Monthly Archives: February 2012

He Is With Me

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http://youtu.be/P3CVlv2dz3w

Everybody seems to focus on the negative aspects of breakups. I have to admit – breakups seem to work in my favor. Or at least one breakup worked in my favor. I just got back from a fabulous Mandisa concert due to a breakup. My friend’s extra ticket was originally designated for her boyfriend. But since she is newly single, she invited me along instead… And we had a blast!

I enjoy some of Mandisa’s music, but I am no diehard fan. Therefore I had never before heard this incredible woman’s story. Without going into great detail she referenced some childhood abuse and her resulting mistrust toward men. She moved on to describe her fear-driven journey toward obesity. She numbed the pain from those unfair memories bite by bite, taste by taste, seeking comfort in every morsel.

Unfortunately, the comfort those empty calories carried was fleeting. At her heaviest point, or in her words –her “morbidly obesist” – she realized that her unhealthy eating habits were ruining her life. She did not seem to care about being skinny. She did care about being healthy.

In a world where reference to abuse is taboo, Mandisa boldly shared her testimony. In a country where gluttony is considered “culturally acceptable” and pastors don’t preach against it, Mandisa bravely confessed her struggle. The greatest part, however, was her ending point: Jesus delivered her.

That beautiful woman dropped 100 life-inhibiting pounds, and now she dances on stage with all kinds of enthusiasm, praising her Deliverer! I am posting “He is With You” on this blog only because she sings about giving up about finding your true love toward the end of her song. As she belted those lyrics out live at the concert, she gestured toward herself to humbly proclaim her own fears.

Mandisa worries she may be single for life. She asks Jesus Christ to walk beside her down this path called life. She trusts that through all the worries, all the pain, all the struggles, He is with her. She clings to hope and boasts of God’s steadfast loyalty. As she faces her childhood haunts, as she lives her dream onstage, as she battles the temptation to overeat, and as she cherishes the friends around her, Mandisa reminds herself and others that God is always with us. I believe Mandisa knows that although she is single, she is still the lovely Bride of Christ.

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For the Love of a Motorcycle

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http://youtu.be/OJDCtFMV16s

There is something about it. Wind in your face. Sunshine on your back and shoulders. Power at your fingertips. Someone who doesn’t ride cannot possibly understand. There is nothing quite like the love of a motorcycle.

My bike is named Arthur, after the Fonz whom I idolized as a teenager. I shared this clip (unfortunately it’s kind of fuzzy) because Fonzie demonstrates the love and devotion a true biker has to his/her bike so wondrously.

Fellow bikers, have you ever tried to describe the loyal affection you feel toward your motorcycle to a person who shows no interest in the hobby? It’s one thing to describe the relationship you have with your bike to an aspiring biker or to another motorcycle enthusiast… But to pour your heart and soul out to a person who thinks that riding motorcycle is foolish? Perhaps this person briefly considered the sport, but waved away the fleeting desire due to its potential dangers. The response you receive may be devastating. This person looks you in the eye and declares that your love is silly. That the motorcycle which contributes such joy to your life is nothing more than a hunk of machinery which will probably get you killed.

I have learned not to describe my love for Arthur with such critics. I do not blame them for their insensitivity. The reason Mr. Cunningham has the nerve to refer to Fonzie’s love as “just a motorcycle” is because he cannot possibly comprehend the impact that beautiful bike has upon Fonzie’s satisfaction with life. Rather than try to convince these people of my motorcycle’s true worth, I choose instead to share my own joy and leave it at that. If a person shows interest in joining me in my hobby, I offer more information. But I will not cast my pearl before swine – I will not push my love for motorcycles on a person who has little or no interest.

If I were to try to force a love for motorcycles and in interest in biking etiquette upon such a person, we would both walk away from the conversation feeling frustrated and perhaps embittered. I do not even try. I understand the futility. This person may never share my reasoning, nor may s/he care to. That is okay. It is perfectly acceptable for this person to have different life interests.

How does all of this tie into singleness? Marrieds often come to me describing a passion toward marriage which correlates my passion toward motorcycles. They tell me how much they enjoy being married, how they always looked forward to being married when they were young, how they love raising children, and how they will leave a legacy through their children. They gloat over every detail of their married relationship, hoping to persuade me to ditch singleness and enter wedded bliss.

Unfortunately, my interest is limited. I cannot say I’ve never considered marriage, nor can I say that I will never get married. However, currently I am not terribly interested. In the same way a person tells me that motorcycles can be extremely dangerous, I note that marriage can be very painful and can inhibit many freedoms. It just doesn’t call to me. The desire to be married is fleeting at best right now. Conversations in which others try to force their love of wedded bliss upon me leave me frustrated. I am disgusted by these persons’ lack of understanding that my interests differ from their own. Rather than nudge me toward desire, these discussions leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

If you want to see me marry, do me a favor. Don’t offer your input about my life and marriage possibilities unless I ask for it. Otherwise, you work against your own motives.

A Valentine to Cherish

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Dewey

My jaw dropped open at the nasty comment which escaped his lips. He was ordinarily very polite. I looked him over and then chose to brush off the comment.

The elderly man’s face dropped moments after the words came out. He turned around and walked out the door. I knew he was under enormous stress. His wife of 63 years was on her deathbed. About two minutes later he drove up to the window which my teller station faced. He apologized into the speaker phone for his rude statement. I accepted the apology and smiled my thanks, then moved on. No hard feelings.

Valentine’s Day was the following week. The man came in frequently to update us on his wife’s health status. After 63 years, he was still very much in love with his bride. Her ailing condition tore him to pieces. One of the other tellers and I offered him support and encouragement in any way we could. Often we just listened. There wasn’t much either of us could do.

The Monday before Valentine’s Day, I waltzed into the bank to discover a large pink and red stuffed dog sitting the counter by my teller station. I smiled at the adorable gift and asked to whom it belonged.

Another teller’s eyes darted toward mine and she declared, “You!”

In response to my shock she explained that the elderly man visited the bank that morning, clutching that lovely Valentine. He told the other teller that he lost sleep over the comment he made toward me the previous week. He bought me the beautiful pink dog and he bought one to match for his beloved wife.  The gift in itself thrilled my heart. But to know that his dying wife had a matching Valentine added so much significance. I named the doggie Dewey, after the kind man who gave him to me.

Mr. Dewey’s wife died that week before Valentine’s Day. Although I never met that wonderful woman, I will always cherish the Valentine we shared. Dewey is my special reminder that marriage can succeed. In an age so filled with divorce and marital strife, the picture of a man so deeply devoted to his wife after 63 years is absolutely breathtaking. Unlike the Valentine’s Day gifts my friends discard after relationships gone wrong, I will always appreciate my large, pink dog and the love and commitment he represents.

Valentine’s Day …

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Dewey is on the left and Duffy is on the right.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. This day is all about romance, all about love – dedicated to sappy couples. To us singles, it is often just a brutal reminder of how alone we really are. We can’t ignore it because every time we walk into a store we see big red displays; hearts plaster the walls and flowers bud in every aisle  The advertisements may start as early as the first week of January, leaving us to hope, dream, and be disappointed for over a month. To make matters worse we can’t overlook all the excitement on the actual day. Bouquets sent to coworkers and friends’ gleeful cries over what their sweethearts’ gave them forbid us the peace forgetfulness offers.

I have to admit, I have shed some tears on Valentine’s Day. My very first heartbreak occurred at a school Valentine’s Dance. But Valentine’s Day doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to.

It started in high school. Two of my male friends had crushes on me. They’d been pursuing me for weeks. Valentine’s Day was just around the corner. I was terrified that these boys would get me Valentines and expect me to respond romantically. They were my friends and I did not want to hurt them. But they were my friends and I also did not want to date them. I dreaded the awkwardness that awaited me should one of them give me a gift and ask me out.

On the other hand, most of my peers were dating and I knew they’d be getting gifts. And I knew that I would hear them gloat over their wonderful relationships and then I would long for someone to give me a beautiful gift. I would yearn to feel special, feel loved. So I prayed.

I didn’t know what to ask for. I understood that asking for a Valentine, just to make me feel good, was selfish. I also realized that if I told God I didn’t want any Valentines I would be lying. If I didn’t get any Valentine I would probably wallow in self-pity, because that was the mood I was working myself up toward, and that self-pity had the great potential to turn into anger at God over my loneliness.

So I decided to spill my guts to God and tell him exactly how I was feeling. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I wanted something. After pausing and contemplating, babbling and stuttering, it came out kind of like, “Dear Lord, it would be awfully nice if someone who didn’t like me at all gave me a Valentine.”

Along came the big day. I went to school. Not a single gift. Thank you, Lord, those guys didn’t buy me anything. I went home mostly satisfied with the way things had turned out. I didn’t have to face any awkward conversations or accept anything I didn’t want. But I have to admit underneath all the positive feelings, I still carried a little disappointment.

Then I got a phone call. My next door neighbor asked me to come over. She was an elderly lady whom I talked with almost every day and had practically adopted as my grandmother. I walked over to her house and to my delight she held a great big pink dog with a huge heart attached to his collar. He was absolutely adorable and as soft as could be. Best of all, he was for me.

I knew that dog, Duffy I named him, wasn’t just from my next-door neighbor. God looked down at me that Valentine’s Day and decided to remind me that He loves me. If He loves me, what more do I need?

Since that Valentine’s Day I have had a few on which I didn’t receive a thing. But that doesn’t bother me anymore, because I know how much my Jesus loves me. That’s all I need. And for now, I would rather not be getting any Valentines than getting them from men I don’t like. 😉

 

Singleness is Not a Disease

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In today’s society, singleness is viewed as a disease – something to be avoided at all costs. A single woman cannot possibly be happy. Many believe that I am either involved in a secret relationship or that I am lying through my teeth about my satisfaction with life.

It may sound ridiculous, but sometimes I feel as if people are waiting for me to fall apart or wind up pregnant. At times I do feel lonely. At times I long for a relationship. Overall, I am content.

People rarely admit that they view singleness as an illness. However, in keeping with the old cliché, actions speak louder than words. Take a look at a typical conversation I repeated with several men when I first became a bank teller:

I don a friendly smile and greet him, “Hi!  How are you today?”

He grins.  “Good.  How are you?”

“Great,” I reply, and then look to the transaction.

“So you’re new here, right? I don’t remember seeing you before.”

“Yep.  I’m the new girl.  I just started a little while ago.”

He’s still smiling as he inquires, “How old are you?”

I’m not nearly as interested in conversation.  My focus is mainly on the transaction, but I respond politely,  “Eighteen.”

“Are you married?”

My lips straighten significantly. I’m pretty sure I know where this conversation is going. “No.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?” he pries further.

“No.” My smile disappears. His fades.

“Are you gay?” he asks somewhat hesitantly.

“No!”

His beam quickly reappears. I glare.

If the man liked me, he proceeded to hit on me. Some asked about weekends or holidays. Others were less patient and tried to set things up with me after work that very day. Those men never seemed to get the gentle hints that I wasn’t interested. They could not understand why I didn’t want my singleness “cured.”

Other men posed even more questions.

“Why are you single?”

“Do you hate men?”

“Are your standards too high?”

“What’s wrong with the men you know now?”

When they finally ran out of questions, most of which I never did have good answers for, they would plug in advice. The most common tip I received:

“You should get married.”

Thanks. Real helpful.

Or sometimes my single status piqued the interest of women. They also asked lots of questions and offered plenty of advice. But rather than halting there, they pulled out their wallets to display pictures of their sons, nephews, or grandsons. Next, they would boast about these wonderful young men and then clarify which ones were single and closest to my age.

I can’t really blame these meddlers because I know that they mean well.  Their eyes focus on the negative aspects of singleness, diagnosing it as very lonely and painful. Their main motive is to help me. Matchmaking is the only way they know how. They are often unaware of my Savior, who is more than capable of keeping me healthy and strong in the midst of my singleness.

Unfortunately, similar problems exist within the Christian realm. My passion for Christ leads me into several different churches and introduces me to several different Christians. I love meeting other Christians; God places us together to support each other, love each other, care for, encourage, and rejoice with each other.

However, as a young, single, Christian girl, I tend to attract some highly-determined parents. I am often approached with pleasant compliments quickly followed by references to their smart, handsome, Christ-like sons who also “happen to be single.” In response to my polite, but usually uninterested smile, they either continue to gloat over their extraordinary offspring or they begin to interrogate me – which is even worse. Questions about college, career goals, and future plans soon flood my ears.

I try not to be rude. I’m just not enamored by parents pursuing wives for their children. It’s especially irritating when I’m not likely to ever meet these sons. Rather than feeling like a friend or sister in Christ to these well-meaning parents, I feel like prey. I wait helplessly as they poke and prod into my life, all with the intent of snatching me up and bringing me home to their nest of crying hatchlings.

Sometimes I wonder if they believe I’m sick based on the symptoms they see amongst their own children. Although singleness is not a disease in and of itself, many singles are plagued by a different infirmity I call Woe-is-Me Syndrome.

 

Woe-is-me Syndrome is spreading rampantly through the Church today. Singles frequently fall to this ailment, then pass it on to their friends. Though the antidote is easy to come by, many singles refuse to take it. The more of a person’s life this affliction controls, the harder it is for that person to recognize or accept the antidote.

This syndrome destroys by filling a person’s mind with herself. It causes one to focus on her own struggles, her feelings, her life, to the point that she has nothing left to offer anybody else. She dominates conversations by talking about herself and what her life lacks. She glances over the needs of others, completely consumed with her own feelings of inadequacy. Not only does Woe-is-me Syndrome harm the body, but it can be absolutely detrimental to relationships. It must be, for relationships lead to it’s antidote.

This illness exists widely amongst singles due to our vulnerable circumstances. We are more susceptible simply because we have no husbands or children to care for. We may not be forced to focus on anybody but ourselves for weeks at a time. Woe-is-me Syndrome starts with a little case of self-centeredness or a few thoughts beginning with the phrase “if only”. It quickly morphs into a full blown disease boasting symptoms of depression, loneliness, envy, broken friendships, and resentment toward others’ lives and relationships.

How do we fight this dreadful malady? A change in focus destroys this condition. When we put others before ourselves, we send these symptoms packing.

A Saturday night with no plans may leave me feeling disappointed or neglected. Then I decide to write letters to an older lady at my church who lives by herself and rarely gets visitors. Suddenly some free time on a Saturday night provides a wonderful opportunity to develop a new relationship.

How about those days when finances are tight? I look at my married friends and envy their beautiful homes, then sulk that I cannot afford my own. As I head to the coffee shop for my favorite drink, I think of the things I can afford. I can spend a dollar or two on a drink each day with hardly a thought. I may not be able to afford a mortgage each month, but I could give up my coffee each day and use the dollar or two I save to sponsor a child in a different country. My living arrangements don’t seem so bad when I compare my life to those children overseas. Letters back and forth to a child living in different circumstances may greatly alter my sour perspective toward money.

Although singles may be more susceptible to Woe-is-Me Syndrome than our married counterparts, we must remember that our married friends fight other “diseases”. We are not victims. We are not doomed to a lifestyle plagued by this nasty condition. Jesus Christ is our ultimate model of a healthy single person. As we imitate Him, we can pray that others may watch us and also be freed from the bondage of Woe-is-Me Syndrome. We cannot be completely healed without His help. We do not have the willpower to resist those attitudes by our own effort. But with a focus on Christ, any single person can beat Woe-is-Me Syndrome.

Dare to Sleep Alone?

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See how he sleeps directly in the middle of the bed?

My friend recently ended a terrible relationship. Finally. At least, I think she really means it this time… Then again, I thought it was over the first time he cheated on her. And I also thought it was over about three other times. (I won’t go into detail as to why… this is my blog, after all, not hers. I’m sure she would not appreciate me spreading her business all over the internet…) Anyway, this time I truly believe the split-up is final. Why? This time she said, “I have slept like crap all week. I know it is going to take me a while to get used to sleeping alone again.”

Yup – they are done. I could relate completely. She was not talking about the sex. She was explaining the way she cuddled into him while she slept. She curled up into his side each night. How does a Cat Lady respond?

“I know exactly what you are talking about. I don’t sleep as well without Oreo.”

I remember sharing a bed with my sister while I was young when we slept in hotels. I hated it. Every move she made bothered me. If she dared cross that invisible line which centered the bed I grumbled her name and shoved her aside. Is her arm inching toward me? Swat! Not anymore… If she slept through my violent complaints, then I laid awake staring at the ceiling, fuming. At times I even crawled out of bed to sit on the floor (where I was safe from any unwanted physical contact) so I could vent the rage such sleep-deprivation caused. As if the fear of her accidental touch wasn’t enough – she also snores! At a young age I adamantly declared, “I do NOT sleep well with others!”

What would I do if I ever get married? We’d sleep Ricky and Lucy style! Case closed.

Ricky and Lucy Beds

Then God gave me Oreo. After my old cat died, I prayed for a new cat that liked me best. I did not want to fight my family for his attention. I wanted to be favored. Although my prayer was completely self-centered, God answered it. It was quickly evident that I was Oreo’s favorite.

How he survived kittenhood, I will never know. Each night I scooped up that 2 pound pile of fur and carried him off to bed. Each morning I woke up completely on top of him. I’m somewhat amazed I never found him crushed. I would reach under the covers and pull him out. Although sleeping directly underneath someone who is 50 or 100 times your size does not sound terribly comfortable, it must be. Or at least it must be for a cat. How do I know? I know because when I moved to the side, he stayed where he was (no matter how dangerous the situation seemed to me) and because I always found him purring.

Nonetheless, Oreo now weighs 14 pounds rather than 2. Although a 14-pound critter still sounds small in comparison to a grown human, I assure you he is not small. You see, Oreo still sleeps with me. Somehow that little beast rules the vast majority of my bed each night. The tables have turned. I no longer wake up to find him pinned down beneath my weight. Instead I wake up unable to turn over because he is sleeping on top of my legs. Or I only have half of the sheet. He is hogging the remainder in a corner. Maybe I wake due to a numbing sensation in my arm since my arm is currently his body pillow. No matter the situation, one thing is always clear. When I go to sleep, Oreo will make his presence known through the “art of cuddle”.

Although I pretend his bed-hogging is bothersome, I truly love it. Oreo has transformed my anti-touch sleeping philosophy. Now I struggle to sleep alone. I prefer to drive for a half hour at 2am to sleep in my own bed with my own cat than to spend a night at my parents. If I am at home and he is dozing in the living room I often seek him out and drag him to bed. I just don’t sleep as well without him. There is something about a feline snuggled against my side that gives me peace as I snooze.

As my friend explained her current conflict, I nodded with true appreciation. When you are not accustomed to it, it really is hard to sleep alone. Whether you are newly divorced or recently widowed, whether you were dumped by your sweetheart or you cut off sleeping arrangements due to moral convictions, whether your pet died or your stuffed animal was stolen – I wrote this blog to encourage you. You will get through this. The fear of lonely sleeping can be conquered. Or if all else fails and after months you still cannot sleep alone – buy a cat. Take a trip to the SPCA and claim an adorable new sleeping companion. You won’t regret it.

If You Love Me, Rub My Feet

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The prophetess looked down upon my bare toes and smiled. Her head bobbed up and she gazed into my eyes.

“I feel as if the Lord just told me that your husband will like to rub your feet!” Her smile widened as she spoke.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve since reminisced over that particular moment, and mumbled heavenward, “Please, Jesus, let it be true!”

I returned home from work tonight with a knot in my back. I rubbed the sore spot and wondered to myself if I ever will get married. And if my husband really will give wonderful massages. I would love to daydream about more important things. But that spasm isn’t going to work itself out – and it is quite distracting. So as I awkwardly reach around myself to loosen the painful knot, I also think back to the words of that prophetess. Suddenly, marriage sounds wonderful.

I have to remind myself during moments like these that my husband will not be my slave. It is not his duty to rub my feet, or my neck or back or anything else. It may just be a nice bonus. Or it may not have any part in my marriage. After all, the prophetess used the words “I feel as if”. She never busted out the “Thus saith the Lord!”  She may have been completely off.

The biggest problem with my line of reasoning is that I immediately place my future husband in the servant role.  Although a husband and a wife should serve one another, my focus should not rest upon his service. I should be paying closer attention to my own role. That classic “grass is greener” mentality means that single me thinks that married me will experience a lovely foot rub each and every night. I kind of doubt any future husband will appreciate that attitude within me.

We may have to test out his foot massaging skills before I make any real commitment.

Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Eache time Peter confirmed. Then Jesus issued his plea, “Feed my sheep.”

If you love me, I ask you not to feed my sheep, but I beg of you – PLEASE, RUB MY FEET!