Sunday, December 15, 2013

Being Single this Christmas

Apparently you have to be about.....this age to be considered an expert on being single.  I don't know whether people just give up on you by this point or what, but it's super fun.  Until it's not. 

People in their 20's ask me questions with the tiniest hint of "I don't want to grow up and be like you" look in their eyes.  People much older than me seem intrigued by my life as if I'm what they wanted to be but couldn't possibly have imagined. 

I actually like being single.  I don't kneel by my bed at night and ask God to bring me the right person.  Mostly I ask him to move annoying people away from me.  I was never the person to cut out magazines of the perfect wedding.  I love children, but don't really want the responsibility of raising one to be a good human being.  Have enough trouble doing that myself! 

But, around the holidays I do get a little sad so I'm beginning my series on singleness with a post about how to cope.

1.  If you don't want to do it - don't.

Personally, I hate attending couples anything alone.  If it says bring a guest and I can get out of it, I'm probably not going to go.  My friends have a fit every single time I don't attend something, but I really don't care.  Sure, it makes me a little jealous when they get dressed up and leave (as a couple) and I'm on the couch in my pajama pants.  But, my general rule is, if it's going to make me feel more alone to go somewhere, I'll stay home.

2.  Practice good self care

Nothing makes me crazier than people who don't know how I feel telling me how to feel.  I know what makes me feel bad and I know what things I can do to help myself feel better.  So, during the holidays I try to get extra sleep.  I buy some new novels.  I maintain good spiritual disciplines.  And I spend time with people who love me just for who I am.  This past week I knitted a birthday gift, filled stockings for my dogs, and spent a whole day watching movies.  Because I wanted to.  And I can.  See?  Fun to be single.

3.  Remember this is temporary

The pictures on Facebook of perfect family gatherings, happiness everywhere, and people who look like they are surrounded by all the love in the world - will pass.  After everyone kisses at midnight on New Year's Eve - January comes and people go back to hating each other.  Just kidding.  But, after the holiday season comes real life.  I find I fit in better there.  Most people do.

4.  Maintain good boundaries

Tis not the season for working for all your coworkers who have kids.  Or cleaning up after the baking fun because you don't have anyone to go home to.  It's perfectly fine if you're going home just because you want to.  You don't have to help just because you have nothing better to do. 

5.  Enjoy the season

It's such a marvelous time to snuggle in close to the Christ child in the manger and listen for his heartbeat.  Tune in to what this season is saying to your heart and to your soul.  Our God is with us.  That means whether it seems like it or feels like it - we're not alone.  Go to parties with other people who aren't attached.  Buy yourself a Christmas present.  Go to church and soak up the music and readings of the season even if you have to sit alone. 

It's a season of hope.  Not that you'll find the perfect mate and all your problems will disappear.  The hope of eternity.  Of Heaven coming to earth one glorious night.  His love is unconditional and more genuine than any human being is capable of offering.  If you feel like the person outside the window of a Christmas party moving the curtain and looking at all the people surrounded by happiness, try not to feel left out.  If you can't join in the fun, go home, put on your comfiest pjs and drink some holiday wine. 

Cheers!  The holidays don't last forever.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

By our love

Let's just get this out of the way first.  I like to judge people.  I'm especially fond of judging people who judge me (or might judge me) first.  That's fair.  Right?  Justified even.

Except it's not.  And that's how I found myself wide awake in the middle of last night repeating in my head, "Judge not, lest you be judged."  Apparently the Holy Spirit doesn't take naps.

I like to judge people I don't know about things they should or shouldn't be doing.  I have an opinion on situations I know nothing about.  I want people to see me as a whole picture offering grace for my faults and love for my insecurities, but I don't want to do that for other people.  Ever really.

Oh, I can act spiritually appropriate when I have to.  I can offer endless grace to people I love and like.  I can forgive and forget anything you do.  As long as I want to.  

And it's possible, on a good day, that I'm not as bad of a person as I think.  Maybe.

As I returned to the Gospels this morning, I paid attention to how Jesus walked.  We don't see him gossiping with the disciples.  We don't find him telling everyone about the woman at the well.  You know, as a prayer request.  We just see him loving all people all the time.

And it isn't that he's just a nice guy who doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  He stepped on everyone's toes.  In love.  To make them better.  To make them like Him.

I'm called to do the same.  Not to those I want to.  Not to the ones who are like me.  Not when I feel like it.  Not when they don't judge me.  Everyone.  All the time.  

It doesn't mean I can never have an opinion.  It doesn't mean I can't verbally hash things out with my people.  It just means at the root of who I am, in the midst of any situation, in response to every injustice and every hurt, I love.  Bitterness will kill me.  Anger steals my joy.  And being mean spirited makes Jesus cry.  And I try not to do that!

Not because we know everything.  Not because we're more spiritual than the rest of the world.  And certainly not because we have it all together.  

No.  They'll know we are our love.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Praying for the world

I fall onto my unmade bed dramatically pushing three dogs a bit here and a little there so we can all fit.  "Life is tricky," I say to no one in particular, but  I guess to them.  They continue to chew on their new bones oblivious to my wonderings.

I grab Shine, my formerly abused rescue dog by the ears and say, "It is!  It really is!"  She licks my face and returns to her bone. 

The world is a mess and really, it always has been.  We just now have immediate access to every last detail, real or imagined, of every single event in the world today.  As if it wasn't enough to have the actual story, thanks to social media we now get all the speculations in the process.  I don't have cable for a lot of reasons, but one of the main ones is the news.  I don't like it.  I don't want to watch it.  And it stresses me out. 

But I wonder sometimes as a Christian if that's the right approach.  Jesus didn't bury his head in the sand when the going got tough.  He figured out how he could help and he did.  And I want to help!  I'm just not sure I can solve the Middle East Crisis, world hunger, or countless other worldwide tragedies too awful to mention. 

As I was talking to a friend later that day, I remembered a story from the monastery.  I asked one of the monks how long it took for them to find out about 9/11.  He said, "5 days."  He didn't offer how he found out and I didn't ask.  "Didn't that stress you out not to know?"  He looked at me like I was crazy.  "I cannot be stressed about what I do not know."

Of course!  But these are people that have devoted their lives to prayer for themselves and for the world.  How can you do that if you don't know?

Wiser than I (duh) he gently said, "Every morning when my feet touch the floor I pray for the world.  I ask God to bless it and keep it and to give those who walk upon it peace.  How could I know better than God what the world needs today?"

That gives me peace.  I can't fix worldwide problems by myself.  I don't have the political or financial resources to save a country from famine.  And I certainly can't comfort every single hurting person in the world today.  But I can pay attention to the world that surrounds me.  I can offer a cup of cold water to the homeless man with an oxygen tank on the side of the road in 100 degree weather.  I can hold the hand of the dying woman in the nursing home.  I can show up where I am.

Thanks to that monk, my prayers for the world have changed.  I still pray specifically for needs as I know about them, but generally I just pray that God would walk among us.  That He would bring healing and hope to a hurting world.  And that if I can help, He would show me.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

What I know for sure at 33

Not presuming to know everything or even have most of the answers,
these things I know for sure at this point in my journey.

I can fail gracefully: there may be perfection expectation from some people, but not from within me.  Those who walk genuinely will trip, stumble, and occasionally fall flat on our faces.  And it's okay. 

I can be alone: There's some strange pressure in your 20's to fill every moment with social scheduling whether you want to participate or not.  I love my friends and like to be social.  But I also like to just hang out with people without an agenda and see where the conversation trail leads.  And I like to curl up in my favorite chair with my favorite blanket and read a book or not.  And it's okay.

I have something to say: I got a tiny bit of slack for writing a somewhat memoir last year from people who out-age me by a lot.  During the process I more than once doubted myself.  But the book has done well and God has shown up in the lives of people because I put his words on paper.  My blog just passed 34,000 visits.  I have no idea why.  It helps me to document where I am, where I wish I was, and where I believe I can be.  People find companionship with my journey - good, bad and ugly.  And that's okay.

Perfection is Unattainable:  I wish I was thinner.  I wish my hair would cooperate even 4.8% of the time.  I wish I wasn't so fragile sometimes.  But I'm where I am right now today.  Wishing I was something, someone different steals today of all the joy it contains.  And that's not okay.

Life cannot be preserved:  Saving time today won't give me an excess check for tomorrow.  My life clock could run out at any minute.  I'm grateful to be here and will be very grateful to go Home.  I hold on loosely to the things of this world.  And that's okay.

Simplicity is amazing:  I love some material things as much as the next person, but that's not where my heart finds fulfillment and that's not where peace gains expression.  I find God in the sunrise, in a set of lost keys, in the smile of a stranger, and a short line at Starbucks.  I'm thankful as I go for little things.  And that's okay.

I am not broken:  Life presents itself with cracks, weaknesses, and downright ugliness.  I'm no exception.  But I'm taking every one of those things and learning to see them as opportunities.  A chance to grow.  A chance to do better.  A chance to ask for forgiveness.  I am not broken - I'm human.  And that's okay.

God is the only for sure:  I used to wonder if I loved God so much because He was all I had.  Now I'm sure of it.  I'm not apologizing for my faith, but I'm also not going to shove what I believe in your face.  If you can't find my faith, my trust, my love for a Living God in who I am, then that's my fault - not yours.  We may believe differently.  We may understand the same things in contradictory ways.  And we may both be children of God.  And that's more than okay.

Yes, Jesus loves me: Undeserving as I may be, the Trinity has me surrounded.  They know on my best day, I'm a sinner.  They're convinced given enough opportunities to, I'll make them look bad.  Jesus knew He would die for me and I'd still act like an ungrateful two year old most of the time.  The Holy Spirit must break a toe a few times a day kicking me in the head.  But, Jesus loves me.  There's no way around it.  Signed, sealed, delivered - I belong to Him.  And that's so okay.

God loves me so that I can love His world and his people. 
That includes my enemies and that includes myself. 
Love will win. 
Love has won.
And love is enough. 
Of that I'm sure.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Only Hallmark is happy about holidays

I was having a discussion today with someone who said only Hallmark is happy about holidays.  They're probably right. 

Although God blessed me with a wonderful step-father who gladly took on the responsibility of two children, there's always a bond (good or bad) with your father.

It's hard to believe he died 6 years ago.  It's harder to believe he encompassed so much of my young life and so many hours of therapy in early adulthood.

He was the best guy.  So funny.  So likable.  The best friend anyone could ever ask for.  And if you ask my cousins - hands down the best uncle on the planet.

He just probably didn't need to be a father.  He loved the good times, but he couldn't tolerate the rest.  He didn't want to be a parent.  He didn't want to be unconditionally committed to anyone and whether you're 8 or 80 - you know that.

The last time I saw him was when I was in college visiting at Christmas. He never looked up from the table.  I hadn't seen him in 2 years.  He asked me how school was in Tennessee.  I went to school in Kentucky.  And when I left I said goodbye and he never answered.

I don't blame him.  I just don't think he was capable of genuine relationships and he proved that from his death bed.  I can't imagine knowing I was dying of cancer and having an extended period to say good bye and not taking it.  How do you not at least call your child at the end?

I can't answer that.

But God gave me a sweet gift.  My dad held on to life at the end and no matter what anyone said, he wouldn't let himself go on.  Finally they called me at work and asked me to tell him he could die.  That it was time. 

And because it was the right thing to do - I did.  I told him I forgave him and I loved him.  And then he died.  I like to think that interaction covered time and space and said more than any conversation could.

At this stage in my life, I can only thank him.  When someone described God to me at a very early age as a Father who loved unconditionally - I was all in.  And I've been all in ever since.  I'm thankful that he made me a better person because I never want anyone in my life to think they aren't loved and that I wouldn't fight for friendship and relationships.  He made me want to love with reckless abandon even if it's meant getting hurt sometimes.  And it has.

With or without meaning to, he made me better.  And for that - I'm thankful.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Be thou near to me

It’s both my spiritual theme and the biggest fear I have that when arriving in Heaven God will say, “You made that really hard for both of us.”  And He’ll be right.
He invites me to trust Him while I lose sleep worrying if everything will be alright. 

He promises me security within the confines of His perfect presence while I kick and scream that no one cares.

He ensures the promise of Heaven when Earth is overwhelming even as I place all of my hope in the temporal.
I'm making it hard - on both of us.
I’m learning to stop overcomplicating what is not my concern.  I’m discovering great peace in letting God mind my own business.  And I’m finding joy in learning to trust.

Although I love complicated prayers with big words that explain to God what I can’t articulate, I also love the simplistic, heartfelt cry of a soul that just wants to know Him.  A heart that wants nothing more than holy, reverent friendship with the divine creator who calls me his own. 
So I pray the prayers I love still and I seek guidance from the God who ever invites me to follow Him with whatever is on my heart at the moment. 

But, more frequently these days, I find myself closing my eyes and praying one prayer more than others – not just for me but for the ones I love.  A prayer that I am confident God gladly answers every single time I call.

“Be thou near to me.”


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Permission to be Single

I don’t think people mean to come across condescending and negative.  Well, maybe they do, but I’m going to choose to believe they don’t.  We all have this unnecessary urge to label everyone and fit them into a category of our own choosing.  We do it with denominations, careers, relationships, and lifestyles.  And when people don’t fit, we don’t know what to do.  I’m as guilty as the next person.
For those of you who need to hear this, let me offer you a freeing truth – you can just be single.  You don’t have to be married or even want to be married.  You don’t have to have children or even want to have children.  And just because you don’t want to enter into a lifelong covenant with someone does not make you gay, unattractive, or unworthy. 
I have friends who kneel down beside their beds every night and beg God for the godly spouse they’re waiting on to arrive from the castle.  And honest to God, I hope he shows up because they deserve it.  They feel called to be a wife and a mother and it’s heartbreaking to watch that seemingly never come to pass.

But it’s not for everyone and you’re not a lesser person if it’s not for you.

Don’t get me wrong.  The perfect guy shows up who can contribute to this life without killing it?  I’ll reconsider.  In the meantime?  No.  I’m not opposed to marriage.  I’m surrounded by people who live marriage really, really well.   I think kids are awesome and my friends always want me to hang out with theirs.  I just don’t like the part where I would have to raise them into decent human beings.  I’d so much rather be the fun person who lets them eat ice cream for dinner and tucks them  in at night… two times a week max.

I’ve never once cut anything out from a bridal magazine unless it was the card in the middle at the dentist office so I could spit out my gum.  I did not watch Disney fairy tales as documentaries.  And I’m certainly not producing offspring just so I won’t die alone.  Lord, have mercy.

I get self-conscious about it, too.  I get it.  I worry what people think, get tired of being alone all the time, and feel like I have to constantly defend myself about not being gay, not being the marrying type, or somehow be missing something by being alone.  I get sucked into that vortex of crazy.  I honestly do. 

But, guess what?  It passes.  And I can return to a life that I feel perfectly called to live. 

You can be a child of God, perfectly lovable, within the will of God for you, and be single. 
Stop apologizing.  Stop living like you’re waiting for something better to happen.  Because even if it does?  It’s not guaranteed forever.  Go have fun with your friends.  Take vacations with people you love or all by yourself.  Find friends with funny kids and be the cool person who stops by to play.  Seriously, live.

You might feel like a lesser species, but trust me.  Plenty of people think single people are the smart ones.  I tend to agree.