Tag Archives: children

Song of the Single (Paradise Uganda)

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Isaiah 54:1Ugandan children 3

“Sing, O barren,

You who have not borne!

Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,

You who have not labored with child!

For more are the children of the desolate

Than the children of the married woman,”

says the Lord.

During a visit with my pastor’s family on Monday, a familiar longing stirred within me. Pastor’s three year-old cuddled into my side and asked me to look through a book with her. I miss children.

Earlier that evening her seven year-old brother handed me pages torn from a coloring book. He had colored them especially for me, eager both to earn my recognition and to share his affection. Just a few days prior I had glanced sadly at my refrigerator, noting the absence of artwork from children who love me. Although it is covered with photographs and magnets, it seemed strangely bare. I smiled proudly at his artwork, thrilled to accept his decorative gifts. Who needs museums? Who needs professionals? I much prefer a child’s masterpiece.

DSCF0422DSCF0423

Tonight I discovered some podcasts about a project involving children from Uganda. My friend and a few other dedicated musicians are working to create change in the lives of these children and in the world by recognizing their beautiful voices. These children are talented, and they’ve gone too long unrecognized. They have incredible stories to tell, but they’ve been widely ignored. They have songs to sing; it’s about time somebody listened. Could there be any sweeter sound than that of a child rejoicing?

http://www.fln.org/fln-news/podcasts/detail/news-paradise-uganda-part-i/

http://www.fln.org/fln-news/podcasts/detail/news-paradise-uganda-part-ii/

As I listened to clips of these children singing during the podcasts, tears formed in my eyes. I want to be with the children. I want to be where the children are, do what the children do. I want to sing with the children.

I’ve never even met these children, but my heart longs for them. I’m not musical – not even slightly. The lady in the podcast mentions the rhythm that comes so naturally to those little ones and memories flood back to me. I laugh as I recall dancing with the deaf children in Jamaica. Dancing goes hand in hand with music. Both require rhythm. I was told all Jamaican women could dance. I soon learned that the beautiful teenaged girls at the deaf school – who couldn’t even hear the music they were dancing to – had more rhythm than I did… I suddenly believed the statements were true. All Jamaican women can dance. And I became all the more aware of my own fallibilities.

Ugandan children 2

Why do I yearn to be with these talented young ones? What do I have to offer them? The musicians who’ve taken an interest in these children’s lives can provide them with guidance, training, and opportunities to share their songs. But I’m no musician. What could I possibly give?

I have a mommy’s heart. And as a single woman with no children of my own, that mommy’s heart has an abundance of love eager to flow into these kids’ lives. I cannot count the number of times others have asked me about a desire for children when they hear that I enjoy being single. They are shocked to hear that I don’t really long for children of my own. Sometimes they refuse to believe me. But it’s true! There are so many children in this world already who are hungry for love! I want to love the children who are already here.

Ugandan children

In my travels, I have discovered that children often put me on a pedestal – simply because I am an adult, I am American, I am white. What happens when a small child who has been devalued stands next to woman she idolizes? “Sing, O barren woman!” What happens when that same child realizes that she is more talented than that woman? I may fall off my pedestal, but more importantly that child begins to recognize her own gifting. She feels a touch more self-confident. She feels special. And she often laughs at me. These moments – these awkward, embarrassing displays of my own inadequacies, produce some of the most wonderful memories.

I do not need to be married or birth children. I just need to be around children who need to be loved. I want to love them. I want to appreciate them. I want to delight in the talents of my children – not the children who bear my name, but the children all over this world that God intends for me to mother. I’m just a single girl, thrilled to be a mommy. And although it won’t sound pretty, I will lift my voice to sing about it!

me and the philippino kids

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Baggage Claim

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There are two common analogies referenced in the dating scene. The first one involves “test-driving the car” and the second involves “baggage”. Both analogies piss me off beyond belief.

I’m not even going to start on the car analogy. Another day perhaps.

Singles, raise your hand if you have ever been asked, “Do you really want to date someone with all that baggage?”, or worse if you have ever been asked, “Do you really think that person would want to date you – with all your baggage?”

Why do these questions make me mad? Let me tell you.

1)      Everyone has baggage. Everyone. I don’t care if you’ve been married and divorced five times. I don’t care if you are like me – and have managed to dodge committed relationships for some time. Everyone has baggage. Different types, different sizes, shapes, colors, and so on. But baggage, nonetheless.

2)      Baggage is very vague. If I am going on a trip, a person cannot tell how equipped I am for the journey simply by eyeing my baggage. (We’ll say it’s a hiking trip. Something where a lot of heavy baggage does not seem preferable – as most people indicate a relationship is better without a lot of heavy baggage.) Without knowing what’s inside all of those suitcases – a person cannot say whether or not I’m prepared. They also cannot guess how heavy my baggage is. For instance, I may set a large piece of luggage directly next to a small piece of luggage. To the bare eye, it would appear that the larger bag is going to be heavier, and thus more burdensome. In all reality, however, that black bag may be full of cotton balls while the red bag is full of bricks. (I plan to build a house or something out of bricks and cotton balls on my hiking trip… obviously.) The person lugging around that black bag may appear to have “more emotional baggage”, but the person carrying that red bag may actually bring the larger burden to the relationship.

Just because the black one’s bigger, doesn’t mean it’s a heavier burden!

3)      Children are often called baggage. This is the big one – the one that really makes me seethe. How dare you compare a child [an emotional, valuable, vulnerable, and significant human being] to a carry-on at the airport! The reference is completely inappropriate. And yet, I hear it all the time. “You’re interested in a man with kids? Do you really want to date a guy with all that baggage?” It’s all I can do not to flip out at people who ask me these kinds of questions.

Ben and Benny: This is an old picture, but it is one of my favorites!

Instead I have to maintain my self-control and explain to them, “Parental skills are an important thing to consider in a serious relationship, and if the man does not already have kids, it’s really just a guessing game as to what kind of father he may turn out to be. To be honest, it’s kind of a turn-on to see that a man who already has a child seems to be a good daddy. Plus, just because I don’t have any children, that doesn’t mean I don’t have baggage. He would have to put up with mine as well.”

Just to add weight to my argument, I often reference my brother. Ben, I’m sorry if you don’t want to be referenced, but I often describe your relationship with Benny to others when we begin to discuss “baggage”. You are a great father! If anyone ever refers to Benny as “baggage”, they will have to suffer the wrath of his Aunt Sarah!!

Those are the primary reasons this subject angers me. There are a few other minor reasons. But I think those are the most important. Do me a favor, people:

  • Quit referring to children as baggage. It is never an okay analogy.
  • Stop calling divorce baggage. Ask the real question, “Are you okay with dating someone who has been divorced?”
  • Don’t forget that those are not the only two forms of baggage. Non-marriage relationships, family problems, and abuse, to name a few, could all be classified as “baggage” also. But don’t call them baggage.
  • Don’t ever use the “test-drive the car” analogy with me either. I may slap you.

Reflections: Are you Dateable?

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A friend of mine steered me toward a new series regarding singleness. http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/voiceofhope/

I believe the first one I watched (Are you Dateable?) made a lot of sense, so I plan to watch and respond to each episode. Feel free to offer your own feedback after viewing.

The expert in the first episode refers back to Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:36-40:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

I have to admit, I have always wondered about these words. Each and every time I read them, I ask the same question: What if you don’t love yourself? That word, “as”, holds a lot of power. I felt like jumping up and down when this man immediately addressed my ever-present question. I loved his point and I agree.

We are all screw-ups. We all make mistakes. We all act viciously at times. We all say things we regret. We all do things we regret. We all look in the mirror and find things we don’t like at times. We all have issues. Issues often make us ultra-aware of how unlovable we are.

Then there is God. The Bible is funny in that a large portion emphasizes mankind’s flaws. In other words, it agrees with all of our self-conscious, regretful, shame-faced feelings and says God is good, but we are not. And then it goes on to show that God deemed us lovable anyway! Although, we aren’t perfect, He proudly declares that we are made in His image! We disobeyed His loving guidance, and He gave us grace. “Try again. I’ll send my son, Jesus Christ, to give you another chance. And I will give you My Holy Spirit to help you along as well. It’s going to cost a lot… My son’s life, in fact. But you are worth it.”

I tear up as I envision my heavenly Father and His love for me. He offered up His only Begotten, in order to adopt me in! I can give Him my lopsided, scribbly picture – my attempt to portray the sunset He created… and rather than point out my mistakes and toss out my artwork, He smiles at that picture and hangs it upon His refrigerator. “That’s what my daughter drew for me!”

The Lord infuses value into His people. When I go to Him, I can pour out  my flaws, my weaknesses, all of my ISSUES, and God turns them all around. He heals me, teaches me, works with me, blesses me, and after all that when I screw up again, He keeps on loving me.

When I see the way He loves me, I cannot help but begin to see things from His perspective, and love myself as well.

A Coffee Encounter

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“I do not believe a person needs to attend church in order to go to heaven.”

I looked him in the eyes, evenly. “I don’t either.”

His face became puzzled. “Then why do you want me to go?”

I had explained to this man earlier that I wanted him to go to church because I believe in Heaven and in Hell. I told him that I could not force God upon him, but that I at least wanted to be sure he knew more about Jesus Christ because it makes me sick to envision him in Hell someday. Oh yeah, and I did not want to be the one to teach him about Christ. Hence, the invitation to church.

“I believe that you need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in order to go to Heaven. I want you to come to church so that someone other than me can teach you about Jesus. I did not want to talk to you about Jesus because you like me.” I slowly poured forth my reasoning.

His eyes twinkled, but he still looked slightly puzzled. “What makes you think I like you?”

I fixated a “You’ve got to be kidding me!” expression onto my face and crossed my arms. He started to grin and then reiterated, “What have I done to make you think I like you?”

Several obvious signals stood out in my memory. I made a quick reference to something he had done earlier that day and then challenged, “Tell me you don’t like me!”

“I can’t,” he conceded. Then he smiled shyly and looked away for a second. When he met my gaze again his eyes were still twinkling.

After that issue cleared up I returned to my initial point. “Sometimes a man who likes me will tell me whatever he thinks I want to hear. I did not want to tell you about Jesus because I did not want you to make a decision based on your feelings toward me.”

My latte vanished within the first fifteen minutes of our conversation. But we sat and talked for over an hour. Our discussion ranged from church and salvation, to drinking and smoking, to hunting and motorcycles, to marriage and past experiences, to why bad things happen if God is merciful, and back to a relationship with Jesus Christ. I’m sure I’ve skipped a few things as well.  All in all, I enjoyed the time spent together immensely.

Which leads to my next dilemma. What do I do in the future? Now that I have shared the gospel with this man, Operation Flirt to Convert is complete. He knows all that he needs to know in order to make a decision. If I move further I will cross the line into Missionary Dating. I kind of wish that I had hated the entire Coffee Encounter. But I didn’t. I loved every minute of our friendly debate and humorous banter. The more serious aspects of our conversation also intrigued me. His point of view, even where it differed from mine, was very interesting. I almost hoped he would make me angry or disgust me. Then I would not have to contemplate a next step. I would simply walk away.

As it stands, I’m not sure how to proceed. He assures me that he will come to my church sometime under the condition that I sit with him. He does not want to sit alone like an outcast in an unfamiliar place. I understand that. Unfortunately, now that he knows about Jesus, I do not feel such a strong desire for him to attend my church. Now that the Good News has reached him, I worry about the trivial things that escaped my imagination previously.

Suddenly I am extremely aware of how potentially awkward I may feel while I introduce this man, whom I have no clear relationship with, to the other attendees at my small church. He is not my boyfriend, not my husband, not my brother, cousin, uncle, or any other kind of kin. He is not a friend visiting from out of town. He is not close friends with someone that I know. In all reality he is a random stranger whom I’ve met a handful of times and have no reason to still be connected to – except because he likes me and I want him to meet Jesus.

Sitting across from a table, sipping coffee wasn’t so bad. Sitting beside him in a pew sounds terrifying. What will I do if he slides his arm behind me across the back of the pew? Exactly how close must we sit together? Does “Bible’s width apart” apply? If so, where might I find a bigger Bible? Instead, might I be able to borrow one of my pastor’s kids to sit between us? Or will that cause us to look like a family?

GAAAHHHHHHH!!! When did this all become so complicated? Note to self: Cats are so much easier than men. Let’s skip Flirt to Convert next time the opportunity arises.