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Living in Singleness

Walking Alone After Our Loss

The Single Walk is not always an easy one. It is frequently more difficult for people who have been in long-standing relationships who now find themselves walking alone. Singles struggle to find a new way to fit into community, especially religious community, following the end of a life with a partner.

Some of us are single because the person we planned to spend all our years with has died or left us. The singleness that comes from the death of our partner can leave us in un-imagined pain and grief. A divorce, or end of a committed partnership, can do the same for many; even when we might agree with the decision to terminate the relationship. We go from two to one. We are no longer part of the “couples community” and we aren’t quite ready to function as a single person. This is especially true for the widow/widower who may remain married in their heart.

Continue reading “Walking Alone After Our Loss”

The Gift of Community

 

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 In general terms we define community as an organized network or a coordinated effort to bring people together. Communities develop as people are drawn together by common interests. Maybe they are inspired by activities such as sporting events/clubs or charitable events.

One of the most important aspects of community is that it is a place to develop new relationships. We are drawn to places out of common interests, but usually we are drawn there in the hope of developing new friendships. After all, isn’t the foundation for most friendships something we have in common be it work, church, sports, animals, or charity? Continue reading “The Gift of Community”

Table for One…

How many of you dread those words? Married or single, “table for one” has such a stigma attached to it:

  • I’m lonely, alone, or single…
  • I don’t have anyone in my life- I’m not loved.
  • Unworthy, sad, or embarrassed.

None of these are positive descriptions but they may be the words we tell ourselves. They imply there is something wrong with us. 

I wonder how often we don’t do something because we are single? Do you skip movies, shows, or sports events because you don’t have anyone to go with you? Are you recently single after the loss of a spouse or the end of a relationship and going it alone is painful? Do you feel out of place because you think it’s a couple’s world? Did you know that nearly half the population in America is NOT married??

I took a step myself today and went into my favorite fast food joint for a bite to eat. Usually I would go through the drive through and just take it home. But lately I have  been forcing myself out into the coffee shops and restaurants I enjoy–all by myself. As I looked around the restaurant Today I realized that about half the people were sitting alone. Some were on their phones. Some were reading. And one was even just sitting there eating. Go figure!! 

It is time we change the perception that there is something wrong with being single and being out in public alone. It is time we tell ourselves that there is nothing to be embarrassed about–we are half the population after all!! And it is time we call other singles to join us, especially if you know someone who might not be getting out.

Take a first step. Do something simple. Don’t bury your head in your phone because there is a lot of world out there for us to discover. Be bold. Smile when you nod and say “yes” to a table for one! 

Singles are “Disabled” – Says World Health Organization

As if singles don’t carry enough of a stigma from society, the World Health Organization (WHO) just heaped another helping of “less-than” on the world-wide singles community. The WHO has now decided that singles who are not sexually active are somehow “disabled.” (read here)

First they cast this shame on couples who were unable to conceive as having some form of “disorder.” The change will be part of their generalization  in the “International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which in its 10th edition, classifies and codes different types of medical and psychiatric disorders.” According to the 2014 US Census, there are 107 million unmarried persons over 18 in the United States. Of those, 63 percent have never married, 24 percent are divorced, and 13 percent are widowed. That is a huge slice of the population now considered ‘disabled’ because of a choice in life-style or a change in circumstances.

The intent of this new classification is to make it easier for unmarried persons to gain access to in vitro fertilization. However well-intended this new classification only furthers the struggle many singles have that they are not as capable as their married counterparts.

Consider that many singles are only allowed limited roles in most religious organizations. 

  • Many singles hear announcements for “family” events at church and feel excluded.
  • Some churches prohibit singles, especially female singles, from taking active leadership roles and may only do so when partnered with a married person.
  • In the workplace, many singles are considered first when it comes to taking holiday shifts or working late so that married can go home to their families.
  • Most single women are bombarded by friends asking when they will get married–asked if they aren’t sad that they don’t have children–as if they are missing out on something.

I know many singles that have decided they are more productive and happier not married and not engaging in sex outside of a marriage. I know many singles who have been married and now that they are single have found peace and contentment in their new circumstances. I also know singles who have a desire to be married and have a family but they have not found the person with whom to share that experience. And yet they are all living full lives or in the process of finding purpose and living out that purpose as a single.

Those of us choosing to live single non-sexual lives are not disabled. We are people who are living in our circumstances, enjoying the gifts of life. For many of us, we are active in ministry, despite constraints placed on our houses of worship. We don’t need some international organization to take that joy and gift from us.

Finding the Sweet Spot

A dear friend keeps reminding me of that adage that says people will make time to do what they want to do and will spend money on what is most important to them. It has been eating at me for days because I thought that I was not in sync with what I believe I have been hearing from God.

I love to write. I love writing this blog.

I love encouraging people, espcially people in recovery or searching for healing.

I love my church and the women I have come to know in the wider Christian community.

I love ice hockey and I love writing for our hockey blog, Friends in Cold Places, and I love the Washington Capitals and the hockey community.

And I have struggled trying to balance it all in the course of a day or the week.

I am coming to realize that God opens doors that I don’t expect and I need to keep walking through them even if I don’t understand what is happening. God may send me in a different direction as I walk along the pathway of life

I have a wonderful opportunity to write and I need to find the right balance for my writing passions. God is introducing me to people and community opportunities I never imagined I would be a part of a year ago. God is helping me to find the sweet spot in my life in ways I never expected.

Sometimes we need to remember that God’s vision can be a whole lot bigger than we can imagine. As my life has become busy again, I cut out the one thing I should never have cut out of my schedule–my time with God. And once I realized that and became open to his will, I also found that extra hour because God has woke me up earlier than my alarm. Funny how once I found myself back in a routine of spending time with God everything fell into place.

I encourage you to seek out your passion(s) and to trust the Lord to lead you to open doors and the perfect way to use your time.

You will know that God’s power is very great for us who believe. Ephesians 1:19

 

 

 

Living Single

Living single is not always easy. Single, no matter if you are there because you never married, divorced, or lost a spouse, has challenges that most marrieds don’t appreciate. Sure, we have freedom to do what we want to do when we want to do it, but we live in a world  that focuses on married or coupled people and often we can feel excluded.

Single means making our own decisions. It means not having that spouse to turn to and discuss an upcoming surgery. Single means asking all our friends for their advice and then making a decision. It often means nursing ourselves when we are ill and suffering alone because we don’t want to burden our friends.

Living single has its challenges and it has its blessings.

We have so much to offer. We have so many opportunities to live a life of giving and community. We have the ability to step out of our homes and develop new relationships with other singles just for the purpose of being friends linked through a passion. We are not a sorry bunch but a blessed bunch and we need to start living the lives that God has given us.

Singles need each other. We need to hear each other’s stories and to encourage one another during those dark days. We need to speak strength into our circumstances and embrace all that we can do because of our situation.  We need to look for opportunities to meet other singles and forge new uplifting relationships.

So get out their friends. Look for ministries in your religious organizations where you heart leads you to serve. Look for sporting events where you can meet other singles. Look around you and when you see another single sitting alone, go sit with them. When you hear of a sick single, call and offer help. When someone goes through a divorce or the loss of a spouse, walk with them until they are stronger.

We all have purpose no matter our circumstances. God can use us if we are willing to get over the notion that we are of less value than coupled people because we live alone. Be willing friends, be willing.

Faith without Good Deeds Is Dead (James 2)

 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 1Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing,  and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless

 

Grappling with Oneness

It has been a few years now since I was married. I have grown accustomed to picking which side of the bed I want to sleep on because there is no one on the other side. I have gone through the phase of curling up with a body pillow or laying long-ways across the bed so it doesn’t feel so empty. I have nearly forgotten what it is like to nudge someone in their sleep because they are snoring or to curl up with them when I get cold. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss it at times. It means I have adapted to sleeping alone and I am more comfortable with it today than I was some ten years ago.

I have spoken with many people about the dramatic change in their lives when a spouse dies or they find themselves alone after a divorce. Even those who have never married have that sense of longing for an intimate relationship with someone. So we find ways to fill the hours of our day with work, friends, family, and busy things. But there can be so much more if we look.

I am a firm believer in seeking our mission and living out a life of purpose. I am also aware that for many of us singles, a purpose-filled life doesn’t always eliminate the sense of aloneness we have at the end of the day. It doesn’t replace the sense that we are home alone reading a book or watching TV. More importantly, I also know that living with purpose changes everything and makes my time alone more palatable.

Purposeful living brings a sense of joy and peace and in some cases, a reason for getting out of bed. There is nothing worse than a day of emptiness that leads to a night alone and the anxiety of a gloomy morning. James wrote that in the midst of our troubles we have the opportunity to find joy. (James 1:2) I believe that opportunity comes in the shape of service to others. The psalmist cried out in his distress and emptiness in Psalm 102 and in the midst of his sadness he realized that God is with him. He is never truly alone. No matter what happens, he can find peace in that promise. When we can identify our mission and turn our attention to the needs of others, we can experience God’s love in a profound way. We can change our perspective from the sadness of what we don’t have to one of joy in knowing that we are living for God—even if we are living alone.

Now we can close our eyes at night, comfortable in knowing that God is watching us and that we will waken in the morning with a sense of celebration that God has given us another day to worship and serve him. While the bed may still be empty, I believe our hearts can be full. Even as we grab our extra pillow at night, we can quietly end our day in conversation with God about his reason for our circumstance and ask that the morning bring new purpose and a greater sense of belonging. It is the same conversation we should have every night, regardless of our marital situation. You see, my fellow singles, this relationship is far better than any other relationship for which we could ever wish to have and we are fortunate that we can give all our attention to enriching our relationship with the Lord.

Bridging the Vision Gap

Have you ever had a vision and been overwhelmed by the thought of what it will take to reach your goal? This can happen when we aren’t sure how we will get from where we are to where we want to be. The gap may seem far too wide to overcome, especially if we focus too much on those final steps that will bring our dream to fruition. We may even feel as if we are sitting in the fog, full of ideas and yet uncertain how to implement a plan.

I am a planner. I like to lay out all the necessary steps I will execute to achieve my end-goal. This includes all the things I don’t know how to do or the things that are out of my control. If I look too far ahead I am likely to freeze in place because these things seem too insurmountable to me. For example, I am building a ministry for singles. I believe that God has given me a vision for this ministry; however, I have so many questions about the organizational structure, finances, and who will attend our gatherings that I find myself too overwhelmed to move ahead.

I am overwhelmed first by the vision and mission and secondly by the demands on me as the leader of something I have wanted to do for the last 30 years. Thankfully, I have wonderful spiritual advisors and partners who have counseled me to just start. I have stepped out in faith without worrying about what will happen on the journey and without answers to all of my questions. I am taking one step after another, prayerfully considering each step and in consultation with others who hold me accountable. We are getting closer to launching the ministry and with each day I am gaining more clarity about what to do next.

So what does this mean for you? If the answer to my first question is, “yes, I’m overwhelmed and I don’t know what to do,” I would suggest you write your vision and mission statement. Then consider where you are and where you want to be and write down some of the major milestones you need to accomplish to close the gap. Once you lay out your milestones, start at the first milestone and list the most important things you need to accomplish to reach that milestone. If you are able, go to the next milestone and describe the actions you need to complete for each subsequent milestone. Write them down even if you have no idea how you will complete them. By the time you have written down the milestones you need to achieve you will see that it is much easier to bridge the gap from here to there. Post your plan somewhere as a visual reminder of your first objective and to all that you have accomplished as you move closer and closer to the final result.

Take the first step now. Pray about the others. Trust that God will guide you and as you experience success in those first steps, build confidence that God will get you through the rest.

Be bold. Be fearless. Step forward!

Living and Dying with the Addict

Once again the media has exploded with the disturbing story of a sports figure and celebrity who has been overtaken by their addictions. The arrows of blame are flying at everyone whoever came into this person’s life as he too is blamed for being a weak person. And as the arrows of shame fly, so does the misunderstanding of what it is like to watch someone who is slowly killing themselves and the painful decisions that their loved ones must make if they hope to survive and keep on living.

The Lamar Odom saga is one that many of us live outside of the spotlight. We do it in our own circles and often without sharing our drama with those closest to us. These past few days I feel as if my healing scar has been ripped open again as I remember the frustration that I could not save my husband from his demons. Like Odom, he suffered a horrific childhood of abuse and at an early age was introduced to self-medication for his pain by his foster family and doctors. My husband, Dan, would live his life in and out of treatment programs, praying for relief. Unfortunately, he also suffered from bipolar disorder and even when he was clean and sober, he felt he was going crazy. He did things that made absolutely no sense to anyone—including him.

People would say to me all the time—if only he had Jesus he would change. If only he would commit to a program he would be ok. If only you were tougher on him. If only you weren’t so hard on him. If only…

You see friends, those of us living with the addict and mentally ill, we do all those things. We cry ourselves to sleep praying that God will deliver them. We become hopeful when they fall on their knees and accept the Lord into their lives. We celebrate when they agree to enter a long-term treatment program. We watch them count the days of sobriety and we think, “This is it.” We all do all that we can and yet sometimes the demon inside wins the battle here.

And sometimes, we let go and let God take over.

Letting go and watching what happens outside the protective boundaries of our homes can be almost as unbearable as struggling with them inside where no one sees the battle. This is when our faith is tested as we see them rise above only to slip away. AA talks about those who may never fully come clean and how we need to keep them in our prayers. Often those prayers are for deliverance—a deliverance that may only come with death. And that’s when the blame game really kicks into gear, as we see it being played out in social media today.

You see I lived this for many years. My husband lost his battle. I made tough decisions to protect myself and my daughter that few understood. We too had a legal separation that I sat on for several years hoping that I would never have to file the final papers. When Dan was hit by a car and left with severe brain damage, I had to go ahead and finalize our divorce so that he could receive long-term care. That didn’t mean it was over for me though. He was still my husband despite what some legal document declared. We still visited him in the nursing home. I was still his emergency contact. And when he died, I was still the wife that arranged for his funeral and led the family to say goodbye.

There were those in my family and in the recovery community that didn’t understand how I was still in the picture after all those years and after finalizing our divorce. Why hadn’t I walked away and pretended it never happened? Even at his funeral, my brother went around asking people why they were there for such a loser, a liar, a thief, and drug addict that had caused so much pain. You see, that is the gift of grace and mercy that my faith brought me. Many of us loved Dan and could see beyond the actions his drugs and mental illness led him to take. We could see the same man that God saw. We could weep, as I’m sure God did, at Dan’s pain and torment. We could love the man that was made in God’s image and who despite his deepest beliefs in that same God, just fell short. We could see our own imperfection and still love ourselves because we were willing to love Dan as Jesus loved the sick and mentally ill.

So as this story unfolds in the press, let us stop criticizing a woman who made choices to protect herself while still loving her husband. Let us pray for the family and friends who gather around a man they love for who they know he is. Let us pray for the man who hurt so much he could never find peace. And then let us open our eyes and our hearts to our own families and friends who are walking this same walk in everyday life. Let us reach out in understanding and compassion as their hearts are torn apart because their lives are being lived out in front of them, even if they suffer in silence. And let us keep trying to help the helpless and lost, just as Jesus did when he walked the streets.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen.

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