A Bunch of Tiny Tadpoles ☆

tadpolesI like to think that I saved the common toad from extinction – well, at least one family line.  When I was about 10 years old, a big rain storm left big puddles all over the barnyard.  I noticed that one puddle was alive with all sorts of little tadpoles.  When the puddles began to dry up in the sun, I couldn’t let my babies dry up, too.  Every day after school, I would carry pails of water to that puddle, and loved watching the little creatures swim around in a bigger and bigger pondlet.  I would scoop them up in my cupped hands, and feel them tickling my palms as they swam around.  They were all heads and tails, big eyes and no mouth, and well – cute.  Then, one day I noticed that little legs started to stick out and their swimming became more energetic.  Their little heads started to change shape, and suddenly they had little mouths.  I kept carrying water to that puddle until every tiny tadpole had turned into a little toad and bounced its way into an adventurous life.  I didn’t tell my parents about my “children.”  When I was in college, I remember telling my mother about them.  She said my dad had asked her if she knew why all the puddles were drying up, but that one just seemed to get bigger and bigger.  She had seen me trudge across the yard with pails of water and looked at the puddle while I was at school, discovering it teeming with life.

Remembering those little toads always makes me smile.  And, of course, I have to figure out some way to connect them to real life, right?

FIRST, Momma and Daddy Toads are absent parents.  They do their thing and Momma lays hundreds of eggs and hops off to find another Daddy and repeat the process.

SECOND, little toadlets have to figure out how to do life all by themselves.

THIRD, No one teaches them how to face the challenges of life.

Makes you glad you’re not a toad, doesn’t it?

FIRST, for most of us, parents were not totally absent.  We can all think of things we wish our parents had done better.  But I have come to realize a very important thing.  Parents do the very best they know how to do – the very best they can – given their own growing-up baggage.  For the most part, they take good care of their kids.

SECOND, everyone wants to help cute little kids do things.  Like walk.  I’m told that when I was first toddling around, I would take hold of a piece of paper, and walk confidently across the room.  Take that piece of paper away, and I would fall.  Somewhere along the line, I got the walking thing down.  I loved school most of the time.  I went to a little country school for grades 1-8, and had the same teacher for 7 years.  I didn’t know I was 2 years behind in math and science until Mrs. Lawson came for grade 8.  I didn’t like it at the time, but came to appreciate her firm insistence which helped me in high school and gave good lessons for tackling college – and life.

THIRD, challenges of life.  The biggest challenge I have faced is being a singleton in a world which emphasizes coupledom – even in the animal and plant world.  Nothing multiplies without an opposite-other.  Of course, we don’t see warm hugs flower to flower or tree to tree.  But, without cross pollination, they would not survive.  Some animals mate for life while others don’t give a darn except for a few moments of intense physical activity.  But, the two-by-two thing is always before us.  Most people find their opposite-other fairly early in life.  However, for those who do not, the road gets increasingly rocky and full of forks in the way.

As a Christian single, I’m puzzled as to why there is not a well-used method of training us how to DO “single.”

It seems that the longer a person is single, the fewer the instructions on how to go about it well.  Well-worn phrases such as “sex is only meant to be exercised in marriage,” and “just don’t,” while true, have not been well thought-out by churches as to meanings which make sense to a waiting person.  It certainly doesn’t help that the easy access to all sorts of sexual materials and opportunities grow daily.  But, is this a new thing?

I ran across a verse recently in Ezekiel which shows that not only is it NOT a new thing, but that our society’s fixation on excess sexual acts is not a surprise to God!  Ezekiel 8:12 says . . . “have you seen what the elders [leaders] of the house of Israel [or any of us for that matter. . .]  are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures?  For they say, ‘the Lord does not see us. . .'”  (English Standard Version)  [Italics mine.]

Some translations use words like “images,” or “idols,” or “at the shrine of his idol.”  Could this be a computer?  Hmmmm.

Well, this fun post is just a short step to a sequel to “One shade of black.”  Stay tuned. 🙂

 

One Shade of Black! ☆

By now, everyone is aware of the book and movie titled “Fifty Shades of Grey.”  I’m here to tell you that you can find out the plot, see still pictures, view the movie trailers, and read graphic quotations – and get all you need to know without reading the book or seeing the movie.  This trilogy (with “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed”) came out in 2011-12 and gained renewed energy in 2015 with the release of a movie – on Valentine’s Day – the supposed most romantic day of the year.

Reading the host of reviews is quite interesting.  One said the trilogy will “possess you, obsess you, and stay with you forever.”  Really?  Do you really want the rest of your life to be affected by someone’s imagination?  Some reviewers are saying “boring,” or “didn’t show enough detail.”  Hmmm.  I’m glad I don’t know what they have been watching.  I have yet to find a review which says, “right on,” “what an inspiring story,” or “something I’d take my children to – or want them to read.”  Unfortunately, a lot of teens and tweens are devouring this book, and even though the movie has an “R” rating, many are seeing the movie with – and without – adult permission thanks to creative ways to enter the theater, DVDs, and the internet.  If the World Wide Web is to be believed, and in this case I think it is, even the number of Christian women reading this book is astounding.  Sad commentary.

Now, sex is a good thing.  In its simplest form, it is what differentiates us as men and women.  It’s a big factor in what attracts us to one another.  It is one of the most intimate forms of relationship which can be experienced.  God created it to be all these things.  AND He put it into the context limited to a man and his wife.  (NIV) Genesis 2:24-25:  “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.  Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

The human anatomy has pretty much remained the same since the beginning.  We know what we look like.  We’re taught from the earliest age that certain parts of the body deserve the dignity and respect which keeps them protected and covered.  Why?  Because they have the ability to create new life – let alone create intense feelings.  Let’s face it.  Other parts of the body simply do not have that incredible function.

What in the world has happened to bring such focus to areas which are worthy of privacy?  Why are we not ashamed?  We all agree that violation of private areas of a child is wrong.  So, when is a person not a child anymore?  Why are younger and younger children experimenting with one another – and where do they get their ideas?  How is it that teenage sex is becoming a normal thing?  A lot of teens might pause if they think, “what if Grandma was watching me right now?”  But, what if Grandma is preoccupied with reading books like “Fifty Shades?”  If we accept everything we see on TV and movies, why do we agree that rape is wrong?  I could ask a lot more questions, but you get the gist.

Well, the answer to “what in the world has happened” is that the enemy of our souls, the Devil, has taken something God meant for good and has made it into a twisted tool for over-satisfying imaginations and appetites.  Purposefully inflicting pain on someone you love, especially during a time which is meant to express deep affection, is not an expression of the husband loving his wife mentioned in Ephesians 6:28.  We agree that folks who hurt themselves and others need help!  It is simply not the way it is supposed to be!

We all like stories.  I find mysteries especially riveting – the ones which do not describe or show gore in disgusting and violent ways, that is.  I like a good love story, too.  I do find, however, that personally I must limit my reading or watching movie love stories, because they always end with boy getting girl and vice versa.  While that is sweet, it is not realistic, and even the most G-rated movie can tend to feed my thoughts with growing unfulfilled yearnings – because in real life, boy does not always get the girl and vice versa!

One thing “Fifty Shades” shouts loud and clear:

“Abuse is not glamorous or cool.  It is never OK, under any circumstance.”

This is a quote from an excellent article written by Mariam Grossman, MD about the destructive effects of “Fifty Shades of Grey” which deserves our attention.

Well, I’m sure this will sequel itself into another post. 🙂

 

 

Where did the river go? ☆

useless bridge*Take a good long look at this picture and it will come to your attention that something is amiss.  There is a river and there is a bridge.  But, one or the other is in the wrong place.

This is the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras.  It is a well-designed and fully-functional bridge built in the 1930s.  But in 1998 Hurricane Mitch dumped so much rain on the area in just a few days that the deluge of water carved a new channel for the river around the bridge.  It now sits on dry ground.  It is a perfectly designed bridge that has no purpose anymore because the river moved.

I’ve pondered this picture a lot this week because it seems to say a good deal about how life often happens.  People are really good at having and following dreams and goals.  And, that’s not a bad thing.  Children usually have an answer to what they want to do when they grow up.  My guess is, though, that most folks do not end up doing what they thought they would do as a child – or perhaps even as an adult.

The river called “single life.”

  • * Sometimes our strongest dreams do not materialize because of circumstances totally out of our control.
  • * When we are single, and career dreams disintegrate, we may not have the opportunity (perhaps luxury) to be employed in our chosen profession because there is no one sharing the financial responsibilities and we must simply work to pay the bills.
  • * Having a deep relationship with someone, especially one which might lead to marriage, is not something we control by ourselves.  It takes two who agree.
  • * There is often a fine line between being able to do for ourselves and being too independent – too cut off from anyone who can walk alongside us to help us sort out daily living.
  • * Some single folks revel in the independence of financial and time flexibility.  Others struggle with not having someone to work out hard details of large decisions, and find their time is not particularly flexible because there is no one to share day-to-day responsibilities.
  • * There are griefs to be borne alone in every segment of singleness:  :those who lose a spouse to death; those who lose a spouse to divorce; those who must be single parents; those who never marry.
  • * Often our married friends just do not get it – not because they do not care, but because their life focus has totally shifted.  Personally, I can be very happy for friends who marry and have children, while realizing that our friendship will be harder to maintain – and maintaining it is usually up to me.
  • * Sometimes our married friends express fear to us because they cannot imagine how they would manage if they were alone.  We are a constant reminder of aloneness.

For everyone, the river shifts its course when crises hits.  Catastrophic illness, job loss, and broken relationships all carve new river paths.  Good things carve new paths, too.  New job opportunities, financial blessing, and new rewarding relationships also make our life-river strain at its original path.

The bridge called “single life.”

I find identifying the stranded bridge to be a bit harder than recognizing the nuances of life.  (Now, these nuances have no connection with “50 Shares of Grey.”  That’s a whole different post.)

For many of us – me included – the land-locked bridge may have a name like:  “Fellowship of the Ring.”  There is a beautiful partnership signified by a wedding ring, and for years I have been one outside looking through the clubhouse window yearning to be a part of that fellowship.

While this is a God-given desire, it is not a God-promised desire.

Whether I see it, think it, feel it, or not, it is a “working together for good” because I am called according to His purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

It has everything to do with life-long hopes and dreams and a deeper walk with a loving yet firm Heavenly Father Whose love exceeds our imaginations.  Over the course of this blog, I’ve expressed continuing desire for close relationship and deep conversation with those whom I can cherish and treasure AND who cherish and treasure me.  But, I have trudged over this particular bridge for many years, and have finally come to see that it doesn’t serve a very useful purpose.

I honestly long for the kind of intimacy the Psalmists had with God.  They cried; they hollered; they raged; they praised; they sang; they loved.  They met God in the trenches and on the mountain tops.

And you know what?  God met them there every time!

That’s the kind of intimacy which overshadows every attempt we make to find the closeness we crave.

I’m discovering that God is not so interested in a bridge over my life river as He is walking through the life river with me.  Now, that’s what I call adventure!

Singles and Church – are they compatible? ☆

jigsaw puzzleThere are many online articles about the small number of singles in churches, the even smaller number of singles in church leadership positions, and explanations of why singles do not come to church.  Many churches see the need for singles ministry, but are puzzled as to how to begin and maintain.  Well, I guess it’s time for me to weigh in on some issues as I see them repeated online.

  1. The many differing aspects of singleness have similar, but unique, needs.
  2. Singles get lumped into “one size fits all” regardless of age and reason for their singleness.
  3. Family, family, family.
  4. Marriage is celebrated, singleness is not
  5. Many questions simply do not have answers, and may be trivialized.

“Single” is a simple designation for someone who does not have a spouse.  There are church ministries up through high school, and in some cases, college.  Where does the post-high school or college person, who is now called “single,” fit?  Suddenly they are faced with questions about independence as well as the realization that they are now “single.”  Where do they go?  The many categories of singlehood have the “single” thing in common, but physically, emotionally, mentally, and certainly age-wise, they may be worlds apart.  One thing is common:  Churches do not know what to do with them – with us – with me.

Categories as I see them:

  • *  Single but in a relationship; or single but not in a relationship.
  • *  Widowed – death of a spouse.
  • *  Divorced – separation from a spouse.
  • *  Single with children, whether widowed or divorced.
  • *  Never-married.

There is simply not a “one size fits all” way to deal with singleness.  While every person on the planet needs relationship to thrive, thoughtful consideration has a place in dealing with widely varied needs and desires.  Singles are thrown together with the assumption they will “bond” simply because they are single.  The ages may span 20s to 80s with the host of life-stages in between.  Many singles simply do not see a compelling reason to be in a church which does not speak to their own life.

Churches develop grief classes for those who have lost a spouse, and divorce recovery groups as more and more Christians walk that very difficult road.  The need arises for single parents to talk together so they can see they are not the only ones in that situation.  Something else arises which makes it uncomfortable for some widowed, divorced, and single parents to come to church, particularly if they were part of a former couple in the church.  They may no longer feel the acceptance they felt as a couple.  Where couples may have exchanged dinner invitations, it feels awkward to invite just one.  In divorce, one or both have decided not to attend any more because it is just too uncomfortable.

Many churches will not recognize that their important emphasis on family makes it difficult for some onesomes to fit in.  Of course, young families and children are necessary for the future of the church.  Too often, though, conversation is limited to children or family life, making some singles feel as if they are sort of pasted onto someone else’s family and not an important unit on their own.

Marriage is celebrated.  Singleness is not.  Now, these days, many single couples decide to live together and even have children outside of marriage.  The widespread practice has changed the complexion of the church as parents struggle because what they believed to be right is not followed by their children.  Celibacy outside of marriage is considered impossible and unnecessary – and even laughable.  Marriage sermon series abound, often without the realization that perhaps more than half of their congregation is in one of the single categories – and they are aching to be recognized with compassion and understanding.

Some questions are able to be handled in loving ways.  Who knows if/when I get home at night?  Who is there to talk to when I really need to talk?  I love Bible study.  Where can I find someone to go deeper with?  The answers to these and others like them all hinge around fellowship and relationship with others.

Other questions are not answered so easily, or they may be trivialized.  What do I do with the God-given desire for physical, emotional, and mental intimacy with another person – a spouse?  How do I handle desire for sexual contact?  Who mentors me in self-discipline to practice celibacy?  How can the desire for deep heartfelt conversation with a spouse be filled?  Apart from the Song of Solomon, romance is not particularly addressed in scripture.  But, it’s enough to bring up the question – Who chooses and cherishes and romances me?

Phew!  Now it is definitely time for a cup of coffee and a chocolate chip cookie!  I know this post is longer than usual.

I hope it has sparked some thinking – and I really want to know what you think about you and church.

 

Chosen and cherished . . . are you? ☆

Remember times on the playground when you waited on tiptoes to be chosen for a team?  Since Ifriends‘ve always been a bit sports-challenged, I was generally one of the left-overs.  I don’t remember being particularly upset about it.  It was just the way it was.  Other memories of being chosen for a desired job, or a scholarship, or a nice dinner out or other special occasion, bring a smile to my face, because I cared very much.

.I have never been chosen by anyone as a life partner, though – a husband. (Wow!  Did I just write that for all to see?)  I wanted to choose someone a number of years ago thinking we were on the same page – but he didn’t choose back.  Ouch!  That crippled my soul for a long time as I fell into the trap of “What’s wrong with me?”  It took years for God to rescue me out of that “slimy pit,” “to set my feet on a rock,” and “put a new song in my mouth.”  (Psalms 40:1-3)

Webster says of the word “cherish:”  deeply loved and valued; to treat with tenderness and affection; to nurture with care; to protect; to hold dear.  That raises a couple massive questions.

“Who do I get to cherish?” and “Who cherishes ME?”

Being cherished, in my single experience, is spending time with another in deep conversation which speaks soul to soul.  It includes things like soft touches on the arm or shoulder as you walk by someone in a group of people.  It includes hugs and friendly hand holds and warm eyes.  It includes someone you love saying your name in a caring manner.

It also includes limits when the other person is married.  “Emotional mistress” is never a term I want to apply to myself!

 In 2001, one of my brothers was very ill with liver failure.  Our every-third-year family reunion was in June, and we all gathered at another brother’s home in Iowa.  Dear Wally and my sis-in-law drove from Florida, and even though he ended up in a couple of hospitals on the way, his smiling face is etched in my mind as he helped spread joy and laughter at being together.  Even though hugging and calling each other endearing names was not something my family particularly did as I was growing up, that reunion was full of both.

In July, 2001, I traveled to China as accompanist for a community chorale, singing the Mozart Requiem and a number of American songs for very responsive and friendly audiences in Beijing, Suzhou, and Shanghai.  When I returned home, one of my first calls was to my brother who was in a Florida hospital waiting for a liver transplant.  I told Wally I loved him, and his instant words, “Thank you, sweetheart,” are as clear in my mind now as they were then.  Those words are a cherished and much treasured memory for the rest of my life as I imagine his smile in heaven now..

Of course, since my focus here in this blog is as a Christian single, I choose to go to Scripture to know the ultimate answer of Who cherishes and chooses me.

  •   * God chose us before the foundation of the earth to bless and glorify His name.  (Ephesians 1:4)
  •   * God lets His chosen ones live with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [cherishing] for one another.  (Colossians 3:12)
  •   * God equips His chosen ones to work in faith, labor in love, and stand firm in hope.  (I Thessalonians 1:3)
  •   * The clearest earthly expression of choosing and cherishing is meant to be in marriage.
  •   * Marriage is meant to reflect Jesus’ future relationship with His chosen, the Church.  (Ephesians 5:25-33)
  •   * God’s love is everlasting and His choice is unfailing kindness.  (Jeremiah 31:3)

I confess, however, that sometimes the ultimate answer doesn’t quite seem to satisfy the “I want someone with skin on” itch.  How about you?  .

So what in the world is “good” these days? ☆

“Good” is one of those words we use in a great variety of ways:  good day/night, good food, good girl/boy, good job, good vibes, good hair day, good sex . . . well, you get the picture.  Most of these give the idea of fulfilling and refreshing times which make you feel – well – good.

I was glancing through the TV schedule this week, and saw these movies:  “The Good Sister,” “The Good Mother, ” and “the Good Teacher.”  Hmmmmm, let’s see.  The “Good Sister” pretended to be a long-lost identical twin who seduced her husband, finally killing him, and returning to her original identity and a new life.  The “Good Mother” demonstrated Munchausen Syndrome by making her daughters ill so she could play the part of the perfect caretaker.  The “Good Teacher” seduced at least one high school student.

Now, I do understand that the point of these movies was to demonstrate the opposite of “good.”  But, too often in conduct these days, the meaning of what is “good” does get mixed into a crazy quilt of “what makes me feel good,.” but which may demonstrate the opposite.  Sometimes, having a “good” day may come from having seen someone fail which made us feel superior – or “good.”  Eating “good” food may include eating less than healthy stuff which admittedly makes us feel “good,” but which is not so beneficial for the body.  Having “good” sex may be in the context of a couple of high school students having an experience for which they are not really prepared.  But, if it feels “good” it must be OK.  Right?

What is “good” anyway?  Webster says:  “possessing desirable qualities, promoting success, welfare, or happiness; kind, benevolent, gracious, polite, and friendly; clever, skillful, adequate, sufficient, competent and sound.”

Other definitions:  “possessing moral excellence; real and actual; full and complete; honorable; unblemished.”

A man approached Jesus one day saying, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus’ first response was, “Why do you call Me good?  No one is good–except God alone.”  He didn’t define “good,” nor did he deny that this adjective actually correctly applied to Him.  He just went on to demonstrate how the goodness of God might apply to this inquirer by listing some of the 10 Commandments:  no adultery, no murder, no stealing, no false testimony, do honor father and mother.  The man said he kept all those.  Jesus then told him to sell all he had, exposing the man’s heart concerning the commandments He had not mentioned:  no coveting, no gods before God, no idols, no taking God’s name in vain, and keeping the Sabbath holy.  This very wealthy man went away sad because his real heart attitude and understanding about what is “good” was revealed for all to see. He had not kept all the Commandments after all.   (Luke 18:18-23)

Now, of course, the question I often ask myself is “What is good singleness – as opposed to what is good about singleness?  I have to admit that while I want my life to reflect the character of God, I do covet once in a while – especially when I go to a wedding and hear the words, “to love and to cherish.”  While I do not have any carved idols in my home, there are times when my wants control my thoughts and actions as strongly as if they were idols.  Frankly, there are times when I have not viewed singleness as “good” because it has not felt so good!

Well, here’s what I’ve decided.  Good singleness is based upon the unwavering belief that God is the ultimate of goodness – far beyond what I can possibly describe.  Even when I grieve over losses of what I’ve never had, or ache with the tension of unfulfilled desires, God is still good!  It is my assignment from Him to pursue contentment and joy – in the condition I find myself – for the good set before me.  Good singleness comes when I celebrate the life He gives to me.

Paige Benton writes in Singled Out by God for Good:

“His goodness is not the effect of his disposition but the essence of his person–not an attitude but an attribute. . . I am not single because I am too spiritually unstable to possibly deserve a husband, nor because I am too spiritually mature to possibly need one.  I am single because God is so abundantly good to me, because this is his best for me.”

What do I do with deep longings which feel like losses? ☆

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about longings which feel exactly like losses – even though I’ve never experienced the longed-for thing.

Can you really lose something you’ve never had?

Apparently a lot of song writers think you can because when I googled™ that question, a whole flurry of song lyrics came up.

I remember the exact moment when I realized that not one drop of my DNA would go beyond me.  I was at a family reunion and watched as my married brothers gathered their children and grandchildren together for pictures.  While my personal desire to have children has always been tied to husband first, children second, the realization was still quite like a sledge hammer blast to the heart.  I melted into a puddle of tears and fled to a quiet corner to be alone.

That awareness has served to give me great compassion for those married folks who ache to have children, but for varying reasons, cannot.  Some go through the heartache of hoping with expectations which are dashed to pieces over and over.  It brings some couples together in heart-to-heart ways they would never had anticipated.  It tears other couples apart as each person deals with grief in different ways which shreds their relationship to pieces.  Other couples struggle as one spouse wants children, the other does not.  Each of these bruising experiences has its roots in that fateful day in Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God.  Not only did they live their whole lives suffering the consequences, but they passed that legacy on to every one of us.

Paul understands those effects when he wrote Romans 8:35-39.  He asserts confidently that the love of Jesus Christ cannot be shaken by trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, violence [sword], death, life, angels, demons, present, future, powers, height, depth, or anything else in creation.  Well – that about covers it all, doesn’t it?

There are times when I allow some of these admittedly huge things to hide God’s love from my sight.  There is a line in verse 4 of Charles Wesley’s great hymn, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” which says, “He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free!”  Think of it!  Even when we have Jesus as Savior and Lord in our lives today, we are living through the consequences of sins He died for 2,000+ years ago.

He wants us to live in the reality of canceled sin which has no power over us!

Read some more of Paul’s words in Colossians 2:14-15 from The Message:  God brought you alive–right along with Christ!  Think of it!  All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross.  He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the cross and marched them naked through the streets.

“Longings reveal something is missing in our lives yet our attempts to fill up the hole often leave us terribly unsatisfied.  I explore the question, “What if our longings are sacred, given by God for a purpose?” **

Longings come in all shapes and sizes.  There is no “one size fits all.”  More and more, I believe that my longings are truly designed to drive me deeper into knowing God with every ounce of my being.  Jesus alone is my Savior, is always with me, will never fail me.  No person on earth can fill those shoes.

So, what about you?  What are your longings?  I appreciate your comments, and invite you to read Janey’s thoughtful comment to the post, “really good resolutions for us all.”    I also see that I’m off on an internet trail of great thoughts from others about singleness and Godly longings.

** From website, “Deeper Devotion” by Elizabeth, a spiritual director

Really good resolutions for us all! ☆

resolutionsAre you a list-maker?  Do you get great satisfaction in crossing off things accomplished on your list?  The real question is – do you make New Year’s Resolutions each year even though prior lists have gone the way of the dodo bird?

One piece of singles advice I used to get regularly was, “Have you made a list of what you want in a husband?”  And then, “Have you prayed over your list?”  Another piece of advice:  “Write letters to your potential future unknown husband telling him what is on your heart.”  It didn’t dawn on me then that these pieces of golden words were almost always given by folks who had already walked down the wedding aisle.  I took every word to heart and when it seemed that nothing was coming of all the effort, I assumed it was because of some great deficit in my character.  Or worse, I assumed that God was teasing me with some sort of golden carrot just out of reach.  Why else would He not be “giving me the desires of my heart?”  (Psalm 37:4)

I have to say that I did write a number of letters to that future ideal husband, baring my heart and soul.  When I discovered it was bringing more pain than hope, I stopped.  They sort of fell into the genre of romance novels.  There was always a “happily ever after” in both, and reality was that more often than not “happily ever after” didn’t happen – at least not the way I wanted.  Both letters and books left my heart in a great empty closet which was full of sorrow and broken dreams.

So, where is my heart today?  Well, some days I live with great contentment and joy.  Other days, loneliness weighs heavily making it hard to breathe.  As I read journals from years past, I can climb right into those empty spots and cry.  What is different today is the realization that no matter how permanent something feels, it isn’t!  Now, I can tell myself, “Have a good cry and then go wash dishes.”  Having spontaneous lunches with good friends also helps, by the way.  They put me back into the real world.

Now, on to the title of this post.  What is a really good list of resolutions for us all?  It can be found in Philippians 4:4-9.  The apostle Paul is writing to his beloved church in Philippi, telling them (my summary):

Rejoice!  Pray!  Reflect God’s character in your daily life!  Do not wallow in worry!  Give thanks!  Rest in God’s indescribable peace!  Fix your mind on things which are true, honorable, good, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and ponder-worthy!

This is challenging, isn’t it?  I know the more I determine to think about things of good report, the more I see the muddy elephant which sloshes through the room of my mind with reckless abandon.  That is where I realize I am in the midst of a great war.  Elephantine thoughts versus the much broader concepts of joyful living which can transform elephants into gentle giants.

Let’s hear it for the Gentle Giants!

Blessings to you, my friends!

Bulls eye – right in my gelato! ☆

It was a very warm day in Venice, and I was enjoying a delicious cup of gelato with friends on a stone bench outside St. Mark’s Cathedral.  Our community chorale was waiting to sing a vesper service in this historic place.  I think I just had one spoonful, and suddenly – SPLAT!  One of St. Mark Square’s numerous pigeons doo dood right in my gelato!  Laughter erupted, of course, as I looked sadly at a treat never to be enjoyed.  I’ve never quite thought the same about gelato since. 🙂pigeons st mark

Pigeons had been a matter of concern at my little abode, also.  The noisy, filthy little critters built little condos on top of my porch.  They sat under the eves of my roof and splattered all over the outer walls.  Money spent to pigeon-proof my house was money well-spent.  Three-inch spikes kept them from roosting under the eaves and netting on the porch roof served to foreclose on their several-storied nests.  For several days they lined up on the edges of the front of the house when I came home from work, voicing their displeasure as they swooped en masse at me when I went out for the mail.  Finally, they accepted their fate and moved on.  I have to say, though, that I did not find the Italian cooing versions any more attractive than the Colorado ones – especially when one ruined my gelato!

Isn’t that the way with life at times?  We’re in our comfort zones, enjoying a pleasant day, and along comes something which changes the course of the whole day – perhaps the whole life.  We have a neat little plan all in place and – SPLAT!  Well, I know you have your own stories to tell, right?

I have to admit that as this Christmas approaches, I again struggle with the realization that my life has turned out differently from my plan.  My plan included husband and family and personal traditions as a result.  Well, there was just one thing which which complicated my plan.  It needed someone other than me to complete it.  Well, Mr. Other-than-me has not shown up yet.  So much for that plan. 🙁

Several years back, there was a strong trend of choosing a life-verse from the Bible.  I sort of flitted from verse to verse depending on what mood I was in, or what I thought would answer my heart’s cry.  Somehow, I never seemed to be as blessed by “my verse” as those around me.  And then, I read the story of Daniel and was riveted by the absolute commitment of him and his friends to God.  Daniel 3:17-18 tells about three men who were just about to be thrown into a blazing furnace because they refused to bow down to worship a golden idol.  Here’s what they said:  “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  (NIV)

And then, it happened!  Don’t get me wrong.  I have absolutely no desire to be thrown into a blazing furnace.  It’s just that the words, “even if He does not,” stood out to me.  “Even if He does not deliver us from this blazing furnace, we will still trust in Him!”  It was as if God said to me:

What if you are to spend the rest of your life unmarried?  Will you still trust Me?

I’d like to be able to tell you I was like the much younger Mary in Luke 1 when the angel told her she was to be the mother of the Savior of the world.  She placed herself totally in God’s hands even though she did not totally understand the impact of the words the angel spoke to her.  (Luke 1:38)  Scripture does not record much of the day-to-day realization which grew in her heart.  My guess is that there were many tears as she daily committed herself to this incredible plan.

I certainly know it has taken an ocean of tears for me to finally accept that God has an incredible plan for me as a single woman.  Along the way, I have asked God to show me how to be a contented and joyful onesome for however long that will last.  Finally, I accept that the whys and why nots are not mine to understand – at least yet.

So, dear single friend – and any others reading this post – my prayer for you is what God said in Jeremiah 31:3 to His chosen people:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

May you have a joy-filled day in celebrating the birth of Emmanuel – God with us – Jesus!

4 hugs a day for survival? ? ? Really? ☆

“We need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth.”  hug

This quote from renowned family therapist, Virginia Satir, sounds nice, doesn’t it?  But, if the statement is true, my guess is that there are a large number of “living dead” folks running around – unmarried and married.  I love Webster’s definition of a hug:  “to press closely within the arms.”  Who doesn’t want that?

Here are some titles gleaned from an online search:

  •        ♥  10 reasons we need at least 8 hugs a day.
  •        ♥  7 reasons we should be giving more hugs.
  •        ♥  4 benefits of hugs for mind and body.
  •        ♥  9 compelling reasons why you need hugs every day.
  •        ♥  “Lord, I need a hug.”  (book title)

We know that touch is imperative for the tiniest among us.  If babies are not held often, their emotional development is arrested.  You hoo!  I think it happens to the rest of us, too.  I don’t think we ever outgrow that need!  Can I hear a very loud, “YOU’RE RIGHT!”  Truth be told, too many singles go for weeks, even months without even a good side hug.  Now, I know that many married folks don’t spend a lot of daily time hugging – and I think that is a crying shame!  The opportunity is there, though.  Built-in hugging sounds good to me.

Personally, I am fortunate to have a very huggy church family, so I get caught up on that activity on Sunday mornings.  However, I barely make the “survivor” mode.  That’s 28 hugs to account for 7 days.

About 15 years ago, I began to invest in monthly massages – mainly to deal with the knots in my shoulders – but realize that it also benefits the health and welfare of body, soul, and spirit.  Of course, the fact that it just feels wonderful doesn’t hurt.  I certainly have never made it up to the 12 hugs a day Satir thought was necessary for growth.   I doubt many have.  We are a hug-deprived society, methinks.

While the word “hug” does not appear in scripture, we see the concept as a loving and protecting gesture, especially for the tiny ones among us.  We get the touching image of the shepherd holding little lambs close.  (Isaiah 40:11)  Most notably, we see Jesus taking little children in His arms and blessing them.  My guess is that Jesus laughed and played with children frequently.  (Mark 9:36; Mark 10:16)  Another notable example of hugging is in the story of the prodigal son, where the father throws his arms around his returning son and kisses him.  (Luke 15:20)  Of course, the Song of Solomon is full of intimate touching as the writer expresses an ageless love song.  Now, the word, “touch” is used often, but not so much in context of warm affection – until we read of Jesus touching folks.

  • ♥  He touched those who had contagious diseases, such as leprosy, fever, etc. – forbidden in the Old Testament.  (Matthew 8:3; 8:15)
  • ♥  He touched those who had died in order to renew physical life.  (Luke 17:4)
  • ♥  He touched the blind, deaf, and mute.  (Matthew 9:29; 20:34)
  • ♥  And many people touched Jesus and even His clothes knowing that His love and healing would result.  (Matthew 14:36; Mark 3:10; 5:27-31)

So, fellow hug-deprived persons, let’s work our way up to growth – 12 hugs a day.  That’s 84 hugs a week!  Ha ha!

But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ.  This is the unending life, the real life!  (Jude 1:20-21 – MSG)

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