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.”

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.

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.

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 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.

 

 

The Adulterous Single

I thought a commandment didn’t apply to me.

Yep, one of the TEN COMMANDMENTS.

It’s the one about adultery. Because I’m a single, I definitely felt like that just didn’t apply to me. I’m good on that one God, because obviously, doesn’t apply! That was my exact thoughts. Mark it off, I’m good.

But here’s the thing on this. I don’t have to be married to commit adultery. Obviously the very literal line of thinking leads to sexual immorality, whether it’s pre-marital or any of the other related immoral acts related to sexual relations. The one that hit me though was that I have a propensity to an adulterous heart. A heart that puts so much above my covenant relationship with God. A heart that will easily lean into work, people, stuff with more love and focus, giving itself away above my first love, that love with God.

Ouch.

Adultery does apply to me as a single individual. It applies to all of us, regardless of our marital status. It is a heart issue, it’s a covenantal issue. One that starts with God and my heart, not at the altar with another individual.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23 (ESV)

Never has that verse become more vivid, breathing and real than looking at it in the context of my adulterous ways in relationship with God. Everything I do flows from my heart. Every action, thought, word…every bit of it, and if my heart isn’t committed and pursuing the love of God in all things? Well that’s where the convenient opportunity of adultery slips in. When I am not guarding that fickle heart, being on consistent watch of it’s consumption and output, then it’ll easily wonder to other, lesser loves. It’ll pursue side pieces that catch it’s eye rather than God Himself, the One Who has proven faithful and good, over and over again.

As much as I’d like to believe I have that adultery thing on lock-down as a single gal, the truth of the matter is that I am far from it, and it does apply to us all. My adulterous heart should be the guarded heart, giving life to the relationship with God and not to the other pursuits that so easily ensnare and entice me from my first love.