The Awkward Challenges of Singleness

The Awkward Challenges of Singleness

Stores have been stocked with bags of conversation hearts and boxes filled with assorted chocolates in preparation for Valentine’s Day before we even had a chance to put our Christmas trees to the curb. More chocolate in stores…who am I to complain?

I have even less reason to complain the day after Valentine’s Day because chocolate goes on sale. Chocolate is good, but 50% off chocolate is even better!

Truth be told, as a single person, I’m not anti-Valentine’s Day. Or rather, I’m not against the idea of it. I’m a fan of romance and love having an excuse to tell those I care about that I love them in cute/cheesy/adorable cards. (Did I mention there’s chocolate involved in this holiday?!) I’m not opposed to love, if anything, I wish every day were Valentine’s Day. And no, not just because of the chocolate, but because I think love should be celebrated daily. Or if not celebrated, at least shared.

It’s not easy being single around Valentine’s Day though. There’s those “Every kiss begins with K” commercials and the increase of rose/flowers pictures on Facebook followed by the “I’ve got the best boyfriend/husband…” declarations. Like I said, I think love should be celebrated so keep the romantic posts coming. I didn’t want to be on Facebook this week, anyway.

The single life has some awkward challenges.

If you’re single, maybe you can relate. And if you’re not, well, maybe you can gain some perspective from this single lady.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a married friend of mine. We were catching up since we hadn’t seen one another in a few months. As we shared, I’d mentioned some different places I had gone or things I had done (nothing super exciting mind you) and my friend kept telling me how much they missed their singleness and how lucky I was to be single.

As a single person, this is ludicrous.

I get there are “perks” to singleness. Heck, I’ve written about them. (You can read that post here.) We aren’t woken up in the middle of the night by a kid who wet the bed and we don’t spend our entire paycheck on diapers. At any time, we can go wherever we want without having to consult another person. There’s a lot of freedom that comes with singleness and when life seems to be dictated by another human being (especially one that isn’t even old enough to read yet) I imagine you’d day dream about five minutes of quiet. Or at least the ability to go pee without a crowd.

My point is, I have no idea how to respond to a married friend when they tell me I’m lucky because I’m single or how “good” I have it. When they say that I want to respond with, “I hear you using the word lucky, but I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Then, there’s the “third wheel” scenario. Let me state this now– I am extremely thankful that I have married friends who invite me to things. They include me in their life even when that means I’m sandwiched between two booster seats. That’s love, people.

But it can get awkward. Like going out for dinner for example. If it’s a booth, do I let them sit next to one another while I sit across from them? Or, if it’s a table, do I sit between them– having one on either side of me? Then, there are times when you’re at a scenic area and they’d like to get pictures together, as a family, so you volunteer to take the picture. Afterwards, they ask if you want one, too (which is super thoughtful). I’m just glad that photo albums are basically obsolete with the increased popularity of digital prints and social media. I’d have albums full of pictures of me standing in front of various monuments. Like this one:

WH

Or this one:

twine

Yes, that’s me in front of the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, KS. Be jealous. So jealous.

Most of the time though, I borrow one of my friends’ kids to be in the picture with me. I’ve got hundreds of pictures of me with other people’s children.

One of the most aggravating of the awkward challenges is when people will accuse you of being desperate because you want to be in a relationship. I was unaware that having a desire somehow automatically put you in the desperate category, but apparently some people think that is the case. With all of the other challenges, I can laugh-off the awkwardness. That’s nearly impossible with this one. Sometimes, instead of defending myself I let the comment linger in the bloated awkward silence. Other times, my sass comes out on full blast.

Similar to that one, is how someone can assume you’re flirting with them just because you’re both single. I understand that friendliness and flirtatiousness can sometimes be confused, but my friendliness is sometimes just friendliness. Seems to be a tad bit egotistical, to me, to think otherwise. Shockingly, I’m not attracted to every single guy. Just the flannel wearing bearded ones. 😉

I couldn’t end this without bringing up the awkwardness of unsolicited advice.

Try online dating!

He’ll show up when you least expect it.

Get a hobby! (Yes, someone did tell me this)

Make the first move.

The list goes on and on. I find it funny that most of this advice comes from married people. Married people who have in fact been married for a long time…longer than I’ve been alive. Even funnier is the fact that most of the time I’ve been single longer than they ever were. Not that I think I’m some kind of expert, by any means, but I do have some experience in this area. More than I’d like, that’s for sure!

Awkwardness is a part of life. My advice on all of it? Don’t let it hinder you from amazing relationships. As single people, we need married friends. They tend to make dinner every night and if you treat them right they might just invite you over every once in awhile. We need friends of the opposite sex. They teach us invaluable lessons on their gender giving us helpful insights on how their minds work.

I could add more to this wonderfully awkward list, but I’d like to hear from you. What challenges have you experienced as a single person or as a married person in dealing with single people? Let me know in the comments!

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What Community Looks Like

What Community Looks Like

She shuffled to the front of the sanctuary with a sense of determination in her gaze even though it was clear she carried a heavy burden. Each step forward bringing her closer to unloading her weights and closer to the freedom she desired. Everyone sat in hushed silence patiently waiting for her to reach the summit. As she turned toward the congregation, we noticed her eyes were brimming with tears.

And in her words was a confession.

Before a crowd of friends and strangers she rent her heart open exposing an area where she needed help. I sat silently in shock– not because of the nature of her confession. The confession itself was something that most, if not all, of us could confess at one time or another. What caught me was her courage to admit she needed help.

She had no shame in her voice as she stood bare before us. Just a simple boldness.

As she spoke, people began to gather around her and I saw first hand what community was meant to look like and it was beautiful.

I’d been longing to see community in action. Not just in service projects, either. I think we sometimes confuse service with community. Community is much more than that. Does it involve that? Many times it does, but you can serve a stranger and never get to know them. Never know their story, their heart, their struggles.

Community is about relationships.

It’s about really listening. And not the type of listening that is more focused on formulating a response. We can get so caught up in wanting to “fix” someone or bring them comfort that we forget that sometimes the best thing we can do is just hear them out. Stop trying to solve problems and just listen. No need to search for the perfect cliche or some other over used nugget of wisdom. Just let them to share.

There’s this Asian restaurant in my town that I’ve been wanting to try so I invited a friend along so we could experience something new together. Any time you add food and friends you’ve got a recipe for an enjoyable evening. The Pad Thai and spring rolls were pretty great, too.

As we ate, we talked and I shared with her how I’ve thinking about the purpose of church (a post about this coming soon) and how I think community is or should be involved. It’s a topic I struggle with regularly and I’ve been wanting people’s insights and wisdom on the matter. She mentioned how we can’t just surround ourselves with others our own age or position in life.

Community is multi-generational.

I believe community needs to be diverse. No one grows when they surround themselves with people just like them. We need to hear stories from our older, wiser, more experienced community members because they’ve got a wealth of knowledge. Knowledge gained through years and lessons learned. We need to listen and learn from our teens who may not have years behind them, but can certainly have insights that we can glean truth from.

There’s this older couple I know. They’re both nearing the 90-year mark and within the past few years, I’ve made it a point to connect with them because they’ve been through 90 years worth of stuff. That’s an entire 60 more years worth of stuff than I’ve been through and they still love and follow Jesus. I’ve got a lot to learn from them.

On the other hand, I know this 14 year old girl. Actually, she’s my oldest niece. I wouldn’t say she’s your typical teenage girl by any means, but there are days I remind her that if I catch her talking to a boy that I won’t be afraid to kill him. She rolls her eyes at me when I say that– she has picked up some of my sass. I also see her amazing capacity for compassion, too. I’ve got a lot to learn from her.

The beautiful thing about community is that everyone is valuable and everyone is needed. No one should be excluded or looked down upon. No one should be called obsolete. Or insignificant.

We need community. We NEED it. And I’m grateful that I get to experience it–whether in the four walls of a church or in the corner of a quaint Asian restaurant. It is there within community that we can heal and mature…and be refined through relationships.

Leave a comment and let me know how you’ve seen community in action.

You’re Invited!

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Sometimes…oftentimes….I find church boring.

It’s just that it seems a lot like a meeting to get through. Granted, a meeting that starts with a song, or rather, a half a dozen or so. For some the songs come out of hymnals with an organ accompaniment while others use songs written in this decade. I’m not picking on either one, I enjoy both.

The point is every service starts the same way.

Music. Check!

Next, there’s the offering/ announcement/ hug your neighbor time. When visiting a church, this is my least favorite time. I’m not a fan of hugging strangers. That could be because I’m all of 5 feet tall and hugging anyone means my face automatically goes in their arm pit, shoulder or chest. Here’s the deal, people. If you’ll bend down a few inches I’ll stand on my tippy toes. Ok?

Luckily, we live in an age with smart phones, so this is also a great opportunity to look busy on your phone. I think there’s added points if you update your Facebook status with a Scripture or some lyrics from a song sung that morning. (I get it. I’ve done it, too) Extra, EXTRA points if you use #blessed in the description.

The capstone of your morning is listening to a sermon. It’s a trail mix blend of stories, Scripture and pithy truths to scribble down in a notebook or on the back of a bulletin (and most likely) never read again. Heck, by mid-week I’m not even sure I remember the verses that were referenced. That might be because, periodically, throughout the message I’ll find my mind wandering to the weather outside, the fact that my leggings are cutting off my circulation or the laundry list of tasks I need to accomplish the coming week.

I’ve been to numerous churches in my lifetime and the general outline is the same. Come, sing, give money, hug people, listen to sermon and go. Ya sit, stand, sit and you’re out of there by lunch. You can almost taste the Chinese buffet now. Mmmm….Sweet and Sour Chicken.

I’m not saying any of this stuff is wrong. It’s good to worship. It’s good to give. It’s good to hug (sometimes). It’s good to be taught. I just think we’re missing the point.

Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven. 

Matthew 6:10

I think about Heaven a lot. Maybe it’s because life is so freakin’ hard or maybe it’s just because I’m homesick (Heb. 13:14). Its been said, “Don’t be so Heavenly minded that you’re of no earthly good.” That’s a bunch of bologna.

If anything, we need to be more Heavenly minded. What would that look like? I’m not exactly sure, but sure isn’t some mandated meeting. It’d be more like a party. There’d be laughing and food and celebration. No one nods off at a party. No one checks their watch at a party. No one is worrying about work the next day at a party.

I love inviting friends to parties. Meetings…not so much. This isn’t some lame-o excuse for me not inviting my friends to church, then again, maybe it is. The last thing I want to do is bring a friend to church and have them leave thinking, “If that’s Christianity, it sure is boring. I’d rather stay home and watch football.” I think they call that doing more harm than good. Truth be told, I’d rather stay home most Sundays, too.

But, if I can invite my friends to a party, that’s a different story. I’m not talking about flashy lights and fog machines, either.

Our modern day church services seem to place a much smaller value on relationships and community and a lot more value on me facing a podium or a stage or a screen. Before anyone loses their mind, or thinks I’ve lost mine, let me be clear– I’m not anti-church. It’s great to gather together with a common focus (Jesus) and sing songs to Him and learn about Him and build relationships with one another.

I just don’t think what we’ve always done is working. It looks an awful lot like a four-walled box. You come in, you do your time, and you go. That sounds awful because it is awful. I want something more and I think the world is looking for more. Something significant. Something worth getting out of bed for…and not just because there’s shame propelling you through the church doors.

In the end, I want a slice of Heaven on Earth. Not just on Sundays, but every day of the week and I want people (all people) to see that and want it too.

Why I Won’t Settle

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I saw another relationship change on FB this morning. Another friend making it official that they were indeed “off-the-market” by linking their name with another’s on social media.

“Welp. I guess I will be breaking into my chocolate drawer before lunch again today,” I thought.

The stages of grief immediately taking effect.

The denial: This is some kind of internet prank to get everyone up in arms. People shouldn’t play those types of pranks. I didn’t even know they were talking?! No, I don’t believe it. I check the friends profile countless times throughout the day to see if anything has changed or if they decided to confess it was all just a joke. No such luck.

The anger: WHY NOT ME?! It’s usually about this time that I text my BFF. I let out this lengthy rant about how I’m pretty freakin’ amazing and yet I’m still single. I tell her it doesn’t make sense– in all caps for more emphasis. Like a good friend, she always responds the same way, “I know! I don’t get it either.” At least someone agrees with me.

The bargaining: Maybe I should text so-and-so and give that relationship another go. Things really weren’t that bad….I mean, why did we even stop talking in the first place? It could work. Ya, totally. And then, as if Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect is in my head I hear, “Umm…better not.” I put my phone back down with a heavy sigh.

The depression: I mentioned I’m eating chocolate already, right? There’s a small mound of chocolate wrappers sitting next to me as a monument to my sadness. Chocolate understands.

And then, the acceptance: Ok, I’m happy for them. Really. Good for them. They deserve to be happy. I’m glad they found one another.

Within the acceptance phase, I find a resolution building inside of me. I remind myself there have been opportunities for me to date. Each of them good guys in their own rights– kind, generous, encouraging. But I chose not to date them and it always boiled down to the same reason. Though they were good men, they weren’t the greatest.

I’m not talking about perfection or unattainable expectations. I’m NOT talking about Prince Charming. I’m talking about the man who will be the complementary color to my life. We won’t be the same (Can I get a “Hallelujer”?), but he’ll add to my life like I’ll add to his. We’ll be partners in the adventure– two imperfect people working on loving each other through the crazy and the mundane.

Like I said, I’ve been tempted to give in and settle. Oh, how I’ve wanted to–some days (and nights) the loneliness has been almost unbearable. I’ve gone stag to more than enough events for my liking. Or even worse yet, sitting around the table with my family. Each sibling with their spouse, my parents side by side and then single Holly.

The loneliness, the sadness, the grief cannot be reasons for me to fling myself into a relationship that isn’t a good fit because in the end it could end up leaving me even more lonely and sad. I’m not looking for more pain. I haven’t waited this long for just anyone that’ll do.

Waiting is hard. I’m impatient. I want to rush ahead on do things on my own and in my timing. I know my track record, though, and that’s what keeps me waiting. Everything I have done on my own and in my own strength has failed. Miserably. Yet, everything (yes, EVERYTHING) He has done for me and through me has prospered. There’s just no comparison and that gives me hope.

I may struggle with this single status, but I won’t settle.

What keeps (or has kept) you from settling? Tell me in the comments, I’d love to know.

Lies We Believe About Singleness & Book GIVEAWAY

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Singleness is hard.

The struggle takes place in our mind with the same question on repeat, “Why am I single?” I have this list I’ve started with reasons that could try and explain why I’m 30 and still single. Most of them are just silly. For example, I’m still single because I don’t make my bed every morning or because frequently I’ll start a conversation with, “Ya know what I heard on the NPR today?”

There are some reasons floating around in this head of mine, though, that are a lot less funny. Like maybe I’m not beautiful enough for a man to love me or maybe I’m too much of a mess. I mean, there’s got to be a reason and I’m assuming that must mean there’s a problem with me.

When I think these thoughts– these lies– I text a friend for encouragement or open up my Bible and start inserting Truth into my mind to combat those lies.

And reading Allison Flexer’s book, Truth, Lies, and the Single Woman is the perfect mix of those two things. It’s like I’m sitting down with a close friend over a cup of coffee and she’s listening to me spout off the things I’ve been thinking about concerning my singleness. She hears the hurt, the loneliness, and the lies. The lies that tell me that I’m unlovable and unworthy of love. The lies that tell me that I need to settle because if I don’t I’ll die alone. The lies that tell me that life is in some kind of circling pattern until I get married.

Like any good friend, Allison reminds me where my value truly comes from– that it’s not wrapped up in a man (even a bearded, flannel-wearing man). In her book, she discusses 10 common lies that we can struggle with in singleness. Each chapter brings the Truth to the lie and backs it up with Scripture. We all need reminders of the Truth found in her book.

A WORD FROM ALLISON: I started writing Truth, Lies, and the Single Woman when I was 33 years old and very much single. Having just quit my corporate job, I was dealing with a lot of emotions regarding self-worth and my identity. As I wrote, God began to reveal lies I believed and the negative effect that deception had on my life. As I filled my life with God’s healing truth, I wanted to share it with other single women. I’m so passionate about single women believing they are valuable and loved and beautiful. For all of the single women reading this: There is nothing wrong with you. Your marital status doesn’t define your value nor does it make you second class. God delights in you, and He’s the one who can satisfy your deep longings to be fully known and loved.

GIVEWAY ALERT  And because I’ve been encouraged by this book and the truths found inside: I’d like to give you a copy. Well, not all of you, but ONE lucky person. In order to be entered into the random drawing, please share this blog post on FB (there’s that super easy share button at the bottom of the post) and then leave me a comment below. That part is important, because if you win I’ll need to know how to contact you! The drawing will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 15th, 2014!

If you’d like more information on Allison, please check out her bio below.

flexerAllison K. Flexer is an author, speaker, and blogger who is passionate about communicating the love of God to others. Her first book, Truth, Lies, and the Single Woman (Beacon Hill Press), tells the story of her single journey and gives practical steps for letting go of the lies that destroy the joy and confidence of unmarried women. Allison was also a contributing writer for Fulfilled: The NIV Devotional Bible for the Single Woman. You can connect with Allison on her website at www.allisonflexer.com or on Twitter: @allisonkflex.

Fake Smiles: How to Be a Good Christian

fake smiles

My face is fairly readable. If I’m angry, you know. If I’m excited, you know. If I’m sad, you know.

For a long time, I was ashamed of that. Don’t good Christian girls keep smiles plastered on their faces all the time regardless of how they feel? I thought that a frozen smile was a mark of self discipline or self control. You may be wondering where I got that–I have a pretty good idea.

When I was a little girl, my grandma would drive me to church with her. I’d spend Saturday night at her house so I was up and ready to leave on time. I’m not sure why that mattered though because she was always the one causing us to be late Sunday after Sunday. In the car, I’d sit silently in the front seat trying to gather my muddled morning thoughts. I hadn’t started drinking coffee yet, so my wake-up time was a bit longer than it is now.

My grandma, on the other hand, is a ray of freakin’ sunshine in the morning. She’s singing along to the Psalty’s sing-a-long cassette tape and I’m zoned out staring out the car window. Each Sunday, she’d turn to me and ask why I wasn’t smiling. She’s never wait for a response, but would immediately proceed with the Sunday school jingle: “Jesus takes a frown and turns it upside down and whooooooops! There comes a smile.”

This didn’t make me smile.

Actually, it pissed me off.

The thing was, I was never intentionally frowning…well, until she sang that song. Then, I was frowning with (what I thought was) good reason.

My grandma didn’t have an easy life. She married young and not very long into her marriage, her husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Over the years, she’d watch him deteriorate from being a tall, strong man to someone who needed help with normal everyday functions. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to carry the financial load of her family, raise her three children and take care of her sick husband, but my grandma always did it with a steadfast faith. I don’t ever remember hearing her complain about how hard it was. Never saw her cry a tear over her difficult life. All I ever saw was a woman who praised Jesus– even early in the morning.

This godly woman was an amazing example to me growing up. That example, albeit it a good one, caused me to believe some things that were unattainable for me.

I believed that a godly woman should smile even when she was hurt or sad.

I believed that being “emotional” was a sign of a lack of discipline.

I believed that being loud wasn’t lady like.

The problem was….or rather is… that I don’t smile all the time. My face shows a range of emotions and as much as I’d like to hide those emotions, my face refuses to co-operate. I am emotional and passionate no matter if its a game of Uno with friends (that’s never friendly) or directing a kid’s summer camp. I’m all in all the time. And I’m loud. My laugh fills up a room and my volume button is usually pretty high. All of those things are me. And if that is the case, if they are my qualities, then I believed I was flawed and I’d never be a good Christian woman.

My thoughts about what a good Christian was supposed to look like was wrong.

Jesus never asked me to be fake or pretend I was feeling OK even when I wasn’t. Jesus never told me to quiet down or to stop being so emotional. Actually, He’s pretty happy with me just the way I am. Not to say that I’m perfect because we all know that I’m not, but to embrace the person God made me to be.

Do you want to know what I think the “formula” is to be a good Christian?

BE WHO GOD MADE YOU TO BE.

No three point sermon to spiritual perfection here. Just one amazing Truth that could bring freedom in your life because you’d no longer be bound by trying to be someone you’re not, but enjoying the perks of being yourself. There’s no shame in that.

I’ll tell you what you can do with that list…

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A few weeks ago, I was sitting around a table with some friends after a leadership meeting. As we always do, we ended the meeting going around sharing prayer requests.The usual requests were made– jobs, families, school, etc. Then, of course, there was my request for a single, bearded lumberjack to fall in love with me.

I’m serious.

I tell people to pray for me to find a lumberjack to marry. Preferably bearded. Might as well keep it specific.

Jokingly, my friend (my MARRIED friend) turns to me and asks if I’ve made my list yet. 

List? Oh you know, “THE LIST”. The list that girls sit down and write when they’re 12 years old all the while dreaming about their Prince Charming. The list of “must-haves” and “can’t-live-withouts”. They usually sound something like this:

#1: MUST love Jesus.

#2: MUST be at least 6′ tall, blonde hair blue eyes.

#3: MUST love children.

#4: MUST floss daily.

#5: MUST have been on 5 mission trips and want to adopt a child from a Chinese orphanage.

#6: MUST have seen a miracle first hand.

#7: MUST pray for every meal. That includes at all fast food restaurants and meals while driving. Snacks, too.

#8: MUST only watch rated R movies if it has something to do with Jesus.

And on. And on.

Don’t get me wrong, none of those things are bad. Actually, I’d prefer my mate shared some of those characteristics and desires. Here’s the problem.

Having a list for a potential mate is….dumb. 

Ya, I said it. Get out your flaming torches and large stones and escort me out of town. Tell me how important it is to have standards (which I agree with) and how you’ve got to KNOW what you want. 

Here’s some advice from the single girl, stop looking for the person to match all the criteria on your list. Stop looking for perfection. Stop looking for someone to meet all your needs. Another heads up (all this FREE advice!) no person will be able to do that. Not a spouse, not even one that has a 10/10 on your Marriage Rubric. 

Lists, in this scenario, look a lot like boxes and God doesn’t work inside our little man made boxes. So many times, we think we know best, but I’ve learned (the not-so-easy way) that is not always the case. He does give us certain *good* desires, like wanting to have a spouse, but He knows who will fit that bill better than you…and me. Let’s be serious, there are shirts in my closet I’m still questioning what I was thinking when I bought them. Why would I even begin to trust myself to know what I need in a man? 

I’ve found its much easier to hand all of this list business over to God. I don’t need to write a list because I can trust God to bring me the partner who will compliment my life, and whose life I will compliment in return.

To reiterate, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have certain standards. Heck at 30 years old and still single, I’ve been accused of having too high of standards, which I find laughable. If that’s my problem, then I’ll gladly stay single. Standards are good. At times, they’ve weeded out guys that I would have gladly settled on and made a very poor decision in the process.

My advice? Toss the list. Keep it simple. Ask God to bring His pick your way and for you to be smart enough to choose him. That’s my prayer at least. 

And because I know you’re curious, if I had a list, it might look something like this:

#1: No sissy hands. If they’re softer than mine, its not happening.

#2: Must never wear Crocs. This will be included in my vows because those things are gross.

#3: Cleans hair out of shower drain. Yes, its gross, but my hair isn’t the only hair in that drain, Mister. 

#4: Kills snakes for terrified partner. Always. Oh, and mice too.

#5: Will let me watch Jane Austen movies without any heavy sighs or sarcastic commentary. 

#6: Is not a Boston Red Sox fan.