Playing With The Hand We’ve Been Given

Cards

Glennon Doyle gives us this remarkable bit of wisdom in her post called The Lie and the Truth about Marriage.

Love Does Not Just Happen. It’s Forged.

Our romantic love drenched culture tells us that you fall in love. Falling is not something you do by choice. It happens to you. Falling is even kind of a mistake, something that you didn’t control. It implies happenstance. It hints at destiny. Falling is euphoric and dreamy. It starts out exhilarating and makes you feel alive.

But falling ends. Often abruptly and with a lot of pain.

Forging is such a different verb than falling. Forging’s definition is to form by heating and hammering; to beat into shape. Forging involves taking something that is broken and making it beautiful by putting energy into it time after time. Every day it is work. Some days it is a fight. You have to go against the grain and challenge your own comfort in order to forge.

I read this salient sentiment, loved it, and put it in my mental file marked things to remember if and when I finally get married. I didn’t think I would have to use it sooner than that.

But I went on a radio show recently and mentioned the love isn’t something that happens to you idea. Later in the interview, I talked about how even though singleness was difficult, I was fighting hard to make my life beautiful.

A listener emailed me and said something to the effect of “maybe the work of the single person is not to forge love for a partner, but to forge a beautiful life even when life is nothing like we expected it to be.” This resonated deeply with me.

We can then reword Glenon’s phrase to say

A beautiful life does not just happen. It is forged.

I am in a season in which I am forming my life by beating and heating hammering. For over a decade, I had what most people would call a dream job: traveling all over the world to beautiful places like Hawaii and Italy and Switzerland and Brazil to play music and teach. Even though I love traveling and I love playing music and teaching, I realized it was not going to be sustainable much longer. I was going on these beautiful adventures, and I was grateful for that,  but I was always alone. I would come home to roommate situations much like every roommate situation in America: people I barely ever saw. And I had tons of free time on my hands to write, again an alone experience. I was deeply, crazily lonely.

Like most of us, I thought that the fault of my loneliness was my status as a single. Some of that was justified: married people, especially those with children, simply do not spend as much time alone as I do. They have different problems, but being alone 80% of their day is not one of them. 

After many, many years waiting day after day after freaking day for my partner to finally come to me, I realized that I was going to have to find a family some other way, or else I would be miserable. I realized that I can’t get a husband the same way I got my degree. No matter how hard I worked at it, it just was not happening for me to get married. Those were not the cards I was handed. They might be someday, but not yet. I realized that my present life had been a series of moments where I longed for a future life. What kind of life was that? The waiting had taken over. Something had to change.

I had learned from my al- anon meetings (for family members of alcoholics) the life altering adage that the entire group repeats every week: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I took a good hard look at my life, and tried to figure out what I couldn’t change. I can’t make anyone love me. I can’t will myself to get married unless someone chooses me. I can’t have children without a partner unless I adopt.

What could I change: I can find work that is not so lonely. I can spend time and energy and even money to get as emotionally and spiritually healthy as possible. I can figure out ways to have children in my life even if they are not my own children, and can start organizing my life in such a way that I could potentially adopt. I can put myself in situations where I could meet potential partners but try my hardest not to be devestated if they are not interested romantically. I can minister more consistently to spiritual seekers, something that has brought life to me for years but has been sporadic. I can live and be in fellowship with people who deeply care about intentional community who can be kind of a surrogate family for me. 

And so I changed everything. I started working at an afterschool program, giving up most of my traveling and making less money in order to have human contact and moved onto a community farm. A year later, I took a further step my moving to San Diego in order to work with an organization that centers their lives around intentional community. (betacommunities.com.) I started volunteering to tutor and teach dance and music classes to teens at a refugee center.

My plan is to start a similar team in Asheville, North Carolina where my brother and sister in law live so that I can continue to live in community, continue to minister to at risk teens and spiritual seekers, and to be near my nephews and niece so I can have blood children whose lives I am deeply involved in. I will not travel as much, which is hard for me, but I will have consistency in community, something I desperately need. (If anyone might be interested in participating in a team like this, let me know.)

This move wasn’t easy. I had to give up an impressive, fun job where people don’t know me but are impressed by me. That felt good, but it wasn’t valuable in the long run. I had to give up a life of familiarity in a hip town with dear friends. But sacrifices needed to made for me to forge a new life. 

We live in a society that is obsessed with comfort and independence, which can often lead to isolation. If we were left to bob around in the ocean of singleness, it would be very easy for us to end up in jobs we don’t like, living with roommates we barely know, going to churches that may look like community but where one on one relationships aren’t invested in, watching TV and diving into Facebook to ease our deep hunger for contact. That is the path of least resistance, and eventually we might drown in that reality.

We need to go against the grain. We need to swim against the waves to the shore of interdependence. 

We need to stop asking for a good life to fall on us and start trying to forge a good life.

Cheryl Strayed says “You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding.”

And so God, give us the serenity to accept the hand that we have been given, but to do everything in our power to play the hell out of those cards.

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

I thought I would repost my very first post on this blog as I know a lot of you haven’t read it yet.

By the way, if you haven’t bought my book Getting Naked Later: A Guide for the Fully Clothed you can buy it here. Also, you should check out the reviews! I’ve gotten six 5 star reviews since it came out a month ago!

I have been in thirty three weddings.

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

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

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

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

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

It is kind of a mystery to all of us.

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

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

Maybe I would even fall in love.

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

No one asked me to dance.

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

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

That’s right folks, the YMCA.

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

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

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

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

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

Seriously God? Seriously?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adventures in Online Dating Part I

Image

Before I post, I wanted to let you know that I am trying to play some concerts and/or house shows for my new CD, which contains all songs in which God is speaking. All inspired by scriptures where God is speaking truth and hope over us. I can also lead worship at churches. I can also teach and put on great retreats for women, worship teams, singles groups, youth groups, anything you’d like! I AM ESPECIALLY LOOKING FOR POSSIBILITIES IN THE SEATTLE PORTLAND AREA AND IN NORTH CAROLINA. If you are interested, please go to my website and shoot me a message! Ok here goes the post!

You knew that the topic of this post was coming. It has been lurking behind the scenes for months, ready to pounce on all of my readers like a whitewashed vampire in a haunted house.

It’s inevitable. I am in my thirties and single and it is the 21st century. It had to happen.

That’s right folks, I am stooping down to the lowest of the low points. I am going to try online dating.

It all started yesterday. My friend Rosie was going on a date with a guy she met on okay cupid. I started scrolling through some of the people on the front page. One guy in particular looked intriguing. Christian. Handsome. Career oriented. In my mind, his name was Ramon, since that is the name of the imaginary boyfriend that I talk about occasionally. “Maybe I’d try this some time,” I thought out loud.

Before I knew what was happening,  Rosie slyly asked me what my email address was and what password I often use, copied some of my pictures on facebook, and voila!  The whole world now has physical proof that I am desperate, like a girl on a desert Island who finally decides to eat snails.

I will admit this is not my first time on the exhausting online dating treadmill. I tried eharmony once. I gathered up the courage to go on one date. The guy was wearing an over sized blue suit, didn’t ask me one question in over an hour, and had created an ap that helped you hit on people in bars. I am not joking. It would tell you if there was someone your type in the bar who had the same ap. It didn’t work out, but that guy is probably a millionaire now.

For some reason, that date didn’t seem worth the sixty dollars I spent for the first few months, along with the sixty dollars I spent when they automatically renewed my subscription without my permission.

Awesome.

Okaycupid is a website that is even further down the already low low ladder rungs of online dating. It is worse than eharmony in that it is free. That is dangerous. Any guy who says “hey you know, I really want to find a broad to go on a nice date with, maybe even get hitched, but I don’t really want to pay any money to do that stuff” is not going to buy me dinner. No way.

This particular website started out by asking you a whole lot of questions, which I actually like. You need to weed people out somehow. They literally have hundreds of questions you can answer.

When the question was asked “Which is bigger, the sun or the earth?” I knew that I might be in for a rude awakening of how stupid some of my potential dates would be. I marked that question as “very important” to me, meaning that it was very important that my potential date got this question right. My reasoning being that someone who doesn’t know if the sun is bigger than the earth is definitely not going to be able to figure out how to change a diaper.

One of the next questions said, “if you were to turn your left glove inside out, would it fit on your left hand or your right hand?” I was too lazy to get up and try a glove on. There was no option that said “It can go on either hand, especially if you are good at putting your hand in a awkward position,” which is obviously the right answer. I skipped that question, knowing full well that it was not a good indication of whether I would make a quality life partner or not.

I finished a hundred questions. Within 2.5 minutes, I had three messages.

Message #1 was from a guy that asked me if I was into younger guys. Occasionally, I wanted to say, but not one that looks like you.

Message #2 was from a guy that said, “for you, beautiful girl” that had a link on it to a youtube video of a Melissa Etheridge song from 1988. If you listened carefully to the words, you realized that Melissa was actually talking about breaking up with someone. Winner.

Message #3 was from a charming man that had a picture of himself standing in front of his house with no shirt on. You’d think that might be a good idea if you have a six pack, but not if you have a beer belly.

In that 2.5 minutes, I also got matched with a friend of mine. Great. He will be the first one to know that I am willing to eat snails.

The only thing I was excited about was searching for Ramon. I searched and searched for him. I searched for words that I remembered being in his profile. I searched for his profile name. He was nowhere. You know why? Because Ramon is not real. The Okaycupid people made him up so that I would be intrigued and try it out. Oh Ramon, come back to me!

Now that Ramon is out of the picture, I have several legitimate excuses explaining why this is not a good idea. I will have to lower my standards. I will have to shave my legs. And my best and most holy excuse? If I do this, it would bring into question my trust in of the sovereignty of God. How could I think God was sovereign if I was forcing my love life to happen? Good one, Kate. Good one.

We’ll see if the excuses win out. You might be hearing more about this topic, friends. Even if you don’t want to.

Okay. Let the comment games begin. Your worst online matches. Your worst online dates. Ready, go.

Do I Really Need A Minivan In The Game Of Life?

Image

I was playing cards with my little friend Isabella the other day. We were playing Old Maid.

You know the game: each person has a set of cards. You draw from the other player, and lay down the pairs that you find. Twos twos twos. There is a sense of anticipation every time a card is drawn from the other player’s hand. Who will pair up next?

Another pair, and another pair, and another pair. Each laid down, one right next to the other.

There was one card left in my hand at the end of the game. The Old Maid. The card had a picture an older woman surrounded by cats. Apparently cats are the only creatures that will live with single ladies that are mature in age.

Isabella pointed at me and said “Look Kate! You have the Old Maid! That means you are the loser.

I didn’t know what to do with this statement, or with this game. I don’t usually mind losing games to five year olds. But I was a little more sensitive about losing this time. “Am I the loser?” I thought.

I decided to lean more about the history of the game. Here’s what I found out: it is a very old victorian game. There are versions around the world, many with different names. In Brazil, it goes by the flattering name Stink. The English version is called Scabby Queen, a name brings up even worse images than the picture of the American cat lady. And my personal favorite, the French version that is known as Le Pouilleux, which means the louse. Just in case you don’t know what that is, it’s a parasitic insect. Another word for louse is cootie. Awesome.

In my research, I also found pictures of some vintage Old Maid games. My favorite was a 1940‘s deck that had wonderful cartoons of very attractive curvy women. One woman was riding on an airplane. Another was surfing. A third looked like a successful business lady.

The Old Maid? A little old single lady, sitting in a rocking chair knitting, which is quite appropriate, since that is where the word spinster comes from. One who spins. It seems that single people who are a little older have nothing better to do than sit in a rocking chair and knit some booties for their favorite nephew.

A few weeks after this incident, I was playing another game with my ten year old friend, Collin. The Game Of Life. This game has versions of it dating all the way back to 1860. It has a track in which players move in little plastic cars through various life scenarios. Consequently, in the late 80’s the game changed the car from a convertible to a Chrysler-esque minivan.

“Wait a second.” I said to Collin. “What if I want a four wheel drive Subaru instead of a minivan?” Collin retorted “you have to have a mini van in the game of life.”

Well, I realized, it makes sense that you need to have decent leg space in your car, since you have to put your growing family in it.

This family is acquired towards the beginning of the game, when you hit a stop sign in front of a three dimensional chapel. It is here that you must get married and put a new blue or pink peg beside you in your minivan.  I looked at Collin and said “Hey, what if I don’t want to get married? Or what if, by some crazy turn of circumstances, it just doesn’t happen for me?” Collin gave me a quizzical look and said, “You can’t do that Kate! You have to get married in the game of life.”

It’s true. I did. If I didn’t, I would be stuck at the beginning of the game. Forever. I gave in, but mostly because you get $5,000 worth of wedding gifts on the next space.

At the end of the game, the bank paid out money for various things. I wasn’t at all surprised that you received a decent amount for each child that you were able to raise in your minivan. It seems that in the game of life, he who dies with the most kids gets the most cash.

Really, Milton Bradley? Really?

These are some of the stereotypes that are placed in our minds at a very young age, and I admit I can relate to some of them. Like the Old Maid, I have seen my friends pair up two by two. I am not as old as she is, but I am in my thirties, which is pretty old to be single, especially in Christian circles. And yes, I do put my knitted creations on etsy.

But that’s where the similarities stop. I hate cats, I have many other things to do with my time than sit in a rocking chair, and I am really, honestly, not a loser.

Those are good signs that I am not really an Old Maid, right?

There are also things in The Game of Life that I can relate to. I often feel like society says to me “You’re not married? You don’t have children? How could you possibly ride around in your plastic car with one lonely plastic peg in it? Is there something wrong? Are you going to get stuck at the beginning of life and never move on to the rest of your game because of your singleness?”

At this point, I have no idea if I will ever get married. I have stopped trying to control it. I do know that I want to make a new game of life. One in which I can go anywhere I want to go, even if no one is with me in the plastic minivan.

Anyone else out there have childhood memories that made it feel like being married was the only thing that would bring happiness or value to your life?

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

Image

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.

The Case For Thankfulness

Image

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, thank you, that would suffice. ” ~Meister Eckhart

This morning, I went to ride my bike along Coal Creek trail, which is about thirty feet from my house. The weather was perfect. The sun was lighting up the lush scenery like an ethereal baptism. I could hear the rush of the creek beside me and it sounded like hope.

And there were gnats. Lots of lots of gnats. Like millions of them. I would be enjoying the ride until I would hit pockets of the tiny little nuisances. They would smack me in the face like a sultry woman in a bad soap opera.

I kept thinking “Dang it! This ride would be perfect if it weren’t for the gnats.” It is all I could think about the whole ride, even debating in my head why a good God would create annoying bugs that sometimes ruin my outdoor experiences.

I stopped at my J tree by the water, which is, as expected, a tree that looks like a J.

Still frustrated with those gnats, I leaned against my tree and breathed in deep.

It’s a funny thing, air. It always surrounds us, but we seldom ever remember that it’s there. We take it for granted. Literally, we think that it has been granted to us, rather than gifted to us. Every once in a while, though, we stop, open up out lungs, and feel the oxygen rushing through our body, giving us life. We momentarily remember this gift that has been given to us every second since we were born.

I started thinking what a blessing it was to have this breathtaking landscape so close to my home, waiting for me to explore it. Then I started to remember how good it felt to breathe after a bike ride. I was reminded of a time, years ago, when I was floating in water and noticed my heart beating. I felt like God said to me “Kate, I didn’t just start your heart when you were born and then forget about it. Every time that it beats, I am consciously making it beat. That is how intimately involved I am with your life.”

That started me thinking about my body, a body that was in constant pain and exhaustion only a few years ago. A body that was much to sick to ride a bike.

There are two things that I have prayed for more than anything else in my life. The first prayer was (and still is) for a happy family. The second was for my body to be healthy again when I was sick.

Most of the latter prayers were desperate and hopeless. I didn’t know if they would ever be answered.

And here I was sitting on my J tree, breathing deep. Incredibly healthy, no constant pain in my joints, no exhaustion, sleeping through the night every night for the last week. Riding a bike.

I breathed in deep the air of God’s goodness.

One of the two most important prayers of my life  has been answered in abundance. But with the challenges and the business of the days since my healing, I have forgotten. Often, I have let my unanswered prayers overshadow my answered prayers. Sitting by the water, breathing in the crisp air, I stopped to remember the ones that God has answered.  And I was thankful.

On my ride back, I started smiling. Probably the most I’ve smiled in a long time..

I ignored what happened next, reminding myself to floss when I got home.

In the worship song Come Fall On Us, written by some friends of mine, it says A thankful heart prepares the way for you my God.

I have thought of that line several times when I’ve worshipped, because it’s so true. I know that God will come whether we are thankful or not. But it’s really hard to see God when we are focused on what we don’t have. It’s hard to see beauty when all we are thinking about is gnats.

On my bedside, I have a vase that is full of stones. On every stone, I have affixed a picture. For every season of my life, I have one stone with a picture that represents that season, and another that represents what God taught me in that season.

During my depression in college (a picture of girl crying) I learned that God would heal and restore me as many times as the waves crashed to the shore, the promise he made to me during that time (a picture of a lighthouse.)

During the season of my sickness (a picture of a tick) I understood more what it meant to be loved and to depend on those that I love (a picture of a girl holding a heart balloon.)

After writing a letter extending forgiveness to someone who greatly hurt me (a picture of a letter in a mailbox) I learned that God’s forgiveness of me and my forgiveness of others puts me in a place where I can’t be bound up by anything, a place where I am truly free (a picture of a girl with long red hair dancing with abandon.)

These stones are my ebenezer. This was the name of the altar the Israelites built after they won back Ark of the Covenant, the very presence of God, from the Phillisitnes, who had stolen it many years earlier. The Ark was their most precious possession. To win it back meant everything to them.

Literally translated, ebenezer means stone of help.

God is always present with us, but sometimes it feels like he has been stolen. For seasons at a time, because of the limited perception of our trials, it can be very difficult to enter into that holy place. But we can’t simply wait for the victory in order to be thankful. Often, being thankful is what brings the victory. 

Samuel set a stone up in that place and said “It is here that the Lord has helped us.” (I Samuel 7:12.) He set this stone up as a time to pause and say, “God, thank you for what you’ve done.”

God has walked this journey with me every step of the way. There are stones that mark the trials of my life, but there are also stones that match those trials with wisdom gained, with life lived, with trust for the one who never stops walking with me. He has always been faithful. And he’s not going to stop now.

As Jean Baptiste of Massieu said, “Gratitude is a memory of the heart.”

I remember today God, I remember.

(Excuse me while I go floss. )

On Trying To Follow My Own Advice

Image

Hypocrite- Greek: hypokrites

1) An interpreter

2) An actor, a stage player

3) A disguiser, concealer, pretender

I have always found the greek definition of hypocrite interesting. If you were a talented performer on stage in Jesus’ day, people would say, “Isn’t he a good hypocrite?” A hypocrite is someone who acts like something that he is not.

As seen in the above definition, a hypocrite was also the greek word for an interpreter. This is an intriguing definition. An interpreter says words, but they are not his own words. They sound like his words, but they are actually someone else’s.

Hypocrite is a loaded word. If I tell you that I am a hypocrite then you might see a picture of me, little redheaded songwriter, walking around with a three foot plank sticking out of my eye. Ouch.

Or you will see me as a televangelist with enormous redheaded bangs and a ridiculous amount of makeup, crying profusely and asking for forgiveness because I spent $400,000 on a lear jet when the money was supposed to go to orphans.

So, it’s a bit drastic to say that I’m a hypocrite.

Instead, let’s put it this way:

Sometimes, I need to follow my own advice. 

Let me tell you about my experience this year: I started writing a blog on singleness for fun. It’s not even because it’s the topic I know most about, or even am most interested in. I actually am very passionate about things like community development and taking care of the poor, and sometimes I would rather write about that because I’ve studied it more. (Plus, it’s embarrassing to check out eighteen books at the library on dating. I feel like a much better person when I am checking out Henri Nowen and Thomas Merton books.)

But I knew a lot of people that had frustrations with being single and knew they would probably be more willing to read about that in a blog. And it was on my mind a lot as well. So I started writing about it. Suddenly people were listening to me. People were asking me for advice. (People also started calling me the Sexy Celibate in public which was slightly embarrassing.)

All of the sudden, I had to consistently write good posts about, of all things, love. 

My confession, dear readers, is that I have only seriously dated three guys in my life. Some people have that many boyfriends in two weeks. Do I even deserve this blog?

And guess what else? I hate going on dates. Especially online dating first dates or dates with people I don’t know. I really hate small talk and I really hate getting my hopes up and I really hate hurting people, so I would basically rather have my teeth drilled. (I do, however, like the free food.)

But wait, there’s more! I am super, uber, ridiculously bad at flirting. One of my best friends had to give me lessons on it the other day. She showed me how to touch a guys arm and make eye contact. Because my whole life, I have defaulted to practically ignoring someone that I am attracted to so they won’t think I like them. I don’t understand why I do that. I think I got into the habit in middle school and never stopped.

The results have been staggeringly successful, if you count three guys in a whole lot of years as successful.

Another friend challenged me to straight out ask a guy on a date. I said “I am going to destroy you” with a voice like Darth Vader and fire shooting out from my eyes. I don’t know why that came out of my mouth.

Obviously, I have a teensy bit of fear there when it comes to putting myself out there.

Therefore, it is pretty ironic that I am writing a blog and a book about love. Sometimes, because I am such a novice at all of this, it is hard for me to follow all of my own expert advice.

For example, in my post Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs, I talk about how being too dependent on signs is not a  good way to go about making decisions when it comes to love.

After I wrote that post, I was interested in someone for a season and looked for signs harder than a near sighted truck driver.

I got my signs. Really good, story worthy signs. It turns out that that those signs weren’t the best way to determine my fate with this person. Just like I said. 

Whoops.

In Throw Away Your List, I talked about how you shouldn’t settle, but you should also be willing to give people a chance.

Then I was on match.com for a while and skipped over certain people. Like the guy who says he’s looking for someone who is good and the kitchen. Or the guy with the picture of him with his arm around his ex girlfriend. Or the middle aged guy with no shirt on holding a beer. (No I am not joking. That was a real match.) Maybe those guys didn’t really deserve my views. But I also didn’t really look at the perfectly nice guys who I simply doubted I would be attracted to.

Oh no! Am one of those shallow people I talked about in my post?

Then, in What Single People Wish Married People Knew, I talked about how frustrated I get when I hear the sentence “If you let go, he will come.” I often replied “if Kevin Costner comes here and builds a baseball field, then and only then will I let go and he will come. Until that happens, I am sticking to holding on with a death grip.”

Now, I have this little problem. My thoughts and motivation wander too much towards getting married. If I’m not careful, it steals away my joy and hypnotizes me into a state where I forget all of the people around me who need love.

Guess what? I need to let go. The very advice that I was angry about getting is what I need the most.

I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, though. Even if I don’t have a ton of experience dating, I do have a lot of experience being single. (Well, maybe it’s better defined as angst than experience. Two hundred seventy pages worth of angst, in fact. I am hoping I will get healthier so that my next book can be called Angsty No More. Except that sounds like a really horrible romance novel. )

Another good reason that it is okay for me write this blog is that I am a very observant person. I am good at putting my observations into words. I am good at pulling the wisdom out of my own life and the lives of people I love and putting it into a neat little package so people can learn. Even if I’m not dating enough to really live all of that wisdom out. (I’m trying people! I’m trying!)

So if you get down to it, I am not a hypocrite. I am just a human, trying to walk this journey with other humans.

My motivation is not necessarily to be right in all of my posts. It is to tell my truth. It is to help people make better decisions and live better lives. It is to look at my life and sort through what I have done right and what I can do better. Not because I live with lots of regrets, but simply because I want be wiser person. A person that can give sound advice, even if it is sometimes difficult to follow all of that advice.

So how about everyone forgive me, and then help me get this big old stick out of my eye?

Thirty, Flirty, and Fertile (Part II)


As I stated in Part I of this series, when people tell me that age doesn’t matter, I respond with “tell that to my uterus.”

My uterus and I have had quite a few problems in our relationship as of late. In truth, my uterus is pretty frustrated with me.

The argument she has with me all the time sounds like this: “Kate, what am I good for if I don’t house a little baby for nine months? I’ve been sitting down here for over thirty years with nothing to do! I need a job, Kate! Go out there! Find yourself a man! Get married and get these eggs fertilized.”

I feel sheepish and guilty every time my uterus and I talk. Because she’s right. I do need to get “out there.” But it’s more complicated than it seems. I try to tell her that, and she says, “Why didn’t you go out with all those guys who liked you ten years ago? Why were you so picky?”

“I don’t know, Uterus. Life only makes sense in the rear view mirror.” That’s what I always say. Or maybe that’s a country song. Either way, it’s true.

According to the social norms, my uterus and I have exactly three years, eight months, and eight days to get ourselves pregnant.

That is the day that I turn forty. The day that my eggs shrivel up and die. Forever.

If they do by some monumental miracle of God get fertilized after that day, my babies will look like a cross between Jay Leno and Steven Tyler.

At least that’s what the people around me and society have told me.

I joke about my uterus and about roller skating parties, but the truth is, my ticking biological clock is a serious matter. If I can’t sleep at night, I am often thinking about the fact that I am getting older and might never do all the things I dream of doing, especially having a family.

Lately I am realizing how much this is culture induced, though, and that if we didn’t have such a thing as the label of age, I wouldn’t be so scared. Think of the countless references to turning forty that plant fear in all of us. Forty seems to be the marker in which we need to figure out whether our lives are meaningful or not in our culture. My friend who is a midwife in Portland says that half of her clients are in their forties. From the way our culture talks, you would never think that was the truth.

Often when I date someone, I will start out the relationship lightly, but then my fear kicks in. I try desperately not to be desperate. If I am not careful, I end up wearing my biological clock on my sleeve. I all but stand up on the table during a date and do an interpretive dance of the old DC Talk song “Time is Ticking Away” complete with my arms moving to the rhythm like a clock.

I am realizing that this is one of the biggest fears I have dealt with in the last decade. I have let it run my life sometimes, and I am tired of it. If I wasn’t so fearful of this age thing, if I were not so aware of the social label of age, I might be able to date someone without them feeling unnecessary amounts of pressure, without them inevitably taking on some of my own fear. I could date them for a good while so that we are sure about the decision and wouldn’t rush into anything simply because of how many years I’ve lived. It is something I need to work hard to overcome.

The only way that I can possibly get over this fear is to trust God. If God wants me to have a family, I will have a family. He has no time constraints. Nothing is too difficult for him. If I don’t have a family, it will be very hard for me to understand, as it is something that I believe God has promised to me. But I will be okay. I can choose to be a mother in other ways if that is what the Lord has for me.

In Ecclesiasties 3:10-11 Solomon gives us these words.

“I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. ”

Let’s look at this verse a little closer. You read the first part -“I have seen the burden God has laid on man”- and you wonder. . .what is this mysterious burden that God has laid on men? To have to work to provide food and shelter for your family? The evil in the world? Mosquitos? Joan Rivers?

The next sentence that identifies the “great burden” that God has laid on us is very surprising.

Here is the burden: he makes all things beautiful. 

Why would God making something beautiful be a burden? That sounds much more like a blessing doesn’t it?

Read on and you might understand.

“He makes all things beautiful in its time. ”

This great burden is not that he makes all things beautiful. It is that he makes all things beautiful in his time. In ways that are beyond our limited perception.

Some of us get angry at his timing. We do not like getting older. We don’t like that “Only Be With You” by Hootie and the Blowfish was written in 1995. (How can it possibly be that long ago?) We “cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Standing within the walls of time, we don’t understand.

Maybe we need a different perspective.

My friend Sam said to me the other day, “Kate, do you realize that if you had a child a few years ago, your baby would most like have had Lyme disease? (Lyme can be passed onto children in the womb.) Maybe it was not God withholding from you when he didn’t let you have a baby at that age. Maybe it was His grace. Maybe He wanted to wait for you to be healthy to let you have a child.” It had never occurred to me before that my having to wait might not have been God stealing something, but him waiting to give me something much better.

We can’t often see things clearly from our limited perception of life. Perhaps God stands above us, above time, as if we are in a parade, and he throws down love on us, like floating ticker tapes. He throws down love from that lofty window, seeing the bigger picture, and we don’t understand what he is doing from beginning to end. But the love still falls down on us, surrounding us as we march on, unaware.

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for your grace. Whether I have a husband or not, whether I have children or not, even when I don’t understand your timing or my disappointments, I can trust this one thing.

You make all things beautiful.