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. 🙂

 

 

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.

 

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)

Appetite, hunger, AND celibacy in singleness . . . ☆

It’s the week after Thanksgiving, and if you are like the lion’s share of the country, you ended your Thursday with a full tummy and the thought that you wouldn’t need to eat for 3 days.  By the way, “lion’s share” is a term meaning “the most of.”  Watch any wild life documentary, and you’ve probably seen lions growling and biting and groveling for every bit of food they can get without concern for their furry family members. Of course, most of us didn’t wait 3 days, but were happy to see breakfast the next day.  Hopefully, most of us also stopped to ponder things to be thankful for in 2014.

Celibacy is often put into the same category as appetite and hunger.  Our body signals when it’s time to eat.  Our body also signals when it wants physical intimacy.  Just as hunger pangs increase the longer we do not eat, physical desire also increases when it does not receive release.  There’s just one gigantic difference.  One hunger leads to physical death if we do not eat again.  The other can lead to a variety of different places – frustration, anger, despair, or even contentment and self-control.  No matter how strong the urge,no one dies if they never express their sexuality in physical intimacy.

Not expressing sexuality in physical intimacy, however, has become a laughable, irrational, unreasonable concept to the lion’s share of the country.  And, too many of the lions are those who say they consider the Bible to be the faithful transcript of God’s mind in rules of conduct, yet they also agree that it is not reasonable – or even possible – to save physical sexual expression for marriage.  I have to admit that I have never seen a really good answer to “how does a single deal with intense sexual feelings without giving in to them?”  The church in general has opted to keep repeating, “Just don’t,” “Wait,” and “Take cold showers.”  None of these responses even begins to touch the core of the depth of desire many onesomes experience.

I admit that at times I am baffled by the lack of specific instruction in Scripture for the single person, especially the onesome in unwanted protracted singleness.  I have often read I Corinthians 7:9 with puzzlement.

  • *  KJV – If a man cannot contain, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn.
  • *  NIV – But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
  • *  NLT – But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry.  It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.
  • * AMP – But if they have not self-control (restraint of their passions), they should marry.  For it is better to marry than to be aflame [with passion and tortured continually with ungratified desire].
  • * MSG – But if they can’t manage their desires and emotions, they should by all means go ahead and get married.  The difficulties of marriage are preferable by far to a sexually tortured life as a single.

A cursory reading of this verse makes it sound as if marriage was sort of like a peach on a tree available for the picking.  It speaks to the “unmarried and the widows,” so men and women were addressed alike.

But, what happens to those who “burn” with nary a future spouse in sight?

I admit to a few flames at times.  How ’bout you?

Well, this is where the whole area of self-control, restraint, and management of desires and emotions comes into the picture.

Thought and physical desire become partners.

  • *  Jesus speaks of lust and immorality beginning in the mind.  (Matthew 15:19)
  • *  Taking part in things not glorifying to our Holy God leads to sin.  (Acts 15:20)
  • *  Alcohol can lead us to drop our normal boundaries.  (Romans 13:13)
  • *  The body is meant for sexual morality.  (I Corinthians 6:13-18)
  • *  Sexual immorality is idolatry.  (Colossians 3;5)
  • *  Flee immorality!  (I Corinthians 6:18)

Are restraint and self-control feasible in terms of celibacy even in a sex-crazed society?  Absolutely!  We have to make difficult choices every day.  Why not in this area?

NIV – Titus 2:11-12   For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age . . .

 

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

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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