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StillSingle is Still Necessary

12 Jul

I thought I was done.  Done trying to hurry love, done trying rush the work the Lord is doing in my heart, done pushing, prodding, questioning, and urging singles away from hopelessness and discouragement.  Done blogging.

But then I went on a Missions trip to Uganda, and I couldn’t seem to stop talking to pretty much everyone about love and marriage.  I had some interesting and insightful conversations with people.  On the trip the thought occurred to me that StillSingle is still really interested in why and how love happens.

It’s been three Sundays since I have returned, having been expanded in all kinds of ways that I could not have foreseen.  I have experienced an inexplicable dimension shift which makes me want to be more of the woman who God made me to be.  I feel myself wanting to take hold of that for which Christ has taken hold of me.  I want to reach for it fearlessly.  I have found myself speaking about the Lord in the secular realm, when previously I would be silent.  I have found myself inviting people to church, when that’s really not something that I do.  I have found myself wanting to continue my pre-trip consecration of no tv, no movies, no fiction, no distractions, when just before leaving on the trip I relished the idea of finally being done with the consecration so I could go to see Bridesmaids.  “Hmmm…,” I think to myself as I notice these occurrences.

This past Sunday at church, in each of our three services babies were dedicated.  During the last service (a service I rarely ever attend  because I sing in the choir for the first two services and am not inclined to stay for a third), the guest artist who was ministering interrupted her singing to prophesy to the congregation something along the lines of, “Someone here is not happy about the baby dedications earlier.  Someone here was looking at those families, and those babies, and saying in her heart, “What about me?  I’ve been waiting and trying and hoping for so long!  Where’s my baby, God?”  Well, know that your time is coming.  It’s not over for you! It’s not over! You are going have your baby.  You’re going to email me next year and tell me that you were the one in this church that I was talking to, and you are going to email me a picture of your new baby!  Turn to your neighbor and say, “It’s not over!””  I dutifully turned to my neighbor and, lo and behold, she was holding back tears.

Now, before the service began this same teary-eyed lady took the seat next to me and began a steady chatter in my direction despite the obvious fact that I was trying to read a book.  I said in my heart, “Lord, why did you put this woman here next to me? I just want to be quiet and read. What is the purpose of her sitting here, Lord?”  But her chatter inspired no response of significance from me.  When I saw her tears, though, instantly I knew.  “You want me to pray for her, Lord!”  Well, at the end of the service , without revealing her need, she allowed me to pray for her. I prayed with all of my heart and she began to weep in earnest as I prayed.  Afterwards she decided to open up and to tell me how her heart longs for a child.  How, before the service began she had been talking to someone over coffee and wondering aloud why others had babies to dedicate and she had none.  She told me with tears that she just did not understand why she had not found a suitable mate so that she, too, could move into motherhood.  She was already over forty, she told me.

Of all the seats, in all the pews, in all the services being held in all the churches in New York, the Lord chose that seat, pew, service and church to connect me and Janice.  He wanted to encourage her, I think.  And He wanted to encourage me, too.  “It’s not over, StillSingle!  There are single souls that need an encouraging word.  Your words.  Your prayers.”

I’ll do my best, Lord.

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Too Self-Protective?

21 Feb

Last night, as I was ending a meal with a girlfriend at our favorite diner, an old friend stopped by. The friend was a man with whom I share a bit of a history. My girlfriend knew nothing of this when she invited him to join us. In explaining his and my history, this man said to my girlfriend, “We flirted with dating one another.” True. Also true: At the same time, unbeknownst to me, he was already dating a friend of mine. Ultimately, all was revealed and, by the grace of God, I remained friends with both this man and with my friend whom he was seeing while flirting with me. (Got it?) Each of them moved on from my church, and the woman he was seeing became one of my closest friends. All this happened years ago.

Fast forward to the present. This man is now back at my church. I see him regularly and hold him at arm’s length whenever our paths cross. I tnhe feel bad about my frostiness and resolve to be nice, to greet him warmly, the next time that I see him. But I never seem to do it. And here is the real reason why: I am physically attracted to him. Like, a lot. He is tall and attractive and if I had a “type” it would look like him. This is a problem. Not just because of my friend, his ex, but because he still has the same personality quirks that made things difficult when I knew him years ago. He name is etched in stone on my “definitely not possible” list. Yet I’m still attracted to him physically.

This attraction is frightening for me. It reminds me of the last time I was physically attracted to someone who was “definitely not possible”, who was married. I’m reminded of how I couldn’t seem to resist him, despite his not-possibleness. We became very close emotionally (though not physically, thank God). I ended up being in a bad situation with his wife, being hurt terribly, and of having my integrity compromised. The shadow of this ill-fated attraction still looms large over my life. And this explains why my current attraction to a “definitely not possible” man has me behaving badly. I do not trust this “definitely not possible” man, and more importantly, I do not trust myself where he is concerned.

Last night it became clear that the way that I was responding to this man was hurtful to him. He thinks it must be bad blood from all those years ago. He apologized at length. He hoped I could forgive him. He wants us to turn a new page in our friendship. He was sincere and charming with a hint of flirtation. I said, I am not angry with you. There is no need for you to apologize. I am really sorry that I have been so cold to you. My attitude towards you is really not about you personally. It is about me and my baggage where men are concerned. He prays a beautiful prayer before leaving my girlfriend and me.

I want to learn from my past. I do not want to be held hostage to it. How many other men I have put-off because of my fears and unresolved guilt?

What Is One To Do About Valentine’s Day?

8 Feb

Valentine’s Day is less than one week away ladies!  What shall we do? 

Here is what we are NOT going to do:

We are not going to be depressed, angry, or bitter.
We are not going to rail against the unnecessaryness of Valentine’s Day in general.
We are not going to harbor hostility and/or envy towards coupled people in general or the flowers sent to them.

Here is the one special day of the year devoted to expressing love to one another, and the thought of the day fills many of us with misery.  It reminds us that we are missing romance in our lives.  I get it.  But I also find it curious, and downright strange, that the American Day of Love does not automatically fill us Christians with joy.  Maybe we need to reframe the prevailing view of  Valentine’s Day.  Love is not just for lovers.  Love is for all people, no?

My favorite thing to do for Valentine’s Day is to make a list of all the people who are not likely to receive a token of affection on (this would be a ladies only list, by the way), and then to give them a small gift. Usually it’s Godiva Chocolate. I try to mail my packages. And may I just say, the joy and the delight that my girlfriends express is better even than Christmas!   This costs money.  It takes time.  I definitely have to plan things out just so.  But I feel purposeful, and get a strong reminder of all the love that I have in my life. 

There is no sense in trying to resist the wave of red hearts that is sweeping the nation this week.  We have to swim with the tide.  That may mean buying some red hearts, or finding some red construction paper and making some red hearts, or using some red food dye and baking some red hearts.  But the point is that we should remember that Valentine’s Day is a day to remember the one (or ones) we love, and to tell them.

Do you love your parents?  Do you love your siblings?  Do you love your co-workers?  Do you love your girlfriends?  Do you love your cousin?  Do you love your fellow youth leaders?  Do you love that woman at the dry cleaners who got that stain out of your blouse?  All love counts! 

Christian singles let’s lead the way in the spreading of love on Valentine’s Day!  How will you show some love?

What Is It About Bridal Showers?

20 Jan
The marriage (detail of bride and ladies)

“The Marriage (detail of bride and ladies),” by Nicolo da Bologna, circa 1350s. Image via Wikipedia

A friend of mine, who is soon to wed in the Dominican Republic, had her bridal shower a couple of weeks ago.  According to the Evite (it was an impromptu shower since the bride was in town on a short visit), there were to be less than ten guests.  I knew pretty much everyone who would be attending.  Most were senior ministry leaders and not my contemporaries.  Only one woman was expected who is a part of my social circle.  This woman and I are friends, but not close friends.  I was glad that she would be there with me, though, like sort of a ‘single and waiting’ comrade. 

On the day of the shower, when all the guests were gathered, we began to chat and my ‘single-and waiting’ counterpart dropped the bombshell that she was engaged to be married.  The date was set.  The hall was booked.  The wedding gown was purchased.  We were all a bit joyously shocked.  How had this news of her engagement not leaked out?  More pressing for me, though, was the realization that, with this exchange of information, I suddenly became the only single in a room full of happily-coupled Christian women.  Uh-oh.

Sure enough, the conversation, and all eyes, soon turned to me and to what kinds of exciting things were happening in my life (which, of course, is the polite way that one inquires about another person’s love life).  Since I did not have an engagement to talk about, or anything remotely close to an engagement, I talked about hoping to soon buy a house.  This topic, unexpectedly and effectively, got the ladies off the topic of my love life for a good long while.  Except that the woman sitting next to me felt to share with me the memory of how, when she was my age, she too looked to buy a house on her own, a townhouse in fact.  But in the midst of her house-hunting she met her husband, and ended up getting married.  “So you never know,” she concluded.  I dummied up.  My response to her was, “So what happened with the townhouse?”

Later, the hostess asked all the guests to share relationship-words-of-wisdom with the bride.  We went around in a circle.  The others talked about their marriages.  I talked about my sister.

When the gifts were opened, there was sexy lingerie.  The most senior ministry leader in the room encouraged the bride with words along the lines of, “In your relationship with your husband you are going to discover what it really means to be a woman; what your body was designed for.”  I wondered at the implications of this statement. Is a single like me unaware of her womanhood?

Towards the end of the shower we were asked to share a prayer request.  It was to be something strongly desired or greatly needed, and too hard for anyone but God to work out.  Again we went around in a circle.  When it was my turn I sensed the other ladies holding their collective breath in hope that I would ask for prayer about marriage.  I could feel my own breath catch at the mere thought of mentioning my hope for marriage in such a setting as that one.  My prayer request was for a career change.

It was, without question, the most uncomfortable bridal shower that I have ever attended.  Mostly because I felt like I was in hiding.  For the first time in a very, very long time, at that bridal shower, among those married Christian ladies, I felt ashamed that I was still single.

To be continued.

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Treat or Trick?

17 Jan

Early last year, after a series of curious events, I decided that in 2011 I was going to take a trip to Uganda, Africa.  I pledged to the Lord, and to my family, that in 2011 I was going, even if I had to make the trip alone.  Crazy, right?  (Remind me to tell you about that summer during  my college years when I went to Alaska alone, ostensibly to work on a fishing boat and earn lots of moolah, only I ended up not working on the boat and instead lodging in a halfway house.  But I digress…).

My plan was that in December 2010, I would plot out my vacation/travel schedule for 2011, and finalize the plans for my trip to Africa.  By November, however, I had three far-flung weddings on my calendar for 2011–Dominican Republic, Vegas, and the wedding in which I would be a bridesmaid here in New York.  It was after I was invited to be a bridesmaid for my friend that I said to the Lord, “Africa might have to wait for 2012, huh?” 

Two to three days after saying this to the Lord, I was at dinner with a friend involved in short-term missions.  Over dinner she rattled off a list of trips that the missions ministry at my church would be taking in 2011.  In the midst of all the usual places she threw in a couple of new spots including, you guessed it, Uganda.  I was in shock.  Who goes to Uganda?  “Why are they going?  How did this happen?  I’ve got to go with them!”, I told her.  Within 3 weeks, through another series of Divine coincidences, I was interviewed to be a part of the team going to Uganda.  At the beginning of January I found out that I was accepted to be on the Uganda team.  Hooray!!  Still Single is going to Africa in 2011!

Now it is important to know about Still Single at this point that she does not possess the usual missions-type personality.  She is more of the American-tourist type.  Give her a 4 or 5 star hotel, ample, clean, English-speaking, dining accommodations and she is a happy visitor.  Still Single likes hotel/spas, turn-down service, fresh flowers on the credenza, and like that.

Fast forward to my first missions meeting.  In addition to the spiritual components of missions work, the Missions Pastor reviewed, what I would call, missionary protocol.  He discussed cultural differences, relational improprieties, food and lodging in the field.  He described the insects we would likely encounter in our rooms, the pests that might be found in our rooms that could be as large as one’s head, the necessity of bagging our clothes and luggage at all times while in the field, and segregating and immediately washing and spraying everything upon our return to the States.  He mentioned that we should only drink bottled water, and only eat food approved by those in charge of approving the food.

As I listened, I naturally pondered why on earth I was going on this trip.  And I began to chuckle at the hilarity of God.  He tricked me!  Many, many times my missionary friends have asked me when I would take a missions trip.  Many, many times I have answered, “Never.  Missions work is not for me.”  But there I was.  I had walked into the missions meeting delighted, eager, and compelled by the Holy Spirit to head to one of the hardest locations where one could ever hope to minister.  If God had said, “Still Single I want you to go to Africa on a missions trip,” I would have resisted hard.  I know this about myself.  In fact, I do not think I would have recognized or acknowledged even the possibility that God might say such a thing to me, as, clearly, I am not the missionary type.  But being God, and knowing my frame, instead of commanding that I take a missions trip, He drew me mysteriously towards a country that I knew nothing about, made me yearn and long to go to that country, and then provided the means for my travel.  Then, only when He’d fully secured my commitment, did He, incidentally, inform me of all the challenges and hardships that the trip would entail. 

Only God could make you want something, that He wants for you, that He knows you would not want if you really knew what was involved. 

Which reminds me of marriage.

At some point, God begins to stir our hearts with longing to go to this new relational place, a place we don’t know and have never been and which may or may not be hospitable to us.  We long to go into a marriage.  And then God (hopefully) leads us towards this place, and provides the means (i.e., the other person) for us to actually marry.  But only after we are there in the engagement or marriage, only after we have crossed the threshold of commitment, does God reveal the challenges and hardships that we will encounter in this new place.  And so it is with parenting, ministry, work, and every big step we take in life in general. 

So I am walking by faith.  And packing light.

Wedding Jitters?

14 Dec

Recently, I went bridal gown shopping with my friend.  Just us two.  Imagine.

As it turned out I loved bridal gown shopping.  My friend took me to RK Bridal, which is a warehouse of sorts.  At RK there are about six bridal consultants, six fitting rooms, and six brides at a time modeling gowns for the friends and family that accompanied them to the store–all while other brides await their chance to be assisted.  It was a show.  My friend tried on several gowns and then narrowed down her choices to three.  She made an appointment to return the next day with her mom to make the final selection.  And just like that she had a wedding gown in the $1k price range (excluding alterations), which was her goal.  Onward, looked the bride, to bridesmaids’ gowns.  And this is where the trouble began. 

My impression was that the bride did not have a concrete vision for the bridesmaids.  That she wanted to collaborate; have us all select gowns that were flattering.  However, as the process moved forward, it became apparent that the bride, in fact has a clear vision of what she wants for the bridesmaids, and that what she wants is not particularly…nice.

“Ugly bridesmaids’ dresses are de rigueur, so suck it up,” I told myself.

“Whatever the bride wants, she gets.  So get over it,” I told myself.

“At least the dress will be inexpensive,” I told myself.

But in spite of my best efforts at self-talk, I still felt unsatisfied, frustrated, even angry.  Anger was such an over-the-top reaction, though, that I had to figure out what my problem was.  Maybe it was context.  My last bride chose for me a bridesmaid gown that was stunning, in a merlot-colored satin.  Before that wedding, another girlfriend chose for me a champagne-colored Vera Wang—elegant and sophisticated.  Maybe, I told myself, I am not mentally prepared for the step-down in style.  But then I realized that, actually, I just did not want this bride to choose my bridesmaid gown.  Which took me to the heart of the matter.

I do not like the bride’s choices.  I would never choose the catering hall that she chose, or the menu that she chose, or the bridal salon or the dress that she chose; I would never choose the kind of ceremony or the kind of honeymoon that she is planning.  I do not prefer any of it!  But, and this is the thing, it is not my wedding.  And I am upset because I want it to be.  I want to be the person making choices for my own special day.

“Father, I get a special day, don’t I?,” I questioned God.  And I didn’t hear any kind of response.  The only thing I knew for sure was that God wanted me to be satisfied with Him, whether I get a day or not.   And I said in my heart, OK.  Again, surrendering what I want and embracing whatever the Lord wants for me.

A short while later I was Christmas shopping for my nieces, who are sisters aged 16 and 13.  I bought perfume and body cream for the older niece.  And, as I have for years and years gone by, I also picked up similar things for the younger niece.  Because I knew that if I got something for one, but not the other of them, there would be an issue; even though they are old enough to know better.  And right there on the selling floor I had a revelation. “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  So I am encouraged.

Have I mentioned that I have been obsessed with homeownership all year long?

29 Nov

All year I have looked, searched and hunted for the right property, and have been unable to find it.  I have found frustration at every turn– prices too high, taxes too high, too many repairs needed, or all-cash buyers outbidding me.  Not to mention my own ambivalence about what amount I can really afford, in light of my continuing student loan debt.

During the last couple of months I have gotten the distinct spiritual impression that I have to cease being obsessed about, distressed over, and consumed with buying a home.  That I have to trust God.  Just like with my desire to be married.  Releasing this desire to the Lord has been as hard as releasing the desire to be married.  It feels even harder, if you can believe that, because buying a house feels like something that should be within my control.  But God is helping me to release the thing.  To not just think, but to truly mean that He is my security, my shelter, my refuge, my everything.

In the meantime I find myself taking first-time homebuyer preparation courses, which is humbling.  I used to work as a bank real estate closing attorney, and privately as an attorney I have performed a number of closings for clients.  But I’m honest enough with myself to admit that I need help developing a realistic budget, and assessing the current marketplace (e.g., is a short sale better than a normal sale for a buyer like me or not?), and understanding different financing options.  So I’m seeking guidance while I await the Lord’s provision.

Tonight I attended a class where there were presentations from a mortgage expert who works for TD Bank, and also from a home inspector who detailed the intricacies involved in assessing the condition of a property.

I was the only single person there.  The only person sitting alone.

I remember dreaming that one day my husband and I would go house-hunting together.  Just like on HGTV.

Alas.

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What Do We Older Singles Have to be Thankful For?

24 Nov

Here’s my Top 5:

5:         Career

Though I am not satisfied in my career, I am stable.  Stable enough to consciously explore what more I might attempt with my life.  I am clearheaded enough to recognize that my stability at work is determined by how I handle relationships at work, just as much as how I handle the work itself.  I am thankful that I am, finally, becoming stable enough at relationships to be stable at my job.

 4:         Health

Readers, I will confess to you that I turned 40 this year.  For women forty is the year of mammograms, the year when baby-making faculties really begin to shut down, the year when we begin to notice changes in our hair, skin, eyesight and energy level.  I am forty.  And I am thankful that physically (aside from being too fat) I am in excellent health.

 3:         Good women friends

When I was younger all my friends were male.  I prayed and believed that one day I would have women friends.  One day has quietly come.  As I blogged in days gone by, thank goodness for Sex and the City’s Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte for demonstrating to us all the ineffable value of girlfriends in these curious times in which we live.  I am thankful for my girls.

2:         Family (and Boundaries with family)

When I was younger I thought my father was the most brilliant man alive and that my mother was the very image of what a mother should be.  I never acknowledged their humanity, or the pain that they caused me.  Then, for a while, I could only see the pain that they both caused me.  I am thankful that I am finally reaching a place of balance, with respect to my parents and the rest of my family.  I love them and thank God for them, they are only human, they did– and do–their best, wherever they may fail, I forgive them.  I am thankful for the knowledge that the family that I create can be different from the family that created me.

1:         Maturity in the Lord

Somewhere in the last few years I have moved from the position of one who primarily seeks counsel, to one who is able offer counsel; from one who has many questions to one who has a few answers (even/especially with regard to singleness); from ministry worker to ministry leader.

I am truly thankful this year.  What are you thankful for?

How Old Do I Look?

21 Nov

Today in church one of my new choir friends asked me, “Do you go to Transitions meetings?”

Transitions is the Young Adult group in the church. It’s a ministry designed for those aged 20-29.

I told her no, I do not go to Transitions meetings. She then continued to commiserate with me and explain why this group is not meeting her needs either.

While she was talking, my thought was, “Does she seriously think that I could be in Transitions?”

This reminded me of a case I was trying recently. My adversary was a younger guy. Very friendly. On our first day, during a break he asked if I wanted to come and hang out with him and his friend, who was also an attorney. I thought this was weird because opposing sides don’t generally lunch together. But I knew the other guy from around the courthouse, so I said sure. So the three of us went to lunch. It felt like a college outing. We snuck our food into an office space that was not in use at the time, and which we were not authorized to use. Like college pranksters, they told me that though we shouldn’t be in there, they eat in this space all the time, so I shouldn’t worry.

While we ate the guy who invited me asked me, “So is this your first job out of law school too?” After he’d told me that he’d graduated less than 2 years ago.

I was a little surprised at the question. I’ve been out of school for well over ten years. I told him no, this was not my first job. That I had been at this particular job for six years, and had worked at a couple of other places prior to this job. At which point he wrinkled his brow and asked, “How old are you?”

Which is when it occurred to me that he thought that I was one of them. A newbie. Just starting out. Twenty-something.

What a curious thing to think, it seemed to me.  I don’t look like a recent graduate.

But now I’m wondering if maybe I do.

I am feeling like God has invented a different and special metric of time just for me, alá Benjamin Button.  And it makes me SMILE.

What CAN I Have, Lord?

6 Nov

Operation Beautiful update.

I got on the scale. It was only a little worse than I thought it might be. I weighed one pound less than my “If I weigh more than X I’m going to kill myself and be done with it” number. But seeing that number–writing it down–has been an ongoing source of distress. Have I really been this emotionally muddled and sedated with food?

So this week I’ve had to consciously eat less. When I walked into a place I lunch at regularly it felt strange to tell myself “no” while I was there. As in, “No, you can’t have one of those big crusty rolls. No, you cannot have shrimp bisque. No cheesy pasta. No meatballs in gravy. No, not even the vegetables, which look like they were sauteed in some kind of oil. And definitely no chocolate eclair for later.” I was actually surprised to note the richness of the fare that I have been eating everyday. Didn’t I used to eat salads?

This led to the memory of me deciding one day this past spring, after RN and I parted ways, that my days of self-denial were over. That maybe I couldn’t have a man, but I certainly did not have to live without French pastries. Obviously, I am now aware of the flaw in my reasoning.

I face the scale again in the coming days. Let’s hope the news is better.