Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve . . . ☆

. . . and don’t even get me started on Valentine’s Day!single bells

There are so many online articles about singleness and the holidays:

  • “18 reasons being single during holidays is great.”
  • “I hate to admit it, but being single during the holidays sucks.”
  • “Scared of being single during the holidays?”
  • “A single’s survival guide during the holidays.”
  • “You’re single during the holidays.  So what?”

Well, you get the message I got as I hopped around a search engine and chose titles from 166,000 possibilities.

In her book, Revelation of a Single Woman – loving the life i didn’t expect, Connally Gilliam relates a story to which a good many onesomes can relate.  She attended a thoroughly enjoyable New Year’s Eve party, and was in the midst of warm loving friends.  Then, the countdown came:  five, four, three, two, one – kiss your spouse.  Suddenly it crashed in on her that he was the odd one out in a party of an odd number.  The host eventually stopped kissing his wife to come peck her on the cheek and wish her a Happy New Year.♥♥

One of the most challenging things for me personally during holidays is that each of them signals the fact that my life has not turned out as I anticipated.  Marriage and family were always in my hopes and dreams.  Planning traditions with a spouse was always included.  The arrival of each holiday tends to chime loudly that another year has passed with no husband in sight.

Now, when I was younger, an uncle used to regularly ask me on holidays – “so when are you getting married?”  Well, as if I knew the answer to that one!  Thankfully, he stopped asking.  In fact, the last time I was asked anything resembling that question was a few years back when I was on a chorale trip to Greece.  The setting was a train on its way from Athens to Thessaloniki.  A very attractive young man from the isle of Crete sat in a seat facing me, and after a long conversation he suddenly asked me if I was married.  When I said, “no,” he looked at me intently for a few seconds and said, “There’s still time.”  I do not even remember his name, but his face remains in my mind – and my photo album – and he will never know just how I have savored those words.

Let me hasten to say that, for me, Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the most delightful holidays I have now.  I spend 2-3 days with a brother’s family, and am totally engulfed in love and laughter with him and my sis-in-law, their two children and niece/nephew-in-laws, and a couple of great-nephews.  Participating in Christmas Eve services in my church, driving to Denver on holiday mornings and being welcomed with hugs and a steaming cup of coffee are just the beginnings of the sort of love which drives away the “what-ifs” and “if-onlies.”  We draw names, and I love being able to concentrate on what special thing to get for my name.  Even during the rare times when bad weather messes up plans, I can fall back on any number of invites.  A few times, a host of singles have gotten together to share dinner and a grab-a-gift time.  I remember one Thanksgiving when a bunch of us gathered around a very eclectic meal which included tuna casserole and chips and dip because deep snow kept the people with the turkey and dressing snowbound just a few miles away.

New Year’s Eve is not so much of a struggle for me personally these days, either.  Sometimes the evening is spent with friends, sometimes as a quiet evening at home doing cross-stitch, sipping something hot, movie watching, and hearing fireworks and hooting and hollering at midnight, and thanking God for another grace-filled year.

Now, Valentine’s Day generally brings more vulnerable and poignant memories and reminders that my life simply has not turned out as it was “supposed to.”  I no longer romanticize what I’m sure marriage might have brought to my life because I have many close friends who keep my ideas realistic even in the best of relationships.

My guess is, however, that there are many areas of relationship which are taken for granted by my married friends.  Conversations, meaningful glances, even slight touches, jokes.  Things which they would miss if they didn’t have them, but which they don’t necessarily take special notice of at the time.
Having someone to do things with spontaneously, traveling short or long, spending time doing home repairs/decorating with someone with the same vested interest, having opportunity for deep conversations, sharing spiritual values, taking care of and being cared for.  These are things which many singles long for which are just out of reach.  At least, they are certainly on my list of longed-for things which has not changed over the years.  What have changed are my responses to these things and an ever-deepening confidence that God knows and cares!

(NIV) Jeremiah 29:11-13:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

♥♥ Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., page 12

Is Celibacy in singleness like the mimeograph? Outdated? ☆

One of the funniest conversations I ever had was trying to explain mimeographthe mimeograph to my younger work colleagues.  One was complaining about how slow the copy machine was – even though it was a new state-of-the-art creation at the time.  I told him to be happy he didn’t have to use a mimeograph.  He turned to me with the same question marks in his eyes that I’m sure are in many of your eyes.  What in the world is that?

The mimeograph was a precursor to the copy machine.  It used a legal-size waxy sheet which went into a typewriter – another fine example of a “what-is-that.”  The typewriter was set so that the ribbon didn’t come between the key letters and the sheet, making sharp indentations.  The machine had a large drum filled with toner around which the waxy sheet was carefully stretched so as not to tear it.  The drum was rotated using a handle.  Thousands of inky pages were sent into classrooms and businesses for quite a few years using this device, and people had to endure black finger tips if the ink had not totally dried.  Thank goodness for the inventor of the copy machine which made the mimeograph obsolete and thankfully left behind.

There are many who would say that celibacy is one of those obsolete, outdated, old-fashioned, and ultra-conservative concepts.  Of course, trying to compare “concept” with “concrete” is like the proverbial apples to oranges – obviously two different entities.

So, is celibacy a gift or a discipline?  My personal opinion is that the practice of celibacy is a honing of self-control, which is empowered by the fruit of the Spirit the Apostle Paul talks about in Galatians 5:22-23.  The exercise of celibacy is the practice of growing discipline meant to reflect an inward decision to demonstrate sexuality in a righteous way as an unmarried individual.

Is celibacy punishment for an unnecessary rule?  Exodus 20:14 – “You shall not commit adultery.”  Non-celibacy falls under the understanding of this word which means, “don’t fool around with someone who is not your spouse” which includes the married and unmarried alike.  Jesus repeated this commandment in Matthew 5;27-28, expanding it to mean that even thinking about adultery somehow becomes as strong a reality as the act.

When Moses descended the mountain with stone tablets upon which God had written commandments with His finger (Exodus 31:18) the Israelites did not have to ask for definitions of honoring God, idolatry, cursing, keeping the Sabbath, murder, adultery, stealing, giving false testimony, and coveting material things and relationships.  They already knew what they meant, and they knew they had already broken them.  For the most part, we do not need definitions to tell us that not following these things continue to be detrimental to maintaining an orderly life.

The argument is that while we can exercise self-control in areas like murder and stealing, it is not reasonable to expect that the same self-control can be exercised in areas like adultery and coveting relationships.  Why are these things singled out as unreasonable while the others are not?

Let’s face it.  Feelings can be so strong as to overwhelm us.  It’s obvious that if we ignore the feeling of hunger indefinitely, we die.  We’ve come to equate sexuality with physical appetite.  While there is no evidence that abstaining from sexual acts is fatal, many would say it feels just like that.  They might also say abstaining from sexual acts while unmarried simply is neither reasonable nor rational.  Jesus’ mention, however, of the thought of adultery being in the same realm as the act, puts it solidly into the area of reason.

There are no celebrations that I’m aware of for faithful celibacy outside of marriage.  It is unfortunate that the church at large simply ignores the issue most of the time, leaving many onesomes feeling like they are less valued than they would be if they were married.  That’s why you see very few of the never-married in churches today.  And, that’s one of the reasons why many churches do not consider it an issue compelling enough to address.  The church does not think enough of us exist!

But, does that make celibacy unreasonable, irrational, outdated, and obsolete?  Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers and the flowers fail, but the word of our God endures forever.”  (NIV)  If He valued sexual faithfulness when these words were written thousands of years ago, He continues to value it – to value us!

Well, these are the thoughts I woke up with this morning.  How about you?  I’d love to read your views.

A question for Christian singles: Is sufficient, enough? ☆

Kalambaka, Greece monastery Picture from a 2009 trip

In my last post, I mused:  “There have been times when I have said to God, ‘You’re sufficient, but it just doesn’t feel like You are enough.'”  Please tell me I’m not the only long-term single who has thought that? 🙂

The words mean pretty much the same – yet for me they express a big difference.  Back to my friend, Noah Webster:

  • ♥ Sufficient:  Equal to the end proposed; adequate to wants; enough, ample; competent.
  • ♥ Enough:  Satisfying desire; giving contentment; adequate to meet the want; sufficient.

When it comes to God’s being sufficient, the main Bible verse has to do with the Apostle Paul’s pleading with Him to remove some sort of ailment, perhaps a problem with his eyes.  He asked God three times to heal him.  God’s reply:

  • ♥ “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9 – NIV)
  • The Message says:  “My grace is enough; it’s all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

I am reminded, though, that when God created Adam, gave him the incredibly fascinating job of naming all the creatures, AND having God’s total attention as they walked the depths of Eden – that He saw there was a need in Adam’s heart which no animal could satisfy.  And, instead of filling that heart-hole with Himself, He created Eve.  As I’ve Googled© my way through a myriad of subjects, I discover that there is a common prayer for those of us who experience protracted singleness.  “If marriage is not Your plan for me, please take this desire away from me.”  For most, God in His grace and goodness does not say, “OK.”  Instead, He comes to us as He came to Paul, showing that He wants to use our vulnerability as a work of art reflecting His sufficiency and power.

Our vulnerability is like the dark outlines of a cross stitch which suddenly bring depth and definition to the crafted piece.

I’m also reminded of a set of verses read during many wedding ceremonies:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:  It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.  Share the work, share the wealth.  And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough!  Two in a bed warm each other.  Alone, you shiver all night.  By yourself you’re unprotected.  With a friend you can face the worst.  Can you round up a third?  A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.  (MSG)

Most refer to God as the third strand in that marriage rope.

When I think of my life, I often see myself as one of those strands with God being the other one.  Now, that’s a good thing!  But, there’s a third strand just out of reach.  I sort of twist and turn and stretch out to reach for. . . what?  A companion; a best friend; a spouse to grow older with; a life partner; someone to care for and to care for me; someone to laugh with?  Well, you get the picture.  That third strand blowing in the wind.  And God has not filled that desire with Himself – or a husband – at least for me.

Now, God has heard this soliloquy many times – which just means that I talk to myself a lot – and He listens.  I have become very aware that He does know the tenderest desires of my heart, and rather than ignore them, He provides ways to live with them in the tension of lack of fulfillment.  His grace is indeed sufficient – and enough – even when – or more specifically, especially when it does not feel like it.

So, I live on daily, sometimes telling God that I feel like I’m doing all the work when out in the yard pulling weeds, or cleaning house, or making repairs. . . I truly appreciate having Him to talk to any moment of any day.  I’m sure my neighbors think I’m a bit dotty because I sometimes talk to myself and to Him while doing these tasks outside.  I also continue to wish there was a flesh and blood person to greet the day with and to debrief every so often in the evening over a cup of coffee, and to travel with, and to . . . Well, again, you get the picture.

He is indeed equal to providing the needs and wants of my life.  Now, I’m on my way to another refresher life experience course called “Satisfying of Desire and Giving of Contentment” inspired by Webster’s definition above.

So, where are you in all this?

Fall in love with – – – your vacuum cleaner? What??? ☆

I thought perhaps I had heard it wrong, but when I heard the advertisement a 2nd time, I realized they really were talking about falling in love with a certain maker’s vacuum cleaner.  Hmmmm.

We “fall in love,” “fall asleep,” “fall short,” “fall to pieces,” “fall in place,” and “fall apart.”  Usually, “fall” is something which happens by accident or unexpectedly.  Now, in terms of “falling in love,” most of us can understand exactly what that is without really being able to define it.  Perhaps it happens unexpectedly, but most often it is a sought after commodity.  Matters of the heart are often understood without putting words to the meaning.  But, I’m not quite sure what to say about “falling in love with a vacuum cleaner,” other than saying it takes a term which is fraught with tender, sensitive meaning and demotes it into a meaningless phrase.

“Love” is a word which is also used in a variety of ways.  We love color, food, spring, and favorite clothes.  We elevate it when we love our pets.  It becomes even more precious when we love our family and friends.  It is even more cherished when we love God with the realization that He loved us first and draws us to Himself.  And then, we “fall in love” with someone who really meshes with our souls.  The depth varies according to the number of shared interests or level of attractiveness.

So – there it is.  When I reread “we fall in love with someone who really meshes with our souls,” I realize that is a sort of given in our hearts from childhood on up.  At least for girls.  Can’t say just when guys begin thinking about having a family.  It continues to inhabit our hearts through college years and early 20s+.  For most, a significant other walks into our lives.  But, for some, it just doesn’t happen quite like we expect.  And then, if years stretch out into decades, our expectations may wither.

One of the biggest challenges for me was the decision to buy a house.  I was living in yet another apartment near a college campus, the first floor of a small house this time.  Then, one night I was awakened by loud bangs next door and my first instinct was to look out the window.  Not the smartest choice, because reality was that there was a real, live gang fight going on within yards of my apartment.  Time to find another place to live!  I called a realtor from my church and told her I wanted to look at houses mainly for my own education.  I did not think buying was anywhere near possible.  To my great surprise, I discovered that it was quite probable that monthly house payments would be less than rent would be in a less gang populated area.

And so, I took the big step thanks to an FHA loan for first-time home owners – and actually made a lower down payment than would have been necessary to buy a car!  It was not an easy step.  Buyer’s remorse set in big time at taking on the biggest debt of my lifetime.  And, buying a home in my ideal daydreams always included walking hand in hand with a husband.  Doing it on my own just didn’t seem right.  It truly felt like the close of a life chapter.

I’ve discovered, though, that through the process of dealing with things like new roofs and water in the basement – just two of the joys of home ownership – God is utterly faithful.  Somehow, funds have been available for needed repairs on a house which is almost 100 years old.  That is definitely a God-thing!.

Still, the biggest challenge I face is having to make every decision alone!

There have even been times when I have said to God, “You are sufficient, but it just doesn’t feel like You are enough.”  I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful.  It just seems that living life alone is not the ideal situation, especially when the deepest heart’s desire is to grow older with a spouse – a companion – a best friend – a lover.  Christian onesomes live with the tension of unfulfilled desires AND knowledge that God knows every nuance of our lives.  His responses just are not what we always expect, are they?

I believe that everything in our lives is meant to draw us closer to God, whether unmarried or married.  We make a choice to follow Him – or not – in every circumstance.  We “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”  New Living Translation says it this way:  “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”  (Philippians 2:12-13)

Hmmmm.  Perhaps the “sufficient but not enough” idea is the seed which will blossom into another post.  What do you think?

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