Have you ever had a moment of looking in the mirror and wondering who that person is looking back at you? I think we all have times when the person we see in our mind is not necessarily the physical person that everyone else sees. For me, I want to have the face that shows love and kindness, and if I’m honest, I want a face that shows youthfulness! But the reality is my face shows the years of living, and they weren’t always great years. I hope that my eyes at least show what God has done with those years. I hope my eyes show the love of Jesus me who transformed my inner being.
The Path to New Life
Life is a journey of finding our meaning, finding our purpose, and stepping forward into the place we believe we are called to live. For years, I have had a vision of a cobblestone path when I meditate or pray. There are times the path is dark, other times the stones are bright. It has been surrounded by flowers; at times it is just grass and even unplanted fields. During really special times of prayer, I often have an overwhelming sense of the Lord guiding me on the path and it always appears more inviting then!
Every pilgrimage toward meaning and purpose begins with a first step and a base upon which we gingerly lay stones of uncertainty. The stones we lay are different; each telling a story of the unique steps taken. Some have been forcefully thrown on my path without care for the impact. Those are the ones that cause me to trip and fall off the path. The ones that make me unsteady in my journey. They are the ones that also compelled me to cry out to God. Help me! Change me! Don’t leave me here.
I am one of those people who isn’t afraid to ask the tough question. I love to get people thinking about opposing viewpoints or scenarios. When these are thoughtful civil discussions, we can begin to see that the alternative perspective has merit. We can begin to incorporate those perspectives into our own and realize a change in ourselves.
We are in a new era of forced isolation. There is no telling how long this will last. For those in their late-50s and older, “social-distancing” could become the new norm for us because doctors can’t say if the Coronavirus, or an offshoot of it, may come back next year. For an age group that is already trying to stay physically fit and actively engaged, this is like a slow death sentence. Melanie Joosten, a researcher at the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) wrote that aging women especially experience a growing sense of becoming invisible. This feeling could become more of a reality as we carefully choose our external activities and social/work relationships to protect our health.
Women feel this sense of social isolation and lack of relevance much more than do men, according to coach Dr. Louise Mahler. In a 2016 NY TimesDr. Dhruv Khullar wrote: “About one-third of Americans older than 65 now live alone, and half of those over 85 do. People in poorer health — especially those with mood disorders like anxiety and depression — are more likely to feel lonely. ” He continues to explain that social separation is bad for our physical, cognitive, and mental health and that those who are isolated from society tend to die within seven years.
The need to be seen as relevant and as a contributing member of society matters for those entering their ” twilight years.” Regular social contact and involvement is key. Dr Khullar quoted one senior as saying: “Your world dies before you do.” For our older population that is even more real today than ever before. As I have spoken with seniors in my community the past few days, I am finding that while their faith is keeping their spirits up, they desperately miss even the little bit of friendly contact that came from socializing in the grocery store. No longer is the store, the coffee shop, the neighborhood diner, or their place of worship a available to them to get out of the house and interact with friends and family.
For many seniors, participation in their ministries and charitable organizations has been a lifeline and provides a sustained a sense of purpose and contribution to society. Religious organizations bring a sense of spirituality and connection with community. For those who continue to work, they have the opportunity to share their experience while learning new skills and keeping their minds sharp and engaged. Take that away and loneliness, isolation, and depression are likely to set in. This is even more true for older adults living alone who today are unable to meet family, see grandchildren,or venture to their communities and jobs.
‘You shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD.
Technology has helped to bridge some of the gaps older adults are feeling during social distancing. Once they get the hang of all the processes available to them to video chat and participate in streaming religious services or exercise classes, they may feel a momentary sense of connection and belonging. However, the crucial piece is to help them find relevance and purpose. If all they do is take in information they still lack an ability to contribute to society. This could lead to a greater level of social anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns, according to Good Therapy. These factors tend to be more prominent in women; however, because of their tendency toward transparency in expressing loneliness. This again goes back to a societal response that respects maturing men over aging women and the notion that men still have something to contribute despite their age.
So what can we do in this period of forced isolation? Reach out on a regular basis to your older friends and family. Find a video platform that they are comfortable using because it helps to actually see the faces of our friends and family. Find some way for them to help. Maybe they can write letters or make phone calls to people in their religious and charitable organizations. Visit them from a safe social distance. Give them tasks to complete for which they are responsible. Acknowledge their skills and contributions, no matter how minor. Help our senior citizens feel that they are respected, needed, and connected and they will come through this crisis stronger and more engaged then ever before.
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the day approaching. Hebrews 10
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
I’m a huge hockey fan. It is a love I share with my daughter and many of our friends. We have even been known to convert people to hockey by sharing our love of the game with them. Anyone who knows us, even briefly, knows we are Washington Capitals and LA Kings hockey fans. I have a wall in my home dedicated to hockey memorabilia. I have hockey stickers on my car. I proudly “rock the red” with shirts, scarves, and jackets. I am bold about my team and happy to tell you about our community and why we follow hockey.
Funny thing is, I’m not sure that everyone I meet knows right off the bat that I am a follower of Jesus Christ and a Christian. I don’t know if I am always willing to risk that recognition in public. I don’t know that I am as willing to talk about Jesus as I am to talk about hockey.
When it comes to hockey, I love the excitement. I love the speed of the game and the powerful hitting and fighting that takes place on the ice. I love that these men are willing to bang up their bodies and risk head injuries for my enjoyment. They do what they do at the risk of concussions and torn ligaments:
A concussion is a type of brain injury that is caused by a bump or blow not only to the head, but anywhere else that causes the head to jolt in a harsh manner. The main symptoms of a concussion include headaches, loss of memory, and general confusion. Some of the worst symptoms include seizures as well as constant dizziness. Unfortunately, the style of play in hockey means that concussions are pretty common.
Players get out there time and again and offer so much of themselves for the benefit of others. They don’t think twice about the sacrifice or the long-term effects of what they do, they just do it. And there have been repercussions. For example, Dennis Vaske was playing for The New York Islanders when his career was interrupted by a concussion. In a game against The Los Angeles Kings in 1995 Vaske was on the receiving end of a nasty hit that sent him face first into the boards. Three other players with the Flyers had their careers ended by concussions: Eric Lindros, Keith Primeau, and Chris Pronger. Eric Lindros career ended after a shoulder to head hit in the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals. Keith Primeau’s career ending concussion was caused by an elbow to the head in 2006. Finally, Chris Pronger was concussed in 2011 after taking a stick to the right eye.
And we cheer on the sidelines for these rough and tough players as they get up and do it all again. As I think about this great game and the risks players are willing to take to their health in the name of a sport, I’m left wondering what risk I am willing to take in the name of Jesus that might yield a lasting result. What am I willing to do to bring lasting joy and healing to someone else? What risk am I willing to take to show my love of Christ with the same passion I show for my love of hockey? Am I willing to take the hard hits and get back up to share another day?
Hockey can be a brutal game and so can sharing the Gospel. We may have to dodge a few pucks shot our way as we defend our faith. We may run the risk of being knocked down to boldly step forward into the other zone. Our heads will likely be spinning some days as we launch into new territory. We may even loose the life we planned as God opens new doors to us. We may suffer a few bumps along the way; however, the end result might just be winning the game, in his name.
Be bold. Step forward. Put on your protective gear and don’t worry about what might happen. Know that you are protected and that even when the fight seems impossible, there will always be another chance at the goal. And remember that the angels are cheering you on.
Written with contribution and photos by Brittney Marcum (@NewViewOfYouPhotography )
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.
Interrupting our Mission
These past few months I have been working to launch a new single’s ministry in our area. I have been writing about the challenges and the gift of singleness while preparing for a discernment meeting. In the midst of my planning another interest of mine sprung up and I have found myself pulled in two directions—doing what God is calling me to do and doing something I love to do. It is a rewarding and troubling place to walk, this enjoying all the things I have a passion to do.
My question though is: am I blessed with two things that are keeping me very busy or am I letting myself be distracted from my real mission and ministry? Am I hiding my insecurities about my ability to lead this new ministry by taking on something that is draining my time? Energy drainers are those things that we allow to interrupt our progress forward and I fear that this other adventure is indeed doing that.
I have interrupted my writing on this blog to write for another blog. I have spent time studying this other topic rather than the scriptures that will shore up this new ministry. I have found it easy to spend hours doing something that actually has little benefit to God or to my life, while putting his work on pause. As a result I feel an unease in my spirit because I have been disconnected from the spirt that guides me. I flit in-and-out of ministry and then wonder why I am nervous about our launch.
So today I shift the gears back. It is never too late to get back on the road forward. I will continue my other writing, but as a secondary interest to that which God asks of me. I have discovered during the time of diversion that there is a process I need to put in place for my writing—so all is not lost. God always makes something positive out of our journey, if we are willing to ask him to reveal the changes we need to make. So let the change begin!!
We’ve all been there. Friends ask us to join them for dinner along with another couple and there is that awkward moment when you both realize something is just off. Maybe you all walk into a restaurant and low and behold, most of the tables easily sit four but with five, well now we have to wait. Or we are invited to come over for a game night and there are only couples and you wonder how you will even out the sides since you are the extra person. Let’s face it, society, including our churches, is couples-focused and some days we feel as if we don’t have a place at the table.
I have lived through all the experiences above. I been around the edges when my friends are planning a weekend at the beach and they are hoping that I won’t overhear because they are only going with other couples. I know what it is like to walk into a gathering at church and look around for a seat only to see that there are two seats and someone is holding them for another couple. I try to search out another single or someone who came without their spouse so I can partner up and at least give the appearance that I didn’t come alone.
This yearning to belong and getting out there to become a part of a community can be difficult waters to wade into if we hold onto the thought that we don’t belong or fit in. You do. If God is nudging you into an area, go there. Trust that he will smooth the waters and that you will find your place. We can easily be our own worst enemy if we wait to fit into the couples’ world, because for the most part, we don’t. That isn’t a bad thing; it is a different thing.
Seek out other singles or individuals whose spouses may not be fully engaged in their lives and activities. Call the person who just lost a spouse and invite them to go with you. Ask the person whose partner is hospitalized or in nursing care to be your partner in an adventure. We singles are a strong community if we are willing to bond together and strengthen each other. So the next time you are going to an event, invite someone, even if you have to pay for them to go. Together you can walk into the room and take those last two seats. Together you can find the person standing alone and invite them to be your third person.
And, if you are going as the third wheel, be a tricycle that you propel forward! You are getting out there and doing what God is asking you to do. Be the strong thread in that threesome and bring the best you out for the occasion. Live and laugh and love every moment of being the single one because for this part of the journey, it is how God is shaping your life. Roll on into your purpose friends.
“If a man prevails against one who is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 World English Bible
We planned for our future.
We had a vision for our lives.
Together we would do this.
Then one day;
You were gone.
The future we planned no more.
The vision detached,
Distrupting my life.
No more together adventures.
The world turned upside down.
New plans to imagine.
New routines to make.
New life to find;
Stuck between what was,
What is, and yet to come.
Pulling myself forward,
Out of the dark;
Into the unknown.
Looking for his plan in this.
Holding onto faith.
Yearning for love.
Hiding from tears.
Praying for me.
Resting in his will.
Trusting in his love.
Shattered pieces healing.
New life emerging;
Finding new purpose.
Walking a new path.
From grief to life.