Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

Changes, Endings and Beginnings

Thanksgiving is two days away!

For me this rush forward into the holiday season, this time of remembering all I am thankful for, is more poignant than usual.

I find myself turning inward this year to process the rush forward into the next holy season of my life. There is doctoral work to do, which means downsizing, packing, moving across the Atlantic to a new country, entering a new educational system and a new culture, and trying to form a new community in which to authentically belong. All the while managing to read, study and produce quality writing.

There is also the ordination process, which means interviews, finding my place in the global church and being taught by the Spirit to preach and to teach and to serve God’s people and the world. Finally, there is the real need to develop personally, which means nourishing all the different parts of me— the thinker, the minister, the woman with a heart, a body and a spirit – so I cannot just do what God is calling me to do, but so I can flourish into being the person God created me to be.

As the holidays signal the end of the year, I am finding that these holy days I have been experiencing bring a lot of endings. There are lots of last times.

This blog post, dear readers, is my last time posting here at Girl’s Night In as a regular blogger. We’ve shared together the angst of my school days, the excitement of my trip to Cape Town, the disappointments of ill-fitting love, recipes, haircuts and random joys of life after 40. It has all been grand!

Counting my blessings, Girl’s Night In is one thing I truly have been blessed by. I am thankful we have shared this season of life together, friends.

I will be around. Alease A. Brown is but a Google search away.

Let the next things, for all of us, begin and be great! Happy Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year!

mirror.hood

photo by Ken Branson/MasterMIND productions

2 Comments »

Raise Your Hand If You’re Having an Identity Crisis

Who am I

Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the catching-on posts on Facebook this week is a collection of your most-used words on status updates. Out of curiosity, I played along.

And I wasn’t happy with it. In fact, I decided not to share it. The main word, front and center? “Just.” Blah.

As a writer, this offends me. Good writers know not to use this word, except, perhaps on rare occasions. And here I am, using it more than any other. Ugh. I re-took the test several times, hoping something else would jump out as my numero uno word, to no avail. Adding grief to annoyance, the words “God” and “Jesus” were nowhere to be seen.

But “just” couldn’t be unseen.

Fortunately, I soon realized this word doesn’t define me. It says very little about who I am. And that reminded me of this post from the early days of Girls Night In, so I thought I would take this opportunity to share it again:

***

Have you been taking those “Who Are You?” quizzes on Facebook? I have. And over the last few weeks, I’ve discovered I’m a perpetually single spontaneous idealist with the personalities of a Downton servant named Anna, a Greek god named Thor and a grouchy Muppet who lives in a trashcan.

Welcome to my identity crisis!

I have to say the “perpetually single” result was rough. Spot on, but rough.

The description went like this:

“Hey there, champ! Being single to you is like breathing or falling asleep — it’s second nature. You sort of have forgotten that the story of your love life is all ‘Me, Myself & I’ and just keep plugging away. Romance may one day be in the cards for you, but that seems like a vague and far-off destination.”

Sounds about right.

Of course, letting an Internet quiz define who I am or, far worse, predict my future would simply be asking for trouble. But though I read these results and laugh, something inside wonders what made me choose what I did. Does any of this indicate there’s something about me that is messed up? Am I perpetually single because my deep-down true self can’t help it?

Which wakes up that little voice inside that whispers, “There must be something wrong with you. You are, after all, 50 and still single.” Isn’t that the fear so many of us have? Especially those of us who don’t date much.

But here’s the thing: If I start defining myself based on silly random quizzes or baseless comments or even my own insecurities, I’ll always be disappointed. Because the question shouldn’t be “Who am I?” but “Who does God say I am?”

It’s hard to suppress that little voice. I know. A woman can’t find herself in her fifties and not ask why she hasn’t been chosen yet. That’s why we need to focus on who we are in Christ.

God rescued me because He delighted in me (Psalm 18:19). He has searched my heart and knows exactly who I am and He loves me still. Me — a perpetually single spontaneous idealist with big fears and even bigger dreams.

So . . . who does God say you are?

4 Comments »

The Relationship Between Stress and Dating

ID-100303821

image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Autumn is a season that seems made for shared mugs of hot cider, snuggling together on the couch and strolling together through the mall. Yet I am not in a relationship, or looking to be in a relationship right now.

It is not that I am taking time between dating cycles to regain my equilibrium, it is, rather, that I want to focus on the intense changes occurring in other areas of my life. I have decided to be alone, for a season, so I can focus. I have decided I will no longer allow my desire for a relationship to divert my attention away from the significant matters I need to deal with.

My usual modus operandi is to indulge my seeking heart’s every whim. Instead of getting started writing that big paper, I’d rather spend the day writing a long note to some man, or chatting with some potential love interest on the phone. Instead of working on a feasible budget, I’d rather open my Pinterest app and browse beautiful wedding gowns as I imagine my own someday wedding.

But this season, I have managed to put a stop to my diversionary tactics and have been confronting the heavy stuff in my life that needs to be confronted straight on. I decided to forgo two (or three or five) months of searching for and being in some degree of love, to concentrate on walking down the path that is before me.

I have been so pleased with myself and my disciplined approach to things.

I thought of this recently when a friend shared that her daughter, an Olympic hopeful, has been lamenting lately that she is single at 25. All of her friends are pairing off, and she wants to be in a relationship too. She wonders if she is wasting time with so much training when she should be going out and dating instead. What is the point of the Olympics, when it could be costing her the love of her life (potentially)?

Unsurprisingly, she has a competition coming up in a few weeks.

Hearing about this 25-year-old elite female athlete made me realize I am not the only one who longs for a relationship more strongly than ever during those times when pressure begins to mount.

Thinking about her, though, caused my perspective to shift. Far from feeling she needed to just buckle down and focus on the amazing journey she’s undertaking, I began to think someone like her ought to be gentle with herself and accept her desire for connection for what it was.

It occurred to me that while I might respond to my own relationship wants with logic, reason and pragmatic solutionizing—telling myself to leave love alone and focus, focus, focus—I would never be so glib to a 25-year-old facing tremendous pressure. Instead, I would tell her something like this:

“Perhaps the increased longing you feel to be with a man right now when you are dealing with high levels of stress is not merely a diversion and coping mechanism. Perhaps it is the expression of a deeply felt need to have someone with whom to share your worry; to be with someone who understands you, someone who holds you close and comforts you. Maybe if your need for loving, supportive, bodily closeness was satisfied, it would give you new freedom to boldly go forward into the new and scary places you are moving into.”

I would tell her it is okay, healthy even, to desire support and connection right now. I would encourage her to try to look to her non-romantic relationships, and see if she might find some comfort and support there. Maybe to ask her Dad for a hug, or to ask her Mom to tell her happy stories about how she was as a kid.

“Remind me of who I am,” she might say. “Remind me that I am safe. I am not alone. I am deeply loved.”

Why is it so much easier to offer to a stranger a kind of gentleness and understanding I would never offer to myself?

Lord, teach me to love like you love—even me.

Leave a comment »

A Few of My Favorite Things

It’s already starting to feel more like winter than fall, so if I’m going to share my favorite things about this time of year, I’d better do it now! And since it’s been a rather rough week, I thought it would be nice to focus on what makes me happy. Enjoy!

Fall Hammock Anne MemeMy favorite month—Anne of Green Gables said, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” This expresses my feelings exactly! And with my birthday right in the middle of the month—on the 15th—how could I not love it? The only thing I don’t love is that it’s another 11 months before I can experience October again.

My favorite season—the beginning of fall means the hot, humid days of summer are over and the cool days are just beginning. The trees blanket the earth with an array of bright, warm colors against crisp blue skies. I sleep better and, usually, exercise more. And it means Christmas is but a heartbeat away. Yay!

Birthday 2014My favorite smells—from the apple pie-scented candle I’m breathing in right now to the campfires and harvest parties I share with my family, the aromas of autumn stir my spirit and encourage me to breathe deeply. Ahhh.

My favorite clothes—near the end of September I pulled out my bag of slippers in anticipation of cooler weather. Yes, I have a plastic bag full of fluffy, cozy slippers in a variety of colors. Then there are the soft, long-sleeved shirts, the thick, snuggable sweaters and a beloved pair of comfy, pink boyfriend pants—like sweats only better. And cuter.

Perfect Fudge 2

A pot of fudge, halfway through the stirring process.

My favorite food—since Thanksgiving lands into the middle of fall, even if it feels like winter by then, it still counts. And I enjoy the typical Thanksgiving feast of turkey and all the trimmings—plus my family’s tradition of homemade noodles—more than anything. But autumn also includes big pots of chili, S’mores around the aforementioned campfires and my famous fudge. Yum!

It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. I always feel like the year starts off so slowly with January being a bit of a cold, barren letdown after the holidays. But then time moves faster and faster until we hit autumn like a locomotive and, before I know it, my favorite time of year is but a memory.

How I wish life would slow down! How I wish I could savor the moments more thoroughly. So many wonderful things happened over the last month—my sister’s fall barn dance, participating in Trunk or Treat with my family while dressed as Granny from Once Upon a Time, staring at a neighbor’s oak tree because the bright orange leaves contrasted perfectly with the graceful almost-black branches and the brilliant blue of the sky coming through it all. I’m still mad at myself for not getting a picture of that.

A Moose-Reindeer Christmas 2And now it’s all in the past. The leaves are on the ground, and all the Halloween-related decorations and costumes have been packed away. Though I have much to look forward to with Thanksgiving and Christmas to come, I know in a blink it will be over.

So … Lord, help me to enjoy and appreciate every moment of my life, and not be content to let it passively slip by me. May this day be one that glorifies You—whether it’s full of my favorite things or not.

What about you? What do you love about this time of year? Is it your favorite or do you prefer another season?

Leave a comment »

We’re Waiting

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

I am in the final days of working out which institution I will be studying at during the next season of my life. After long weeks of emails, connections being made, and plans being firmed up and then revised, after weeks of driving motion to work out the details, I have reached a point of stillness. I have done all I can do and now I must be still and wait. I have to wait for those with decision-making power to get back to me with their final word. I have to wait for God to do the thing that God does where, regardless of what the final word is from people, He mysteriously opens doors (or closes them), and the unlikely and improbable happen (or the likely and probable don’t happen).

Out of all the things that are hard to do, waiting is one of the hardest.

Whether we are waiting for Dad’s surgery to be done, waiting for the closing on the house to happen, waiting for Junior to find sobriety for real, or waiting for good love, we reach a point when calls to the hospital or to the bank, or checking on Junior or on our ChristianMingle.com contact page has all been done, and all we can do is wait.

I’m discovering that my impatience with waiting is generally fear-based and a sign of my not being present in the present. I dread that the thing I hope for will not come to be, and I need to know the outcome immediately to allay this fear. Waiting, though, causes me to marinate in fear until the flavor of fear has permeated my whole being. Not only does waiting allow fear to fester, but waiting keeps my focus on that point in the future, just out of my sight range. I take my eyes off today, thinking and ruminating about what might (not) be.

This does not have to be the case, though. What if in my waiting, I accepted that there are no dreadful outcomes? That there is only Christ, who loves me and is with me come what may. What if in my waiting I shifted my focus from tomorrow to today, to right now? What if I thought about how to enjoy the hours I spend with Dad, or how to de-clutter my environment wherever I will live, or how to love Junior without hurting myself, or how to love myself and my life without waiting for a partner to share it with me?

What if waiting didn’t involve worried anticipation about tomorrow but instead involved filling the present with goodness as we look forward to the things for which we wait?

After all, our ultimate wait—for the glorious appearance of our Lord—requires us to do just that.

Leave a comment »

It’s Only a Flesh Wound

I’ve had many years to get used to the ups and downs of singleness. Take, for instance, being a third or fifth wheel. I’ve filled that extra seat so often it’s become, for the most part, a comfortable place for me.

So why did it bother me when I learned last week that a Friday dinner out with friends would probably be just me and two couples? I don’t know … but it did. I was in a mood, I guess, and wasn’t exactly relishing the prospect. Oh, that wouldn’t stop me. I only get to see these friends one or two times a year, and I love spending time with them. So I swallowed my insecurities, ready to enjoy the evening.

Once we were settled at our table, the waitress came by and, in typical waitress fashion, asked if we were all on one ticket.

Of course, we weren’t. Each couple said they were together, and I added I was on my own. No big deal until, bless her heart, the waitress began to sing: All by myself … don’t wanna be. . . .

If it had been an American Idol audition, it wouldn’t have been half bad. But it took all I had not to shrink or cringe or say something snarky. Instead, I laughed with my friends and ordered the barbecue ribs. Soon after, another friend showed up and we were an even number. Though I was still on my own, bill-wise.

The rest of the evening was quite delightful. Some problems with our orders led to two free, large hot fudge and caramel sundaes. We ate. We laughed. It was good. The spontaneous song didn’t cut me. I didn’t bleed.

Flesh Wound

Image courtesy of patrisyu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It was just a scratch. Because that’s all I let it be.

Over the last few months, I’ve become even more aware of the times when I need to quiet that loud, nagging voice that seems so determined to keep me down. And I mean that figuratively … except for the time I jumped off a four-story platform to zipline the length of a football field. I knew if I let myself think about how awful it would be to fall screaming to the ground, I wouldn’t do it.

So I didn’t think. I just jumped. And it was amazing.

That night at the restaurant, it would have been easy to let the words of the song and all it meant ruin my night. But why? Would that have made me feel better? Would it have changed anything? No and no.

I did a little research on what the Bible says about our thoughts and, try as I might, I couldn’t find any verse that said we should dwell on negative things. I read verses about peace and thinking about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. God also seems to feel strongly about forgetting the past.

Let’s not forget that God has given us power to conquer that nagging little voice. Do you want your war cry? How about this:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5 NIV).

Demolish seems like a pretty strong word.

Strong enough to heal a flesh wound.

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: