Traveling Light

It was about a year ago I went on my own bucket list trip. I think it is always interesting to hear about people’s bucket lists and the things and places they want to travel to, see, and do in their life. Sometimes the experiences are very similar to others and sometimes they are wildly different. Reflecting the uniqueness of every human being and the desires of adventure and curiosity of exploration.

In March of last year I saw one of my favorite musicians was doing a summer 40th anniversary tour, and living in Music City USA means we often get the concerts smaller towns don’t. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have long been my favorite band, probably because my momma raised me right. But I knew I didn’t want to see them in Nashville. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Bridgestone, but for the first time seeing my favorite musician?) So I looked at other cities and saw Seattle, a city I’d long wanted to visit but had 1-no excuse to and 2-no one to journey there with.

IMG_5110And that’s a hard rub as a single person. You know your other single friends are on budgets like yourself, and may not be up for traveling to the same place or seeing the same things as you. You don’t want to force people to adhere to your travel plans or destinations out of shear selfishness.

 

20953703_10105336340976795_4326938811749454304_nSo I went alone. To a city I have never been to. Staying in an AirBnB. Driving in a city I had never driven in (but hey, still on the left side of the road!). Because I wanted to see my favorite musician and visit a city I’d dreamt of seeing for a decade. I did research on some things to check out, bought a random city pass to see a bunch of sites I may not have otherwise have gotten to see. I went to two different distilleries for tours and tastings, saw the OG Starbucks, and even fell in love with an artist that I will not shut up about a year later (Chihuly glass!).

 

 

Chihuly Blue

Yes, there were times when I was apprehensive about being there alone. Loneliness crept in at moments, just like they do on a random Tuesday night at home. But I learned that I miss out on life, on living and adventuring if I wait for a boyfriend or spouse to come along to do those things with. Sometimes you do have friends who can make trips work, or you go on adventures with your family to places like I am doing in a couple of weeks with my sister to Chicago. But there are times, when you are single, that you just cannot make it work and you either sit by planning for the day when you might have a partner or you jump and take the trip.

If I had waited, I would’ve missed seeing my favorite musician live in concert. Maybe that’s what has really spurred my heart and passion for traveling as a single. Because if I had put off that trip, or opted out because of my marital status, I would never have seen him perform in person (and ya’ll it was so good….).

You still have to be aware when you travel alone, and probably more hyper aware than when with another person or in a group. But living your life means living it as it’s gifted to you right now. Not waiting for the “what if” days to come that may never come to fruition. As I shared on Instagram earlier this week, Flying across the country solo showed me the beauty of life, adventure and even my singleness while also reminding me that no matter what I may feel as a single, God’s designed my life and is very present in every bit of it. I have to choose to recognize my heart and desire for living out that life. Regardless of the lie of “less than” as a single, regardless of the loneliness, regardless of the emotion I attach to it or presume about it.

Singled Out in Prayer

Over the month of July I was out of town almost every weekend, traveling for birthdays, weddings and concerts. While it was fun for the summer, it also removed me from my home church most Sundays. If I am honest, it was also a bit of a breather as I have been in some major wrestling on the state of the Baptist church as a whole and specifically the Southern Baptist church which I have been a part of for most of my adult years (and all of my childhood). That’s at least a chapter in my second book for sure-how to wrestle in the Southern Baptist ring.

Last Sunday found my first weekend home in what felt like ages, so part of me was looking forward to being back at church and the other part was really just hoping to sleep in. The wrestling of my inner dialogue that many have on a Sunday morning hit full force but I made myself get my butt to a seat in our church plant service. I glance at the bulletin to see what Scripture we’ll be reading and see it’s the Armor of God in Ephesians…

WOOHOO! I missed the entire chapter plus on marriage!” was my initial thought. But then our pastor does the ole switcharoo. Preaching off script on marriage instead. The weekend prior I was at a wedding. The weekend before I was celebrating another birthday being single. Needless to say, my head and heart wanted to get up and walk out. My emotions were closing off and crossing my arms, thinking “well this won’t apply to me, should’ve stayed in my pajamas with coffee.”

This also fell after a conversation earlier in the week where it felt as though I was being single-shamed because I didn’t have a husband and kids to keep me busy and therefore could take on something. (For transparency’s sake, this wasn’t at my job) It may not have been the intention of the individuals but we all need some self-awareness of our words, even especially me.

So as I sat in the building God built, alongside brothers and sisters, I started having this conversation internally that I have to admit was Spirit influenced. God was being very direct that you know what, His Church isn’t me-centered, it’s Him-Centered. As it should be. And what if me praying for the marriages in that room was what He needed from me today. It wasn’t what I could get from Him but what He was asking of me, obedience in what can seem such a meaningless thing in the work of God but what He wants of me. Not to be me-focused, seeking Jesus-and out of life, but what I can do to serve Him. Giving up more of me so I can be fully who He knows I can be.

What would it look like to pray for every marriage I am around, that I know of? To pray over friends’ and families’ marriages that they would be God-centered, building a covenant relationship around love and respect, Biblical submission and leadership, authority and mutuality. That they would be the relationships I see as God-honoring and desire after the good things in those, rather than the Hallmark-saturated romance we are often using for relationships. How would the church look then? How would our communities and workplaces look?

Having that change of ‘tude made me grateful I had gone to church last week, that I’d been in a sermon on marriage and that even at the end our pastor made it a point to say he knew there were single individuals present and for us to be in fervent prayer for future spouses as well, just as he’d directed the spouses present to pray for one another. It was a reminder that I may not have a future spouse but I can sure pray for each and every one of them I know, and for my single friends as well to have spouses of the same prayerful focus.

The Gifts

It’s closing in on 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning. April in Tennessee has decided to be a snowy/rainy/wind-chill freezing kind of thing. It resembles more February than it does spring time in bloom. I haven’t showered and I have consumed two very large cups of coffee and one slice of toast. I am in my favorite winter pajamas.

I was thinking about how my singleness looks, about the contrast of life with my friends who text me photos of their kiddos or the friends I see posting about their babies sleeping through the night or husbands whisking them off to fun birthday weekend surprises. There are days, moments, times where I get that sinking jealous feeling of it all. I love seeing their lives, but there’s a small ache within of coveting, of wondering and of doubt that it will happen for me too.

But then there are moments like these, where I find the freedoms of my life to be quite nice. Where there aren’t plans for the day, or worries over planning around nap times. Singleness looks different for each person living it, just like marriage and parenting and pretty much every single thing about living life. One thing is sure though, is that this life and the time we are given for it is a gift.

This morning as I was choosing my time in the Bible I found the words of Paul to a fellow believer to be something I needed reminding of as well. Timothy was around my age as well, called to minister at the church at Ephesus at the time we read Paul’s words to him in 1 Timothy. And some of the people had taken to legalism in the church, things that were good and created by God were being used as a form of legalistic religion instead by the church to set themselves apart as more holy or more devout.

Paul works through identifying the issue and encouraging Timothy in the fourth chapter of his letter. There nestled in between how to treat church members and the mystery of godliness is a small paragraph on ministry, and this phrase: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you…” It reminded me that I too neglect the spiritual gifts given me by God, those that are specifically designed just for me by the Creator of the universe. He knew I would be the only one that could use them in such a way for His kingdom and His purpose in such a time as this.

He knew that the still-in-her-pajamas, unshowered single gal on a Saturday morning would use the gift given her for Him in the way He designed her to use it. Just as He did the friends who are married, who are parents, who are divorced, who are single too. He has given gifts that reside in each of us that I often forget and neglect, letting doubt fuel the misuse or nonuse of the gifts, letting the words of others cause my gifts to look like obligations or ones I wish I could return. But then I remember the words of James just a few pages over from Paul’s letter to Timothy:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

Singleness and Community

Visiting new churches is difficult, no matter if you are a married or a single. I have mentioned this a time or two, and I know from friends that have kiddos that it’s especially hard to pull them up from the friend group to search out a new church home.

Recently I felt a bit uncomfortable with the comfortable nature I was feeling at my church of three years. The only tension I was finding was in seeing how comfortable the walls and rows had become with being right where they were. It bothered me so deeply that I decided to take a pause from my church and explore other options. Friends who are at other churches that I’d heard about or listened to their podcasts in the area suggested I check out their churches.

But I have to be honest here, I lost every bit of accountability the moment I walked out of my home church. If I didn’t show up that Sunday? Well that’s okay, no one would know but me…and God of course. And so for the past two months I have sort of coasted through this tension of my spiritual walk in finding a church based solely upon my expectations and not what the church is there to do-disciple and minister to the lost.

As I shared with a friend last night when he asked what he could pray for me on, I think I already knew where God was leading on this. Because as a single, we desperately need community rooted in the walls of the church. We need that accountability and that connectedness more than we need the church to live up to some expectation we have set for her.

For me what I didn’t recognize was a season of tension in my selfish expectations and the needs of the church right where I was at. I made it about me rather than about those around me. I directed it all inward rather than outward and upward. I pulled away from friendships and relationships out of a selfish need I discovered was rooted in lies, rooted in doubt and worry, judgement. Instead of taking it to others, I simply pulled up stakes and walked out.

When you are single, whether you are a leader in a ministry or even a pastor, you need that circle of relationships, you need the church and it’s community. You need the care and relationships that can sometimes be difficult and not what you expected, but it’s what God has placed there for you at that exact time. And it can be tense, it can make you want to turn and walk away. But more than anything, that’s when we need to cling even more to Him and His people. To the community. Even when we don’t feel like showing our weaker side, our doubt, our worry, our fears and our hurts. We like the comfortable when it comes to how we do church and community. We like the sheen of fine a bit more than we realize or admit. We worry about what will be said about us, instead of what we are living out of His Word.

It’s a difficult thing to admit you lived into your fears, doubts and anxiety. To admit you were selfish in your expectations. But it’s even more difficult to live it without community. Without the church.

The Legitimacy of Singlehood

I write and delete quite a bit when I am writing on singleness. Because I fear what I say will be misconstrued or even so boldly taken as offensive. But what I struggle with more is the tension I feel within the church more and more for singles. My heart is for them, because I am one of them. It’s something I have grown into wrestling with over the years and now find as I look around the landscape a desperate need for us within the walls of the church and in the community.

You’ve likely heard the statistics that people now-a-days are waiting to get married later in life (27 ain’t that late y’all) and there are more singles than in years past whether from never marrieds, divorce, widowhood.

So we’re prevalent in numbers and also in need. We are a subset based upon our marital status has left us wanting community, wanting a safe haven, a place to be. To walk out lives of faith with others. Sometimes that means with couples guiding the way, other times that’s in similar communities, and invariably it means living life with groups of the same sex because we are often drawn to what we know and do daily.

But when I look at the landscape of churches these days, I don’t see much modeled in the legitimacy of singleness in leadership. Yes, you’ll have a handful in the pre-school or nursery ministries, maybe even in kid’s ministry that are singles. You’ll have a couple of singles leading life groups that are for singles. But what you don’t see are singles in pastoral positions for the most part. (I put a contingent on there because I know of ONE) I don’t see singles in other leadership roles within a church staff.

To me it seems that we aren’t counted worthy in the church until there’s a band attached to our fingers. That we cannot be taken seriously as leaders, servants in the church, unless we have a spouse. I understand the difficulties of leading in ministry, and when you are single, the inherent loneliness that surrounds you in that. I have seen it first hand and heard from others.

It just makes me wonder what the undercurrent culture we are building in the church is saying to those of us who are single. That we aren’t worthy? That we only matter yea far and no further? That we can be responsible for babies and teaching kids, but don’t get us near a group of grown adults? Or that we’ll read Paul’s words in the Bible, learn from words given him by God and then forget that he too was single. Or that frankly Christ Himself was single throughout His ministry here with us. The Son of God brought forth here in earth was never married. In His 30s.

And yet, we can’t be bothered to consider how singles can impact the world with their faith just by pouring a bit more into them? That we’d rather discount their abilities simply out of the lack of a spouse. We’d discount their calling God has given them, their spiritual giftedness, simply due to their marital status.

Maybe this is my soap box currently. That the church has moved corporately in many ways to the family, without realizing the very definition of family was long ago crushed and restructured by Christ-brothers and sisters defined by faith and not blood. That we are all the Bride of Christ.

Oh That Single Life We Weave

Singleness can be hard. Actually it is hard.

Yes I hear marriage is hard too, and I have seen first hand from friends and family that it is hard as well.

But some days, it is just plain hard.

You’re the one responsible for all the bills. You’re the one who has to figure out dinner, lunch the following day, laundry getting folded and live into this social life so that you might meet someone you’d sit across a table from on Taco Tuesday at Dave & Buster’s (oh that’s a post coming soon y’all, cause it happened).

You’re the one at night, after a day of just life, that comes in to an empty home and just want to bounce life off of someone else. Yes, friends are there. Yes siblings and parents are there. But it’s just hard when you’re single.

And we don’t talk too much about it. It sort of has a stigma attached to it that we get all this “free time” and what not, so we should hush up or we’ll be likened to a spinster. So we hush up and muddle on. Until we stumble…until we hit a bump or a quiet space and we just find it’s hard to be alone.

I don’t have a magic fix or application here today y’all…this thought of the hard single life has become prevalent in my writing privately at the moment, and my thoughts. When you’re 36 and single, you find the people around you are for the most part married up, having babies, and living their coupled lives. So maybe you’re single, recently so after the holidays (oof…another topic for another post), or maybe you’re just finding yourself at a place in life that your marital status as a single is just hard.

IT’S OKAY. It is hard. That’s what I am slowly going to start diving in around here. Giving you all a glimpse of single life (if you’ve not been privy to it as a married up for a bit) and talking through some of finer points of dating in your 30s (oh the joys and hilarity that ensue), navigating how your faith and singleness intersect and maybe dropping some truth bombs on what it means to be #wifematerial.

The Single Writer Rant

Can I tell y’all something? I get a bit agitated when I read Christian single columns or books on dating. That’s my thing right? Like that is exactly what I’m working on a book proposal for, and I hate reading on the subject?

Yes, yes I do.

Here’s the reason why it bothers me so much.

Because at *almost* 36 years of age, I have a very hard time finding a substantive book on dating/Christian singleness that isn’t fluffy junk or preparation for marriage only written by another single Christian. Oh don’t get me wrong, there’s some good stuff out there and I am a big fan of several authors on the matter. The problem lies in when I scroll to their bio (on internet articles) or flip the back cover open. Every single one of them says “married to…” or “wife of…”

Yes I want their expertise and knowledge on this stage of life…but what if this stage is ultimately my landing spot? I want to know how to live in this place of life from someone whose navigating it themselves as a single. My ultimate goal in life isn’t marriage, and most days I don’t think about it. There are days I long for it, and pray about it, and my future husband, yes. (Y’all he needs your prayers, cause I’m obviously quite a handful) My ultimate goal in life is to live in obedience to God, moving ever closer to Christ and who He would have me be.

And so I bring my rant to you the church, to the fellow writers and singletons in the church…let’s step into our lives fully, and talk about them. Let’s be honest enough with ourselves and with our people to learn and grow from one another. I wouldn’t let a fresh out of college kid tell me about the navigation of retirement, so why sit back and let marrieds tell us about our single life? I bring it to the publishers, the editors, the curriculum people…singles in the church and out of the church need their voice in print, in studies, in in-depth richness that pursues more than a marital outcome, but a life shaped and molded for Christ’s use.