Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

Anger Is Good?

image courtesy of ohmega1982/freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of ohmega1982/freedigitalphotos.net

When I slowed down over the weekend and made time to be still, to think, it became very obvious to me that I have a lot of anger in my heart these days. Mostly I have been angry with God. For me, anger is more a cover emotion than a mirror of what is actually going on on the inside. When I probed a little more, it became clear that my anger was covering my fear. That I am afraid about my uncertain next steps, about my uncertain financial future, about my uncertain aspirations to love a man and be loved in return.

Generally, I am afraid about the goodness of my future.

Since I had this realization I have been speaking back to the lies of potential doom that have been playing in the background of my mind. I have reminded myself that the One who began a good work in me will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. That God has plans to prosper me and not to harm me. That no one who hopes in the Lord will ever be put to shame. That I will surely see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. That I must wait on the Lord.

More importantly, I acknowledged that I need God’s help to see God rightly. A part of me is afraid that God will not act lovingly towards me. He might fail to provide for me. He might refrain from helping me. He might lead me into degradation and despair. He might not care about my sorrow.

The journey of singleness has left a bitter taste, it seems.

I need God’s help to see God as God is, and not in the image that the lenses over my eyes distort Him into.

The truth is that God has been more faithful to me than the most faithful friend on earth could ever be. I posted recently about an opportunity to teach that appeared and disappeared in a perplexing flash. The disappointment caused me to wonder if God was being withholding and capricious. “It’a just like my love life,” I thought, “I never get what I want from God.” But the idea of a capricious, withholding God is a lie. The truth is that God was not withholding a good thing with that job, but was giving me a glimpse of a good thing that may come, at the right time. God was reminding me that He holds my future opportunities in His hands. That door to possibly teach opened because of connections I made with people who the Spirit randomly connected me to at a friend’s church. I was visiting the friend’s church because my sense was that the invitation to visit was a God thing. So God led me to go to a church, where He then orchestrated a meeting with like-minded people, which weeks later resulted in an interview for a job that I would never have known about or had a chance to get otherwise. God was showing me that my career is not dependent upon a perfect resume, or a job fair, or having the right mentor. Those things are good, but, ultimately, my life and future are in His secure care. HE is the way.

My anger has taught me some things. What lessons have your emotions taught you?

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What I Did on My Family Vacation

Gull Lake

Beautiful day at beautiful Gull Lake. Photo by Susie Kopf Jarvis.

Since I just got back from a week of family camp at Gull Lake Ministries (Michigan) with, you guessed it, my family, I thought I’d share some of the fun stuff I got to experience for the first time while at the lake. Because you’re never too old to try something new, right?

Our first day, Sunday, started out hot and humid and the weather simmered in the high 80s through Monday night. We spent much of the afternoon at the beach enjoying what might be the clearest, cleanest lake around. Then, for reasons that still escape me, I climbed up a 40-foot tower and ziplined (also known as the “death slide”) the length of a football field.

Now, I’ve been on a zipline before—one—that crosses a creek in front of my sister’s house. When you’re done, you simply slide off. You don’t need staff members to push a large green contraption across the lawn for you to climb down. I’m still surprised I actually stepped off that tower. But with something like a leap into space, you can’t stop and think; you have to just do it.

Tuesday morning I went a gentler route by exploring the lake on a Hobie which is, basically, a cross between a paddleboat and a kayak. I moved faster than I would in a canoe, and it’s definitely easier to maneuver. A first, again, but not daunting like the zipline.

Each week, Gull Lake campers participate in a talent show. As far as I know, this has been going on since I attended as a teenager about 30 years ago. Back then, my sister and our two best friends liked to come up with silly, choreographed routines to Amy Grant songs.

Glow Stick Dancers at GLM 2015

Here are a few of the glow stick-figure people, getting ready to dance!

This time, we put a group together and did a different kind of routine. Dressed entirely in black, we taped glow sticks to our clothes in the shape of stick figures and performed two minutes from the Evolution of Dance video. And we killed it if I say so myself. Of course, one of the benefits of stick figure dancing is that messing up tends to be just as funny as getting the movements right. (As if anyone can tell either way.)

My final new experience promised to be the most peaceful one—a relaxing sailboat ride across the lake.

Or so we thought.

Remember how the week started with sticky heat near the 90s? By Thursday, the temps had dropped below 70 and the sky was a canopy of dark clouds. But our fearless captain—who went by the nickname Mug Shot—said we were good to go. So I joined my dad, my sister and a family friend and we climbed on board.

Things started out fine, if a little choppy, but Mug Shot had it under control. Until the wind started taking us a little closer to shore and the rudder got caught in the engine and the boat tipped so far those of us on one side almost landed on top of those on the other. But we all pitched in, hanging on to the sail or the rudder as instructed and, finally, Mug Shot got the boat back on course.

He was calm through the whole incident, reassuring us the ship couldn’t sink (where have we heard that before?) and even if it tilted it would right itself after dumping us in the lake. But, soon, all was well again, and I never felt like we were in any real danger. So imagine our surprise when Mug Shot said, “I think we’ll head back now that we’re out of that death trap.”

God bless him. Sometimes it’s nice to not know the whole story.

Now, it’s your turn: what new things did you do this summer?

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The Real Work at Work

Image courtesy of nenetus/freedigitalphotos.net.

Image courtesy of nenetus/freedigitalphotos.net.

After leading the life of a student for the past three years, I find my temporary return to corporate culture to be akin to a comfortably appointed waiting room. Still, sitting in an office shared with co-workers for hours on end, engaging in mundane conversation throughout the day and not being able to take the mid-day siesta that I came to love over the summer have been challenging exercises for me. The free, gourmet, readily available coffee, however, has been joyous. I’m finding my job to be a gift.

Except for one little thing.

Judy (the name I am giving my co-worker for the purposes of this blog).

Judy is my officemate. She is generally friendly, polite, knowledgeable and super-helpful. The problem is that Judy talks rather a lot about money. Specifically, she talks about how fortunate she has been to have earned large sums of money throughout her life. She retired with a windfall from her last job and told us she works now because she enjoys the collegiality and flexibility of office life as a temp. She talks about the homes she has built and the ones she has purchased and sold. She talks about the stock options she has exercised. She talks about having been the breadwinner in her family for most of her married life. About how she has set up her son to have a prosperous future.

Every single day, in her friendly and conversational way, Judy shares with us some story of how she has earned money, saved money or invested money, so much that she now rests in a remarkably rosy financial location.

A couple of weeks of listening to Judy’s money-centric view of life began to take its toll on me. It caused me to feel downright inadequate. I am not on my way to a remarkably rosy financial location, as far as I can tell. I started to wonder, “What have I been doing for all of my working adult years?”

And then I remembered.

I have been serving the Lord and His church.

Judy says that all the important decisions she has made in life have been based upon the financial benefits involved. My choices in life, on the other hand, have not hinged on financial benefit but rather on discerning the will of the Lord and doing it—even if obedience would not make me rich. My choices in following Jesus, though, have actually given me an embarrassment of riches—riches that cannot be measured.

Realizing these things made my peace return to me. For the most part.

I am aware, though, that God is working in me, still. I need more security in the knowledge that God’s love for me is all-sufficient and that I am accepted and acceptable.  I don’t need to feel any way at all about someone else’s riches. If anything I might use uncomfortable moments of discussions about money to remember out loud what truly makes one rich and secure. Perhaps we might all benefit for this kind of truth talk.

Has God ever used your co-workers to work on you?

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Never Alone

person-409127_1280_CC0As single women, we often come face-to-face with Genesis 2:18, which declares that it’s not good for man to be alone. Yet, that’s exactly where many of us have found ourselves. Alone. Wanting to be a helpmeet. Desiring the partnership of marriage.

Sometimes this verse feels like a slap in the face to those of us singles who would rather be married. We work to reconcile this verse with our current status. For many, it feels as if God too has left us alone.

I wish I could say to you, this—this is the answer to your questions. It would be fabulous for someone to be able to explain exactly why we’re not a helpmeet yet. Sadly, God doesn’t operate that way. His Word says He knows the plans He has for us, but it doesn’t promise easy answers to our questions.

This is what I can offer you if you’re in a place of questioning and uncertainty. God’s Word says we are never alone. He is with us always. He is our answer and our consolation in times of solitude. Hold tight to this truth when your singleness feels unfair and hurtful.

The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.                                                                                                                         ~Zephaniah 3:17

 

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Reading Between the Words

Fishing by Toa55But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”                                                                                                                                                 ~Luke 5:5

Most writers have a favorite. Punctuation, I mean. I know I do—the em dash tops the list, and that pesky comma lands firmly at the bottom. I’ve never had strong feelings about the semicolon though. I don’t really give it much thought since it’s not something I need too often.

Hang in there; this isn’t a post about punctuation.

Anyway, last week I was reading the book of Luke and, believe it or not, the semicolon in chapter 5, verse 5 jumped out at me. Suddenly, because of that double-speck of punctuation, I saw something in the story I hadn’t noticed before.

This account comes at the beginning of Jesus’s earthly ministry. He’s been preaching, calling His disciples, casting out demons and healing people like Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. But it’s all new—He hasn’t chosen His apostles yet, and the men already following Him are still not entirely sure they know what’s going on. (Of course, it will be years before they start to understand.)

Then we have this brief dialog between Jesus and Simon starting in verse 4. It’s simple enough … but there’s that semi-colon, and I see more there than a pause. Maybe it’s because I’m an actor and adding nuance to the words on the page is what we do. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been reading a stack of Mary Stewart books lately. She often tells her stories with heavily punctuated dialog to let you know there’s more going on.

Take, for instance, her romantic suspense novel This Rough Magic. The main characters, Max and Lucy, have just rescued a beached dolphin and now stand triumphantly in the ocean, drenched but delighted. That’s when Max suddenly kisses Lucy. They joke, at first, and admit their feelings, then Max says, “Come here.” Lucy responds:

“Max, you’re impossible … Of all the complacent— This is ridiculous! What a time to choose …”

And we just know there’s more kissing going on under those ellipses and that em dash. Instead of describing it, Mary lets us use our imagination.

Now I see this semicolon in Luke 5 and wonder what happened in that space. Something certainly did because Simon, it would seem, changed his mind. Please indulge me for a moment as I speculate.

So they’re out by the Lake of Gennesaret one day and Jesus tells Simon to “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch,” Simon’s response seems like a pretty natural one. He says, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing …”

Just straight up facts there. Simon already knew it wouldn’t do any good to head back out. And, I imagine, he was tired, maybe a little frustrated, certainly not eager to get back on that boat. Then he does a one-eighty. Just like that. Why? It must have been the expression on Jesus’s face, right? Probably a mix of “Do you still doubt what I can do?” and “Trust me.”

I can almost hear Simon sigh. “Okay. Fine.” Well, that’s not actually what he said but his next word, “nevertheless,” sounds a bit like today’s “whatever.”

“… nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”

And he did.

And a miracle occurred. They caught so many fish they needed help from another boat … and both boats began to sink.

Simon could have just as easily put a period at the end of his response. “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing.” He could have shrugged and walked away and ignored the look Jesus gave him. And if he had, he would have missed the blessing.

How many times has Jesus called me to do something and instead of saying, “Yes, Lord,” I told Him all the reasons it was a dumb idea before turning away? How many times have I flat-out ignored Him?

In these situations, I need to pause and consider what I know about God. Like how He’s not going to ask me to do something without a plan. And sure, I might sigh and say, “whatever.” I hope not. But even if I do, as long as I still “let down the net,” I can move forward into His blessing.

As Simon Peter learned—it’s the best place to be.

What about you? When’s the last time you “let down the net” despite your misgivings?

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A New Job. An Old Story.

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I started a new job. It is a temporary attorney job. Going back to my old line of work was not my preference, but this work was available, it pays better than most temporary jobs around, and it allows me to have a flexible schedule. So I am very grateful.

Before getting this job, though, I interviewed to teach at a college.

Weeks before the interview I had resigned myself to the idea that I did not seem welcome in the academy. I accepted that I do not seem to be able to produce the kind of scholarship that is valued by those who are in the academy. I made my goal and ambition to write and produce the work God was asking me to write and produce and to seek His validation. Not to seek membership in the college professor club.

Then I met some seriously Christian scholars and we hit it off. One of them, out of the blue, recommended me for the teaching job. The department chair called me in for an interview right away.

I was delighted! But also hesitant. I had already accepted, lamented and gotten over the fact that teaching in higher education was not going to happen for me. Yet here I was being invited to interview to teach. What was the Lord doing? Would I get the opportunity to teach after all?

So I prepared until I was over-prepared. The Friday afternoon interview went beautifully. I hit a home run with the hiring committee. I liked them. They liked me. The fit between my scholarship and the college’s need was perfect. They excitedly told me they would get right back to me. It seemed I would be teaching; my heart’s desire would be fulfilled.

On Monday morning, though, the department chair advised me that instead of hiring me they were canceling the course I would have taught.

I thanked them, then found another job.

I can’t help noticing how much this job development parallels my love life right now. I had accepted singleness. Then, out of nowhere, there appeared a fitting, lovely, perfect opportunity to love a man and be loved by him in return. The relationship looked promising. Hope abounded. What was the Lord doing? Would I get the opportunity to love after all?

And then the other person said he was canceling the love order he’d placed. He didn’t want a relationship with me after all.  I thanked him for his honesty and am trying to find a different path toward joy.

Am I the only one who is “blessed” with these opportunities to love what she gets, instead of getting what she’d love?

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Finding Our Place at the Table

As we were celebrating communion in church recently, I pondered the great communion table in heaven. We believers will someday join together at the eternal banquet table. It will be a great party as we step into the presence of love. The celebration of communion reminds us of our connection as family while here on earth.

Communion is an opportunity to remember that as believers we all belong at the table of the Lord. As singles, that fact doesn’t always seem real because often the church doesn’t know how to minister to our specific needs. We feel overlooked and left out. In church events, it sometimes feels as if single people are figuratively relegated to the children’s table. Remember those days at family dinners when our singleness created logistical seating problems?

I don’t believe the church intentionally ignores singles. The majority of the church is married with kids and that’s what the church knows best. The growing number of singles in churches is a new trend and many churches just aren’t there yet. My church had a Sunday school community for singles for years, but it recently ended. When asked why, the church responded that since the majority of the population is not single, it wasn’t the best use of church resources anymore. Like it or not, this is our reality.

What’s a single in the church supposed to do? Grab your friends and march with signs demanding equal time? Have a pity party?

We’re allowed to be frustrated, hurt or sad, but that won’t solve anything. We’re still part of the body of Christ. God’s already placed a seating card with our name on it; we just need to find our place.

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I’m an introvert. It takes me longer to fit into a new group. But I felt welcomed in the church singles ministry. Over the years, I’ve found ways to feel more included in groups, but it took effort on my part. I volunteered and joined ones that interested me. I reached out to different people without expecting everyone to understand my single life.

One of the best things I did was teaching for the Wednesday evening children’s program. Those nights were chaotic and fun. I learned as much from my girls as they did from me. They didn’t care about my marital status. I met parents and fellow teachers and came away with new friendships.

I learned ministry doesn’t have to be structured in order to be effective. One mom always stopped to talk with me. We shared the desire to see her daughter grow in Christ, and that was a jumping off point for sharing other aspects of our life. She prayed for me. Her simple interactions one night a week helped me walk through a tough time in my life. It’s in those situations that ministry happens.

It’s not easy, but I think it’s up to us. We shouldn’t wait for the church to come to us singles; we need to create our own opportunities.

 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

 

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No Fuss. No Muss. Just Pasta.

If I were to list the seasons from favorite to least favorite, summer would be at the bottom. (Fall easily tops the list. Best time of the year!) It’s not that I’m anti-summer. I enjoy road trips with my family, afternoons at the pool, sitting around a campfire and anything that involves being in any kind of boat on some body of water.

What I don’t like is feeling hot and sweaty. Which means I cook/bake a lot less during the summer months. I like salads and sandwiches, and I certainly stay away from turning on the oven.

Macaroni SaladSo with all that in mind, a nice, cold pasta salad remains a summertime staple. I make up a large batch and keep it in the fridge, where it typically lasts a couple weeks. And since it’s just me, I can munch on it right out of the bowl. Is that wrong? 🙂

This is what I do:

Boil and drain two cups of macaroni, then rinse in cold water until it’s no longer warm.

Mix in a can of tuna, plus peas, dill pickles/relish, mayo/Miracle Whip, mustard, salt and pepper. I don’t measure–I just add until I get the flavor I want.

Celery is great in it too but, unfortunately, I don’t use enough to justify buying a whole bundle. Someday I’d like to try it with hard-boiled eggs, but I keep forgetting that part. . . .

(Feel free to adjust ingredients according to your own preferences.)

It’s light and refreshing and perfect for someone like me who, often, gets caught up in work and realizes it’s too late to make something because I’m hungry now.

Serve it with a fresh-out-of-the-garden tomato and … yum!

What do you make when it’s too hot to cook?

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Breaking Patterns

I have mentioned in the past how difficult it is for me to leave a crush. This happens because I find it really hard to douse the flames of love once they have been ignited. But also because my crushes continually give me reasons to keep hope alive. I feel hopeful but unsure. So, I generally ask them the question at some point, just like in elementary school: “Do you like me?”

Seeing as how I am not yet permanently coupled, you can surmise what the answer has repeatedly been.

And yet the confusing behavior from the man will continue after he has assured me he does not like me. My hopeful heart keeps believing the loving care the man is showing me, more than the words he has told me. My heart does not want to stop believing. And I can’t seem to break this holding pattern until another man comes along.

I am in crush once again. The man has said he does not like me, and yet he continues to act like he does.

This time it is different, though. This time I realize I do not like being in this place of uncertainty and insecurity about a man’s feelings. I don’t like this unprofessed kind of love. This time, my prayer has changed from one of hope to one of, “Move me on, Lord. Get me over this, please.”

I think when you are praying to not be a relationship with a man, a man whom your romantic heart cannot stop leaning toward, you have taken the first very big step on the road to being over him.

How have you gotten over a crush?

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Are You Weary?

The pace of life these days is frenetic. We rush from one thing to the next, until finally dropping into bed at the end of the day.

I’m just as guilty as the next person. It always feels like there should be more time. I’m constantly saying, “I thought I had plenty of time. This just snuck up on me.” But that’s not really true. Things don’t typically just sneak up. We—I—put things out of my mind so that I can do something more pressing. Then this sneaks up on me.

I think we can only blame part of this on our society and the push to do more and be more. For me, the lion’s share of the blame lies squarely with me. I listen to society’s lies and push. Or I feel inadequate and put it off. Either way I end up paying for it in the end.

The thing is, I know the answer for this. I’ve known it for a long time. I just often forget the answer.

This is the answer:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.                                                                                                                   ~Matthew 11:28

If we—if I would just remember to rest in the Lord, I wouldn’t be so apt to over-schedule, be paralyzed with indecision or push too hard.

So here, in the middle of the week, won’t you join me in seeking the rest the Lord promises?

 

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