  I give you these words of assurance from God.

How precious to me are Your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
They would outnumber the grains of sand–
When I awake I’m still with you.                                                                                                                                                   Psalm 139:17-18

 

Atlantic 3 psalm 139

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Greater Love

This week’s season finale of The Flash—a show on The CW about a man with superhuman speed—was intense. Just when it seemed all was lost and everyone was going to die, one of the characters sacrificed his life to save the people he loved. A few minutes later, the Flash himself bravely faced death in an effort he was told would fail. But he raced into danger anyway, knowing that he had to at least try.

He’ll be okay, though. I heard the show has been renewed for a second season.

I love superhero shows and movies, and I think it’s this idea of sacrifice that appeals to me most. Yes, they all have a superpower, but they’re often willing to go to the limits of that power—doing whatever is necessary to save lives.

Have you noticed the Bible is full of superheroes? Samson, of course, and King David with his mighty men. Read 2 Samuel 23 and see how they’d equal the strength and stamina of just about any of Marvel’s Avengers. And Jesus gave His disciples superhero nicknames, changing Simon’s name to Peter the Rock and calling James and John the Sons of Thunder.

But the book of Hebrews gives us a whole rundown. In fact, the author spends all of chapter eleven describing amazing heroes of the faith of whom, he concludes, “the world was not worthy.” Men and women who followed God without question and, often, to death. And yet they, “having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (11:39–40).

What this says to me is, these people served God without question and with their lives and, because of that, He made them a promise. But they won’t see the fulfillment of that promise until we’re all together. He did this to provide something better—not for them, but for us.

It’s not “fair” to them, but it is merciful to us.

This Memorial Day, let’s remember those who gave of themselves for our freedom. Normal people, full of heart and courage, who willingly sacrificed all because they believed something. I think Samwise Gamgee said it best in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:

Memorial Day by tiverylucky

Image courtesy of tiverylucky/freedigitalphotos.net.

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

And Frodo asks, “What are we holding onto, Sam?”

To which Sam replies, “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Or, as Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

Lord willing, none of us will have to make that kind of sacrifice. But we can live in immense gratitude to those who have.

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Labeling People

Today I listened to the radio as I drove to work and heard a quote by Max Lucado–that labels allow us to wash our hands and leave. Labeling people keeps us from seeing the real person beneath the label. At the next opportunity, I put the quote (as best as I could remember it since I had to wait until I was no longer driving) into my phone for future reference. But you know how God is–future reference was apparently closer than I expected.

The reality of Max’s words sunk in and began to work. How many times have I labeled someone as obnoxious and detoured around them? Or said, “They’re emotionally needy and I just don’t have the energy for that.” It happens and, as I thought about it, I realized it happens more than I’d like to admit.

person-691410_1280 CC0

Placing a label allows us to not see the person behind the words we use to categorize them. When we label someone, we can overlook the real person. We can make excuses and justifications. When we label someone, we do that person a disservice. More importantly, we block the path for God to use us to minister to that person.

I’m thankful that God doesn’t label me the way I’ve labeled others. He might label me pretentious, unloving, stuck-up. Yes, I’m thankful He doesn’t do unto me as I do unto others. I’m also thankful that He keeps at me until I finally figure out what He’s trying to tell me and then He helps me to change.

 

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Sometimes My Eyes Turn Green

A while back I had a guy friend—an attractive and eminently eligible guy friend—that I was absolutely crazy about. One evening a bunch of us went to our local hangout. A new friend—a woman cool and full of peace—joined us. Fun! When she arrived and took off her coat everyone noted that she was wearing a low-cut, red dress that showcased her figure.

Because I was in the throes of a deep crush, I immediately gathered that she came to hang out with us, dressed to impress, because she was as interested in my crush as I was. I was flummoxed! All kinds of bad and fearful emotions started to work on me.

I had to pray when I got home. I needed to regain my equilibrium.

Eventually, our little group became less close. Neither red-dress woman nor I ended up dating the guy. I lost track of her. Recently, though, this woman and I bumped into each other again. We eagerly connected on Facebook.

Image courtesy of graur codrin/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of graur codrin/freedigitalphotos.net

Imagine my surprise to learn from one of her post’s references to herself, that red-dress woman is a lesbian! (Note: this is not a post about same-sex relationship issues).

I had to laugh at myself when I remembered how emotionally crazed I had been when I went home from hanging out with my friends that night way back, believing this woman and I were in an unspoken competition for the same man.

I find myself hardly any wiser these days, years since that incident occurred. When I am in deep crush, the slightest move that a woman makes toward “my” guy sparks something inside me that catches fire in my heart and spirals up like streams from a smoking inferno, all revolving around the questions of What are you doing here God? and What is he going to do here, God? Does he want me or her?

Jealousy. The green-eyed monster.

I have learned to stem my outward reactions as much as possible. But my inward reactions are another story entirely.

My strategy has become one of surrender. I surrender my questions and hopes to the Lord. I surrender the man to the other woman. Because ultimately, what I want is a man who is not confused or torn or conflicted about, or easily turned away from, his feelings for me. I want a man who desires to be with me, regardless of who else wants him. So as hard as it is, I surrender.

How do you manage jealousy?

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The Ones Who Got Away

Spinstered the Novel begins with this story:

Young Love

Photo by Susie Jarvis/Waterkopf Photography.

I fell in love with Lawrence Poole at the coy and clueless age of seven. He gave me a pink wildflower and a whisper-wet peck on the cheek after he caught me under the monkey bars during a lunchtime game of tag. In that moment, I was smitten. Not so much with Lawrence. Oh, he was nice enough and cute as corn. But the girl in me liked the boy in him and that was enough. I followed him around the playground like a homeless puppy, hoping for more. I didn’t know what I wanted more of. I just couldn’t forget how that kiss made me feel.

Three years later, Lawrence stopped coming to school. “Leukemia,” I heard Mom say to Dad one night. The next day, she took me to visit the first boyfriend I never had. He didn’t talk much as he floated in a pool of fluffy, white pillows, his skin blending in with the hospital sheets. I wanted to ask him why he only kissed me once, but the room was full of soft-talking parents with sad eyes. So, I sat in a folding chair by the bed and chattered on about all the homework I had to do and how I wished Mrs. Effelbaum would stop blowing her coffee breath in my face when she helped me with math. Mom didn’t tell me I was there to say good-bye. When he died a few weeks later the whole class cried. And, somehow, I felt more alone than ever.

***

This story is, in fact, based on truth. My first crush was a boy named Lawrence in grade school, he did get sick, and my mom took me to visit him not long before he died. That’s what I remember. I created the rest of the story for the purpose of fiction.

Lawrence, of course, wasn’t my only childhood crush. My first official boyfriend was Calvin in eighth grade. He had red hair and a quiet soul. It lasted about two weeks. Years later, I heard he had died after being hit by a train.

Apparently, I’m the Typhoid Mary of young love. As far as I know, though, no other object of my affection has passed away. Still, it’s awful sad.

I’ve found myself reminiscing about lost loves this past week. An incident at the high school where I teach triggered the memories. It got me thinking about the boys who liked me and didn’t say anything and the ones I liked but who didn’t like me and the few who asked me out, but I turned them down.

And, in many of these cases, I don’t know why. I sensed potential. If only potential had transformed into a relationship. Just once. Then I’d be married.

Of course, then I wouldn’t be here. Since I firmly believe here is where God wants me, then I also have to believe I didn’t actually lose anything. It’s pointless—and only adds to the heartbreak—to sit and ponder “what-ifs” and “might-have-beens.”

All of this to say, I hope one day I’ll truly be at peace with the knowledge that I didn’t miss my chance. That Mr. Right didn’t saunter through my door only to have me kick him out. That I didn’t wait too long or want too much.

I need to believe I didn’t thwart God’s plan. (Can God’s plan be thwarted?) Though I still trust He has someone for me, I’m free to stop worrying that he’s already come and gone.

Are you worried you missed your chance? What are your feelings today about the ones who got away?

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Conquering Uncertainty

It is dark and cool. The light sound of traffic and the soft chirping of night creatures drift in on the breezes through the open window. The sweet scent of the night air surrounds me and has dissipated the dry, cooped-up air from being closed all day.

moon-416973_1280 CC0

My stomach growls softly with a small hunger. I consider going downstairs to get a PBJ sandwich and a glass of ice cold diet Pepsi despite the clock reading 12:32 a.m.

I sit in the dark and snippets of life stroll through my head. The uncertainty that permeates my life weighs down like heavy blankets on a winter’s night.

It’s my uncertainty, not God’s. I find that oddly comforting.

This world hasn’t been completely certain since the moment Eve took the fruit from the tree. Uncertainty is now part of the human condition.

A friend once called me a Type A- personality, not totally A, but definitely not a B. That A minus in me makes me loathe the not-knowing. It makes me uncomfortable with knowing my plans are tentative.

One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11, which says the Lord has plans for us. These plans are to prosper us and not to harm us. I cling to this verse as a toddler clings to her binky.

I know “prosper” doesn’t mean He’s going to shower me with worldly goods and riches. I also know the hurt, pain and ugliness of this world often come along with the prospering. God’s plan for prospering me means to save me from eternal death and to bring me to heaven. Jeremiah 29:11 doesn’t promise we won’t have uncertainty. It promises that my only certainty is that, regardless of this life, I will spend eternity with Him in heaven.

So, there in the night, I lay the uncertainty at His feet. I tell Him what I would like but that I’m open to His plan. I pray I will mean those words because only in trusting can I conquer the uncertainty.

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It’s the Simple Things

It really is. The simple things, I mean. Take, for instance, this:

Simple

Now, I realize this probably isn’t new to you. I stumbled across these wonderful answers to my cooking-for-one dilemma several years ago. The dilemma being–what’s the best way to store leftovers so they don’t go bad before I get to them? Then I found these containers that can go from the freezer to the microwave.

Which means I can make a pot of chili or goulash or chicken and noodles, put single servings in a few of these babies and toss them in the freezer until I’m ready to nuke one for a quick meal. I’ve definitely thrown away fewer leftovers since I made this discovery!

For Cinco de Mayo this week, I decided to make a taco dip. Here’s what I do:

I brown half a pound of hamburger and mix it with about 1/3 of a packet of taco seasoning and some water. Then I put half of the meat mixture in one of the aforementioned containers, top it with some queso and microwave it until the cheese is bubbly hot. Add some salsa and/or tomatoes, a bit of lettuce, and some tortilla chips for dipping, and you get something like this:

Simple 2

Of course, you can layer other things, like beans, corn, onions, sour cream … whatever makes your taste buds happy!

When you’re finished with meal one, put the rest of the meat into the same container and store in the fridge or freezer, depending on when you think you’ll finish it.

By the way, I bought the cool sewing chair and the green tea cart in the above pictures at auctions. I love a great auction find! In fact, I hope to go to a couple this weekend.

Do you have any cooking-for-one hacks you want to share?

 

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Great Grace

photo by AAB

photo by AAB

I remember this time three years ago when I was listening for God, trying to discern if God really wanted me to move to North Carolina for school. I prayed, “Lord, if this is you, please give me a sign by giving me a scholarship.” The financial aid office told me there were no scholarships available. The Dean of Admissions called me right after I heard from the financial aid officer. He offered me the Dean’s scholarship.

Then I said, “But what about housing, Lord? How am I going to pay for housing?” Not long afterward I received a broadcast email that offered a “unique housing opportunity.” I would live (for free) in intentional community with four others attending the Divinity School, in exchange for participating in a local church.

God gave me a connection to a church, connection to other students, and a financial boon to lead me forward.

The next year, on a whim it seemed, I decided to look into possibly going abroad for a summer internship. The committee selected me to go abroad. I thought South Sudan or Guatemala sounded interesting. The Lord sent me instead to South Africa. By the time my journey was to begin, the excitement of summer travel had worn off. I was exhausted from that season’s issues with classes, friends and dating.

I said, “Why are you sending me to this place, Lord? I’m getting on a plane for a two-day flight and have no idea what is awaiting me on the other side. All I know is I have no strength for any of it. I do not want to go. Oh, God, help me.” The Lord gave me not strength but grace. Great grace. He walked with me, and He talked with me, and He revealed a God, a mission and a me that I had never encountered before. My life was altered.

This last year of school, I wondered whether I should attend an academic conference in San Diego. I was not presenting a paper, nor was I trying to meet colleagues and network. I just thought it would be a good experience to go to a conference before I graduated. But how would I juggle my schoolwork or pay for a trip to San Diego?

There is also a back story. At the end of summer 2013, to celebrate the conclusion of my first year of school and the end of my first summer internship, I used my summer earnings to take a short trip to California. I decided to go to San Diego, since I’d already been to the LA and San Francisco areas a few times. I loved San Diego! Near the marina, I took a picture of a beautiful glass hotel. That is the hotel where I would stay the next time I visited, I promised myself. Of course, another visit was not likely to occur anytime soon.

photo by AAB

photo by AAB

Fast forward to fall 2014. When the conference was only a few weeks away I had to decide whether or not I would attend. I prayed, “Father if this is something I should do, please send the money for me to go.” The next week I got an email advising me that a pile of cash was being deposited in my checking account. Something about a reimbursement or refund. I was dumbfounded. I booked the trip.

Of course, it turned out that not only was I returning to San Diego sooner than I imagined, but that the main conference hotel was none other than the glass one I had photographed the summer before. The conference was amazing, and the people I met strongly affirmed my desire to become a scholar.

There really is not room to tell of all the Lord has done.

I am graduating. I am slightly afraid of what I see ahead and of what remains unknown. I feel too old to actually do anything of significance in the world. I feel too tired by life experience to be excited about what’s out there. I am embarrassed by my heart that really only wants the love of a man at the root of the root.

But I am joyful too because I am certain of the Lord. I am certain that God’s love for me, and His plans for me, for all of us, are grander and full of more goodness and grace than we could think of expecting.

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