Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

The Great Marriage Eligibility Test

Test

Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday was my birthday, so today I thought I’d share a favorite article I wrote way back when we first started this blog in 2013. Have a great Friday, friends!

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You know how they say a man will come along as soon as you stop looking and you think, “Well, I guess no man will ever come along because I’ll never stop looking,” but then, one day, you discuss with some friends how you don’t know what the next year will bring and one says, “Yeah, you might be married by then” and, for the first time in your life, you think that might not be what you want anymore and you freak out, just a little, since you’re no longer sure you want to get married because of the direction God’s leading your ministry, and piggy-backing on that thought is this:

“Wait, so if I’m no longer certain I want to get married does that mean I’m finally not looking so now God will bring me a man?”

Then you think, “I guess I’m still looking after all.”

So you sigh and shrug and figure you failed once again. After all, God will bring you a man when you stop looking. That’s what everyone says, right?

They also say your singleness implies you still need to work on your relationship with God. Or you need to lose weight. Or get out of debt. Or ________________ (fill in the blank).

Bottom line: You’re a mess. And who wants to marry a mess?

All of which sets up this underlying idea that we’re single because we haven’t figured out The Secret yet. We still haven’t passed The Great Marriage Eligibility Test. And every five minutes or so you meet some cute, young thing who’s married but definitely does not have her act together and you think, “She passed the test?! How did she pass but I didn’t?”

Well, I’m going to say something you might not like, but hang in there with me: It IS a test. But not a test to see if you’re ready for marriage or not. It’s a test to see if you will trust God, whatever happens.

Here’s the good news: This kind of testing is part of the whole faith experience. Paul even encouraged us in how to handle it:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
                                                                         ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Not everyone is strong enough to handle such a test, but God knew you could. I’m not saying this is the only reason you’re single. I am saying, though, that the next time someone tells you you’re single because you haven’t stopped looking or your relationship with God needs work or they throw some new and improved test question at you, just smile serenely and tell them:

“That’s not the test I’m working on.”

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Commitment Phobia

image courtesy of bplanet/freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of bplanet/freedigitalphotos.net

I’m moving back to Cape Town, South Africa. In three months.

There, I’ve said it.

But I have yet to buy my plane ticket, even though the price is at an epic low. I have been studying the airfares for about a month–since September. When I had four months until I was set to leave.

Why have I not made this purchase?

Am I afraid? Being a person who is afraid of everything, the answer to that question is obvious. Of course I am afraid. But that does not explain my ticket-less state. The real question is, “Why?” Why am I afraid of a plane ticket?

What I have concluded is that buying that plane ticket represents commitment. It is commitment to a new life that is 8,000 miles away from the old, that is financially insecure, that is culturally challenging in profound and disturbing ways. None of this is the scary part, though.

What scares me is that in addition to all the known perils, I am committing to a great unknown void of “What if…?”

The scary part is committing to the ways that God is at work in my life. Ways which I know are always good, but which are not always pleasant.

Most scary of all is committing to the part about love. I am still hoping, still waiting, still expecting. It feels like all the energy and desire I have to love and to be loved in return is aimed in the direction of Cape Town. Yet all the while, for the sake of the watching world, I have to not make the love thing the main thing. I have to remember the love thing is incidental to all the other “important” things. For my own sake, I have to be in a letting go frame of mind so that if love does not finally come around for me, all continues to be well with my soul.

Buying the plane ticket means committing to my fondest hopes and to totally releasing my hope all at the same time.

A long time ago three Hebrew boys who were moved to a foreign country boldly declared, “Our God can deliver us and will deliver us! But even if God does not deliver us, we will not bow down.” Then they willingly went forward into death.

My prayer is to be able to say the same thing. “My God can and will lead me into love. But even if God does not, I am still standing tall.” And, as I am whispering these words to myself, to also be hitting the button on my laptop to buy my plane ticket.

What has happened for you when you’ve prayed this kind of prayer?

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Fighting Amongst Myself

Fighting by photostock

Image courtesy of photostock/freedigitalphotos.net.

Maybe my double-mindedness shouldn’t surprise me. James said a double-minded man is unstable (1:8) and, of course, there’s Paul’s frustrated discourse about the whole thing in Romans. If one of the founders of our faith struggled with it, why shouldn’t I?

I am of two minds—one is the-me-I-want-to-be and the other is the-me-in-the-moment. It’s why I consistently fail at losing weight. It doesn’t matter that I don’t like what I see in the mirror or in a photo or how out of breath I am after climbing a flight of stairs, the moment I crave a gummy peach ring or decide fried chicken sounds good for dinner, it’s over. The-me-in-the-moment doesn’t care.

Perhaps it’s a problem with long-term goals. I think about what is instead of what could be. I often say, “Do this for the you in five months—the you who’ll be glad you turned down that donut and only had one slice of pizza and exercised regularly. Do it for her.”

So … do I?

No, I do not.

Double-minded. Unstable. Doing what I hate. I’d think there was something seriously wrong with me if not for dear Apostle Paul*:

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

I know exactly how he feels. I know how quickly you can get to that point where you want to tear out your hair in frustration. But here’s the truth of the matter: We all fail. We all let God down.

But, hallelujah, that isn’t the end of the story. Paul adds: “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”

Once again we see that God rescues us, this time from ourselves. Yet we are still trapped by our sinful flesh. We don’t give up, though, because, by God’s grace, Paul then comes to a grand conclusion as he continues in chapter eight:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

In other words, on our own we are completely helpless. Of course we fail because the-me-in-the-moment is the-me-in-the-flesh. Only by truly accepting that Jesus has set me free can I actually be free.

Have you been set free from the law of sin and death?

*Romans 7:15 – 8:2

 

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Changing Seasons

image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev/freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev/freedigitalphotos.net

Usually, I look forward to the late year change of seasons. Everything was something to anticipate. From autumn’s cooler weather to creation’s flamboyant autumn display of rich, changing colors, to the memory of autumn school days and the new television season.

This year, however, I did not look forward to the arrival of fall. Indeed, I am still not ready for the change.

I have not made the dietary shift. In the supermarket, I have been shocked these last few weeks to see that the price of berries has doubled, and the plentiful variety of melons that were prominently displayed all summer have gone. We are in the days of squash and pumpkins and sweet potatoes.

I have not made the fashion shift. I’m still reaching for t-shirts, and breezy white dresses beckon to me from my closet to give them one more wear. But navy slacks and caramel sweaters are the order of the day.

I have not made the mental shift. I spent this summer enjoying driving vacations to New York, to Ohio, and to Western North Carolina. On my list of places to visit, also, were Colorado and Houston. I never managed to get to either one. Now the days of travel and visiting have given way to days of mundane routine.

But this is how life is, right? No matter what is happening during one season, whether delightful or dreadful, that season will not last.

Sometimes it seems as if the season of singleness refuses to come to an end. But perhaps, singleness, for we older, perpetual singles, is less like a season and more like a climate. Perhaps within the climate of unpartnered life, we experience many different seasons. Fledgling careers, renting and roommates, getting “out there,” nesting in here, grieving losses. Our seasons have changed and are still changing.

What season are you in in your singleness?

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I Have Never …

Have you ever played that game? It’s a great icebreaker. You fill in the blank: I have never ________________________. To keep it simple, just go around the room, having each person share something they’ve never done. Or you can make an actual contest out of it. Everyone gets a predetermined number of tokens—like M&Ms. When someone says, for instance, “I have never been on an airplane,” you have to sacrifice a candy if you have, in fact, been on an airplane.

Lawnmower by foto76

Image courtesy of foto76/freedigitalphotos.net.

This week I was reminded that I have never mowed a lawn. I grew up with a dad and two brothers so I wasn’t needed for that task. The same can be said with every place I’ve lived since … and there’ve been dozens. Yet each time my house or apartment had a yard, there was someone else who was more than willing to take care of cutting the grass.

Anyway, this week one of my sisters moved her belongings into my garage while she house hunts. Including her lawnmower. Up till now, I’ve typically hired local kids to mow for me and didn’t own a machine myself. As we unloaded Kris’s stuff, my other sister, Susie, said, “I’ll mow your yard while I’m here.”

Well, I thought, here’s my chance. She’ll show me what to do and I’ll take care of my own lawn and it will no longer be on my “never” list. So, Susie gave me a quick tutorial, then I grabbed the handle and gave it a push. The machine went two inches—maybe—and coughed to a halt. It just died. No matter what we did, the thing refused to come back to life.

And so, I have still never mowed a lawn. We all had a good laugh over it, although Kris will certainly feel better once her lawnmower is working again.

Still, other things on my “I have never …” list aren’t so funny, and some are hard to admit, even to myself.

  • For instance, I have never been “in love.” Oh, I have liked and wanted and romanticized about a few good men and even thought I was in love with one of them. But he didn’t want me, so I’ve decided it must not have been true love. My romantic heart can’t bear the thought of unrequited love, which means it was merely a case of heavy duty “like.”
  • I have never had a child. This one is closely related to the last but, in several ways, more devastating. Falling in love will always be possible. Having a baby gets more and more unlikely each day. Doctors would say that, at my age, it’s not going to happen, but I stubbornly cling to what little dregs of hope I have left.
  • And, adding insult to injury, having children hasn’t been possible because I have never participated in the act required for pregnancy. Yes, I mean sex. Never. Never, ever, ever. Each passing year this becomes harder to admit because it’s like a neon sign flashing my undesirability.

We don’t plan to have these “nevers” in our lives. In fact, up until a few years ago, I saw these desires as “somedays.” The dream was possible. “I will … in God’s timing.” It’s like I was climbing the Mountain of Wish Fulfillment, expecting to, eventually, reach the top. But now I feel as if I missed it somehow on the way up and am standing here, looking back, saying, “I have never …”

It’s a negative way of looking at my life. And I don’t like it.

How would you complete the phrase “I have never ________________”? Are you disappointed by the things you feel are missing, especially as a single woman? If so, how do you handle it?

For more on the topic of dealing with the struggles of singleness, I hope you’ll check out my book Spinstered: Surviving Singleness After 40, which is available on Amazon.

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What the Devil?

image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

I heard Priscilla Shirer say something about fear recently that has helped me tremendously. The general idea was that whenever she is afraid of doing something, she recognizes the fear as a signal to run toward the thing she is afraid of. God does not give us a spirit of fear, she reasoned. So if fear arises it must come from the enemy. If the enemy is interested in blocking her from something, then it may be that God is involved in that very thing, which turns out usually to be the case.

“Fear not,” the Lord instructs us over and over and over again in Scripture. Probably He keeps telling us this because we need to be instructed to be fearless over and over and over again. Not just because we are hapless humans, but because our enemy is crafty and shrewd and lies to us without ceasing.

A huge door of opportunity just swung open for me. While the door was closed I stood in front of it and prayed and prayed it would open; I was terrified it would not. Now that the door has opened, I should be elated. Instead, I am more afraid than ever. What if I walk through the door, and right over the threshold is a pit that I fall into and can’t get out of? What if there are monsters on the other side of the door? What if all the sunshine and light I thought I saw on the other side of that door turns out to be stage lighting, totally fake, and the place is actually darker and gloomier than I can bear?

What a lying wonder the devil is! He lies and tells me I have no hope of the door opening, that I should give up hoping and spare myself the disappointment. Then, when the door opens, he immediately switches lies and tells me I must not, under any circumstances, go through the open door or dire consequences will follow.

“Fear not,” says the Lord.

Run toward the feared thing, says Priscilla Shirer.

I am putting my right foot in front of my left, and I am moving forward.

What lies has the enemy used to lead you astray?

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Words Aptly Spoken

image courtesy of boy kung/freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of boy kung/freedigitalphotos.net

It took a couple of weeks, but a date, an actual in-person dinner-date, resulted from my online dating escapades. The date was casual and relaxed. We talked for hours and hours. I had a great time.

My date seemed to like me a lot. He seemed to want something serious. He seemed eager to move forward. I felt less eager. He didn’t have much to say about the deeper things of life–God and the Spirit and such.

Over the next few days we talked. It was uplifting and revelatory to talk to him. I loved how direct he was in our conversation.

He told me I was not only beautiful but intelligent, funny, sexy and a good woman.

“You don’t even know …” he marveled.

“Know what?” I asked in puzzlement.

I told him he seemed more serious than I wanted to be right now.

He responded that women almost never said those words to him. He could move slow. He could be a friend. He could be whatever I needed him to be right now.

I said I felt slightly pressured by his intensity.

He said he meets a lot of women who are interested in him, but he does not share their interest. If he seems intense it’s because he likes me. I excite him.

“You are the whole package,” he said. “You are wife material. You don’t even know …”

I don’t know. No one has ever told me.

This man does not really interest me, mostly due to our mismatched spirituality. But, ironically, talking to him was like hearing the voice of the Lord.

As I foolishly continue to lament the loss of the love of the man I want and mourn with feelings of rejection, it is as if the Lord wants me to hear and to see something different. Despite the disinterest of the man I want, and the other men I have wanted before him, despite my long, hard, march of singleness, my worth as a woman is far above rubies.

God wants me to know.

God wants you to know, too.

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Have You Been in a Friendlationship?

In her new book, The Dating Manifesto, my friend Lisa Anderson talks about the friendlationship. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s when a girl hangs out with a guy as friends. They are both unattached and do many things that may seem like they’re dating, but they aren’t in a relationship.

 

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Oftentimes in these situations, one secretly hopes the other reciprocates their feelings and that one day their friendship will grow wings and become a relationship. We’re supposed to marry our best friends, aren’t we?

Unfortunately, the outcome is usually one person walking away heartbroken.

It’s easy to fall into this dating dilemma. I know because I’ve been there and many of my friends have also. Sadly, it’s not really dating. It’s biding time, and it clouds our vision.

Breaking free from this situation was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. There wasn’t anything wrong with the man I was involved with. In fact, he was a great guy. He was charming and treated me like a lady. He made me feel like I was part of something special.

All the while, neither one of us was telling each other our true feelings. He didn’t know how I felt, and I just kept hoping his feelings would turn toward me.

They never did. He eventually began dating, really dating, another woman, and I was left with the pieces of my broken heart. To this day, he never knew how invested I was in our friendlationship.

I lost a friend, but he gained a wife.

I did learn a lesson from this whole situation. It was a tough but valuable lesson.

 

What about you? Have you been involved in a friendlationship?

 

 

Photo courtesy: Pixabay

 

 

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Making Lemonade

Lemon

My sister turned the real lemon — their old van — into lemonade when they upgraded it to this little bug.

Last week, for the first time since we started this blog in January of 2014, I didn’t get a post in at all. It’s not because anything major happened in my life—no one died, fortunately. I didn’t get hurt. I certainly didn’t receive any bad news. In fact, just the opposite for I learned a story I wrote about my mom was accepted into the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas! volume releasing in October.

No, it wasn’t any of that, but it was a combination of things. One, I was working on a post that is tough to write, and I hit a roadblock. I just didn’t know how to say what was on my heart. As a result, I felt I had to set it aside until it was ready. Two, I decided on Thursday to have a yard sale on Saturday … and that’s a lot of work, as you probably know. And three, when I was finally ready to focus and get it done, my internet shut down.

Sometimes life goes that way. You don’t plan on it so you’re not prepared. Sure, not getting a blog post done on time is, without question, a minor thing. But some of those just-because-I’m-human snags can hit us pretty hard.

My biggest snags lately have been work-related. I keep getting potential job possibilities, and I let my hopes soar only to crash when they don’t come through. This has been a particular rough summer. Sometimes I am so tired of constantly striving to bring in enough to make ends meet. And sometimes I don’t make it. Hence the internet problem.

Don’t get me wrong—God continues to provide. I have a roof over my head, plenty to eat and I had a fun, active summer thanks, for the most part, to family assistance. It’s wonderful to have that kind of support, but I’m tired of needing it.

This Labor Day weekend, I’m acutely aware of my lack of work. It’s frustrating, but I’m a natural optimist. One of my favorite movie lines is from the Tim Allen comedy Galaxy Quest: “Never give up. Never surrender!”

The tough days and big snags will come. They just will. What shows our true character is how we handle the surprises and disappointments. Do we only see the lemons or can we trust God to see a whole lot more?

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Dating Starts and Non-Starts

image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

For most of the usual reasons, I find myself back in the cycle of seeking love through electronic means. Online dating. There has been a steady stream of interest but not too many viable prospects.

Here are some highlights:

There was “YouknowyI’mhere.” He was cute and his introductory message made me laugh. But he mysteriously stopped communicating with me after a few contacts.

There was “Telebeat.” He seemed sincere and direct in his introductory message. I admired that, like me, he had returned to school in his 40s to change careers. We were communicating for not too long online when he gave me his number and invited me to call him. The next evening I texted to ask if he was free to chat on the phone. He replied that he was in class and would call me later. I never heard from him again.

The abrupt disconnect is a “thing” online, apparently.

Because my quest for love, or even like, was not progressing with the men who initiated contact with me, one evening I decided to do some initiating of my own.

“AlphaOnyx919” got a short “hello” message from me since his profile was humorous and intelligent, and in his photos he looked gorgeous. He sent a brief reply right away. The next day, during our first conversation (via text), he asked me what I was looking for. I said something along the lines of friendship with potential. AlphaOnyx919 said, him too. “No pressure at all.”

Right after this he asked how I felt about intimacy. Not wanting to presume anything, especially that he was simply hoping for a hook-up, I inquired as to what he thought of as intimacy. Two days later he got back to me and said he had not seen my text. Then he said that by intimacy he meant cuddling, kissing and sex. My response was that it might be better to have a conversation about sexual intimacy after, say, we had actually met. Like, in person. He never responded.

Then there was “Squireman1963,” or as I like to call him, “6-2-52,” which describes his height and age. I liked the laid back read of his profile. In his photos he seemed stylish and comfortable. He looked like a man who took care of himself and enjoyed life. 6-2-52 reached out to me early one morning with a few sentences admiring my beauty. It was a strong start. Compliments are always good. I thanked him for starting my day off with a smile.

The next morning he sent another cheerful flattering message. This garnered another smile from me and a longer note in response. On day three we had our first conversation (via text), which went well. The next day we had a longer conversation by text, which went even better. He was polite, engaging and had a good sense of humor. I suggested we talk on the phone. He gave me his phone number and said call anytime.

That was earlier today.

I will let you know how it goes.

How have your online dating adventures gone?

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