Repost: Happy Wish We Were Mother’s Day

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Today I went to the gym (aka going on the elliptical and watching netflix on my phone for 45 minutes, then going in the hot tub and amazing massaging waterfalls and water slide for an hour and a half.)

The lady at the front desk said “are you a mother?” “No,” I said. “Why do you ask?” Mother’s get in free today! “Oh,” I said. I felt a pang of sadness.

She looked at me again. “Do you have pets?” I was didn’t understand why she was asking me this. “No.”

“Hmmm, ” she said. “Oh, wait a second!” I replied. ” I forgot that I live on a farm! I literally have hundreds of pets!” “Well, it looks like you’re a mother, then.” She stamped my hand and let me into the ghetto spa for free.

This little gesture meant a lot. Because in a small way she was honoring me on a day in which non-mothers do not often get honored.

First and foremost, every mother’s day, I try to not feel sorry for myself and remember my own mom. My amazing, kind, quirky mom.

Who used to feed us liver powder and v8 juice and yeast in kool aid when we were growing up because her love language is to keep us healthy.

Who has had 200 books from the library out at a time, for a six months at a time, until they made a rule up that you can’t do that, probably solely because of her.

Who looks 55 even though she is almost 70.

Who has worn spandex every day since 1982.(Because spandex are not a right. They are a privilege. My mother has had that privilege and has looked really good using it.)

That is my epic mother. And she more than deserves to be honored today. As does every mother in the world.

Every getting -three-hours-of-sleep-to-take-care-of-a newborn,changing-620 -diapers-per year, listening-to-a-million-questions, figure-out-three-freaking-meals-a-day-to-make, trying-not-to-yell-at-your-teenager, figuring-out-how-to-teach-a-human-soul-how-to-live-on-the-place-we-call-earth, incredible, selfless mother deserves to be honored today.

But once the honoring of my own mother and all the other beautiful mothers is over, my eyes inevitably look back on myself and I start getting sad.

I have always loved kids. I worked at day cares all through high school, college and after college. I work at an after school program now and live with 3 young children, all of whom I adore.

I worked at a camp for something like 5 summers, and have spoken at that camp for another 12 or so. At that camp they called me the legend. Because I was really, honestly, an awesome counselor. Every Friday we would have princess night where we would put on trash bags and talk in English accents during dinner, then we would let loose during dessert and give each other chocolate pudding facials followed by the best food fight ever. I would come up with really fun hands on devotions. I would spend one on one time with the girls, talking about their lives and praying with them. I would sing to them every night before they fell asleep. I had some of the girls for all five years, watching them grow up. We would write to each other all year, and I would sometimes visit them outside of camp.

I don’t know if I ever felt more in my element at any job. Ever. Not singing. Not writing. Not speaking. It felt like loving those campers was what I was made to do. Even now, I have dreams about camp on a regular basis. My counselor says it was because my psyche considers it home.

I would make a good mom. A really, really good mom.

But for some reason, motherhood has not been in the cards for me.

The older I get, the more I have to accept the fact that I might never become a mother. I might have to look for other ways to love children, like working with inner city kids or at an orphanage. That might be the path I have to take, one that I have seriously considered taking lately.

I have so much in my life. I have a wonderful career. I have good friends. I live with people that are very dear to me. I have lots of time to do things like get a $4.00 spa. If there were no such thing as a husband and children, I would probably be really content. But there are such things, and I have always wanted both of them. Not having them is perhaps the most difficult thing I have ever been through.

Sometimes I think about how much I would give to have someone call me “mom.” To call someone “my baby.” I would give up almost anything for this.

And so I grieve today, and maybe that is all right. Maybe it is not selfish. Maybe it is human. Maybe it is my right.

Years ago on mothers day at my church, a friend of mine stood up who has struggled with infertility her whole life. She said “mothers, you are amazing and wonderful and needed. Today, I want to honor you, but I also want to honor other women. I want to honor all the women that have had miscarriages. All the women who have been infertile. All the single women who haven’t even had a chance to get pregnant. All the women who have had stillborns.”

She had everyone in the room who fit that description stand up. I was amazed how many women stood up.

(She didn’t say this and I know this will be a controversial thing to say, but I want to include women who have had abortions. I am not saying what they did is right, by any means. But there are probably more women than you think there are in your circles and in your workplace and in your church who have had abortions and hide it because there is so much shame. They are possibly grieving today more than anyone else. We must remember them too.)

So all of you that fit into that category- this is what I say to you today. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are not forgotten. You may never bear children, but that doesn’t mean you are any less of a woman. And you are mothers in your own way-to the children in your life, to your friends, to the people you mentor.

I honor you. And so does God.

I’d love to hear from you….is mother’s day hard for you? Why are why not? What has infertility/ the death of a child/ unmarried with no children / abortion been like for you? How can the church love you better in this?

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

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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.

Ghost Ship

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I wrote this after talking to a dear friend of mine with three kids who has been married for a long time. It has been a hard road for her. She started crying and said “Kate, you don’t know how much I envy your life.” At first I bristled. I envy other people’s lives so much, how could anyone envy mine? But it got me thinking. I do have a beautiful life, and I do have things in my life I could never have without a family, no matter how much I don’t want to admit it. I have been more positive about my life ever since then, and am trying to walk on a journey towards “home.” Hope you enjoy it.

For many years, I spent my life on the shore, watching, waiting.

Like a million stories told through a hundred generations, I was searching the horizon, looking for someone to come home to me. A companion to walk with. A witness to my life.

I imagined that we would meet on the shore in a glorious homecoming. He would run towards me and spin me around, making me dizzy with his love. That would be the moment that all the minutes before had led up to, the moment that all the minutes after would never forget.

We would walk hand in hand down the road marked out for us. And when we reached our destination, we would build up our love story around us like a warm shelter.

But years passed. No matter how hard I looked, no matter how fervently I prayed, I did not see that ship coming in. I clenched my cold hands and continued watching on the waterfront, dreaming of the beautiful phantom life that was not mine.

I stood shivering on the shore for a long time. I began to realize that the ship, the parallel existence that I had hoped to start living long ago, was a ghost ship. It was perfect, but only because it was elusive. It was beautiful, but only because it was not really there.

I am cold now. I am ready to go somewhere that will hide me from the storm. And so I have a choice-to stay here and watch or to step away from the waiting. Perhaps for a little while, perhaps for the rest of my life. I have a choice turn my head from the sea and take a slow walk towards a home that I can build for myself right now, today. A decision that will be a beginning and an ending all at once.

The road will be unspeakably beautiful and deeply painful, just like the journey I would have walked in my parallel life. It will be full of love and full of loneliness, just as it would have been on the sister ship that I never got to ride.

In the end, the path I walk on might not lead me to a home with the arms of a husband or the laughter of children, a reality that may always be difficult for me.

But I can still put flowers in a vase so I can remember small, beautiful things. I can still bake bread and hear laughter around the table. I can still build a fire and press my face against the window pane, welcoming the lonely traveler home.

I can wait for that ghost ship forever, or I can go home and build something beautiful. It may never be easy. The longing may never go away.  But perhaps God will teach me how to long and let go at the very same time.

In the end, I don’t want to live in a parallel life that will disappear if I try to touch it. I want to walk out the tangible story that God has set before me today.

Even if  I never find the love story that I anticipated, I might find a love story that I didn’t expect. A different kind of love story.

A story that leads me home.

What dreams have you had that never came true?

How did you respond to those unmet desire?

Do you think you can long and let go at the same time?

Her Name Means Laughter

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Okay, so…

I know that in my post Signs Signs Everywhere the Signs, I talked about how it can be unwise to look for signs when it comes to marriage. 

Furthermore, I know that in my post called What Single People Wish Married People Knew, I talked about how frustrated I get when people tell me I just need to let go to find my partner.

So it is pretty ironic that today, I’m going to talk about how I got a sign that told me to let go. 

Rewind to about thirteen years ago. I was in India for two months.  I went to learn about starting an orphanage, which I was really interested in at the time. I spent a lot of time drawing pictures and singing and dancing with children who didn’t speak my language. But who needs language when you have love? 

On that trip I also got to preach to a jail in which everyone in the whole place, including the Muslim guards, became Christians. They started a bible study that to the best of my knoweldge is still going.

I also happened to go to India because I was running away from a relationship. I was so unsure if I wanted to marry this guy that I thought it would be a good idea to go halfway around the world to figure it out. Maybe the arranged marriages I found in India were a sign that I should stop dating so I wouldn’t have to decide on anything and just get a mail order husband from Brazil or something. Or maybe it would be easier than that and God would just give me a dream.

Lo and behold I did have a dream. It is amazing that I had a dream because it was amazing that I was sleeping. And it was amazing that I was sleeping because I had screaming cockroaches all around my bed. And yes, when I say screaming cockroaches I do mean cockroaches that scream. Screaming cockroaches are India’s national symbol. Maybe.

Anyway back to the dream. It’s been a long time since I had that dream, but I’m pretty sure that I was told to look up a verse in the bible. So I woke up and looked it up.

This is what it said: “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.“(Galatians 4:22-23)

The story that this verse was referring to was that of Abraham in Genesis 17. God had told Abraham at a very late age that his descendants would outnumber the stars of the sky. But year after year after freaking year (can you tell I relate to this story?) the promised son did not come.

Finally, Abraham felt like he couldn’t wait any longer. He slept with his wife’s servant Hagar, and had a son named Ishmael. Abraham tried to force the promise to come before it was time, and the result was the son of a slave. God made it clear that Ishmael was not the son he had promised. Finally Isaac came, the promised son, the son of a free woman.

It is also important to note for the sake of the rest of this story that when Sarah, Abraham’s wife, finally became pregnant with Isaac, she laughed.

I knew when I read this verse what God was telling me. Kate, you long for family, and I promise you family. But I do not want you to try to control things to receive my promise. I want to give you the promise in my timing. You need to trust me.

So I got home, went out to dinner with my boyfriend the first night, and said something to this effect:

“So I had a dream and in that dream God told me I shouldn’t have an Ishmael which is the son of the flesh and maybe you are Ishmael which means you are the son of the flesh and also the son of a slave and I am being figurative here but maybe spiritually or actually in real life I am a son of a slave or we are both sons of slaves and even though you are flesh of my flesh maybe it would better if we were flesh of someone else’s fleshes or…screw it maybe we should break up.”

Needless to say he broke up with me not long after that.

Fast forward about eight years. I was again praying about whether I should marry my current boyfriend. I decided to go to a monastery to pray.

The first night, I met a woman named Amara who was a housekeeper at the monastery. I really love names and I thought her name was beautiful so I made a mental note to look up the meaning of her name.

The next day, it was cold and foggy so I couldn’t see the beautiful mountains and ocean from my little hermit hut in Big Sur, Caifornia.  I was sick. I thought it would be a waste of a day. Instead, I sat on my bed for at least twelve hours straight. God downloaded things to me the entire time.

I felt like he told me to read the story of Abraham, every verse of his story, and every verse referenced to go along with the story. I saw how Abraham longed for a child, for family, just like I did, and how God promised him over and over and over again about his family and his descendants. Promise, covenant, promise were written everywhere.

Sometime in the afternoon I closed my eyes for a while and had a waking dream. I went into this beautiful garden, something that looked like it was out of Alice in Wonderland, and God said “this is your family.” I walked over to three big flowers. A purple iris opened and there was a perfect, beautiful black baby girl sleeping.

I opened my eyes and decided to look up in a baby name book what Iris meant. It means Rainbow. The promise! What a beautiful confirmation of God’s faithfulness. I looked through the nicknames that came from Iris and saw the name Risa. I thought to myself “If I ever have a daughter, I will name her Risa to remember God’s promise.”

Just then, I remembered Amara and decided to look up her name. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that Amara means Promised by God. Just like for Abraham, I promise, I promise, I promise kept being repeated to me. I went away from that retreat feeling hopeful and loved. 

Fast forward another three years. More than ever I felt like Abraham. Year after year after freaking year and there I was, still alone. I had had a few possible relationships where I took things into my own hands, tried to force the promise, tried to coerce God into giving me something that I wanted, doubting God’s promises, doubting God’s goodness, I was (and still am) in a season of mourning and struggling to trust God.

This takes me to the last few weeks. I was in Mexico teaching at YWAM base. Somehow people started talking about names. I said “if I ever have a daughter, I will name her Risa.” A friend of mine said “Oh yes that is such a beautiful name. Laughter.” “What do you mean laughter?” “Risa means laughter in Spanish. Didn’t you know that?” I looked it up, and sure enough the Spanish word comes from the Latin word Risa and means laughter.

Do you know why this is amazing? Like really amazing? Like God actually looks on tiny me and cares about my dreams and cares about the details and cares about what my heart yearns for –amazing?

Because Sarah laughed when she was told she would finally have a baby at such an old age. Because she wanted to remember that laughter forever by using It as her baby’s namesake.

Isaac also means laughter.

I want to be careful, because I don’t want my belief in God’s existence or goodness to rest upon an event like my getting married or having a child. That is not fair to God, and it is not fair to anyone I might end up marrying. It is too much pressure. I don’t want to lose my faith over anything, including being alone. I mean, even Abraham was asked to sacrifice his promise after it was given to him, to show his allegiance to God over the promise.

But still, this whole story feels like such a gift. It honestly gives me hope that I really might have a family some day.

Even more importantly, at least for this season, I believe that this sign needs to be a reminder to me. That I have a choice in front of me to have the child of a slave, or the child of a free woman. I have situations in my life, especially when it comes to romance, where I can choose to control, to obsess, to lose hope, to doubt God. Or I can choose to trust, to live freely, to let go.

It seems that God is telling me to be free when it comes to my desire for a family. To know that he is good and he will work things out in his own time. 

I want to laugh just like Sarah laughed. It will be the laughter of letting go. It will be the laughter of joy despite my loneliness. It will be the laughter of a deep trust in the promise of God. The laughter of one who will not have a child of a slave, but the child of a free woman.

Today, we have a choice in front of us, just like Abraham had. The choice of slavery or the choice of freedom. The choice to bow down to our loneliness and our fear and our hopelessness or to dance, to sing, to laugh. 

Maybe we can collectively laugh as a way of saying “I choose freedom today.” And that laughter will ring out and break some of the shackles off of our weary souls. 

It’s Okay To Grieve

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In my post called Singles and the Church: Why it Sucks To Be Unintentionally Overlooked, I talked about the idea of disenfranchised grief: a grief in which nothing concrete happened to you, but the desires of your heart didn’t come to pass. It’s what didn’t happen that you are grieving over, and that doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people. But it is a true, deep loss.

I wanted to explore this idea more because so many readers commented on how much they suffer from disenfranchised loss.

I understand this kind of grief because I have been struggling a lot this month. The crazy thing is, the situation that I just went through was a simple “I’m-going-to-say-no-to-romance- even- though -you’re- wonderful” scenario that I have lived through one too many times to stay sane.

The situation itself shouldn’t be as heartbreaking as it is. And yet, I have struggled with deep disappointment. I have not even had any clue how to get the sadness out of my system. And my friends Ben and Jerry are stalking me. (Just had to throw something light in there!)

I realize now that some of this is due to the particular situation, but a lot of it is due to disenfranchised loss. I am not just grieving this friendship, I am grieving the fact that there are few good men in their thirties and it might be hard to have that chance again. I am grieving the thought of not being touched and held by someone. I am grieving the fact that I need to go back to thinking about adopting alone.

I am grieving having to go back to eharmony first dates. I would seriously rather have a root canal.

But most of all, I am grieving not having a family. Not having anyone call me “my wife” or “mommy.” It has been too much for me to handle. At the risk of sounding horribly sorry for myself, I am barren. Women who are married who are infertile, they know how I feel, and that means a lot to me. But in all honesty, people regard married women’s infertility as a much deeper loss than my barrenness as a single woman. And yet, it is very very similar. I not only have no children, I don’t have a husband either. So the grief should be looked on as something very deep and very painful. But it just isn’t.

I think part of the problem is that people think it’s kind of your choice that you have no family. That if you did things a certain way you would have a family. “You just need to be online dating.” “You just need to be less picky.” “You’re too strong of a woman and you scare off men.” And one that I heard on a thread about this topic the other day “You just need to lose more weight.”

As if we chose this lifestyle for ourselves. That’s just not true. We have worked to change this situation, and yet it hasn’t happened. It’s nothing that we did wrong, and we need to believe that.

According to Melony Notkin’s article on this subject, 18% of American women between the ages of 40 and 44 are childless. About half of this group don’t want children. The other half suffer from either biological or circumstantial barrenness.

This, my friends, is tragic.

Single people out there, people longing to get married and have children, I want to look you in the eyes and say this to you. You have every right to grieve. Even though nothing concrete has happened to you, yours is a deep, deep loss.

Married people out there, church at large, it would mean the world to us if you would acknowledge this as a loss. If you would talk about it from the pulpit. If you would invite us over for lunch. If you would tell us it’s ok to grieve and hold us.

There is a flip side to this predicament, something that we need to address as well. I learned the hard way in this situation that if I project all of that fear, all of that sadness, all of that disenfranchised grief, onto someone that I could potentially have a romantic relationship with, all I will do is try to control them so that I can get what I so deeply long for. I will not be patient and let them decide on their own. I will try to control things so that person will bring me my dreams. It is not healthy.

That much pressure is absolutely not fair on them. It can ruin potential relationships and all others as well. Expectations are premeditated resentments.

My friends said to me the other day “your mind is like a bank account. Every time you think of someone, especially of that person giving you everything you’ve dreamed of,  you put another dollar in the bank account. So if you end up losing that account, you have a lot to lose.”

My bank account is empty, and it hurts so much.

I think what we need to learn is that we should  let ourselves mourn deeply, we should acknowledge our disenfranchised loss, but we need to direct that mourning at God, not on anyone else, including ourselves. God can take it. Another human being can’t. We can’t.

So go ahead. Grieve. I give you permission right now.

If you want to, walk away from this blog post, call a friend, tell them you need their support because you are mourning, and then cry your guts out. You have every right to do it. If you want to, you can even get mad at God.  He won’t be angry back. Then, let him hold you.

Because in the end, what else can we do but bring our frustrations to the Lord and then remember his love? To cry and cry and then to release things that we can’t control?

I will try hard to do that now. And I hope you do too.

Why It Sucks To be Unintentionally Overlooked Part II: Validating Our Struggles

The response to part one of this post, Singles and The Church: Why It Sucks To Unintentionally Overlooked has been pretty overwhelming. I have had 132 comments and counting. Two readers told me that they left the church because they felt left out as singles. Many others expounded on how they have had to hide their pain because they haven’t felt like it would be accepted by their loved ones and their churches.

There have been encouraging things too: I had links to two sermons which were given by single head pastors (very encouraging!) There were also married people that have tried to understand what we’re going through by saying “I don’t know what singles want! Please tell me!” 

So dear church and married friends, I want to tell you in the next three posts what would be helpful and life-giving to us as singles in the church. This is all based on input from the comments from the last post. These are things multiple people have said and not just my personal opinion on this topic. 

In the next three posts I will cover the most prominent themes in the comments people gave…

#1- Validate single’s pain.

#2- Acknowledge that singles have equal wisdom and life experience to married people and deserve to be considered for leadership roles .

#3 Be proactive in creating impactful singles groups and/or groups where people from different life walks can connect. 

Let’s start with #1: Validate single’s pain. It is of utmost importance to us that you acknowledge that we have truly difficult struggles we are dealing with. 

With this post and my other most popular post  What Single People Wish Married People Knew hundreds of people wrote in to say how hurt they have been when married people and churches have made them feel like their pain is not valid. One of the questions I asked in the last post was “Do you ever feel ashamed over your grief as a single person?” The answer was a resounding yes!!  

One of the married commenters on the last post said “Part of me thinks you don’t want to hear it from married people anyway. Part of me thinks in a small way, you are making yourself feel worse than you have to because you are letting yourself feel like a victim…I guess I would also wonder if much of the guilt and shame over grieving your singleness is largely self inflicted.” 

This was very hard to read. On one hand, I don’t want to be navel gazing. I don’t want to be hateful towards the church. I don’t want to miss all of the things that God has for me in my singleness. 

On the other hand, it is comments like these that make us want to hide away in shame our pain. But our pain is so real. We are facing incredibly difficult things like not having a person to walk through life together, little to no physical touch in our lives, and the horrible possibility of never having children. 

Please, please, try to see things from our perspective. Try to understand how deeply these things hurt. Try to allow us to share our feelings without any guilt or shame.

Secondly, let’s all stop playing the comparison game. Human beings have a propensity towards competition. Often, when someone shares their pain, our first response is “that’s not as hard as what I am going through.” Singles are just as guilty of this as married people. 

The truth is, being human is hard. It is hard to be single. It is hard to be childless. It is hard to be married. It is hard to have children. Sometimes, singles can barely stand eating one more dinner alone. And sometimes, moms can barely handle making one more dinner. Let’s all make a point to stop doing this.

Remember that competition is the enemy of contentment. 

Lastly, married people and church, it is so, so frustrating for us when you give us boxed in, formulaic answers to our pain. Comments like “You should be happy your single. Marriage is so hard, ” “If you just let go, you’ll find the one”  “Paul said that being single was better anyway, so you just need to embrace it” “You’re still so young,” “Just let Jesus be your husband” or “You’re just too picky” are all things that commenters told me are incredibly painful for them. These responses not only make us feel like our pain is not valid, it can even make us feel like we are not married because there is something innately in us that isn’t good enough or that our relationship with God is lacking. 

Can you see why we would be scared to share with you when these are the responses we get? 

So how do we combat this propensity towards comparing and these formulaic responses?

We must learn to listen with compassion and empathy and love. Listening and loving are so closely related you can barely tell them apart. 

Maybe sometimes instead of giving formulaic answers you should answer with more questions. “What is the hardest thing you face as a single?” “Have you ever felt angry with God over this?” “Do you remember a time where you felt comforted by God in your singleness? or “How can I love you through this?” are all great questions.

And maybe sometimes you should not answer at all. Maybe you should just give us a hug and let us cry. Sometimes we just need to sit in the questions and allow ourselves to feel our pain.

Allowing ourselves to authentically wrestle with our questions can be more comforting than empty answers.  And sitting with the questions with a friend is so much better than sitting with questions alone. 

Singles, what are some other questions that you would like to be asked?

Married people and church leaders, is this helpful to you? Does it make you see how some of your responses in the past might have been hurtful?

Married and singles both, have you found yourself comparing your pain to others?

Have you ever felt healing in sitting in the questions rather than having to have boxed in answers? 

Go to Amazon and read the great reviews on Kate’s book Getting Naked Later: A Guide For the Fully Clothed

Singles and the Church: Why It Sucks to be Unintentionally Overlooked

In the movie Bridget Jones, Bridget is having dinner with some pretentious married people. One of them says to her “Bridget, why do you think there are so many people over thirty and single these days?”  Bridget looks her straight in the face and says “Well, I guess it doesn’t hurt that we have scales under our clothes.”

We singles often feel like we have scales under our clothes in our churches. Not a gross disfigurement that makes everyone stare. Not an outward, in your face prejudice that is thrown at us. But something more subtle. Something that makes us feel like even though we look pretty normal on the outside, there is quite possibly something wrong with us underneath the surface.

According to an article in the New Yorker, there were four million adults living alone in this country in 1950. Now there are thirty one million, almost eight times as many. More than half of adults in the United States are single at this point in time.

We could safely say then that half of our church congregations are also single. And yet this huge demographic is often overlooked. Why is this?

I want to be careful with this post, because I don’t want to point fingers at anyone. I love my married friends, I love my pastors, and I don’t think they have ever meant to hurt us. I don’t think they have ever meant to leave us out.

And yet, we have been hurt. We have been left out.

Maybe we can look at some of the reasons that this might be happening so we can help the single friends in our lives and churches not feel like they have scales under their clothes.

Reason #1- People underestimate the difficulties that singles face.

I have talked in past posts about the idea of disenfranchised grief.  Instead of mourning over something that happened, disenfranchised grief is mourning over something that has never happened.  We have never lost a child, but we have never had a child. We have never been through a divorce but we’ve never had a spouse.

It is a strange kind of grief because most people don’t recognize it as a validated loss.  Singles often feel a deep sense of grieving, and yet we don’t feel like we deserve to be grieving because nothing concrete has happened to us.

And so, people are unaware that there is such a deep grieving going on. They don’t understand how much we need this grieving to be addressed.

Another problem is that most people that are married remember their singleness with a lot of fondness. “All those fun dates! All that freedom!” They don’t often realize that once you hit 25 and are waiting five, ten, fifteen years, it is a whole different story. There is a long history of dating ending in horrible heartbreak. Freedom is there in abundance, but only because we don’t have a family. Most of us would trade in our freedom for a family in a heartbeat.

There are funny ways that church culture reflects their unawareness of our disenfranchised loss—not in what they do give us, but in what they don’t give us. The sermons that aren’t given, the prayers that aren’t offered, the books that aren’t written. As if what we are going through is not that important or difficult.

Think of all the great books out there about marriage or about parenthood. Then try to think of all of the books out there about being single. There are so few good ones. (Unless if you count my book Getting Naked Later! Wink wink!)

The books that are offered to singles often try to convince us that we need to be thankful for the gift of singleness, a stance that can make us feel ashamed of the grief we might feel. Or they are books that give us formulas on how to get married, which often sends the message that we have to get married to arrive as a human. These books for singles are often written by married people, which again gives us mixed signals on the validity of our life experience.

Now, think of all the good sermons you’ve heard about marriage or about being a good parent. Think of the vast array of seminars that are offered. Then think about all of the sermons you’ve heard about the trials of being single and how to deal with them. I honestly can’t think of one single time I’ve heard a pastor talk about this after twenty years of being a regular church goer. I’ve never heard of a seminar that deals with the problems singles face. If singles make up half of our congregations, shouldn’t our problems be addressed more often?

Reason #2- Influencers in the church are not often single.

This brings me to my second point: the people writing the books and the people giving the sermons aren’t single. The problems singles face are far from these leader’s minds because it’s been such a long time since they have been single.

When you think about this, it begs the question “Why aren’t there more influencers in the church who are single?” I recently read an article in The New York Times in which a single pastor named Mark Almlie was interviewed about how hard it is for him to find a job. He had applied to 500 jobs to no avail. “I’ll get an e-mail saying ‘wonderful résumé,’ Once I say I’m single, never married, I never hear back.”

Think about it…is there any other job in the US that is so biased towards married people? I can’t think of one. In all of my fifteen or so years of working in the church, I have heard of two senior pastors that were single. One of those was twenty when he started pastoring, thus nullifying the “you’re over 30 and single so there must be something wrong with you” effect.

This can easily send us a message that says “your voice is not as important if you don’t have a family. You don’t have enough wisdom to speak to the rest of us if you aren’t married.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. Part of the reason I wrote this was to help us singles feel validated , but I’d love for us to talk about it more and talk about how things might change…

Here are some questions:

Do you think that there is a bias towards married people in the church or am I overstating the problem?

Why do you think singles are often unintentionally overlooked in the church?

Have you ever felt ashamed for feeling so much grief over being single?

Have you had experiences in your church body or with your pastor where you felt seen and validated?

Have you ever struggled with being a leader in your church or in ministry because you are single?

What can we do to give a voice to single people in the church?

Let me know what you think, because my next post will probably be based on what you all say on this topic.

Tales of a Blubbering Nun

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I am writing this from my little hermit room in a monastery in Sedalia, Colorado. I have learned to love monasteries over the years, and I visit them on a semi-regular basis. They have become a part of the rhythm of my life. I come to these restful places when I need solace and regeneration, when I need to set the compass of my soul towards North again.

And so, you might imagine me, bible in my lap, pen in my hand, face towards the sky, an ethereal glow of the Master’s serenity on my face, like the pictures of Mary on those Catholic candles they sell at the dollar store.

But if that is the picture you see of me, you’re dead wrong.

Instead, I am a weeping, blubbering mess of a woman who has mascara trails on her face and has had a hard time eating for the last five days. The other seekers in this building have had their silent retreats interrupted by this blubbering, but I just can’t help it.

I don’t really know what the heck is going on.

Maybe it’s that my lease is running out and I am moving. I counted the other day- I have moved something like 20 times since I was 18, and that doesn’t even count things like working at camps and coming home for the summer. I have had at least 60 roommates over the years. That is just not the way it is supposed to be.

Maybe it’s that I’m contemplating starting a new wonderful but taxing full time career working with inner city kids, and the weight of such a big decision is scaring me to death.

Maybe it is that my dad died only three months ago, after which I promptly put together his entire memorial service, wrote a nice post about him, and put the tragedy on the back burner for a better time and place. The time and place seems to be now and here. In contemplating his death, I am also thinking about the fact that part of the reason I long for a husband so much is because I long to have a male figure that loves me, that is a good father figure to my children. It aches so deeply to think that I might never have that.

Maybe it’s that I have been fixated on mistakes I made missing out on good men- wondering if there has been some horrible trajectory of hopelessness that has come from those small decisions that have put me in this place, a life that does not include a family.

Maybe it’s that I am done with my book and have realized that I just spilled my guts out to a bunch of strangers, and that the process of spilling those guts was much more painful than I’ve admitted to myself.

Maybe it’s that I found a box of journals the other day, and some of them were written when Ice Ice Baby was considered to be a really cool song. Those journals were written such a very long time ago, and many of my memories feel too far away to touch any more. I don’t want them to be so far away.

And lastly, it is quite possible that I am blubbering because I have been thinking about the wonderful nuns and priests that live in this place, celibate and saintly, and have said to myself “dear Lord, I never asked to be a freaking modern NUN!”

Thankfully, I have been reading the words of Thomas Keating on my retreat, a very famous and wise monk. He points out that when Jesus said “I have come to seek and save the lost,”  lost actually means totally gone, hopeless, not worth giving another thought to, wiped out. I have always been taught that the lost were a group of people, which he might be referring to as well. But it brought new meaning to me today to imagine Jesus coming to seek, to intentionally look for, to save, the deepest, darkest, most hopeless, most wiped out parts of me. To bring redemption to those parts. That the more broken and frustrated and hopeless I am, that’s how much more grace and mercy and love he pours out into those places.

I also read today about Jesus eating with and defending and loving prostitutes and poor people and tax collectors and lepers and children. As I read, the scenes backed away, and I suddenly realized that the room that they were communing together in was my heart. That prostitute that has lost her identity and doesn’t believe she’s beautiful any more. That poor person who begs for scraps of mercy. That tax collector that tries to control his way into getting people to love him. That leper who longs so much to be touched. Those children who just want a daddy to hold them. All of those characters are living inside of me. And they are all so, so scared.

And then I imagined Jesus coming to all those parts of me, saying “I accept all of you. Even though the world has forgotten you, I have not forgotten. Do you have any idea how much I love you? If you were to believe that, to truly believe it, you wouldn’t be so scared. But even now, in all of your fear and all of your faithlessness, there is more than enough love to cover you. Come, sit down. Come eat with me. Feel the warmth of my complete acceptance. I will seek and save that which is lost in you.”

I also read these words from Theresa of Avilla today, “. . .we can never have too much confidence in God, who is so powerful, and so merciful. If I had on my conscience every conceivable crime, I would lose nothing of my confidence, but my heart breaking with love, I would throw myself into the arms of God, and I am certain that I would be well received.”

Oh God, my prayer for today is simply to be certain that I am well received into your strong, strong arms. That you will never let go. That there is nothing so dire that it can’t be redeemed by you. If you could help me believe that now, Lord, that would be enough for today.

Christmas Was Hard This Year…

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There is one Christmas gift that stands out to me more than any of the others I received as a child. It was a beautiful German wedding doll. I remember so clearly looking through the Sears Christmas catalogue and circling that doll with a red marker. Soon after, there was a rectangular shaped Christmas box wrapped under the tree.Through the next few weeks, I would look at the box, trying to decide if it was the right shape and size for my doll. I would hold it in my arms like a baby anticipating what might be inside.

Christmas Eve came, and as was our tradition, we went to the Christmas Eve service and opened presents afterwards. My anticipation had grown and grown over the weeks. For some reason, I felt so much joy when I opened that gift and saw that it was the little doll. It is my most vivid Christmas memory.

Expectation is one of the things that makes Christmas so special. Christmas is not some measly holiday like the fourth of July where you a buy a bunch of sparklers the day before. You take weeks to plan the menu, buy the presents, sing the Christmas carols, put the tree up. You can understand why children get excited. There is an expectation of something magical happening at the end of these weeks. Their wrapped presents bring even more expectation. There are gifts that are right under their noses, but they don’t know what they are. They have to wait in order to find out.

My desire for family, for children, can be seen in that little wedding doll, with her sweet little velvet dress and crowned veil. There has been a present, my most treasured present, under the Christmas tree for a very long time. A present called family.

The expectation over this present grew and grew, especially in my 20s.  But somewhere, after many years, the expectation hit a crescendo and I all but stopped hoping. That present could be empty for all I knew. That present could have the little wedding doll in it, but she might be a disappointment. Or maybe she would bring me great joy. I didn’t know, because all of these years, I was never allowed to open that present.

For some reason, thinking about that doll struck something very deep on me on Christmas this year. I cried when I held my friend’s little boy for a little bit during the Chriistmas Eve service, when he put his little head in the crevice of my neck, in that exact spot where you feel so in love with the child in your arms that your heart is about to explode.

I cried when I drove past my dad’s old house, past the lake where he used to take us iceskating, past the forest where he used to take me to cut down Christmas trees. He died only six weeks ago, and it wass so strange and heartbreaking for me to realize that he really is gone.

I cried when I took a walk through the beautiful snow covered streets of Evergreen where I grew up, missing the puppet shows with my nephews and niece that I used to have who have since moved to North Carolina. Missing the years that I spent with ex-boyfriends with big family gatherings and games and laughter. Missing the husband and children that have not yet been, that may never be. Longing for that like a little girl waking up Christmas morning and seeing that the little rectangular box is gone for some reason that she doesn’t understand.

I couldn’t cry in the house, because my sweet mother sacrificed a lot in this hard financial season to make me and my little brother a wonderful gluten and sugar free Christmas dinner. She tried so hard to make it special for us, and I didn’t want her to have any idea that I was sad. At least I had her to hold on to. Many people don’t even have one person to try to bring joy to their loved ones like the points of hope that look like Christmas lights speckled across the night sky. At least I had that.

I walked back to my house, wiped the tears from my eyes, went upstairs to the very place that I opened that little doll all those Christmases ago, and pulled out my journal. I did what I do every year; made a list of all the gifts that God had given me that year.

There were so many. New friends that had brought me so much joy. Being able to be with family when my father died. Celebrating the life of a dear friend who nearly died but was miraculously spared. This blog, my book, and all the people who have sacrificed to make my dreams happen. Many many gifts. I tried to remember all the gifts that I have been able to open this year, and stop focusing on the one that has been sitting there for so long, the one that I still haven’t been able to open.

Christmas is difficult because it is such a mirror. A mirror of your family, of your life, of all the wishes that you have that are not fulfilled.

All I can say when I write about a Christmas this difficult is that it helped me a lot to be grateful for the gifts in front of me.There will be more Christmases with more gifts to open, and we will all anticipate that coming. There is no anticipation if there is no waiting. There is no fulfillment of joy if there is no waiting. The waiting, the anticipation, is what brings the fulfillment of hope. In the meantime, all we can do is be grateful for the gifts that are in front of us now.

Anyone else have a hard Christmas? It’s okay. Tell us about it. We all need a little family this time of year.

A Safe Place To Rant

 

I want to try an experiment on this post.  I want you to feel full permission to rant in the comments. Let’s make a safe place where we can be honest with our frustrations without feeling like we are negating our faith by doing so.  Pass this on to friends who this would be cathartic for. (If you just want to rant to me without having it posted and I can try to write you back, contact me here.) 

I am almost done with my book that is about being a Christian single.(Sign up for my non inbox clogging newsletter on the right and you be the very first to receive two chapters from the book! )

Originally I wanted to call my book Pissed Like Hip-Hop:Why Christian Singles over Thirty Have Every Right to be Pissed. It would be an intentional rip off of the brilliantly written Blue Like Jazz, partially because Blue Like Jazz is a great title, and partially because that guy made a lot of money off the book and is single and might be flattered.

I chose not to call it Pissed Like Hip-Hop because I didn’t want to sound like a bitter and mean single person. Instead I called it Getting Naked Later:A Guide For the Fully Clothed, which just make me sound really socially awkward.

Even though I did not name my book Pissed Like Hip Hop, I do want to give myself permission to sound a teeny bit bitter and mean for one little post. I want you to know that I am not only writing this post to sound angry at anyone or at God,  I am writing it because I want to validate every person that is single out there reading. I think we single people need to feel understood, even if it is just for a few minutes

At the risk of sounding like I am ranting, I am going to rant.

If this kind of thing makes you mad, you can go read one of my more Godly posts like this one.

So here goes. Let these words resonate with all of their pity party glory.Let the sentence be as naked as I want to be someday.

Being single sucks.

There it is, folks. The sentiment almost every Christian single person has thought many, many times— especially those of us who are over thirty. For decades, it has not been socially acceptable in our world to articulate that sentiment without feeling like children throwing a temper tantrum about our love lives.

And yet, I just said it. I should get a Dove Award or something.

I had a hard time writing that sentence. It makes me sound unspiritual, ungrateful, and untrusting. In fact, I have been thinking about rewriting it many times since I typed it.

I read a good book this week, one that I wouldn’t have had time for if I had a family, so I pondered changing the sentence to “Sometimes being single sucks.”

I babysat five kids today, and I was as frazzled as a one-legged Riverdancer. I thought about adding, “but having a family is difficult too.”

Finally though, I decided to leave it like it is, for all of our sakes. Nothing softening the blow, nothing added to the end of the sentence. Why?

Because someone needs to say it. That’s why.

Here are a few of my rants. I will just stick to some that are on my mind right now.

-Being single sucks when I  feel like I have been perpetually living the life of a college student for the last fifteen years. I have to find a new place to live almost every time the lease comes up.

-Being single sucks when I see a couple kiss. I know that being married is hard, but so is not having any form of touch except side hugs for the last two years.

-Being single sucks because I am alone many, many hours of the day and I have to work pretty hard to have long conversations with people, like make them food or take them out to eat. I would love to make a meal on an average day and have people sitting at the table with me.

-Being single sucks when a scenario like this happens: an single woman at a bible study lets herself be vulnerable and talks about her struggles with feeling lonely. A married member of the group scoffingly says, “Why don’t you take my kids for a day and I’ll go get my nails done.”

(This really happened at a friend’s bible study by the way. What’s that I hear? A collective borderline personality disorder groan from all of my single friends out there?)

-Being single sucks because dating is not really that fun. Especially online dating.  I really hate small talk and I really hate getting my hopes up and I really hate hurting people, so I would rather have my teeth drilled than go on eHarmony first dates. I know, I know, all you married people! Online dating is the ultimate answer to my singleness woes! I know that there are a hundred men waiting for me in the online dating world! But 14 of those men are showing off their beer bellies with their shirts off (I am serious, I have had those matches). 32 say in their profile that they love to mountain bike and travel when in real life they like to mountain bike and travel via their x-box. And 99.6 of them don’t love Jesus like I do. It is actually a very disheartening process.

-Being single sucks when I equate birthdays with my shrinking probability that I will have children.

-Being single sucks when doing research for my book I found countless articles with titles like, Marriage Does not Solve Your Problems, or How to Stop Postponing Your Life, but none called something like, “Why Singleness Sucks.”

Take this quote, for example, which is a paraphrase of one of the above articles.

“When you are looking for a mate you should try to find a comrade, not someone who will give you ultimate contentment. You should find a helpmate, not a healer.”

I read countless sentiments like this in my research. Here’s the thing: I don’t think that I have postponed my life. I have lived a very full life with the hand I have been given. I don’t think I am looking for ultimate contentment or a healer. I know that contentment is something that I have to work out between myself and God and that I shouldn’t project it onto another person. I already have a healer, and I realize that. But I am longing for a comrade, a lifelong companion, a helpmate, a family, and it hurts that I don’t have one yet. Is there something wrong with that? Are my feelings not valid?

And that, my friends, is where I’m going to end this post.I know you’re expecting more from me, but what good is a rant that ends in something wise? Doesn’t that take away all the cathartic glory of a rant?

Instead I’m going to just thank you for listening. I really do feel better now.

Now I want you to feel better too! Rant away!!

P.S.- I just realized that my last two posts have pictures of someone yelling on them, that they are both children, and that they are both throwing their heads to the right. Maybe I need a little  inner healing work, and need to try positioning my head to the left sometimes when I am ranting.