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

Advertisements

In Response to the Death of Rick Warren’s Son: My Battle With Depression

Image

I have thought about writing a post like this for a while. But I kept shying away from it. It seemed so risky.

Risky because I didn’t know how you would respond.

Risky because some of you might believe I don’t trust God.

Risky because people I know and love read my blog and might look at me differently.

Risky because I am a Christian minister of the Gospel. I am not supposed to feel this way.

But after the son of Rick Warren took his life this week, I feel like it is needed.

Henri Nouwen said “what is most personal is most universal.”I love that quote because it gives me courage to say what I have to say, knowing that many of you out there are in the same place. You need to know you are not alone.

So here it is: I have struggled on and off with clinical depression since I was fourteen years old. It is a disease I inherited from my father, who self medicated for many years. I feel so much compassion for my dad, because he never even knew that he needed help. He just thought that he was incredibly sad and that there was nothing he could do about it except self medicate. I am at least blessed enough to recognize that there is something physically wrong with my body, that I don’t have to live like this if I don’t want to, and that I can escape a life of addiction by getting the help I need.

If you knew me, you would be really surprised that I struggle with this. Most people have no idea. As my roommate said to me, it’s not that I hide it, it’s that I fight hard to see that it doesn’t take over my life or ruin my relationships. That’s why people don’t often know.

My first bout with the depression was in middle school. My family was in shambles. My friends at school had all abandoned me. In my mind, I had no reason left to live. I had suicidal thoughts and cried all the time.

Thankfully, about a year later some wonderful believing friends came in and became like family to me, introducing me to Jesus.

I thought that was the end of my depression. I was wrong.

In college, I went through the worst bout of depression I have ever suffered through after a bad break up. I would cry for hours at a time. I would even hit my head on the wall sometimes without wanting to. I didn’t know how to control these emotions. They seemed to overtake me.

Then, I had a life changing experience in Mexico, where God told me that as many times as the ocean waves kept crashing to the shore, that’s how many times he would heal me. I believed him. It changed my life.

That story became my testimony for ten years. I have told that story a hundred times. It always ended it with “I threw away my medication, and I have never been depressed again.”

But I was wrong. That wasn’t the end of my depression.

I felt small bouts of depression throughout those ten years, but I would push them away. These are just attacks of the enemy, I thought. If I just say the right words, (in the name of Jesus! Do not be anxious for anything!) everything will be ok. The leaders in my life supported this kind of thinking. Any time I ever mentioned medication, people looked at me like I was crazy. Of course you don’t need to do that, Kate! Jesus is your everything! Just step into the joy he has already given you! So I tried and tried to do that. It just didn’t always work.

Some time in the middle of those ten years I contracted Lyme disease. I was very sick for seven years, as a lot of you know. The worst symptom was extreme insomnia.  I would go four nights without sleeping day or night, sleep for three hours the next night, then go another four nights. It was like this for six years. It was horrible.

I thought this insomnia was just a symptom of the Lyme disease and that it would go away now that the Lyme disease is cured. But I found out from a psychiatrist recently that the insomnia that was initially from the Lyme disease  actually jacked up the chemicals in my brain until I was suffering from a more permanent disease called cyclothymia. This disease can make me depressed during the day and then revs my brain up so much that I can’t sleep.  Cyclothymia was not a disease that was in conjunction with my inherited depression. It was ON TOP of the other depression, two totally different diseases.

I finally realized that the problems were so bad that I needed to get medication. When I got on the right medication, I started sleeping through night for the first time in years.

Did I stop loving God when I started taking medication? No. Did I stop trusting that God could be my everything and my joy? No. I still love God, just like someone with cancer still loves God when they choose to use radiation.

I have read before that if David were alive today, he would probably have been diagnosed with bipolar. He was an extreme, brilliant man who went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. All symptoms of mental illness. Yet he was a man after God’s own heart. In the midst of David’s bouts of highs and lows he prayed this prayer:  “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5)

David talks to his soul as if it is another person, and I understand that, somehow. My soul feels separate from my true self. My soul is the part of me that gets so sad that I can barely handle it. My soul is the part that feels like I have no hope. But my soul is not all of me. I may never be able to make the sadness go away, but the sadness is not who I  am.

Maybe I can say, like David “Soul, I love you, but you are not the boss. My spirit is the boss. And my spirit says that we are going to get through this. My spirit says that it is not time to give up. My spirit says that we can keep praising God in the midst of our sorrow.”

Are those words a secret formula that will make a physical illness go away? No. They do however depict this truth: even in the midst of emotions that feel out of control and horrible we can still choose hope. We can try to find our spirit in the midst of our soul and ask that spirit to be strong. The sad part of us needs to be loved, but it does not need to be fed. We can visit the same places, but we don’t have to stay there as long.

(If you haven’t read my poem “You Are Stronger Than You Think You Are”  which is actually a response to my battle with depression, you should now, especially if you have similar struggles.)

I want you to look at me, now. I am a worship leader on staff at a church. I have a blog you read. I am an author. I make music and tour. I look totally strong and pretty dang successful. But I have all of this going on inside of me.

How many other people do you think are struggling with hidden depression and other mood disorders in your very own church? My psychiatrist has told me that half the population will have suffered through some kind of depression or other mood disorder in their life. That’s a lot of people hiding a lot of pain. We as the church need to make a safe place so that people feel like they can come forward and heal.

The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book says “When we are crushed by a crisis we could
not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that
either God is everything or else He is nothing. Choose.”

Tragedies make us choose. There is a door of opportunity that has opened before us because of the horrible death Rick Warren’s son.  We as a church can choose  to keep ignoring the problem of mental illness, or we can collectively turn around, our arms open wide, and welcome those that have felt ostracized for years.

Side note: If you didn’t read the last post, my book is here! I think you will love it! You can buy it by clicking the “My Book” tab at the top of this page.

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.

 

What Single People Wish Married People Knew

My friend Jess is a beautiful, single blonde girl who has been a missionary in Italy for 10 years and is 37. One day, an Italian woman, let’s call her Mamma Carmen, came up to her with a little charm necklace that had a picture of a saint on it.

“What’s this?” asked Jess.
(Cue in accent of Italian mama who doesn’t speak much English)
“A necklace for you. A picture of Saint Anthony. ”
“Who is Saint Anthony?”
“Is-a- the patron saint of lost-a things.”
“And what have I lost, Mama Carmen?”
“Oh, you know sveetie. ”
“No I don’t know. What is that I have lost?”
“You lost-a your husband.”
“Mama Carmen, isn’t that usually the saint you pray to for a lost sock or car keys-things like that?”
“Yes, but not for you. For you, pray to him for husband. More important than sock.”

Mama Carmen’s Formula:

“Lost Husband + Praying to Patron Saint of Lost Things + Ten Hail Marys= 1 wedding, 5 socks, 2 spoons, and 1 bracelet you thought you gave to your friend Jill.”

I had my own formula concocting conversation with a ministry leader of mine a few years back. Let’s call her Emily. The conversation looked like this:

“Kate, do you remember our babysitter Joann? Well, she  went through a season of really struggling with being single like you are going through.  She cried and battled  and finally brought her burden to the Lord. She let go.

Two weeks later, she met her husband. And he looks just like Ryan Gosling. ”

I said,”Emily, I am really happy for Joann.  But she is twenty freaking years old.”

“So? What does that have to do with anything?”

I respected and loved this leader, but I just couldn’t brush the comment off this time.

I said “I have had a decade longer than her of wrestling with God over this issue.  In all my wrestling,  I have had several seasons where I have been content as a single person, embracing the thought of God as my husband. But often, those seasons fade, and I’m struggling again. It is a cycle that happens.  I don’t think God laughs at my cycles of frustration. I think he understands. I think He wants to meet me there. ”

Emily continued to argue with me, saying that I  just needed to let go, insinuating that it was  my own fault that I was still single.

I said, “Em, please understand me here. If you had a friend who was not getting pregnant or who was having multiple miscarriages, someone who had been struggling with barrenness for fifteen years, would you say to her ‘If you just trusted the Lord more with your barrenness, he would give you a baby?’ You would never say that! You recognize how much she is mourning that loss, and so you careful with her words. You don’t want to hurt her even more by making her feel like it might be her own fault.

Well at times, I feel barren. Not only barren in my childbearing, but barren as a lover as well. I don’t have children or a husband, and so I really have no immediate blood family. Please, please, be sensitive to this barrenness in me. Please don’t tell me that I have done something wrong in not letting go, and the result of that shortcoming is my barrenness.”

I know that sounds pretty heavy, but it is how many of us feel at times.

In the very thick book of popular theology that is not actually in the Bible, a book I like to call “First Assumptions” , we have this formula:

“Not letting go=being single.
Letting go= being married. ”

Most singles I have talked to have had this formula given to them in one way or another. Many of them dozens of times. Almost every time I mention writing my book on singleness, single people give me some kind of version of this story.

Most of us, when we first heard this formula as a young person, grabbed our journal and bible and went to a quiet place. We turned our sweet young faces to heaven with tears in our eyes and said “Lord, I let go. I give my husband to you.”

Do you know why we were saying this? Because we wanted a husband. And according to the formula, if you wanted a husband, you had to let go of him first. So we were letting go of him in order to get him.

Quite ironic, isn’t it?

But as years passed, when that formula didn’t work, we started cringing when someone told us we just needed to let go. We couldn’t put our finger on why it irked something deep inside of us, but it did.

I have a theory about why it frustrates us so much. At the root of this formula is the idea that all single people have done something wrong and all married people have done something right. Married people, I know you probably never meant to make us feel that way, but it is the nature of that formula.

It kind of reminds me of the story of Job. Here is the formula we can get out of his story.

“Tragically losing everything+wife that is pissed+hideous boils all over your body+annoying friends telling you that you must have done something wrong to deserve this+being totally frustrated and not getting why you’re going through this+God’s booming voice telling  us humans that we don’t know nothing and He doesn’t fit in our formulas and boxes+ praising God even through horrible circumstances and singing “Blessed Be Your Name” = even more stuff than you had before.”

Sound familiar? (Except for the boils part, hopefully.) That story is one of the oldest in the bible. One of it’s lessons? Don’t make formulas. Meet Him, wrestle with Him, praise Him even when you don’t understand, but never, ever, put Him in a box.

As Donald Miller said, “As much as we want to believe we can fix out lives in about as many steps as it takes to make a peanut-butter sandwich, I don’t believe we can.”

My married friend Becca, who is incredibly dear to me, explained to me that married people don’t often have bad motives in their formula making. She said that when human beings don’t understand something, they make formulas. They want to feel like they are giving their friend some control over the situation. They even make their own life journeys into formulas. Sometimes we singles cling to the formulas given to us because we want some control over the situation as well.

I really appreciate that we had this conversation because it reminded me that  married people are not the enemy. They love us.

But out of love, I want our married friends to understand why these formulas are so hard for us to hear.

These formulas makes us feel like our being single has nothing to do with God’s will or our choices or the enemy or any other theory you have on why hard things happen.

It has to do with our lack.

We already struggle with feeling like we lack when we wonder why we haven’t been chosen. Please don’t cut that wound deeper.

This formula also makes us feel like our not being married  has to do with our relationship with the Lord, which evidently is wanting.

For most of us, our relationship with the Lord is the most sacred one that we have. Please, please, don’t criticize that relationship as well. Don’t tear down the one relationship where we feel loved and accepted. Even if you mean well, just don’t do it.

I think a good rule of thumb for both parties is to do less formula making and pat- answering and do more listening. Listening to what the Lord has to say, and listening to each others journeys with compassion.

Restrain yourselves from formulas. But don’t restrain yourselves from giving each other a hug. We probably both need one.

Be encouraged that we all have our own journey, and that all of our journeys our valid.

Christmas: The Great Reminder

I thought I’d repost my token Christmas blog from last year. It is bittersweet reading this now because my dad has passed away this year. Even if Christmas was difficult at times like I mention, I really wish I could still spend it with him this year. Remember this when you are with family…even when it is hard, at least they are with you breathing and alive. That is a gift.

I have two days left of my campaign for my book. I don’t think I’m going to make my goal of 5,000 dollars, but I am only $300 away from $3,000. That would cover a lot of my costs and at least get the book into your hands. Preorder the book now! It will really help me out!

http://www.indiegogo.com/gettingnakedlater/x/1824239

Here is the post:

I really really want to like Christmas.

I try. I close my eyes and say “I have a good life, I have a good life, I have a good life. I like Christmas.”

But it is really really hard to be single at Christmas time. (I am so temped to make some kind of comment about being a “round young virgin.” but that is totally tasteless. And yet, I still had to sneak it in there.)

Did you know that Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of children? Of course he is. Children make Christmas come alive. And so Christmas is often a reminder that I don’t have any. Christmas, for many of us, is the Great Reminder.

For the most part, I like the season of Christmas. I know, I know, Christmas trees came from some pagan tradition and Santa Clause was an invention of controlling money hungry co-ops, but whatever. God is the father of lights. He made those trees and he inspired those lights, and they are lovely.  Santa Clause was inspired originally by Saint Nicholas, a man who took very good care of the poor. In a way,  he inspired the whole world to give gifts to each other.  And so I like the beautiful trees lining Pearl Street where I live. I like that big jolly man that makes children full of anticipation and laughter and reminds us to give to each other.

I love people walking around and singing songs outside of your door. I mean, when does that happen? I would be shocked if a group of strangers came to my door in June and started singing Barry Manilow songs. But no one is shocked this time of year. Because this is the time of year where even strangers are supposed to be kind to each other. And I love that.

And yet, I often don’t like the day of Christmas. That day is the Great Reminder more than any other day of the year.  Sometimes I don’t know where to go. I don’t have my own tree or my own presents under them, because I don’t have my own children and husband to give those presents to. I could put up a Christmas tree just for myself, but that would be pretty depressing.

I used to go to my Dad’s house for Christmas. I love my dad, I really do. But he has never really liked Christmas. At all.  I am the kind of person that always wants to make holidays special. I really, really want to feel like a family. Because they’re all I’ve got.

Now, I usually go to my brother and sister in law’s house. I am very close to them, and I love their children to pieces. So I do have that. That is more than a lot of people have.

A few years ago. my sister in law’s fire dancing troupe needed to practice on Christmas Eve. We went in the backyard with a bunch of hand drums and played the most hippie dancing Christmas carols you can imagine. (We’re all wanna be hippies.) Our very own Christmas fire dancers swung their fire balls and fire batons against the crisp night sky with snow all around us.

That was a high point.

I mean, who gets fire dancers as a Christmas tradition? I do.  In fact, if I ever do have my own family, I’m going to keep that tradition up. “Come on kids, it’s time to wave flaming sticks at each other!”

I am reminded this season that I have a lot and I have a little. If I don’t focus on the a lot, I will be overwhelmed by the little.

I don’t want to end this post with a pat formula saying “if you just remember how wonderful Jesus is, you will forget your loneliness.” That’s not true. Those feelings of loneliness are real and they are difficult. God understands how hard it is. He knows that as of now he is not with us in the flesh. He understands that in this season of remembering the ones you love, sometimes you just want someone to hold you. To actually physically hold you. You want children to open the presents you gave them.  But there is no one to hold you. There is not the laughter of children that makes Christmas come alive.

And it hurts.

But I do want to end with this thought, something I have been thinking about a lot this season.

The chorus of a song I wrote a long time ago goes like this:

“Tell me the story again for the first time

A babe in a manger, who’s really the Savior of all mankind

Tell me the story again for the first time

The passionate God who would live and would die

All because of your love for me.”

Tell me the story again for the first time: The God who could not be contained by the universe came down to be confined to a little baby so that we could hold him close to our heart.

That is more than a story. It is the deepest story. The God who spoke the stars into place lived in that baby.  And he grew up in that confined space to be near to us. He died to be near to us.

That is the most beautiful love story there is. How could it get more beautiful?

It is the story that every other story comes from.

And on Christmas day, just for a while, I want to remember that story instead of how lonely I am. I want Christmas to be the Great Reminder that despite how hard this season is for me, I live in a story that is deeper than any other story.

And I am covered by love that is greater than any other love.

If You Can’t Marry ‘Em, Blog About ‘Em

I have been in thirty three weddings.

I am not talking about how many I’ve been to, but  how many I’ve been in. I was a bridesmaid in some. I am a full time singer songwriter so I have sang and played in many more. Unfortunately, my job in these weddings has never been to walk down the aisle in a white dress. But I tell you what, if I ever get married, I will have lots of ideas to choose from.

Let’s just look at one wedding that I went to a few years ago that is a snapshot of my single life

Two of my dearest friends were getting married. It was a beautiful backyard wedding. Before the wedding started  I was talking to my friend Shannon, a very feisty, happily married 40 year old. This is what Shannon said to me that day, as she gestured towards my curled hair and perfect makeup  and my eggplant colored sleeveless dress that showed off my shoulders

“Kate, you look smoking hot. Too bad it’s just wasted. ”

Most of you that are single are shaking the heads, putting this comment in the mental file called “insensitive things that married people say to single people.” Believe me, that mental file is chock full of comments people have made to me over the years , but this was not one of them. I  was not offended by this remark, because I knew that Shannon meant it as a compliment. What she was saying is “What the heck, Kate? You are wonderful person. I don’t understand why you’re still single. ” People say this to me often.

It is kind of a mystery to all of us.

During the wedding, I sang a love song that I wrote. My married friend Seth came up to me and said “Kate, in that dress, singing that song, any single guy here would want to dance with you. ” I felt very flattered. At the reception, thinking about those two comments as I was eating my chicken a la king, I started to feel very confident, brazen even. I was beautiful. Someone would want to dance with me.

I began to anticipate the dancing that was about to begin. One of those handsome single groomsmen would see me across the room and think “that was the girl who sang her song during the wedding. She fascinates me. I want to dance with her. ” He would walk up shyly and  ask me.  We would step out onto the dance floor and he would gently take my hand. Even that would give me butterflies, since no one has touched my hand in a long time. And then we would move together. Two peopled with different personalities, different weakness’, different strengths, moving as if they were one.

Maybe I would even fall in love.

The time came for the single men to ask the single women to dance.  I stood at the edge of the floor in anticipation like Cinderella at the ball.

No one asked me to dance.

Instead of feeling like the intriguing girl everyone wanted to dance with, I felt more like the Old Maid in that children’s card game- standing alone while everyone else paired up. I could have pulled out my knitting needles and my rocking chair right then and there. I wanted to say “Hey! Single guys! Over here! According to my married friends, this dress makes me look smoking hot! Doesn’t anyone want to dance with me?” I waited, hoping for a falling-in-love-worthy  song. Surely all those groomsmen were just being shy.

Sadly, the next song was anything but romantic. Can you guess what it was? I’ll give you one hint: it has nothing to do with wedded bliss and everything to do with an athletic club.

That’s right folks, the YMCA.

The YMCA seems to be a dance designed for people who can’t dance. A dance that you could do even if you were in a wheelchair.  If you are unable to learn the incredibly complicated 80’s dance that involves hopping up and down alone, you can at least fling your arms out to spell things. “Look at us!” we say. ” Who says we can’t dance? We are so coordinated! We can all spell out the letters for the Young Men’s Christian Association in perfect unison! ”

I was annoyed, but I still I went out there and “danced” with all the other bad dancers.  More accurately I “spelled.” But I wasn’t in perfect unison with them. Instead of YMCA, I was spelling WPCD. A little secret joke between me and myself. White People Can’t Dance.  This has been a tradition for me at weddings ever since then. *

In the songs that followed, I participated in all of the traditional dances performed at caucasian majority weddings. You know, like the squat, the point and squat, the clap point point clap point point point clap point and squat, the hip breaker, the caucasian clap, the point to the Lord, and the fat rebel.

And finally, towards the end of the wedding came the dance I really wanted to participate in, even if it was reminiscent of awkward middle school moments;  slow dancing whities. **

But there would be no slow dancing for me. Not even in my smoking hot dress.

I wanted love, and instead, I got the white man’s overbite.

Seriously God? Seriously?

That night was kind of a snapshot of my life.  The reception started out with me eating at a table with dear friends and loving life.  I laughed. I felt accepted.  I was thankful. But then the dancing came and everyone took their partner . Another pair and another pair and another pair. I sat at the table and slowly ate my wedding cake, an important stance when you don’t want to look like you have nothing to do while everyone is dancing.  I tried really hard not to cry.

I don’t want this to be difficult for me. I want to be satisfied in who I am as a single woman. But when I look at those pairs dancing, no matter how hard I try to fight it,  I don’t feel smoking hot. I feel alone.

Married or single, it is one of our biggest fears to be alone. In a 2005 gallup poll on what people fear the most, the top fears were terrorist attacks, death, failure, nuclear war, and, you guessed it; being alone. All of desire three basic things: To be loved for who we are, to feel like we’re valuable, and to know that we’re not alone. And for some mysterious reason, all of us, married or single, have a really hard time knowing how to give and receive those things.

How do we find hope that is still hope even if it doesn’t end in a wedding dress? How can we prepare ourselves if we do get married? How can we be thankful for where we are today?  What can singles and married people learn from each other to help us cope with this journey? Is a life that has no intimate witness still valuable? If a traditional family never comes to us, are we doomed to loneliness, or can we build our own family?   Does God see me alone at my table, eating my wedding cake? Does He care? Does He feel the same way at times?

These are some of the questions that I want to explore in this blog. I love the thought of you going on this journey with me. Let’s walk fully clothed along this road together.

*I looked up YMCA and wedding on the internet as “research” and found this in Yahoo Answers:

Question: “Do fundamentalist Christians do the YMCA dance at weddings? It just seems like it would be the dance of the devil. Which village people singer do they like the most?”

Best Answer- chosen by asker “The Village People are a creation of Fundamentalist Christians, so yes. They like the construction worker best because the Lord likes hard work. ”

Another not so popular answer was “Fundamental Christians prefer the Hokey Pokey, while pentacostals are hot for the electric slide.”  This is what happens when you do research on the internet.

**All of these moves and more can be seen on the youtube video “How To Dance Like A White Guy.”  Very scientific, incredibly accurate internet research.