Three Steps for Singles To Build Their Own Family (Part I: Giving Yourself to Others)

giving

In this post and the next one, we are going to look at some ways that singles can build their own family. Today we are going to explore the idea of giving ourselves to others. Here are a few steps to get us on our way…

Step 1: Lift your eyes up to the mountains (Psalm 121:102) and away from your navel.

As singles, it is tempting to focus on ourselves and on our lack of love and family. We think about love, we talk about love, we read about love, we listen to love songs, we watch movies about love. No wonder we are semi-obsessed with the idea that romantic love is what will fill our insatiable desire for value and worth.

On one hand God is incredibly gracious towards our pain. He doesn’t question or downplay the difficult process we are walking through as singles. He knows that a desire for a companion comes from an incredibly deep place, and he validates how hard that is for us.

On the other hand, he knows that wallowing in our loneliness on a regular basis is destructive to our well being. Even more importantly, it distracts us from being our best, beautiful self to a world that desperately needs the love that we have to give.

In the book Singled Out, John Stott says,“The greatest danger [singles] face is self-centeredness. We may live alone and have total freedom to plan our own schedule, with nobody else to modify it or even give us advice. If we are not careful, we may find the whole world revolving around ourselves.”

It is important that we start doing the hard work of thinking about things other than our love life or lack thereof. We need to take active steps towards giving ourselves to others.

Step 2: Determine to understand God’s heart towards the lonely people that are around you and the poor throughout the world.

A few years ago, I did an exercise that shook me out of my self-absorbed bubble and made me realize how deeply God cares about the poor. I was listening to a teaching on biblical justice by Rob Morris, founder of Love146, a wonderful organization that fights child exploitation. He asked us to flip through the bible for ten minutes and write down every verse we found about loving the poor, the outcast, the orphan, or similar sentiments.  He asked us not to use a concordance or go to verses we already knew, but to just skim the pages.

I flipped to the Psalms and thought that maybe I should go somewhere else, because of course the Psalms were all about worship and wouldn’t have anything about biblical justice. But the first verse I read was “Blessed is he who considers the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble” (Psalm 41:1.) I kept reading through the Psalms and found verses about the poor everywhere.

It made sense that they were everywhere, because there are about 2,000 verses on this topic. It is one of  the most talked about topics in the Bible. I have never looked at the bible the same way again. Verses about taking care of the poor are everywhere I look.

If the God that I love is this passionate about loving the lonely, maybe I would be wise to for me to be passionate about it as well. 

After your read this post, consider doing this exercise yourself, either with friends or on your own. You will be amazed at what you find.

Step 3: Pick one or two causes that you will devote yourself to.

I know there are a million causes that want your resources. A million different ministries vying for your attention. It can be overwhelming to hear all of the statistics. Sometimes you don’t know where to look. You don’t know if you can make a difference, so you don’t look anywhere. You look away.

But behind these causes are real people with real faces and real voices and real senses of humor and real tears.

My advice for you is to prayerfully choose one or two of these causes and be passionate about it for the rest of your life. Learn about your cause. Introduce yourself to the people that are behind that cause. Find out what you and your friends can do to make a difference.

Don’t just feed at a soup kitchen, come out from the serving line and sit and eat with the precious people you have served. Don’t just give money to an organization that fights child exploitation, find out how to write to the kids in the safe home and get to know them.

Shane Claiborne says in his book, The Irresistible Revolution, “What our world is desperately in need of [is] lovers, people who are building deep, genuine relationships with fellow strugglers along the way, and who actually know the faces of the people behind the issues they are concerned about.”

Over the last years since doing the poor verse exercise, much of my life has been spent thinking about and acting on taking care of the poor. The two issues most dear to me are homeless travelers and inner city youth. I have done outreaches all over the country to bring love to traveling people, especially new agers. I have taught music classes and made CDs for homeless youth. I have chosen to be “homeless” for 3 days to understand what my friends go through. I have played music for homeless church services and with homeless in the park and for homeless funerals. I have done advocacy work with homeless women, helping them find jobs and housing and medical help.

I just moved to San Diego to live in a missional community (beta communities.org) and I also plan to teach music classes to teenage refugees. I am so excited about this. I don’t have my own children, but I can give love to these precious souls.

These things have become some of the deepest joys of my life. They don’t exactly fill the void that I feel because I don’t have a traditional family, but they bring me joy and meaning in a different way. I desperately need to be less lonely, and so do they. But I had to take the initiative for these things to happen.

In conclusion,  you can’t really control your love life or lack thereof. But you can control the love that you put out into the world.

As Mother Teresa put it, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”

Let’s remember that we belong to each other. Let’s love other people enough to remind them that we belong to each other. Maybe then we would finally have some peace, even if we don’t yet have the traditional family we’ve always wanted.

Me and My (Betty White) Pheromones

betty white

“Kate, I have decided that you are the eighth wonder of the world,” said my brother as we ate peanut butter and honey sandwiches at my grandma’s house recently.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean it is a complete mystery why you have had this litany of men who act interested in you and then drop you like you’re hot. Or like you’re not hot. Or errrr….You know what I mean. You are so awesome! Why is this happening?”

“That is the question I have asked myself for the last fifteen years, Will.”

“Well, I have a theory,” he said mysteriously.

“Really what’s your theory?”

“Your pheromones.”

“What about my pheromones?”

“Maybe they are not working right.”

“What?” I said, slightly offended.”My pheromones are great! Never been better! I have very sexy pheromones! In fact my pheromones very closely resemble Angelina Jolie, that’s how sexy they are!”

“Well,” replied Will carefully. “How do you know that? What if you don’t have Angelina Jolie Pheromones?  What if you have Betty White pheromones.”

“What?” I replied. “How can you say that to me? I love Betty White. Everyone loves Betty White. But no one wants to marry Betty White.”

“Exactly, Kate. Everybody loves you? Check. No one wants to marry you? Check. Betty White pheromones? You need to think about it.”

I looked at him, shocked. “Don’t let it get you down too much.” He said. “Maybe all your pheromones need are a little metaphorical plastic surgery.”

I went home, laid in bed, and pondered my brother’s observations. What if all these years, all this heart break, all these times hearing “Kate I think you’re amazing, but…” all this wondering if I’m not pretty enough, nice enough, good enough, special enough, what if all of the time, the only problem is that I don’t have the right secreted chemicals that trigger a social response in members of the same species?”

I sat up and started researching. One article I read said that when women are given men’s shirts to smell, over and over again they pick the shirts of the men they would have healthier children with, according to their DNA samples. That’s how powerful scent is. It also said that men are much more drawn to women when they are ovulating. They can tell by the pheromones that are emitted. (Remember that for your calendar for when you are planning that next date, ladies.)

Another article said that queen bees have such strong pheromones that it renders their faithful worker bees infertile so the queens can control them more. (Don’t remember that the next time you are planning your next date, ladies. That’s just mean.)

Queens also excrete especially strong pheromones when bees from the hive get lost. It attracts the lost bees so much that they find their way home.

Lesson learned: Pheromones are powerful, and mine were not displaying their feminine prowess like they should be.

After reading all this, I started getting angry with my little Betty White molecules. “Dang it pheromones!” I said, pointing to my stomach, (because maybe that’s where they live). “I need a little help here! Lead my species home!”

My roommate knocked on the door to ask if I was ok. I remembered the last time that this happened, which was when I was having a similar yelling match with my uterus. One of these days I will learn to whisper when these altercations occur, so my roommates don’t think that they live with the crazy cat lady that everyone talks about.

I woke up the next morning and decided that I needed a plan of action.

The first strategy was to take loads of Zinc. I read that Zinc is supposed to help your pheromones work better. I bought a bottle at Vitamin Cottage. I decided I would take three times the daily recommended dosage because of course, then I would get three times as many dates.

My second strategy was to buy some pheromone perfume. Yes that is a real thing. And no it is not just sweat in a bottle. It smells delectable! 

I asked my friend what she thought about the idea, and she said “Kate! You can’t walk around wearing someone else’s pheromones! Whose pheromones are they? What if Joe, the guy you meet because of your pheromone perfume, is a creepy 50 year old with gelled hair and a leather jacket with too many zippers? What if Joe was really meant for Betty, who donated her pheromones to your perfume?”

“Ummmm….Amy? Why did you choose the name Betty?”

“I don’t know it just came to me while I was sitting here next to you. Why?”

“No reason.”

After her caution, I decided to be safe and only try the plan out for a month and see what happened. The plan was simply a bunch of Zinc every night and a slathering of pheromone perfume every morning. Plus maybe smile a little more.

Here is what happened in no particular order:

1) Three old ladies asked me where I bought my perfume.

2) The checker at vitamin cottage started winking at me. I realized sadly that this was probably less about my pheromones, and more about my buying so much zinc.

3) A guy with exactly 9 zippers on his leather jacket asked me if I wanted to go to a wrestling match with him.

4) Four homeless men asked me to marry them.

5) I got stung by 3 bees.

Actually, none of that happened. Well, one homeless guy did ask me to marry him but that occurs pretty much every month.

What did happen is that I started thinking about patterns. Throughout my entire adult life, I have met some wonderful men, and although they often seem drawn to me at first, I almost always become the best friend,the sister. Hardly ever the one he falls in love with.

Does this occur because of something that I can’t really fix, like pheromones, or is there something I can work on? 

Here are a few thoughts: 

#1) My counselor says that because of some hard childhood trauma I am sometimes scared of intimacy. I am often attracted to unavailable men, men that I subconsciously know won’t or can’t love me back. Maybe instead of taking my zinc, I could work on looking for and being open to men who were emotionally available.

#2) Maybe I put off the “sister” vibe when I’m scared of rejection. Instead of just wearing that pheromone perfume maybe I should be keenly aware of my emotions and recognize when I am trying to hide myself by being a friend instead of being more honest about my feelings. Maybe I should even get out there and flirt a little bit, which I don’t often do because it scares me so much. I often hide behind the “good girl” energy, and I have to remember it’s not a sin to flirt with a man that might make a good match for me (as long as I know that our faiths and lifestyles are on the same page.)

#3) I heard of an experiment in which a pretty and shapely woman was put on a billboard in two different cities. One said I think I’m beautiful, what do you think? The other said I think I’m fat, what do you think? They polled people in each city. The results? Something like 70% of the city with the fat billboard thought she was fat, while 70% of the city with the beautiful billboard thought she was beautiful. I can not let my prolonged singlehood tell me who I am. I am beautiful and valuable. God whispers it to me every day, and I need to believe him. Instead of giving my pheromones a facelift, maybe I should give one to my self esteem. The more beautiful I believe I am, the more beautiful people will see me.

d) I have to trust that the God who speaks stars into space and paints the tiny lines on a leaf, that God is the one who loves me, who sees my dreams, who sees me beautiful. I can’t claim to understand something like the sovereignty of God but I can say that God is gracious and merciful. I can say that he makes all things beautiful in his time. I can say that when we see him face to face no one in the world will question whether or not he is good.

So I have a hunch, a really big hunch, that he is more powerful than my pheromones, even if they do resemble a certain Golden Girl. 

Questions for you…

Have you ever felt like something was “wrong” with you because of your dating life or lack thereof?

What strong patterns do you see in your dating life? What can’t you control in that situation? What can you control? 

Any other fun science about pheromones? (Keep it PG-13!)

A Question Of Beauty

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In my adolescent years, I looked like a boy. Seriously. As in people asked me what sex I was. Not to hurt me, they just really couldn’t tell.

One time I was entering the women’s bathroom and a woman said “You can’t go in there!” And I said, “Why not?” She replied, “Because it’s the woman’s room!” “I am a girl!” I answered. She looked shocked, I felt stupid, and it has been stuck in my psyche ever since.

After my boyish years, I grew to be pretty confident about my looks. I am not a stunning beauty, but I think most people would say that I am pretty. I know this isn’t the norm for most women, but I didn’t think about my looks that much, even in my teenage years. I had fleeting thoughts about my ample child bearing hips or the annoying white eyelashes that are bestowed on most redheads. So I just covered up my thighs with flowing skirts, my lashes with mascara, and went on with my life.

But the last few months, things have changed. I have been taking a medication for sleeping that is making me gain weight. I have gained about 15 pounds in the last 6 months, and most of it is in my stomach. My stomach! My flat stomach! Why have you left me, oh sweet belly of mine?

I can’t believe how much I have been thinking about this. It is on my mind often. I don’t like looking down to see my precious little muffin top protruding ever so slightly over my jeans. I have had a really hard time looking at pictures of myself, making sure to delete ones on Facebook where I look fat. I pull back the skin on my face to see what I would look like if I had my cheekbones back. “There are children dying of starvation and you are obsessing about fifteen pounds!” I say to myself. “Stop being so self absorbed!” And yet, for some reason, I can’t seem to shake these thoughts.

The problem is exacerbated even more because I was so skinny when I was sick with lyme disease a few years back. I was 35 pounds lighter, but I was sickly skinny. And yet, I felt powerful when I was skinny. People who didn’t know I was sick would say “You look better than I’ve ever seen you!” I wanted to say “dude, I am practically on my death bed!” But for some reason, skinny equaled beautiful in their eyes. And I liked that, even in my sick state.

Now that I’m healthy but heavier, am I still beautiful?

The truth is, I am beautiful, but I have forgotten that I’m beautiful.

I am not alone. We Americans spend a lot of money to feel attractive. The average American woman will spend $15,000 on make up in her life time. Americans spent $10.4 billion on plastic surgery in 2011. That is more that the gross domestic product of nations such as Chad and Suriname. The weight loss market is an even huger number. It is worth nearly $70 billion dollars. That is $200 for every man, woman, and child in the country.

Some of these investments make sense, when you think about how much beauty is put on a pedestal in our culture. Would any of us read People magazine if it was filled with stories about ugly people? No one would bother. If Ryan Gosling’s character in The Notebook was ugly and fat, we would not think that his gestures of love towards Ally were romantic. We would think that he was a stalker.

In Khaled Hosseini’s book And the Mountains Echoed there is a character named Thalia whose face has been hideously malled by a dog, so she always wears a veil on her face. Her best friend Marcos, who is appalled by her at first, gets to know her and sees how beautiful she is. She slowly feels more accepted by him, until finally, she takes the veil off her face permananently. Marcos grows up to become a plastic surgeon. He says

“I learned that the world doesn’t see the inside of you. That it doesn’t care a whit about the hopes and dreams and sorrows that lay masked beneath skin and bone. It was as simple and absurd and cruel as that. My patients knew this. They saw that much of what they would be or could be hinged on the symmetry of their bone structure, the space between their eyes, their chin length, the tip projection of their nose, whether they had an ideal nasofrontal angle or not. Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly. ”

He’s right. Beauty is something we have almost no control over, and yet it is something we judge other people with on a regular basis, something we judge ourselves with so harshly.

What do we do with this insatiable, sometimes ravenous desire to be beautiful?

In Psalm 45:11, it says “The King is enthralled by your beauty. Honor him, for he is your Lord.”

The dictionary defines enthrall as “To hold spellbound, captivate.” God is captivated, spellbound, with our beauty. And what are we to do with that? Tell him that he is wrong? Tell him that he did a bad job when he created us? No. We are to honor him.

When you honor someone, you stand in reverence of their perspective. You take that perspective as your own. Therefore, it honors him when we say “you think I’m beautiful? Then I will believe that I am beautiful, no matter what the world says.”

If I were to see the painting of an artist and say “That is the ugliest painting I have ever seen!” would that glorify the artist? Of course not! The painting is a reflection of the heart of the artist. When we see and say that the painting is beautitful, we honor the one who painted it. The same is true of us. When we see ourselves and others as beautiful, when we even use our words to reflect the truth that we are beautiful, we are glorifying God.

I will end with this last story. One day I was going through some difficult memories in my mind, trying to ask God where he was in those memories.  The memory came to me of kids in my fourth grade class making fun of me because I looked like a boy.  I said “God, what did you see when you saw me then?” I thought he would tell me that I looked like Angelina Jolie in his eyes or something. But no. He said “you were so so very beautiful to me, Kate. Exactly the way you looked right then. You were and are so beautiful.”  I had a hard time believing him.

But faith is all about believing things that can’t see, right? Maybe I can’t always see that I am beautiful, but I need to have faith that it is true.

Why? Because the King is enthralled by my beauty. If he says that I’m beautiful, it is the truth. I am beautiful.

Let’s have some discussions about this. What kind of insecurities have you gone through about your looks? Why do you think looks are so important to us as human beings? For those of you who have been told you are physically beautiful your whole life, how has that shaped the way you acted or seen yourself? Do you feel like you always hade to keep up the way you look or people will reject you?  For those of you who have felt ugly or fat, how do you think your life  would be different if you were “beautiful” or slimmer?