Me and My (Betty White) Pheromones

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

“What do you mean?”

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

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

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

“Really what’s your theory?”

“Your pheromones.”

“What about my pheromones?”

“Maybe they are not working right.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No reason.”

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

Here is what happened in no particular order:

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

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

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

4) Four homeless men asked me to marry them.

5) I got stung by 3 bees.

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

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

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

Here are a few thoughts: 

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

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

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

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

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

Questions for you…

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

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

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

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A Question Of Beauty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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.

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.

 

Adventures In Pity Partying

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Today we will talk about pity parties. I have been the event planner for quite a few of these festivities, so I can talk about them with some expertise.

Okay, I’ll stop being modest and just and say it:  I am pretty much the Martha Stewart of pity parties

Here are some of my pity party planning tips:

1) Come depressed. Your goal should be to obsess about how crappy your life is, and to have your guests comfort you as you talk about how crappy your life is.

2) Be selective about who you invite. Don’t include people who will say things like “get over yourself”or “it’s time to move on.” They will ruin everything.

3) Wear the proper outfit. This usually includes glasses, pajamas, and rabbit slippers.

4) Plan your menu! I like to have potato chips as my appetizer, Ben and Jerry’s as the main course, and maybe another kind of Ben and Jerry’s for dessert. An assortment of deep fried foods works great for side dishes. If you want to get especially fancy, add garnishes of marshmallows and tootsie rolls.

5) Mood music is very important! I have a mix tape labeled Kate’s Songs That Allow Her To Wallow In The Depths Of Despair.

This tape contains such classics as:

“All By Myself”- made popular by our mentor,  Bridget Jones.

“Against All Odds”by Phil Collins- you cannot get a more apt song for a pity party than one that contains phrases like “How can you just walk away from me?” “Theres nothing left here to remind me, just the memory of your face,” and “I wish I could make you turn around, turn around and see me cry.” Classic.

“Baby Got Back: by Sir Mixalot- Wait, how did that get on here?

6) Plan some really fun games! My favorites are “Pin the Tail On the X-Boyfriend” and “The Pinata That Looks Remarkably Like Someone I Used To Kiss.”

7) Make sure to light lots of candles. If the pity party goes really well, you and your guests can burn love notes and pictures as the finale of your shindig.

8) If you want to provide party favors, I can hook you up with some nice pity party T-Shirts. I have soft gray ones that you can wear to bed, hot pink ones with sparkles for when you go out with the girls that come in sets of three, and light blue ones that have “Pity Party” written on them very subtly that are especially nice to wear to church. I also have pity party mugs and pity party signature kleenex.

Follow these tips, and you too can have a great (read: pathetic and soul draining) pity party!

In all seriousness, the reason I am such an expert in this area is that I have thrown many pity parties in this season. I am getting older. I don’t have a lot of years left to have biological children. It has been on my mind all the time, and my patient friends (including you, dear readers) have had to endure a lot of conversations about it. I have been walking around saying “how could this be my life?”

This week, the darkness of this season grew to a crescendo when my long time counselor challenged me to really examine what I would do if I never got married and didn’t have biological children. How would I go about rearranging my life if my only choice to have a child was to adopt? She also asked me if I thought that my life would be valuable if I never had a traditional family. It was almost impossible for me to say yes.

I have been devastated for days. At the same time, though, I am recognizing how much these thoughts have been consuming me lately. I haven’t been sleeping very well. My mind has been mulling over my difficult childhood, wondering if that contributed to people not falling in love with me. I have been bitter towards x-boyfriends for rejecting me. I have been doubting God’s goodness and even existence because he was not given this deep desire. In other words, I have been trying to blame anyone I can for my pain.

This difficult counseling session helped purge this deep sadness in me, and also made me realize that I am spiritually “hung over” and exhausted from the pity parties I have been throwing. I have had the mantra “denial and bitterness, denial and bitterness, denial and bitterness” pounding in my head, and it is stealing away my life.

So this week, I have tried to fill my mind with different thoughts. I have literally repeated the words: “acceptance and gratefulness, acceptance and gratefulness, acceptance and gratefulness” in order to replace the other hopeless words.

Someone asked me the other day “if you were to lose everything you haven’t been thankful for this month, what would you have left?” This really humbled me. I realized that I have been focusing so much on everything I don’t have, and missing what I do have.

I realize now that pity parties are okay every once in a while because they allow me  to express my pain, but  parties that celebrate my life are the ones I should throw on  a more regular basis.

Regarding My New Super Human Calves

I have never been a super athletic person.

I was the one in gym class who would cry during games of dodgeball. (I think I would still cry as an adult, too. It is a freaky game.)

I was the one who was picked last for all team sports.

I was the one who threw a bat backwards by mistake, hitting Pam Dispense in the head and sending her to the hospital.

Yeah. I was that kid.

The one thing I was good at was dancing. So the only time I wouldn’t dread PE was when we were square dancing or doing the popcorn dance.

As an adult, even though I love to hike and backpack and am a Zumba instructor, I have quietly avoided most other athletic endeavors. (Being a Zumba instructor makes sense though, since it is so closely related to the popcorn dance.)

But lately I’ve been riding my bike a lot.

This makes me pretty proud, especially because I have always been jealous of bikers. I see them on the side of the road with their tiny little spandex and their super human calves and I think “I wish I could be that cool.”

One day I remembered a friend telling me that I should always pay attention when I am jealous of someone. It usually means they are doing something that I am afraid of. Something I should be brave and do myself.

So I overcame my fear and started biking when I lived in San Francisco. I rode it everywhere. It was one of my favorite things about living in that city. Now that I’m back in Boulder my friend Estee has been taking me on mountain bike rides. I’ve been going almost every other day.

I am honestly still not that good. In fact, I think I closely resemble the girl in the above picture.

But I absolutely love it.

Lately though, I’ve been taking note of what is happening in my head as I’m riding. What I am often thinking about is how people will believe I’m more awesome now that I go on bike rides so often.

I am pondering who I can take with me so they will be impressed by my awesomeness.

When I come home and my roommates ask me what I did that day, I say “Oh, I was just on a bike ride. Again.

And I realize that I am trying to feel valued and seen because of what I do. Not because of who I am.

This is not a new thing. I have lived a lot of my life wanting people to notice things that I am good at, especially guys that I wanted to impress.

I worked at a camp in Colorado for years and years. I have never felt so in my element in all of my life as when I worked at that camp.  Other counselors called me “The Legend.” I loved reaching out to my campers and seeing their lives changed. I loved playing chubby bunnies with them, even if it did mean that they were on the verge of choking at any given moment. I loved singing them to sleep. I have been in touch with some of them for over a decade. I absolutely loved it.

I also loved Bryan, the guy in the blue teepee across the way. And Sam in the red tepee. And I also kind of liked Ben, who helped me start my fires in the morning. Even though my love for the kids was sincere, I was also very aware that being great with kids was something that these handsome counselors had on their what I want in a wife list.

I found out many years later that a lot of those guys secretly really liked helping me light my fires. Sadly, they never asked me out. Maybe I was too much of a legend and scared them off.

Soon after, I became a professional songwriter and worship leader and played in churches and bars and coffee shops and Rainbow Gatherings. I worked hard to write songs that would bring the hope of Jesus without sounding churchy and religious. I sang songs to broken people, comforting them. I wanted to change people’s lives by painting an accurate picture of God to people who had misunderstood him.

But I also wanted to look hot playing my guitar. It is embarrassing to admit that, but its’ true.

I have mentioned before that one of my biggest fears is that people will like me on stage or while I’m teaching or on this blog but will be disappointed in me in real life. And yet, my constant cognizance of other people’s opinions of me is feeding into that fear. It is feeding the lie that I will only be loved for what I do or how talented I am, not for who I am.

Yesterday, as I was riding my bike, I started thinking about flowers. About how there are so many flowers in the world that no one will ever see. God created them just because he loves to create. Not because he needs to impress anyone. Not because they need to be seen. Just because they are beautiful.

I thought “I am like those flowers. Even if no one notices that I am beautiful, God created me. Therefore, I am beautiful.”

I thought “Even if no one sees the new super human calves that I may have one day, I am still awesome.”

I thought “Right now, in this moment, I want to ride my bike just because I love it. Not for anyone else but me and my God.”

So I did.

It was a very good feeling.

Have you ever had experiences with only feeling loved if you do things right? Of living your life trying to please or impress people? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Just an extra note… I just wanted to let you know I am going to Minneapolis the last week in September for the Christian Community Development Association conference. I am looking for another house show and maybe another church to lead worship at. Maybe even a place to stay. If you live in Minneapolis and are interested will you write a note to me here or send me an email via katehurley.com? Also, Aaron Strumpel and I will be doing an Enter the Worship Circle concert on September 25 at Emmaus Road Church 6719 Cedar Lake Road, St. Louis Park, MN. 55426. 7pm.  I’d love to see you all there!

 

My Dysfunctional Relationship

I have to admit something to all of you. You might have assumed from this blog that I have not been in a relationship for a long time. That is not really true. I have been in a relationship for a while now.

My relationship is with a little blog called the sexy celibate.  And it has become a very dysfunctional relationship.

It started out with risk and mystery, like many relationships. I wrote my first post, thinking “Not that many people will read this, but at least it will be a great way to get my thoughts and angst down on paper.”

But on the inside I really wanted people to read it.

There was risk involved from the very first word I wrote down. It was kind of scary. I was putting myself out there. People might read my intimate thoughts and be changed.  Or they might reject me. I might get three hits a day, two of which were my mother. If that happened, I would wonder if I was not a good writer and if the book I was writing would ever be read.

I put up my first post and was surprised that soon after, people were reading my words and even having discussions about what I was writing. It was strangely like when you have a crush on someone. After the initial risk of putting yourself out there, you start realizing that maybe that person likes you back, and that is a very exciting thought.

Around January, some crazy internet explosion happened and I had almost 6000 hits in one day with my article called What Married People Wish Single People Knew (about 20 times more than my average.) The romance and exhilaration of the throes of first love were upon me now. I was in a real relationship. “Lots of people are reading my blog! People like me! They are asking me for dating advice even though I’ve only dated a handful of people in my entire life and secretly know almost nothing about dating! I have purpose! I am valuable! I am loved!”

As in many relationships, after the initial infatuation was wearing off,  dysfunction started to happen. I began to wait for comments like a high school girl waits by the phone for her crush to call her. That’s not good.

My roommate had a friend from out of town over. She said “I don’t meant to seem to seem star struck but I really love your blog. I have practically fallen out of my chair laughing at work reading it.”

Instead of feeling flattered, do you know what my first thought was? “Oh man, I am in my pajamas and  have no make up on, and she’s going to go home and tell people ‘I met that sexy celibate chick and I don’t know why she calls herself sexy. She looks pretty plain to me.'”

The rest of the day, I felt insecure because everything I said felt awkward and not very clever. I thought “dang it, she’s going to go home and say ‘that sexy celibate girl is super bland in real life.'”

Slowly and surely, things started to change. The six thousand hits day was a rarity, and my numbers began to go down and down. “Wait!” I thought “Don’t you still love me? Don’t you still want to read my brilliant thoughts? Maybe I’m not that brilliant. Maybe I’m not even very wise.”

I had a harder and harder time writing posts, feeling like if I wasn’t clever, I wouldn’t be liked. Feeling like I might be a disappointment. I started to realize that “The Removal of the Projections.”  was happening.

My long time counselor has a theory that when you are in love, you not only project your best self for the person to see, you also project an your ideal  person onto your partner. What you see in them is not completely realistic.

Then a season called the removal of the projections happens. Your projection of yourself comes down, and your projection towards the other person is removed as well. There is a lot of control during that period, as both partners want to keep the projections up and continue believing in the figments in their head. They don’t want to see the weakness in their partner or in themselves.

It is much safer to go through the removal of the projections stage when you are dating than after you get married. If you have gone through that stage before you get married, you are more confident that your spouse will stay committed to you because you know that they love you for who you are, not for your projection. (This is another reason to not put marriage pressure on dating too fast, as I will talk about in one of my next posts.)

One of the biggest lies I have believed in my life is that people like me at first- are drawn to my music or my teaching or my personality-but once they get to know me, once the projections come down, they are disappointed. It has especially seemed to be true with almost every romantic relationship I’ve been in.

I have had to replace that lie with truth. When I hear in my head that people won’t like me once I get to know me, I say “People love me more the more they get to know me. I bring good things to people’s lives. If I get married, I will greatly enrich that person’s life.”

I have also had to tell myself that those relationships didn’t fail simply because I wasn’t valuable. They failed because it wasn’t a good match.

Sometimes you have to intentionally replace lies with the truth in order to stay sane.

So dear readers, now you know the truth. I am not always clever. I am not always wise. I am just as clueless as most of you when it comes to love. The projections come down, and really I am just a normal person.

But then I remember one of the reasons I love God so much. He loves me whether or not I am clever or wise. He thinks I’m beautiful even when I am in my PJs with no makeup on. I would be infinitely valuable even if I was in a car accident and was a vegetable my whole life.

Even if people are disappointed with me at times, God always sees me beautiful.

I hope you stay committed to me and my blog even if I am not always clever and wise. I hope you don’t break up with me.

But if you do, I will be okay. Even when projections come down, I am valuable. I am loved. I am precious to my Creator’s heart.

Believing that battles all of my insecurities. I no longer rely on my partner or my friends or my readers to give me value. That takes pressure off my relationships and brings freedom and life.

I am valuable. That is the truth. And it is a truth that no one can take away from me.

Today, I Am Lonely.

“The only cure for grief is a pill called grief. And you have to take your medicine to get better. “-David James Duncan

I just got back from a tour to Oregon and Washington. I led a women’s retreat, taught at churches, and played some house shows. I slept on seven beds in ten days. Hence the blog silence. (For more about what I do for a living, go to my website katehurley.com)

Tours are usually wonderful. I get to travel, do what I love to do, see people’s lives change, visit people that are dear to me. I forget for a while that I don’t have a regular family and I get lost at the wonder of the strange, all over the world family that I do have.

But today I am home.

And today, I am lonely.

Maybe it is that damn website that I went on this morning. When suggesting a password question, it said things like “The place you and your spouse met” or “The name of the maid of honor in your wedding” or “You first child’s birthday.”  I inevitably had to choose “The name of your first cat.” Even if Samone was the best cat in the world, she’s still a friggin’ cat.

Maybe it is that I am working alone for the next few months, trying to figure out what the heck I am doing with my music and ministry next, which is a regular pattern. I love my job at times, but I don’t like how unstable I feel on a regular basis.  I work alone for a few weeks booking music and teaching opportunities, and then I travel alone. The theme here is alone. No team, no partner. I really don’t like working that way. I have had many wonderful journeys because of my job, but they are almost always journeys I walk by myself.

Maybe it is that I have no idea what to put on my phone’s screen saver.  I guess a mountain or something.

Maybe it is that I visited my dear friend Aimee in Oregon. She and I and my other dear friend Kate went through many years of the ups and downs of singleness together. We laughed and wept together. A year and a half  ago, while I was living with Aimee and Kate, they both got engaged the same week. Do you know what was happening in my love life at the time? My boyfriend of two and a half years and I were breaking up.

I was truly, honestly, 100% happy for them. But I was also about 64% sad for myself.

It’s a year and half later. They are both married to absolutely wonderful men.  And they are deliriously happy in their marriages. In my heart of hearts* I am so glad that they share this with me and don’t hide it. I am so glad I don’t hear for the umpteenth time that marriage is so so difficult and that I should appreciate my singleness and that marriage is, as one friend told me “like death.” In fact, on this trip, Aimee said to me that marriage was the best thing she has ever done.

I am 100% happy for her. But I am 76% sad for myself. (My  rule is that the empathy quotient on my singleness frustration is allowed to go up 8% a year.)

Maybe it’s that I walked by a little girl and her mother in the park yesterday, laughing and playing. I ached to have a child, like the prophet Jeremiah said, as if there was a “fire down in my bones.” This happens often when I hear children laugh nowadays.

Maybe it’s that all four roommates in my new house have been on a date since we moved in a month ago. I have not had a date in 1.5 years.

I am 39% happy for them and 82% sad for myself. (I know. Not my normal compassion quotient, but I’m having a bad day, people.)

In an article called “My Secret Grief: Over 35, Single, and Childless” by Melanie Notkin, the author says  “This type of grief, grief that is not accepted or that is silent, is referred to as disenfranchised grief. It’s the grief you don’t feel allowed to mourn, because your loss isn’t clear or understood. You didn’t lose a sibling or a spouse or a parent. But losses that others don’t recognize can be as powerful as the kind that is socially acceptable.”

This sadness, this disenfranchised grief, is what I feel on a semi regular basis. I have not lost a child, but I have never had a child. I have not lost a marriage, but I have never had a lover.

It’s a strange kind of grief, because people don’t often understand it as a loss. It is not socially accepted as a loss. There is not a lot of empathy for it.

It is a loss that is subtle yet constant, like when you suddenly notice birds singing even though they were singing all along.  That’s the kind of loss I am feeling today. Suddenly, I hear my heart aching. A heart that has been quietly seeping out sadness for a long time.

Here’s the part where I say that despite my pain, I am thankful for my singleness.

Here’s the part where I say that married people are lonely too.

Here’s the part where I say that there is a God shaped vacuum in me that only He can fill. (oh wait. That’s not in the Bible. Dang.)

Sorry friends, I’m not going there today.

Today, I am going to have compassion on myself and know that I am experiencing a true, deep loss. Even if it is a “disenfranchised loss” it is a grief that is real and painful.  I don’t have to explain it away or justify it.

Today, I am going to let myself cry.

Today, I am probably going to eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s. (They should make a flavor called I’m Lonely And I Need Ice Cream. Who knows how many millions of dollars those guys have made during our bouts of sadness.)

Tomorrow, it will be wise for me to wake up, take a shower, have coffee with some friends, eat a salad, and remember that my life is still beautiful. If I don’t choose to have a balance, I will get really depressed.

I don’t want to be stuck in this grief on a constant basis. I need to allow myself to have moments of sadness and moments of gratitude. Moments of longing for a family and moments of building a different kind of family. A ying and a yang. (Because ying ying is not a healthy way to live. It is the name of a panda bear.)

But today, I am going to let myself grieve.

Today, I am lonely. And that is okay.

*Side note: where the heck is your heart of hearts? Is that a medical term? Because it sounds sketchy to me.

SPEAKING OF ME PLAYING AND TEACHING: I am teaching and leading worship at a wonderful women’s event called Uniquely Made  April 20 and 21 in Denver. If you are in the area, we are really needing more people to sign up to make it happen.  I’d love for you to come so I can meet you!

The Great Name Changer

I am may things other than a single woman. Lover of God, lover of people, musician by trade, traveler of the world, teacher, friend, avid reader, overcomer of a seven year chronic disease,  lover of nature, worshipper. But “single” is often what I label myself. I’m writing a book abut it, for heaven’s sake. Sometimes that translates in my mind as “rejected.”

I keep thinking about Jacob, whose name means “Supplanter.” In other words “One who wants to be what he is not.”

Not surprisingly, Jacob lived up to his name. He came out of the womb grasping his twin brother Esau’s heal. It seems that even in the first seconds of his life, Jacob wanted to be the firstborn.  In his mind, he was supposed to be firstborn. He worked the rest of his life to “trick” fate, from coercing his brother to trade his inheritance for red stew, to sticking some fur on his arm to get the birthright from his dad.

My trials look different than Jacob’s. Jacob rehearsed over and over in his head the fact that if he had been born seconds earlier, he would have all that he wanted. I go over and over in my head that if I had never been bit by that Lyme ridden tick, if the doctors hadn’t misdiagnosed my disease over and over again, I wouldn’t have wasted all those year of my life. If I wasn’t tortured by the insomnia I have as a result of the lyme disease infecting my brain, I would have all that I want.  If God just gave me a husband that adores me, I would have all that I want. If I had a family that loved the Lord, I would have all that I want. If my relationships didn’t fail and I was never rejected, I would have all that I want. I too have become “One who wants to be what she is not.”

No matter how hard I try, no matter if I say the right words or do the right things or take enough sleep meds or flirt enough or go on enough dates or even “let go” like all my married friends tell me to do, I can’t control God.

I mourn when I think about how I’ve done this. This is the God that I love. This is my Jesus, the one who has tenderly journeyed with me and been faithful to me every second of my life. The one who bled and died so He could be near me while I can’t sleep at night, while I ache for a husband.

And now, in my pain, I have reduced Him to a genie in a bottle who will grant me my wishes if I rub the right way.  Forgive me Lord, forgive me.

In Genesis 32, we see Jacob come to a place called Jabbok, which means “Empty and Alone.” Here, in this place of aching, of not understanding his circumstances, he wrestles with God.

I want to wrestle with God like Jacob did. To ask Him the hard questions that don’t make any sense. To come to Him as lovers might come together, quarreling so that ultimately they will understand each other more. Not for the sake of being right, but for the sake of intimacy. When I wrestle Him,  He will shatter the boxes I have forced him into like a contortionist street performer. He will transform the way that I see Him, and thus He will transform the way I see myself.

When Jacob and God had wrestled with each other all night, Jacob said “I won’t leave until you bless me.”God could have offered riches, fame, wives, many things. But instead, he offered Jacob a new name. Jacob took up the offer gladly. After being called “the one who wants to be someone else”  every day of his life, he didn’t want to live in that identity any more. He wanted a new identity. God changed Jacob’s name to “Israel.” Israel means “One who wrestles with God.”

He is no longer the Supplanter. He is the One Who Has Met With God.

Even if it is difficult, I want to meet with God like this.  I want my new name, my new identity. When I wrestle Him,He will tell me to ask the hard questions.  He might not give me the answers I want. He might not give me any answers.

But it is His choice. He is God.

In the end I know that I want a God that is free. Not a God that beckons when I pray as if the prayers are like spells I can cast on my life by saying the right words. Not a God that I give my offerings to and He answers my plea like the million trinket gods on streets corners around the world. But a God who is bigger than me, stronger than me, who comes down a ladder to wrestle so that we can be close.

And in my wrestling, I may walk away with a limp like Jacob did. But it is better than pushing Him away.

For in my wrestling I will know the God who opens His heart and all things tender and and all things passionate and all things beautiful flow from Him like water.   We will be touching, and sometimes it will hurt,  but I will be changed. I will not know the answers to all my questions, but I will have seen the face of God. And I will see love in His eyes.

Maybe like Jacob, even my name will be changed. I will no longer be called “single” or “rejected.” Because I will have seen His eyes and I will know the truth…

I will be named Beloved.

What names do you give yourself? Divorced, abandoned, sick, widowed, fatherless, failure?

Not any more. Wrestle with your God and know the truth.

Your name is Beloved.