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.

Michelle On The Isle ‘O Singleness

You should give him a chance. Even if he doesn’t have hair like Rick Astley.

(For the post that inspired this story, go to “Throw Away Your List (Or Just Rewrite It)”where I talk about being selective when it comes to important things like kindness and compatibility, but to be lenient with shallow things, such as the way they look or their lack of hair or their taste in music. As my friend Jude says “Compromising is very different from negotiating.” You should never compromise the important things, but you should allow yourself to negotiate when it comes to the not so important things. Not everyone is Rick Astley, and you shouldn’t expect them to be.)

Michelle was shipwrecked on the Isle Of Singleness. She was stranded there for a long time and was very lonely. She prayed and said “God, please send me a perfect man to get me off of this island.” Soon, a man in a  speedboat came along. He was very kind and dedicated. But he was listening to Celine Deon on the radio. He said “Michelle, I have come a very long way to take you off of this island.” She told him “thanks for the offer, but God is going to send me the perfect man. And the perfect man cannot be listening to bad diva music.”

Soon, another man came in a rowboat.  He was great with children and had a wonderful sense of humor. But he was balding a little bit. He said “My darling Michelle, I have rowed many hundreds of miles to rescue you off of this island.” She replied “I appreciate what you have done, but God is going to send me the perfect man to get me off of this island. He has to have hair in all of the right places. Namely a lot on his head, and none on his back. Now why don’t you just take your little bald head and row right back to the mainland.” 

Finally, a man came swimming to the shore. He had a huge heart and an incredible faith. Breathlessly, he threw his arms around her and said “Michelle, you are the woman of my dreams. I swam five hundred miles, and then I swam five hundred more just to be the man to swim a thousand miles and fall down at your door. I also strapped a romantic picnic dinner, your hairdryer, and your favorite chick flicks on my back.” 

Michelle replied “What, no flowers?” 

Michelle stayed on the island many years. Finally she shook her fist at the sky.”God, why haven’t you sent me the perfect man to save me?” 

He said  “I sent you a potential husband in a speedboat, a potential husband in a rowboat, and a potential husband who swam a thousand miles to fall down at your door.”

“But God,” Michelle replied, “none of those men fit everything on my list!’

God said, “If you ever want to get off of this island, you’re going to have to write a new list.”

Married people, I’d especially love to hear your stories on this topic. How did you idea of a “perfect mate” change when you met your husband or wife? What do you think is important to look at when a single person is considering someone to marry?

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 Framed Picture I Have on My Wall

The cover of my last album, “Weak and Strong at the Same Time” is very special to me. (You can also look this album up on itunes.)  It is a drawn picture of a girl who looks like me. She is wearing rags, and she is looking into a mirror. On the other side of the mirror is another image of the same girl, but she is dressed in a gold and purple robe. She reaches her hand towards the poor version of herself, a look of compassion and love on her face.

Often people miss this little detail,  but on the wall, there is a small framed picture. It is a picture of the same girl in her rags, running towards a man in a purple and gold robe.

Her father.

This is the Prodigal Daughter. (See Luke 5:11-32) She is coming back to her old room after being surprised by her glorious homecoming. By the all encompassing love of a father she thought had disowned her. And now, because of that love, she sees herself differently.

I used to have a hard time relating to this story, even though I loved it. I’ve been pretty good most of my life. I haven’t run away from my Father’s house, squandering his inheritance, and I haven’t had much loose living, either. I have worked for the kingdom in my Father’s house since I was adopted into it at 16 years old. I’ve never really wanted to run away.

But there are times that I have wondered why, when I have served Him my whole life, He has not answered the most consistent prayer of my life : the prayer for a family. When I was sick with Lyme disease for seven years, I also wondered over and over again why He wasn’t making me better and healing my severe, chronic insomnia and the pain that racked my body.

Forget this whole grace thing.  I wanted God to see my good works and reward me.

One day I read this same passage, but this time I tried relating to the older son instead of the prodigal son. It changed the entire story for me.

The older son is working in the fields (as always) when the his brother comes home. When the older son finally angrily talks to his father about his brother’s homecoming,  he says” I have slaved for you all these years. But you have not given me anything. Nothing.”

The Father’s response is so loving, and yet so poignant. “My son ALL that I have is yours.”

In effect, He says “There is nothing that I have that doesn’t belong to you. ”

Reading the passage in this light, I suddenly saw a picture of the older son, as if in a movie. He was slaving away in the fields day after day. He would come home for dinner, but would sit at the far end of the table and barely talk to the Father.  He would pass his father in the hallway, with the Father longing to hold him, but he would just brush past and go to his room, wallowing in his self made prison. This is what was happening in the home of my heart, as well.

Henri Nouwen says”Returning home from a lustful escapade seems so much easier that returning home from a cold anger that has rooted itself in the deepest corners of my being. ”

Here is the real question that I need to ask myself: is it God that is not good, or is it my perspective that is not good?

Look at the story. Both of these sons felt like the only way that they could be loved by the father was to be His slave. (Even the prodigal thinks his father will only accept him is if he comes home as a slave.) But this good, good father never wanted slaves. He wanted sons.  In both the case of the rebellious son and the case of the religious son, He wants to run to them, yelling at the top of his lungs “my child, my child! You’ve come home to me!” He wants to lavish his love on them, spinning them around until they are dizzy with His love, falling down with them, laughing. He wants to celebrate with them the immense joy that comes at the end of a long, hard journey.

He wants his sons to understand that now and forever, everything He has is theirs. They don’t have to steal His inheritance, they don’t have to slave for His inheritance,  they already have it.

No, this is not the picture of a bad father, as the older son tried to paint. It is the picture of the most loving father that has ever lived.

The father’s heart was never in the wrong. Our perspectives were wrong.

I have a friend who was asked question centered around the problem of evil. Her answer was the best one I’ve ever heard, one I have thought of over and over again.

“You know, I don’t really have a good answer to that question. But I do know this.  One day, when we see God face to face, no one will be able to deny His goodness.”

I don’t understand why I’m not married, why I don’t have children. I don’t understand why there was divorce and pain in my family growing up. I don’t understand I was sick for so many years.I don’t understand why all my relationships have ended in breakups. I  don’t understand why there is poverty or slavery in the world. I may never understand these things in my lifetime.

But when I see Him face to face, there will be no doubt in my mind that He is good.

As good old Henri  says, “I am beginning now to see how radically the character of my spiritual journey will change when I no longer think of God as hiding out (or holding out) and making it as difficult as possible to find him, but instead, as the one looking for me while I am doing the hiding.  When I look through God’s eyes at my lost self and discover God’s joy at my coming home, then my life may become less anguished and more trusting. ”

The Father reaches out to us. He says ” I never asked you to be a slave. All I ever wanted was for you to be my child. Don’t hide behind your good deeds, behind your broken dreams, behind your bitterness. Choose to look beyond that which you don’t understand and believe in my goodness. Come, eat at my table. When you pass me in the hallway of our house, let me hold you.

Child, please believe me. All that I have is yours.”

If we choose to come home to His arms, the next time we look in the mirror,  we will not see someone in rags, bitter and torn. We will see ourselves as the Father sees us. Beautiful. Compassionate towards ourselves and others. And wearing His robe. Wearing His identity. No longer a slave, no longer focused on the what we don’t understand, but focused on being His Beloved Child.

The way that we see God will change everything. Like the beggar girl looking into a mirror and seeing someone beautiful, the way that wee see God will even change the way that we see ourselves.

Valentine’s Day Vs. The Single’s Lib Movement

It’s almost Valentine’s Day.  I have slowly but surely identified myself as the Sexy Celibate, much to the chagrin and constant teasing of my friends. Except I don’t really know what chagrin means.

And so, I am required to write about this holiday: the holiday in which most singles are pretty mad at the world. Here I am. Ready to write the Angry Blog Post.

Actually, because I love you all, I’m going to do more than write the Angry Blog Post.  I am going to be the instigator and leader of the Angry Singles Protest.

Time magazine named “The Protester” the 2011 Person of the Year. (This was a fascinating article by the way. I highly recommend it.) There have been more protests this past year than in all of history. One street vendor protesting in Tunisia inspired a protest in Egypt (which was greatly fueled by Facebook) which sparked protests in Spain and Greece and England, and then helped inspire the Occupy movement here in the U.S.

And today, thanks to me, a new movement has started: The Singles Lib Movement. We, the single people, are ready to wage war against the Valentine’s Day Machine. I, your fearless leader, am ready and waiting for you to come in droves to my headquarters in Boulder.

I’ve already made signs. “Singles Pride!” “Singles are people too!” and “I’m so angry, I made a sign!”

We will build bonfires and burn cheesy valentines and wedding magazines. We will march around in front of Hallmark stores, chanting “Hell no, we won’t vow!” We will write a Singles Manifesto and yell it out to all of those couples  trying to enter the store, holding hands and looking at us with dumbfounded expressions.*

(*Let me sheepishly add an important note here: we won’t be able to protest the Hallmark store on February 15th. That’s the day that all the chocolates go on sale, a day that I fondly refer to as Eat Ridiculous Amounts of Chocolate Day. It is my favorite day of the year. I wouldn’t want to ruin it by being thrown in jail.)

But on Valentine’s Day, we will PROTEST and we will PROTEST HARD!

Oh wait. I forgot one little thing. I follow the teachings of Jesus. Dang. I guess that means I’ll have to shut my headquarters and also probably my protesting, angry mouth.

I’m not saying that Jesus wouldn’t protest. In fact, he is the Great Protester. Of legalism. Of hatred. Of poverty. Of separation from God. Of bigotry, sexism, racism.  But always, always, he protests with the underlying motivation of love.

As I mentioned in another post, married people and couples aren’t the enemy. They get lonely too. Probably a lot of people around you have people to spend Valentine’s day with, but are struggling with the holiday because it can be a mirror of their unhappiness if romance is lacking. We need to remember them. Even the couples that are very happy and are flaunting their flowers and cards and expressing lots of public displays of affection aren’t the enemy.

We are all family.

I have a little secret to tell. I kind of like Valentine’s Day. Back in college I decided to make it a day of love for whoever was in front of me, whether it be God or friends or a boyfriend or people who were lonely.

There was the first year when I went to my special “me and God” places all over my city, singing a song of remembrance at each place. I tried to leave marks of remembrance.at each place as well. I really, honest to God, carved a verse in the bottom of the altar at my college chapel. It’s still there, I’ve looked. Apparently God doesn’t mind the act of defacing public property on Valentine’s Day,  because I haven’t been struck by lightening or anything.

There was the year that my friend and I  bought a huge bouquet of flowers and left a few flowers on each of the doorsteps around our dorm.

There was the year when my best single girl friends made dinner for my best single guy friends. They surprised us with flowers. We went around and told each person what we loved about them.  We also went swing dancing which was ridiculously fun.

There were the two years that some married friends invited me and my other single friend over and all their kids gave us valentines and chocolates and we watched war movies because they could potentially get our minds off of love. (Except we would inevitably follow them up with a chick flick because we liked those better.)

Then there was last year, when my  friend and I bought some flowers and gave them out to homeless people and other lonely people standing on the streets or in shops and asked them about their lives. Some of them were close to tears. Almost all of them said “this was the only valentine I got today! Thank you.”

Granted, I wasn’t quite so excited about the two years that the most serious boyfriends of my life broke up with me the week before Valentine’s Day. That was pretty horrible. But one of those years was the same year that I handed out the lonely people flowers, and that made me feel a lot better.

Granted, just like most of you, Valentine’s Day does make me aware that I am single and can make me really sad.

So maybe it’s ok to have a pity party for a while. But let’s make a pact to not let it last the whole day. Maybe we should limit it to an hour or so.  After that, I think it would be healthy  to make Valentine’s Day a practice for how we should live every day: able to get our eyes off of ourselves for a moment and think about people who are lonelier than we are. To think about the people in our lives that do love us. Jesus asks us to love, and this is a really good day to do just that.

Plus, celebrating the people we love is a really backhanded way to stick it to the big bad companies that made up Valentine’s Day so that they could get boatloads of money. And we’ll spend lots of money doing it.  That’ll show ’em!

By the end of the day, if you are still struggling with all of the reminders of how single you are,  remember, you’re only a few hours away from Eat Ridiculous Amounts of Chocolates Day.

Thirty, Flirty, and Fertile (Part I)

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Recently, my roommates and I (all of whom are over 30 and single) went to a 90s roller skating party.  At first, we couldn’t think of  what to wear. We decided to look online for inspiration. Suddenly many bad fashion memories came back to us.  The Jennifer Anniston haircut. The little plastic circle that you could slip onto your t-shirt to make it look almost like you tied it, but not quite. The hat with the big sunflower it that could have come right off the show “Blossom.”

My roommate Jess decided to go for the mid 90’s grunge look. She had a morose spirit hanging over her that was obviously inspired by Pearl Jam. Jess dressed the part perfectly with cotton leggings, converse, and an oversized flannel shirt. (I recently learned that the flannel shirt craze was inspired by Kurt Cobain. When Cobain was asked why he wore them, he said “I live in Seattle. I get cold.”) The little detail that pulled Jess’ look together was a velvet ribbon choker with a cross on it.  She parted her bangs down the middle, put some black makeup around her eyes, and wore bright red lipstick.

At first I was amused when I saw her outfit.  I thought to myself ” that looks just like what I wore almost every day when I was in college.”

Then, I had my first freak out of the night. ” THAT LOOKS JUST LIKE WHAT I WORE ALMOST EVERY DAY WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE!” What? How could this be? How could we be going to a decade theme party and I was having flashbacks of my high school and college days?

I started counting backward. Twenty years since the early 90’s. TWENTY YEARS?  Is it possible? I began to realize that going to this party was the equivalent of my mom going to a “Remember the 60’s” party when I was growing up.  I honestly couldn’t believe it.

I calmed myself down, gathered up my courage, put on my florescent orange shirt, applied a ridiculous amount of hairspray,  and headed off to the party.

I got even more freaked out once we got there.  This rollerskating joint  looked like every single rollerskating place I ever went to when I was in middle school.

The orange carpet. The disco balls and lights that put patterns on the dance floor. The brown roller skates that have dangerous orange shoelaces that are way too long.  (Doesn’t anyone even TEST those roller skates? There are CHILDREN wearing these things, for heaven’s sake!) The people going at very high speeds who suddenly swerve around the gateway on the verge of crashing, flashing a smile at you to cover up the fact that they are about to knock six people over. The couples holding hands. The awkward people inching forward very slowly along the walls, trying to pretend they have some semblance of balance.   The inevitable game of crack the whip where a line of people skate around in circles, forgetting that the unfortunate person at the end of the line is rolling so fast that they could at any moment be propelled against the wall.

I went out to skate and found myself wondering (in a very teen-agery way)  if anyone was watching me. I was quite cognizant of the way I smoothly ran my wheels across the floor, how hot I probably looked in my 90’s shirt with one sleeve, how all the 25 year old guys there probably had no idea that I was in High School in the 90s because I still looked so young and vivacious. But those thoughts all stopped abruptly because my too long shoe laces got caught up in my wheels and I fell flat on my face.

Just like in middle school.

After I brushed myself off and started making another lap,  I started listening to the music that was playing.

Even. More. Freaked. Out.

I know Ice Ice Baby was from the 90’s It seems like it belongs in the 90’s. The same goes for Milli Vanilli and Can’t Touch This. But what about Mr. Jones by Counting Crows? Semi Charmed Kinda Life?  One Headlight by the Wallflowers? It does not seem like fifteen plus years since I first heard those songs.

I came home from that party feeling pretty old.

People say to me all the time “Well, age doesn’t matter. It’s just a number.”

You know what my response always is?

“Tell that to my uterus. ”

….To Be Continued

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.