Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

Dreaming Outside the Box

Over the last weekend, I put together my own double-feature: Emma (the one with Gwyneth Paltrow) and Clueless, which, by the way, came out twenty years ago this week. And, if you didn’t know, Clueless is a contemporary version of the classic Jane Austen novel.

Anyway, both movies—and the book, if I remember correctly—contain a scene where one of the characters decides to get rid of the little keepsakes she hung on to in memory of the man who broke her heart. And I have to admit … it’s nice to know I’m not the only who does silly things like that.

Keepsakes - GNI 7.31.15Some of it I still have, including a journal where I wrote about dates and crushes, on and off, from August 1981 to July 1988. It contains letters and notes, poetry and pictures, a movie ticket stub and even a deflated balloon. But I didn’t just keep memories; I kept hope.

* A small, plain cardboard box sits in my garage. Filled with various items from years gone by, it’s the box that travels from one storage room to another every time I move. A couple of years ago I finally went through it, trying to decide what should stay and what should go. Which memories should I treasure and which should I forget?

It’s not just a question about the box. And I’ve probably kept more than I should have.

That old box, you see, contains remnants of my shattered, hopeful heart. Somewhere near the bottom is a faded “I love you” card I bought several decades ago, certain I would one day give it to my guy. The inside sentiment—“And to think we almost never met”—becomes more poignant and ironic with each passing year.

Poems I wrote expressing my hopes, frustrations, fears, and longings are collected in a folder. The box even contains a few pictures of wedding dresses I saved during a time when I believed meeting someone, falling in love and getting married would be the natural progression of my life and it could happen at any moment so I should be prepared. I thought it would be healthy evidence of positive thinking if I planned ahead. Hey, I knew women who bought their wedding dress before they even met the guy! Why couldn’t I hang on to a few pictures?

So many dreams, all packed away in a beat-up, well-traveled cardboard box. Abandoned … but not forgotten. Much like my heart. I got a point where I needed to not think about what I desired, where I had to at least try to ignore the ache. Not planning, not hoping, not cutting out pictures or penning romantic sonnets about candles and chocolate hearts and the caress of fingers across my skin.

I pushed my heart into its own little box, taped it shut and put it in its place. It was better that way. I could not swim in grief on a daily basis. Too many years had passed, and things just weren’t the same. Continuing to hope for “someday” seemed so pointless.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll deal with the box, but for now the dreams are right where they need to be.

So what about you? Do you hold onto keepsakes as reminders of lost loves? Or have you collected any pieces of hope for the future relationship you dream of?

* Part of this article was excerpted from my book, Spinstered: Surviving Singleness After 40.

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The Body Beautiful

IMG_0090Recently, I had a never-before-occurring rogue thought enter my mind: I love my body! Amazingly, the thought lingered. It is certainly not that I have abs of steel or that I have conquered the jiggle factor in any segment or compartment of this body of mine. Far from it. Nonetheless, one day I looked into my full-length mirror (when I was not wearing my glasses), and I felt pleased with what I saw.

Imagine that.

I think the seedlings of this idea were planted during the time I spent with my family at the beginning of the summer. First, they repeatedly told me I looked good. This was news to me. I found myself saying in response, “I do?” But eventually, I think I started to believe it.

The real game changer, though, was my niece’s prom. She and her friends looked beautiful in their formal gowns. When I saw a group of the girls together I could not help the comparisons that arose in my mind. It seemed to me that some of the girls’ bodies looked proportional in their gowns, while other girls could have stood to lose a few pounds. My sister was also making a mental comparison, I later learned. It was her impression that some of the girls looked proportional in their gowns, while other girls were too skinny—they needed to gain a few pounds and add some curves to their figures. The girls I thought had perfectly proportioned bodies, my sister thought were too skinny. The girls my sister thought were perfectly proportioned, I thought were too fat.

The light bulb went on for me after that. The beauty standard is completely subjective. And my subjective standard is overly influenced by seeing images of slim, pale, very youthful bodies that are posed and staged for marketing purposes. Of course curves on a woman are good!

The trickle-down effect of this realization came in the form of the thought, “I love my body!” With all its curves and jiggles.

How about you? Have you ever had the thought that you love your body? What prompted this realization?

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My Feet Have Not Stumbled

Psalm 17 5

Hi, folks! Life has been full the last month, so you’ve been seeing some of my favorite quotes, verses and pictures. Things will begin to settle back into a routine again, and I will return with new posts soon! Hope you’re enjoying your summer.

~ Tammie

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Working for It

Neal's Cool SpotFor the last few months, my cat Neal and I have been at a bit of an impasse. He stopped eating the food I set out for him—not completely but definitely less than before—and seemed to only want the pricier canned stuff. Now, I’m already limited by what I can give him as he needs the dry food for sensitive stomachs. Found that out the hard way. Unfortunately for him, I can’t afford to give him two cans a day. And I definitely can’t give him tuna every day, which I’m sure is what he most wants.

So I tried several things—adding water or chicken broth, giving a little yogurt with it (on the advice of the local vet), even mixing in a bit of gravy. He seemed to enjoy it, at first, then wouldn’t finish it. Which meant I ended up throwing the rest away. I was frustrated, and he was losing weight.

A few days ago, though, I caught him up on the kitchen stool where I’d set the cat food bag, trying to get into it. All while he had plenty sitting in his dish just a few feet away. Well, for heaven’s sake, I thought. What is wrong with this cat?

Then I remembered something I had read recently. Cats are hunters. So I set the bag on its side on the floor, where he has to dig it out with his paw. And, just like that, he’s eating normally again. As far as I can tell, his hunter instinct told him it wasn’t worthwhile if he didn’t have to work for it.

Once I figured out the solution to our problem, I thought, Well, this would be a good anecdote for a blog article. I can write about my tendency to make things harder than they need to be.

Mexico - Days 1 - 3 067

While visiting the town of Chapala on Lake Chapala, we met this man on the dock. He made these little boats, then painted the base with your name, the location, the date and palm tree scenes. He sold them for 30 pesos–about $2 each. The little girl is sad, I believe, because she thinks he’s giving me her boat.

But then I wondered: what if Neal has the right idea? Maybe the good things in life are better when we have to work for them. I just returned from a week-long trip to Ajijic (AH-hee-heek), Mexico, where poverty and wealth walk hand in hand. Tall, brick and mortar walls hide lush, ornate estates as easily as they do the poor homes. I couldn’t tell which kind of house we were passing unless I caught a glimpse through an open door.

While there, I enjoyed the relatively easy vacation of a gringo—though I ended up sick and miserable at the end—and yet I was relieved to return to the complacent, pampered life I enjoy here. Yes, a lot of that was because I was ill, but I grudgingly admitted I am a spoiled American. My financial struggles are nothing compared to what other people endure. Many of the best things in my life came my way with little effort on my part.

So, I ask myself, what would happen if I did strive a bit more? If I took more joy in the work of my hands? How would that change my life?

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The Grace of Friendship

image courtesy of Aleska D./freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of Aleska D./freedigitalphotos.net

One of the things I am most grateful for in life is friendship.

When I was young I had all guy friends, like Elaine from Seinfeld. As I got older, I began to long for close friends who were women. Eventually, my guy friendships became less central to my life, and I began to draw closer to women friends. Until now, I tend to strike a good balance of friends with both genders.

Not only am I grateful for my friends, but I am grateful for the ways my friends and I extend grace to each other.

One of my girlfriends is having guy trouble. It is the same guy, and the same trouble she has been having for at least the past ten years. I used to feel frustrated with her for not getting it and moving on from him. Now I just want to listen and be there for her. I want to encourage her. I want to root for her as she figures out what needs to be figured out. I can be a friend who understands we all have broken places, and some of our brokenness takes a long time to heal.

One of my guy friends is having business challenges. When he told me about them I enthusiastically pointed out to him that his challenges were good. That he was in a God-orchestrated transition that was exciting! He immediately resisted me. He didn’t want to hear that the challenges he faced were good, he told me. He needed me just to listen and to be understanding. He was right. My words were insensitive. But the gift of our friendship is that he didn’t leave the conversation or end the call. He gave me grace to try again to hear as a friend hears.

Jesus valued friendship even more than I do.  He said that giving your life away for the sake of your friends was the greatest love of all. And then he gave up his life for his friends.

Do you have friends? How do you show your love for them? How do they show their love for you?

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Never Throw Anyone Out

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed.

Never throw anyone out.

~Audrey Hepburn

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The Best Is Yet to Come — Part Three

Picking up where we left off last week:

What will I do when I finally come face-to-face with someone who knows me inside and out and loves me still? Will I be too ashamed to move toward Him? Will I try to hide? Or will I run into His arms? I can see myself doing just that, like a little girl who hasn’t seen her daddy in a long time and is so overcome with love and happiness that she falls to the floor and hugs his feet. I honestly don’t see myself having the strength to do much more.

After the hug, we’re all invited to a huge, indescribable wedding feast. Not a bad start to our new life. Still, that’s just the start of our eternity. What do you do in an eternity? Well . . . what don’t you do?

No longer any sea

Image courtesy of think4photop/freedigitalphotos.net

First, you’re with your loved ones. The apostle John noticed that right off when God showed him a vision of heaven. You can see this in his initial description, which includes the significant phrase, “. . . and there was no longer any sea.” (Rev. 21:1) Why would he say that? Because, at the time, John was being held prisoner on the island of Patmos. Each day he looked across this vast expanse of water, knowing it separated him from those he loved. But in heaven, nothing will separate us.

We’ll live in mansions in a city that’s 1,400 miles long, 1,400 miles wide and 1,400 miles high. The streets will be made of transparent gold, and the whole place will be lit with the glory of God. And I could go on.

But it’s not enough that it’s beautiful, is it? You can be honest. You’re worried it will be boring. And, if you’re like me, you don’t like that comment Jesus made about there being no marriage in heaven. What if, when we get there, we lose the human connection that makes our mortality so much fun? And so our imaginations limit us.

Aren’t we fortunate, then, to know God doesn’t have that problem?

To know where we’re going, we need to go back to where it all began — to Genesis: “In the beginning . . .”

In the beginning, God created . . . everything. Think about that. All the things we love about life were His idea. I mean, He laughed first. Probably at Adam’s reaction when he first saw Eve. The world’s original jaw-dropping double-take. Or maybe even sooner, when He was making hippopotamuses.

God is the original artist, poet and musician. Mountains and oceans, deep-sea exploration and space travel were His inspiration, not ours. And sex? That was all Him. He didn’t have to make it so fun, but He did. God noticed Adam was lonely . . . and He not only gave him a companion, He gave him passion and intimacy. Wow.

Without a doubt, God loves adventure. If you don’t believe me — just read His book! Take a look at Job 38–41, for example, and hear how God describes a little of what He does and knows, stating: “Everything under heaven belongs to me.”

John 1:3 tells us, “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” That includes flying and dancing and chocolate and music and jumping and eating and running and, most importantly, love.

Love — from the ecstasy of a Hershey’s nugget (one inch of pure heaven!) to the overwhelming adoration you feel for your children — these are feelings direct from the heart of God. Relationships were His idea. From the very beginning He knew we were meant for companionship . . . because He is. How silly for us to think heaven will be lacking in this most wonderful of earthly delights.

In fact, try this: Write down everything you love about life. Now, try to imagine these things at their purest and best. For me, I like to envision what it would be like to soar on the wind, over the mountains, across the ocean, my arms spread wide and a smile on my face. No fear, only freedom. Heaven will be better than that. So, try to imagine it better. Got it? Nice try but you’re still not there. That’s just it — we can’t imagine it. The best “life” has to offer will be magnified and glorified beyond our wildest dreams. Because it is only in heaven that we will truly live.

Which reminds me of the story of Cinderella in the movie Ever After. Especially at the end, when Danielle’s great-great granddaughter says, “And while Cinderella and her prince did live happily ever after, the thing to remember, gentlemen, is that they lived.”

Living and loving for all eternity with our true Prince. Nothing here can begin to compare. So you see, my friends, our best days are yet to come. . . .

What are your thoughts about heaven? Do you try to imagine what it will be like or are you okay with not knowing?

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Couplehood Hunger

image courtesy of arztsamui/freedigitialphotos.net

image courtesy of arztsamui/freedigitialphotos.net

I spent time as a guest at a friend’s home while I attended a church conference in Ohio recently. My friend, a single man, was an excellent host to me and to the other four people from around the country and the world who were staying in his home.

During the conference, we all went our separate ways, except my friend made a point of escorting me around since I had no other connections there. He sat next to me during services, ate meals with me, and made introductions that connected me to people he thought it might be helpful for me to know. Also, he drove. He invited me to leave my car parked at his house while he dropped me off and picked me up and drove me around the city.

I must say I was not unaffected by the time I spent in my friend’s company. Seeing him serve his guests and accommodate their needs was nice. Sitting next to a man in church, who excused himself to pray for others at the appropriate time was nice. Walking around church with a man, discussing the service and greeting people was nice. Being in the passenger seat was nice.

No wonder, then, that I came home and signed up (again) for online dating.

Hope lives.

What little things make you hungry for couplehood?

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Mistakes Help us Find the Right Person

Mistakes help us find the right person

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Must One Be Married to Minister?

This week I had the privilege of attending the international conference of a church that I knew little about, the Vineyard. It was wonderful! Thousands were  in attendance representing over 60 countries. The twice-daily worship sessions included extended periods of singing at the beginning and extended periods of prayer at the end. In between, men and women shared God’s word with humor and deep insight. There were meetings for scholars, missionaries, artists and many, many other interest groups. These side meetings connected people and affirmed the callings and gifts of those gathered together.

image courtesy of stock images/freedigitalimages.net

image courtesy of stock images/freedigitalphotos.net

Though I was new to this church and started off knowing only the friend who had invited me, I left the conference having connected on an honest and real level with a number of new friends. By the time I drove home after four full days, I was feeling drenched in the love of God and in awe of the ways He works.

It did appear at the conference, however, that all of the pastors and leaders I met and came across were married. There was ethnic diversity in leadership. There was economic diversity in leadership. There were women in leadership. But I did not see or meet any singles, either male or female, who were in leadership.

Our Savior was not married. Paul, who taught us who we were and how we ought to be as the church, was not married. John, the Revelator, the beloved disciple, was not married. Scripture tells us that, for the sake of serving the Lord, being single is better than being married. Without a doubt, we have every reason to believe one does not have to be married to be called and used by God.

How come, then, marriage seems to be a prerequisite for leadership in so many parts of the church?

I am curious to know whether you have experienced church communities where single women (and men) are welcome to lead.

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