Hey Singles, Check Your Heart

Last year I wrote about how you can lean into the life of a single individual through the holidays, and I believe that still holds true today. The year prior I wrote about having a solo thanksgiving as I had done for several years.

But what if you’re navigating Thanksgiving with family and friends as a single, and you can feel the anxiety or the loneliness mounting?

I have been there, and it’ll surely sneak up on me at some point over the holidays too. The whisper of loneliness, of desiring someone special to share in the joy of the holiday season with, the nudge of anxiety of facing a holiday party solo or the questions of far-reaching relatives on the why of your single status.

Deep breaths…prayers….and forced smiles. That’s how you may have navigated it before, but let’s be honest, you didn’t really face it or the feeling that welled within you. You merely dodged it or pushed it aside. But eventually the feelings of anxiety and loneliness will come flooding forth, maybe while you binge Hallmark movies or are out shopping for one more gift on your single budget.

Even as you begin to journey to your Thanksgiving destination today, or are looking ahead to the next month of holiday festivities start to look at where these feelings are originating. Are they from a place within you? Are you feeling the pressure from outside sources? Is it anxiety? Is it hope for the season you are in? Find the thread of your emotions and dig deep, seek out where they lead you. Do the hard work of figuring out yourself in this season and these holidays.

Why does anxiety well up when you are faced with your marital status? Where and when are you feeling loneliness? What do you use or abuse in coping with those feelings? How could you better address them over the next month with intentionality and focus instead of packing them away for January?

Don’t let another holiday season pass where you overeat, undereat, hold a thin smile and secretly get crushed inside when Aunt Marjorie asked for the thousandth time just exactly why you are still single. In the words of comedian John Crist, “Check Your Heart.”

Love of God and country?

God doesn’t share a platform.

 

I read that quote in the context of an article on patriotism and the church. It was cautioning those on Sunday who would seek to put their love of country ahead of their love of God in their worship services.

If I am honest, having grown up right in the buckle of the Bible belt all my life, I hadn’t given the patriotic-themed services much thought before. I am in a family of military servants, the daughter and granddaughter of veterans of wars. I truly enjoy holidays, especially the Fourth of July. History was my major for a while in college because of my love of the story of America’s founding.

Yet, somewhere along the way, and quite possibly never more prevalent than in the last two years, have I seen the absolute love of country come before the love of God here in America. Where our citizenship in a country that easily will pass away is far more important to us than our eternal citizenship in heaven.Where we wave our rights to land, jobs, ego and pride around rather than living humbly, seeking mercy, walking justly with our God.

Somewhere along that path the church got mixed up in it. Where we joined up patriotism with our Christianity and made them one. Love of God and country. I get it. Seriously I do, I do love the country I was fortunate to be born in, to call myself a citizen of. But when it comes before my walk with God? Well, it is simply idolatry. It’s valuing anything above God and His Word, my relationship with Him, what He has asked of my life as an heir, a child of God.

While I will watch fireworks tomorrow, sport my stars and stripes in my special POUND class and sing “God bless America” I know that it doesn’t come before God for me. He is a jealous God, One who doesn’t share a platform and most assuredly doesn’t put celebrating our independence ahead of our dependence upon Him. This isn’t a Jesus juke by any means, but thoughts on how we have so easily slid into the celebration of country even in worship services ahead of worshiping the glory of our God. It’s a conviction that our hearts value comforts of country over the conflicts of a Christian walk.

So maybe we shoot off fireworks, we grill out with family and friends, but we keep in mind the fleeting context of our country. We realize our citizenship in our country comes second to our citizenship in an eternal kingdom.

The Solo Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving week y’all!

My pantry is stocked, the menu is set, and the house is mostly clean. This year we’re having Thanksgiving here in Nashville, as my parents had an appointment in town this week. There’s baking to be done and a Turkey Trot to prep for Thursday morning.

I wrote last week a bit about rushing Christmas but I do enjoy Thanksgiving as well. For several years my parents traveled to the beach during this week for a festival, and to escape the colder weather of east Tennessee. Between schedules, vacation time allowances, and the short travel window, I often opted not to join them. So it often meant I was solo for Thanksgiving. Honestly I didn’t much mind as I love to cook, and this is the Super Bowl of cooking in my mind. I had offers from friends and coworkers to join them and their families for the holiday, which I always appreciated, but never took them up on. Partly because I’m a bit of an introvert (shocking I know) but I also didn’t want to interfere on their family time.

Recently I was thinking on this as I prepped my lists and put up my decorations. Singles often find themselves alone on holidays for many of the same reasons I had-travel costs, vacation time allotment, schedules. But sometimes family is just hard for some singles, or they don’t have family in the definition we often attribute. In that perspective it’s hard to give thanks, it’s hard to sit at home and dwell in that constant quiet of single life. It’s difficult to see the family aspect come out in every commercial, show and conversation being had.

So if you know of some singles-whether they be at church, work, friend circles-check on them and find out if they are spending Thanksgiving solo. See if they’d like to join you, your family, or start a new tradition as a single and host your own for those who may not have somewhere to go or who don’t want to cook! You may get turned down, but press in a bit without being pushy. Be a bit vulnerable with your hospitality, even when it’s not perfect. Even when it gets a bit messy explaining the family relations as a backstory. 

It doesn’t take a buffet, an immaculate home, or well-behaved family. It takes opening your heart and your door to someone and giving thanks for that opportunity. It’s giving thanks for perspective and a seat-filled at the table, where so many conversations and life are done. It’s choosing a moment of uncomfortable for a season of thanks and giving. Maybe you’ll have a new tradition for your family for years to come.

 

 

Begin Again

So here we are a week into 2017. How are those resolutions treating you? Or better yet, how are you treating them? I know all the statistics surrounding the people who keep their resolutions is staggering at best. It reminds us of failure and best laid plans.

Shoot, even I indulged in cheesecake yesterday and thought “well, here you are ya failure.” But then I remembered it’s my choice. I chose to grab that deliciousness (and it was delicious) with the same choice I made to get in good health this year. One doesn’t nullify the other but it can overshadow it if I let it.

I can allow the weight of one poor decision to counteract the good intentions and focus I had the other six days of the week. Or I can say that this was a choice today, that has no effect on what I accomplished the other six days this week and will have zero bearing on the next six days following.

new-years-resolutions-calendar

Recently I was listening to a friend speak about beginning again…something we all often like to do in January each year. We have come off the indulgences (and some over indulgences) of the holiday season that lasted well over six weeks. We have said “come January” more often than we would care to admit. In my friend’s sermon I couldn’t help but think about how we reserve January 1 as a do over day. We hit reset, wipe the slate clean and start fresh.

But what about April 18? Or July 24? Or October 1?

I think we put far too much emphasis on the date on the calendar than we do the intentions and purpose of our hearts and minds. We lump in so much, put alot of pressure on a new year, on January 1 to bring about some radical shift in our lives that when it’s a week later and we’ve not seen much we grow discouraged. Or when we slip up because we’ve lived for the last eight weeks, eight months, eight years, a lifetime a different way that we chalk it up to us being failures.

What if instead of letting one slip up damage the whole focus of your determination, preparation and focus, you allow it to give you another reset? What if instead of focusing on the location of where you find yourself on January 8th, you focus on the people you get to interact with, what you can learn from them, how you can bring brightness to their day?

Maybe you do need to begin again today. It’s a new day, full of new mercies. It’s full and waiting for you. Maybe it’s about not letting the date on the calendar or one poor choice dictate how your life is structured and lived out. You get the choice. You get the decision. You get to tell failure that it had it’s time, you have learned and you are utilizing that to move in the direction you feel led. That it’s not about where you are in location, job, relationship, hardship or joy but it’s about choosing to begin again with yourself.


You can listen to my friend’s sermon here. (And you should)

A Single New Year

December 30th…when the tension starts to rise a bit for the singles. We have navigated the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas or Hanukkah, hopefully with some success and self-confidence in tact.

But y’all we are heading into New Year’s Eve. So many years I spent putting alot of pressure on this eve of a new year, thinking that it would be the culmination of hopes that I had all year long. Plans, dresses, dinners, and plenty of social activities. Some years I had plans months in advance, others found me with none. Absolutely zero plans. It felt like it was a reflection of my marital status…FAILURE.

So for quite a while I lived in that reality that I had to have plans, a date on New Year’s Eve. That this specific date-December 31st held some significance in how my life lived out the next year. It set the standard in my mind for quite a while.

But let me tell all my singles right now, on December 30th, that it’s a lie. NYE is just a reason for people to make life goals they’ll have forgotten by April and an excuse to indulge in excess one last time before the slate gets “wiped clean” so to speak. How you spend your NYE is not a reflection of your life in the last year, or in the one to come.

Don’t let a day define your life. Don’t let plans, or lack thereof, do it either. And most certainly DO NOT LET YOUR MARITAL STATUS AS SINGLE DEFINE YOUR YEAR! I think that’s hard for some people to accept and live with. I think they wrap up all of who they are in having someone, being with someone, whether a date or a girlfriend or a spouse, that’s how they define all of their life.

But it doesn’t have to define your’s. Whether you find yourself sitting at home watching the ball drop this December 31st, or in a large crowd of friends and family, know that your 2017 isn’t laid out in how you spend it or who you spend it with (or who you don’t).

Happy New Year readers!

The Manger

You know the song we sing around this time of year, “Away in a Manger”? Well that song has been on my mind for weeks now. Odd, I know. Of all the Christmas carols, hymns, songs to have, that one isn’t one that truly sticks out as a mind-grabber. But alas, here I am this morning humming it while I clean up breakfast and look at the tree partially lit up (half the lights at the top went out, it’s a thing I just don’t have the will to drag out new lights for).

The line “the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head” is what keeps popping into mind and I am having a hard time here with it. Here’s why…

I think we like to look at Christ as this babe in a feeding trough there in a stable-structure. We like to see Him as this babe that shepherds came to marvel and wise men sought to honor with gifts, but we keep Him there in this context throughout our lives.

jesus-in-the-mangerWe have this concept that Christ is infant-to wonder and lavish love upon, but we don’t like the reality that His Presence commands of our lives. We don’t like that when He came with us, our selves got a bit too uncomfortable, our lives got rocked by Emmanuel. God with us.

Because that meant we couldn’t point to His absence, His silence, as excuse. He physically laid out His life, relinquishing the glories of heaven and His right in order that we might be in relationship with Him. In a few months we’ll look to Him on the cross, but I think we often upgrade the image of Christ as a babe in order to downplay our need for Him.

When we put Christ only in the image of the manger, born in a stable as a helpless babe, it appeases our self to think He can’t do it all, He can’t be relied upon and maybe He needs our help instead of the other way around. We don’t greet Him with welcoming in our lives often, but instead stare in wonder at this humanness of God Incarnate instead.

In reading Luke’s account of Christ’s life, I love the honesty of Mary with Gabriel. Just yesterday  we talked about Zechariah’s response to him as he hears the news of an impending birth. Then just a few verses later, we see Mary greeted by this angel (y’all he wasn’t some little cherub all cute and fluffy, this was Gabriel, mighty angel come to bring the news). Same truth of a birth coming, only this one is the Savior of the world, God Himself. Mary’s initial response is one of confusion, not doubt. But how can she get pregnant as a virgin, unwed? She wasn’t doubting his news, she just couldn’t see the possibility of it with her.

But her response to Emmanuel coming to her, coming to us?

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.

“May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Is that how we respond to Christ the King? Is that how we address Him even now, knowing His redemption of our souls was purposed through this very season we celebrate? Do we look to Him as the authority of our lives even in the context of the manger? Because y’all, He didn’t stay in the manger. He didn’t stay in the tomb. He reigns, rules and intercedes for us…

He’s not away in some manger, helpless and in need of us. It’s us that needs Him. We needed Him thousands of years ago, in that manger, to herald a new hope, to rejoice as our weary souls cried out for a Savior. We needed the new morning, new mercies, redemption and grace. There it all came, in the form a baby, heralded by an angel and under all authority given by God Himself, so that we may say “I am the Lord’s servant.”

A Single Thanksgiving

Over the last few years I have celebrated Thanksgiving without the family. There’s been one or two thrown in over the last decade where I spent it with my sister and her family, but for the most part it’s been solo…and that’s been okay for me. For several years I used that as an opportunity to serve in the local rescue mission-preparing the dining room and then serving the meals to the homeless. It is something I really enjoy doing, and hope many of you choose to spend your day doing as well (but go serve there in January, April and July too).

This year is different. The parental units have foregone their annual beach sojourn to be at home…and the kids are coming home. Yep, no solo Thanksgiving prep this year. I’ll get to assist the master chef herself (my mother) in prepping everything with her fancy new stove Santa just dropped off.

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So I thought about those years I spent solo at Thanksgiving and thought I’d share some tips for my fellow singletons (and their family and friends too) for this upcoming holiday.

  1. It’s okay if you want to do Thanksgiving solo. It’s okay if you have no plans and no family or friends around that you want to spend the day with. If you’d rather have T-Day your way…let me be the first one to tell you, that it’s okay.
  2. It’s okay to NOT want to spend Thanksgiving solo. If you are yearning for company, swing open those doors my friends and invite people to your place. Or share with others that you are spending it alone, and you might get an invite. For several years I got invited to friends and friends’ families’ homes for Thanksgiving. I had let them know I was going it solo and I do believe there was pity on their part. But that’s okay. You are fine if you want to go over (take a side or dessert, do NOT go empty-handed) and spend time engulfed in someone else’s world.
  3. Families and friends: please do not ask about the dating world to the singleton. This is the last thing we want brought up because breaking news, WE KNOW WE ARE SINGLE. The dinner table, or the couch in front of the tv with football on, is not the place we want to discuss why we are single at holiday time.
  4. Have an attitude of gratitude this Thanksgiving, even in your singleton state. I have friends who are trying to balance multiple stops with kiddos and tense family situations on short notice…that’s their reality. Yours (and mine) is a single life that permits us to choose to check-in and check-out of the holiday spirit if we so choose…but we must be thankful for the current situation whether we are choosing it for ourselves or not.
  5. Families and friends: if you know of a singleton this holiday who might be spending it solo, offer up a seat at your table (or couch). They may not be able to get home on this short holiday weekend, or they may be without family, and really don’t want to impose by inviting themselves. Extend the gratitude, and fill them in on the fun you put in the dysfunction that is every single family in the world.
  6. Lastly, use this as an opportunity to revel in the delight that is this season of gratitude and thankfulness. No matter what your choice is or where you find yourself celebrating. You get to choose as a singleton and the choice is always thanksgiving.