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

I Think I’m Beautiful- What Do You Think?

I once heard of a social experiment in which there were two billboards placed in two different cities. On each billboard was the exact same picture of a lovely woman who also happened to be full figured.  The first billboard said “I think I’m beautiful, what do you think?” The second said “I think I’m fat, what do you think?”

The researchers did a survey of people who drove frequently past the billboards. The results? Something like seventy five percent of the people who saw the “I think I’m beautiful” billboard  thought she was beautiful. And something like seventy five percent of the people who saw the “I think I’m fat” billboard thought that she was fat.

The way you see yourself is perhaps the most influential factor of the way that other people see you.

If there were a billboard of me filling the New York skyline 5 years ago, it would have read like this: “I think that no one loves me once they get to know me well. I think that my talent is the only reason people like me. I think that people abandon me,  that I am a victim, and that I get lost really easily. What do you think?”

But God has really redeemed my self image the last few years. He has allowed me to see that covering up my face is not humility. Jesus has commanded me to love my neighbor as myself. Not more than myself. As myself. Which means that just as much as I am commanded to love others, I am commanded to learn to love myself. He commanded us to “be made whole” more times than any other command. Is that surprising to you? It is to me. But I want to do it. I want to follow his commands. So I have learned, day by day, to love myself.

If  you were to read that billboard now, it would say “I think that people really like me, and that I like myself. I think the more they get to know me, the more they love me. I think that I am fun, loving, and valuable, and that I get lost really easily. What do you think?”

Believe me, some days it can be a battle to think like this. When I lose my keys, when I procrastinate, when I am confused about my next steps, when my sister in law has to give me directions to her house for the 14th time because I always get lost, I get mad at myself. I still have weakness’, and I still notice them. But I don’t focus on them as much as I used to.  Even in seasons like this, when I am not doing great financially, when I feel alone at times, I am kind to myself, just as Jesus has been kind to me. Just like I would be kind to a friend.

Five years ago, I thought that the day someone asked me to marry them would be the day that  I would know I was valuable. Having a mate that loved me would be a good reason to love myself.

Yeah, right. Today I am valuable. Period. God made me: that is more than enough reason to love myself.

In fact, now I know that it can be even harder with a mate in the picture to overcome self esteem issues, because you have a constant mirror in front of you. So I am not hoping for a man to tell me that I am valuable any more. I am praying that I can see myself as valuable today. The more whole I am, the more I will attract someone who is whole. The more whole we are as a couple, the less we will depend on each other for our value. That makes for a much healthier marriage.

And even if I never get married, if I learn to love myself, I will still get to live with someone I really enjoy being around:

Me.

I have a unique DNA of Jesus in me that no one else in the world has. Every day I live that out and am confident in it is another day that He is glorified.

I want to remember every day that I am beautiful, no matter what the circumstances are. I want to focus on my strengths instead of my weakness’ because that is the way that He looks at me.

I want to read the billboard that He puts in front of me every day, the billboard that says

“I think you’re beautiful. What do you think?”

(What billboard have you put up that is not always true? What billboard do you want to put up? What journeys have you been on with your own self esteem?)

God Is

God is not a tablet of commandments
Measuring and correcting and punishing.
He is a sunset so breathtaking
That for just a moment you forget
All your failings and your tragedies
Because all you can see is the beauty.
And somehow, some of the light floods inside of you
And chases some of the darkness away
Effortlessly…
All you to do is look.

God is not a magic lamp
That gives you all your desires
If you search for Him hard enough and
Rub Him the right way.
He is the friend
That spins you around with joy
When you are falling in love
Laughs at your jokes even when they’re
Not that funny
And cries harder than you do when you feel
Alone.
All you have to do is open up your arms.

God is not Mr. Rogers
Giving cookies when you are good
And putting you in the corner when you don’t listen.
He is a lover
That throws open the floodgates of passion
Inviting you to let go of your own world and
Risk drowning
For even one moment of being surrounded
By all encompassing, drenching,
Unquenchable, unfathomable LOVE…
All you have to do is jump.

Because, in the end
We don’t really want the magic lamps and the cookies
And the comfort of being hemmed up in our easy, predictable worlds.
We want a person that loves us completely.
That loves the beautiful parts of us
That loves the ugly parts of us.
That loves without boundaries, without excuses
Without expectations of getting anything in return.
He’s there.
He’s waiting.
He died to love you like that.
All you have to do is believe.

(This painting is from my friend Betony Coons….see more of her beautiful artwork at http://graysparrow.com/)

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.