Let’s Dance

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Dear Christian Single Ladies,

Long, long, long ago there was a night in college that I danced with freedom and utter abandon. It was one of those nights that you can never forget, the nights that feel like a dream but for a brief time they were your reality. The sun was setting on a warm Chicago night, I was on the roof of a parking garage, and a great band was playing a small show for a group of us. We danced. I remember everything about this night, the colors in the sky, the slight hint of chocolate in the air, the hand drums beating the sun down and the light breeze that kept our bodies cool as we danced and danced. I want to dance like that again.

I have forgotten how to be unencumbered, life has caught up with me. I was talking with one of you lovely ladies and we were chatting about shame—the shame we feel being single, the shame we feel about not being moms, or in one case not even wanting to be a mom. The shame has weighed us down. This shame is something we have accepted, we have allowed the opinion of others to overwhelm our freedom in Christ.

I will start with me: I let the church’s preconceived notions of femininity and mile markers win. We, single Christian women, let American Christianity set the standard, but it is time we look to the actual standard maker—well, the standard breaker—Jesus. Jesus asks us to follow him, Paul tells us to be unashamed, and we often feel shame in our obedience because it does not look like the current norm. Well ladies, screw the norm.

We must live counter-cultural lives, and that can be especially tough in our faith communities. Every time I go home, people ask if there is a “special someone” in my life. I used to boldly say no and move the conversation to another topic, but recently I have noticed that I feel bad when I have no one to tell them about. I kind of imagined, after years of no man in my life, people would stop asking and talk to me about the rest of my life. But maybe my life on its own is not impressive, maybe my life by itself is not important. These are the moments when shame rears its ugly head, and I have to choose joy and praise for the position the Lord has placed me. I like my life, and like many of you I want to be part of setting a new standard within my circle of influence.

Ladies, we can begin to reframe the conversations that are harmful. We can introduce new questions to the singles in our community of believers, we can dig deeper than a “special someone” and ask about calling, travel, obedience, struggle and joy. We can work together to erase the stigma and shame of singleness.

We are meant to dance unhindered by shame, disconnected from societal pressures and be fully filled with the Spirit, who will lead. We have to help set new standards for the next generation of women, we have to be present, so they can see representation of single, Godly women who lead, serve, and obey.

So tonight, turn the music up and let go. Throw off the shame list you hold on to, put on garments of righteousness and dance in the knowledge that you are seeking the Lord, being obedient, and you are representing Christ in your actions. Hold your head high when you enter church on Sunday morning. Your singleness is not for others to comment on, it is not your identity—Christ is.

Love ya ladies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To all the Christian single ladies

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Recently I read a random article about sexual desires and the single Christian woman. I was hoping this article would be helpful, with spring fever alive and well, but it was not. It was full of “advice” for humans, either married or single, not just for singles. Many of the articles written for my demographic miss the mark, do not apply to me, are far too general, and they are not at all vulnerable.

As someone who struggles with vulnerability because of the pain it can bring, I challenged myself to begin writing what I would want to hear. And as I chatted with other single friends about blogs, posts and articles for us, they too expressed a longing for something more real. So here it goes:

To all the single Christian ladies,

Sunday I went to church and heard a sermon that had very little to do with my life. It was good, it was full of truth, but it was about running from the Lord when you know His will. That is such a deep and rich topic, and many in the room where connecting with it. I have been working on my heart of disobedience and wondered: what happens when you are being obedient and the Lord’s promises still go unanswered? That is how I, a single woman in her mid-thirties, feel. Sometimes I think God forgets about me, and I know some of you feel that way too.

After Sunday’s sermon I talked with my pastor friend, who had no idea how I am feeling or what I am going through, and he said the Lord had a word for me—and I think this word could be for you, too. “You are not missing anything.” After he had spoken, I took a deep breath (and in all honesty, held back tears) because I knew that the Lord had met me. As I meditated on the word given to me, I heard two things. First, I am not missing out on anything by not being in a relationship. Second, the reason I am single is not because I am incomplete as a person. I am not missing anything. I know it feels like the world is hooking up and disobedience will lead to desires met, but God has not disappeared and He has something for you.

I often think there must be something wrong with my desire for a husband because it has yet to be met. But I know there is nothing wrong with this desire; and whether you desire a companion, a husband, an encounter, or to simply to be wanted—all of this is valid. And when these desires are not met, it is not because there is something wrong with you, it is not because you are in sin, it is not because “you are trying too hard.” Unfortunately, it is probably just God’s will, and He is Sovereign. I know this sounds trite, but it is also an encouragement. You are enough and He is faithful. You are not missing anything.

Recently I told a man I had feelings for him, but it did not go as I thought it would, and I had to be intentional about not letting lies creep in. I felt rejection and loneliness, but I know that although my situation is momentarily painful, Christ will show up. Single friend, when this happens to you, He will comfort you, He will understand your tears, and He does hear your prayers, they matter to Him. Singleness is a long road in Evangelical America. But know that you are important to the Body of Christ and the Lord will bring seasons of peace. Because you are not missing a thing.

Now onto sex. It is OK to want sex, to have chemistry with someone and to desire physicality. And if you are walking in obedience, things might not be simple, and you might have to walk away from something that you want in the moment. It is hard, and it sucks. But on this journey of holiness, give yourself grace—lots and lots of grace. Clearly you should be intentional with healthy boundaries, but when mistakes happen and sin creeps in, trust in the Lord and His grace will cover it all. His grace will cover shame and you can walk boldly as His daughter. Everything around you is telling you that you are missing something, but you are not. You are not missing a thing.

Single ladies, your struggles are valid and while memorizing scripture and working out are good, they will not change your God-given desires for a husband, for a physical relationship, or for someone to want you. In this season, it might feel like you are missing out or that your desires are misplaced, but as I have been learning that is not true. ‘Cause girls, we are in this together, and we are not missing a thing.

With love,

Candy

Mother’s Day

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Originally posted on May 4th 2016, updated and revised

I have sat through 35 years of Mother’s Day sermons. I have sat next to barren friends with tears in their eyes, I have sat next to content single women who serve in the children’s ministry, I have sat holding a friends child so that she could worship freely, and I have sat alone and lonely.

Motherhood has always alluded me, as an adult single, never married Christ follower, Mother’s day has just been another Sunday I call my mom. My Sunday routine is the same, go to church, go get coffee, go home, call my mom- nothing is different- except on this Sunday Moms are recognized, women who have bore children are exalted.

I have often felt that my child-free life screams from the pew on this day. As the women around me are gifted with a rose or some other flower, I sat happily in my childlessness but sad that mothering is being viewed so narrowly in the church. I am not a mom, but I do love kids. I am grateful for a church that gives all women flowers on this day. It was not to belittle the sacrifice of being a mom, but to be inclusive of those who may want to mother, but because of circumstance, singleness, infertility, timing, can not. Motherhood should not be viewed as purely biological.

I once read that there are two types of moms: the ones who are mothers by circumstance and those who are called to mothering. Either type can actually have children, but neither have to want them. There are single, barren, married, and waiting women who are called to mothering – they staff our nurseries, they hold babies, they mentor young people, they help in homework clubs, they take in orphans and they fill our mission fields. They love nurturing and caring for children. There are others who love their own kids and have no desire to deal with other people’s kids; but they are gifted and called to other things.

So Pastors and guest speakers, as you prepare your sermons for Mother’s Day, be inclusive of those that mother yet have no children. Be gracious in the language around the “sanctifying” act of childbirth; God uses many things to sanctify His children. Celebrate the women of your congregation, what they contribute, and the mothering spirit many of them bring to the sanctuary. And maybe ask a mom to fill your pulpit.

Running From the Lord

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Sometimes I get so impatient for the Lord. I am tempted to be like many of the folks of the Bible and take matters into my own hands. Instead of waiting on His timing, I push for mine.

I remember one time when I was living in Pennsylvania, and I was spending time with this guy. He was a good man, a godly man, but not the man for me. I did not want to admit this to myself; I wanted so badly for the relationship to work. I just wanted something to work. So I spent time working on this relationship that was not right, and I was miserable. For weeks I was a mess, and one Sunday a friend of mine asked me what was going on. I lost it, I just broke down crying. I was trying so hard to be what this guy wanted, and even though there was nothing wrong with him, there was something wrong with us.

Whenever I begin to feel myself pushing for my timing, I think about this very defining event. I think about crying in the back row at church, about the beautiful handkerchief my friend gave me, about the freedom I felt when I walked away from my misplaced desire in order to be obedient. It was hard, but it was also so liberating. All of those memories make my will seem empty. I wonder if Jonah ever felt this way. He ran and things got terrible. He preached repentance and his enemies surrendered to the Lord—he sulked and his shade withered. Going to Joppa was not a sin, but running from the Lord was.

Lately I have been really convicted about my pride, like Jonah I often think I know better than the Lord. Like Jonah I often run away until the Lord captures me and puts me in the middle of His plan. But unlike Jonah’s known story, while dealing with my pride, God has been gracious to gift me with a growing acknowledgement and confidence in His promises and truths. While He is breaking down my earthly pride, He is also building my eternal confidence. While I am being stripped of self, He is clothing me with His worth and delight.

The last week has been significantly rough—deadlines unmet, phone calls unanswered, water finding a way to my tear ducts and into the cracks in the basement, and yet there has been great peace. The peace makes no earthly sense. I should be reacting like Jonah, searching for a tree in the wilderness away from happy people, a place to be bitter and salty. But God is doing something new in me. He is awakening me to my worth in Him, not worth in my job, not worth in my status, not worth in my home. My worth in Him. And with this very basic understanding of my worth has come peace.

I Craved Community

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Recently I was at my favorite eavesdropping location—which also happens to be the best coffee shop in Wichita—and I heard a young man talking about his loneliness since moving to the Midwest. He spoke about how he longs for community, but the church the Lord has placed him in is lacking in his age bracket. He serves there and is spiritually fed but lacks life-giving community. I sat there in total understanding; when I moved back to the Midwest three years ago, I was so lonely. I knew I was where I supposed to be, and I knew this was where the Lord had planted me, but I craved community more than the coffee I actively pursue.

Three years ago I was struggling to find my place, but I knew God would be faithful and the loneliness was only for a season. And that is the truth—it really did only last for a season. God came through with an amazing community of people who I love. We eat together, play games, goof off, paint basements, and talk about life. I want so badly for those who are lonely to have a community, a family to be tied to.

The other day my friend’s son, Marky, had a conversation with his mom, that was wise beyond his five years . Marky has aunts and uncles and grandma and grandpas, but his parents have also collected a group of single friends. We are a strange family he has grown to love. Marky asked his mom if I was a part of their family, and when she said yes, he went on to ask about the others who hang out there. After this conversation he bounded back into the room and hugged me. This little man had integrated me, a single adult, into his life with no apprehension or hesitation.

I need this family, this rag tag community. We do not go to church together, in fact we are all from different congregations. But much like a moth to a flame, we all find ourselves drawn to Nick and Dana’s; gathering in their livingroom, fixing cars in their garage, and goofing off with their kids.

I keep thinking about the guy at the coffee shop and Marky. This young man needs a Nick and Dana in his life like Marky needs single Godly grown-ups in his life. How is it that a five-year-old who is trying to understand what family and friendship means can so easily simplify the relationship? His mom says I am family, so I am. What if we all treated strangers in this way? What if we took the Word of the Lord the way Marky takes the word of his mom? “When I was a stranger you welcomed me in.” What if Matthew 25 was the definitive Word for us at this moment? I want to be like Nick and Dana with an open home, and I want to be like Marky with an open mind and an obedient spirit (he’s in preschool, so that might be a stretch).

I also firmly believe that the Lord places the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). As usual, my tendency to eavesdrop turned into a real conversation, and I hope the young man from the coffee shop accepts an invitation to hang out. Because when I said yes to a dinner invite three years ago, I discovered an unlikely family, an unexpected community I love. That “yes” took me from lonely to home.

An Algorithm of Waiting

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I filled out a questionnaire, thoughtfully wordsmithed some answers, and uploaded a couple of my favorite current pictures—is this what the start of a relationship looks like in 2017? Me waiting for profile views and wondering what is wrong with me when I get none? Or better yet, only getting matched with guys who love country music and whose favorite leisure activity is “shooting.”

To clarify, there is nothing wrong with George Strait being your favorite singer, but that could not be further from my musical tastes. And if you go shooting for sport, that’s fine for you, but I am anti-gun (a personal belief that after 10 years of living and serving in the urban context, not a political statement). Why can’t the algorithm factor this in?

And yet here I am trusting that this is what I am supposed to be doing. Ten years ago I was in a prayer room at our ministry center when I heard the Lord speak to me. I prayed for openness and peace and He answered with a string of words I was unsure I was actually hearing. Up until this day I was 85% committed to the single life for the sake of the Gospel. Afterall, what man would want to join me in the hood, forever? So that day in the prayer room changed it all. The Lord answered my prayer for openness and peace with, “You were made for relationship, and will one day be married.” It was not audible, but I am certain that is what was communicated.

These were not the words I wanted to hear. I was hoping for something like, “Peace will come on Friday and openness is something we will work on, there is a special grace for that.” But no, I received an unexpected answer to a request I thought was routine. And that is how the Lord tends to work; I want peace and He wrecks my life, I want to rest in Him, and He decides I need a white water rafting trip through rivers of frustration and jagged rocks of trust. When I want to sing It is well with my soul, He seems to want me to mean it. And I tend to enjoy the challenge and thrive on the adventure.

So when marriage was the answer to my plea, I did not want to hear it. It took two years to embrace the answer I did not want, and then it became something I was waiting on. It became this unfulfilled promise of the Lord. I joined Sarah in the long game, no Nine-Month-Mary for me, and it has been ten years of my lack of faith and His continual faithfulness.

I’ve considered taking things into my own hands, you know, becoming a serial dater—whoever, wherever—until something sticks. But that leads me back to all those biblical tales of not waiting on the Lord: King David, Sarah, Moses, the Israelites, the list is long and those highlights let me know that my God is a Deity of His Word. He saved Rahab and her descendants, delivered His people from Pharaoh, gave Hannah a son, and He sent the He Messiah for His people. I am so much like the folks of the Bible—they thought the Messiah would come in as a strong political leader, bashing the system and instituting justice; Sarah thought she would be a young and spritely mom; Mary thought she would be married before conceiving. I always thought I would meet my match in the context of service in the local church. God has other plans.

So I will wait on the Lord who is a God of promise. And when I grow impatient, I will wait some more, and when I feel contentment for a season I will praise His name. And when I am unraveling, I will look to the past. For I know what the Lord said, and He is faithful.

 

 

A Gibson Girl Leaves Stars Hollow

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I stumbled into Stars Hollow by accident. It was season two and I needed an escape. I had left my home of Milford, Michigan, for the big city of Chicago. Within weeks of arriving, the Twin Towers were hit and my new home went silent, people were more cautious, classes were cancelled, and plans were made “just in case” something were to happen. I needed to return to the safety of a small town where everyone knew everyone, where Main Street was real and people stopped to talk to each other. I needed to be in the quirky and oddly familiar world of the Gilmore Girls.

I spent a lot of time with the three, sometimes four, generations of Gilmore; their witty banter and pop-cultural references made me smile knowingly. When we would gather—there were several of us who would watch together—we brought snacks and laid down our studies for an hour to visit the snow globe of American idealism. I spent all four years of college retreating to the beauty of the gazebo in the center of town, rolling my eyes at the shenanigans of Taylor Doose, and being carried away by the melodies of Sam Phillips (as a side note, during my childhood she was a well-known CCM musician who went by Leslie Phillips, who my mom loved, so even she harkens back to a simpler time).

Where I grew up we had town festivals, great high school sports and a “down town” where people strolled, stopped at the local bakery, nodded to the meter maid, and stopped in to see Tim Twiss, who was basically our town Troubadour. It might sound like I am making this up, but if you read the works of Thomas Lynch, Milford’s undertaker and bestselling author, you will know that Milford is Norman Rockwell set in motion, and that Stars Hollow was the perfect escape for this Gibson Girl.

I continued on with the Rory, Lorelai, and Emily in my post-college life as I moved from Chicago to the Philly area. I watched Rory navigate college, relieved those years were done, yet also desperately missing the friends who I had lived with for that period of my life. As I entered adulthood, I found comfort in dormroom drama and awkward first dates of Rory’s Yale experience. Once again I found an escape with the girls Gilmore.

When the show finished, I would still watch it on DVD. I realized that I was relating less and less to Rory and more to the plus-sized sidekick, Sookie, who never allowed her size or weight to affect her life. She never talked about needing to lose pounds or struggling to find a pair of jeans that fit right. No one tried to change her, no one called her fat, or told her to hit the gym, she was loved and accepted for who she was. So, I took cues from Sookie and her body positive life—I embraced my curves and style the way she and her community did.

But now several years later, and after watching the reboot, I do not know how I feel about returning to Luke’s. I wonder if I have outgrown it. I feel the same way when I visit my hometown, like I do not fit there anymore. Milford Bakery might have the best donuts in the world, but they are no longer my donuts, just like Gilmore Girls is no longer my comfort food. I have surrounded myself with, in the words of Rory, “supremely real characters.” The cast of my community makes my day-to-day fun and the unexpected beautiful. Home is not a place I return to, it is where I am, and I have moved on to living in the unknown of my own life rather than the safety of the snow globe.

Hopes Dashed

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Recently I told a friend I was going to join E-Harmony; she was not unsupportive, but she wondered why I wasn’t finding anyone in the local church. And, to be totally honest, I have always thought that someday the man for me would show up at church, and we would get to know each other in the context of service and Christian community. But alas it has been 35 active years in the church and no such blessing has been bestowed upon me. So, at some point this year I am joining a dating site.

My dear friend was not going to take this sitting down, so out came her phone, and she texted a single guy she knew. He was open to meeting someone and so was I, so we met at church and went out to lunch with our mutual married couple friends.

He was a total gentleman, fully committed to the Lord, and active in his church—a church I love. I thought he was handsome and enjoyed our post-church lunch; it was a bit awkward, but in the  good first date way. After lunch we exchanged numbers, he walked me to my car, opened the door and suggested we go out again. I said that I would love that.

He texted just the right amount. Over the course of that afternoon we were both involved in our Sunday afternoon plans, he was fishing, I was caffeinating. It was lovely getting to know bits of his life before our next outing; there was the right amount of disclosure without oversharing. And then I read the words I feared, “I come from a big family and someday I want a big family.”

I sighed; my hopes were dashed. We had been so transparent from the get-go that I knew I had to be honest with him; I had to break the post first meeting spell. “I do not want to shut down what could be, but I do not want kids.” My reply was the end of any future with this man.

I want to be clear: I would not want him to change his God-given desire for a family, just like I would not want someone to expect me to change my childfree desires. Neither is wrong and neither is right, they are simply different.

I know this conversation will happen again and again, but I did not expect it this quickly. We both wanted this to lead to more and yet our long term desires displaced the existing chemistry. And that is the Lord’s work in His children—there are missionaries the world over who choose singleness every day for the sake of the Gospel, there are men and women who part ways because of separate callings and desires.

Ultimately, this is what dating is all about: getting to know the ins and outs of another person’s desires, thoughts and plans. Seeing if things might grow together or if they are meant to be separate. You get to see the hope of something begin and end, over and over again. But one day there will be one that the hope only has room to grow—the desires match and the thoughts are valued and the plans are encouraged.                                                  
That day will be beautiful, but until then I am open to the adventure and the occasional set up.

Impressions of Communion

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Recently I oversaw communion for a gathering. As I prepped, I reviewed the liturgy, filled the tiny cups, broke the bread, and placed the elements on the table. I also asked three members to serve; they replied with “Yes” all around.

Hayley, one of the servers and a dear friend, was really excited. She then conveyed this story to me with happy tears in her eyes: “When I was a kid I thought being able to serve communion would be so cool—all of the people serving got to church early and would stand in the back. I thought they were, like, drawing up plays for the best way to pass the elements, but I knew they weren’t. Then one day I realized that I would never be able to to serve communion, because I am a girl. I noticed that only men did this. It made me really sad, so this will be my first time ever serving communion.” Her joy and excitement made me reflect on my own communion journey.

I grew up knowing that deacons served communion, and it just happened that all the deacons in the Baptist church of my youth were men. But when I was a teen my family began attending a different Baptist church. At this church communion was also served by deacons, but here there happened to be a female deacon, Bonnie Lupa. I remember taking note of this, not necessarily that she was a deacon, but that she was a woman serving communion. Her gender did not hold her back from what the Lord had called her to.

I also vaguely remember trying to start a conversation about a women serving communion on the drive home from church. No one took the bait, this was not something that seemed abnormal to my parents, or even out of place, so I hoped that this was normal.

And maybe this is where my journey to Biblical equality all started, maybe it began when I saw a deaconess pass the Body and the Blood, maybe that was the moment when Galatians 3:28 began to come alive. Maybe my parents not making a big deal out of it began to normalize something that seemed so extraordinary. The maybes are endless, but what I know for sure is that seeing a woman serve communion left an impression.

So on the day when I handed Hayley the Body and the Blood so she could pass the plate to all who were gathered, I stood in unity with the men and women in that room. Together we affirmed Hayley’s identity and calling, together we took the elements in unison—dropping our titles and individuality—together we proclaimed that “in Christ we are all one.”
As an aside I hope more churches invite women to partake in the communion liturgy. Giving girls and young women the examples needed to see themselves represented in the local church is exceedingly powerful.