Little Moments of Joy

I’ve had a bit of a tough week, but today I’m feeling better and think I shall just make a list of things that are currently bringing me moments of joy:

Lunchtime walks in the little square next to my library. Someone tossed rose petals into the fountain and just watching them float while listening to the trickling water lowered my blood pressure.

Reruns of Forged in Fire on Netflix. Something about watching people grind out swords and knives and axes by hand does it for me. And nothing is quite as fulfilling to hear as those words from Doug Marchaida after slashing up a forensic dummy, “It will KEAL!” For something a bit more therapeutic and wholesome, try The Great Pottery Throwdown on HBOMax.

My silly puppy figuring out how to wrap mum and I around her little paws more and more each day. Lately she’s taken to booping us on the leg with her nose, then herding us wherever she wants us to go. Usually to the back door to let her outside so she can chase squirrels and bark noisily. She also is trying to get us to hand feed her. Sigh. She’s almost 2! Good thing she’s so cute.

Getting interviewed over the phone by my second oldest nephew for a school project on “an adventurous extended relative.” It was so good to relive my traveling days, and have an excuse to dig up old photos from Australia from a couple decades ago. Yes, I used to be incredibly adventurous, and it’s good to remember that’s still part of me. Someday, time and money and global pandemic permitting, I’d like to get back some of that adventure. 

Clips of Harry Styles at Coachella dancing in a sparkly jumpsuit. I don’t even listen to his music or follow him, as I’m not really a pop music kind of gal, but the sheer radiating happiness that comes from his stage presence is contagious, even through the small screen of my phone in 10 second clips on Instagram.

Cheesy romance novels, fantasy graphic novels, and Victorian feminist murder mysteries, accessed for free via my library’s Hoopla and cloudLibrary accounts and my library card. Yay for guaranteed HEAs (Happily Ever Afters) and all the free books you could read/listen to.

Successful storytimes, even with TONS of new toddlers. We started our spring storytime sessions last week, and have a particularly young group this round, many of whom have never been anywhere before. So it’s been a joy to have the storytimes go well, and to have parents, grandparents, and guardians who are incredibly supportive, encouraging, and easy going. Plus, the flannel stories we made for spring are freakin’ adorable!

Prayer. I might be utterly fed up with the white evangelical church, but I am not done with my faith or my relationship with Christ. Prayer is getting me through so much these days, as it has throughout my life. My brain doesn’t have the ability to disconnect from things like thoughts of war, injustice, or abuse, so I often struggle as a counselor, concerned friend, and responsible member of society to not get dragged down into deep, lasting, cynical depression. I do have some coping mechanisms to help me disengage when needed, the most effective thing I personally can do is pray. I’m not one to say “thoughts and prayers” and do nothing – I try to do everything in my power to “do good, seek justice: help the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). But in my day to day life, when there is little to nothing I can do in that moment or circumstance, prayer gets me through. I have a good God who cares about my worries, fears, concerns, pleas, and laments. A God who listens, understands, and acts. Prayer brings me joy.

I’m trying to recognize the little things of beauty and goodness more and more each day, so listing little moments like this and the things that help me get through daily life helps. What is bringing you moments of joy this week?

Getting a Little Messy

It’s springtime, which means things get a little messy. Mum and I have done some backyard gardening, with Dandelion as our “helper.” And with all this new life, my allergies go crazy, so my head is frequently a stuffed mess. Being a permanently single 40-something Christian dealing with other Christians’ strongly held views of singleness? Also messy.

A couple months ago, I was able to have 1½ hour long conversation with my friend, pastor and writer Scott Mehl, about “The Mess of Singleness” for his podcast, “The Messy Podcast.” The episode aired at the end of March, but I didn’t think to mention it here at the time. If you haven’t had the chance to listen to it, I strongly encourage you to check it out. It holds truths, challenges, and encouragements for both singles and marrieds. 

You can find it on Apple or Spotify:

Just when I think I’ve said everything there is to say on this topic, someone like Scott comes along with great questions, and I realize there is so much more that needs to be expressed about living the life of a single adult in today’s Christian church environments. 

One of the main things I wanted to express is that singleness is vast and varied. From the young 20-something who has just started dating, to the 75 year old man who recently lost his wife of 50 years, from the divorced single parent, to the never-married person in middle age, singleness is not one-size-fits-all. 

If the Christian community wants to serve its single people well, it needs to expand its perspective and be ready to truly get to know each individual and what their specific needs are rather than treating singles ministry like a monolithic entity, usually geared toward young adults with the goal of marrying off as many of us as possible.

I’d love to hear what you think of the topics touched on in this interview, so feel free to comment or message me back once you’ve listened! What would you like me to discuss next time? What needs to be repeated, delved into more deeply here on my blog, or what have I missed thus far?

Single in the Time of Coronavirus

My life has changed entirely in the past few months, as life has changed for many. Not all, apparently – I’m still amazed to look at my social media feeds and see so many people going on vacation, visiting friends and family, eating in restaurants, traveling, dating, hanging out in other people’s houses, and acting like there isn’t a raging global virus going on all around us. Sigh. 

But for me, life is nothing like it was before mid-March. I have no job. I cannot leave town. I can’t touch anyone other than the person with whom I live – my mum. Some days, I don’t leave the house. Other days, I only get out to take my dog for a walk or go for a quick local drive, or to get take-out. I watch sermons on my laptop on Sunday mornings. About once every couple of weeks, my brother and sister and their families come over for a very socially distant paddling pool party for their kids in the backyard. Separated by picnic benches, two pools, two inflatable unicorn floaties, two sets of folding chairs, and mum and I off to yet another side on our porch swing. No hugs, yelled chatter, and a deep appreciation to even be able to see them in this limited way.

I might be taking extra precautions because I live with my mum, who is more at risk due to her age, or perhaps it’s just part of my conscientious personality, or my current lack of health insurance (why on earth does the US have our health insurance attached to our jobs??????). No matter what the reason is, I spend every day thinking through the options I have and which ones might kill me, my mum, or anyone who we come in contact with. And I spend every day wrestling with anger toward those around us who don’t seem to care at all about how they could affect us, our community, and how more and more people just keep dying.

For those of us who are taking this coronavirus seriously –  what an odd time it is to be single, to not have that life partner to make these decisions with, to not have that physical contact with a spouse and kids. My single parent friends are struggling more than anyone right now as they try to balance one income with kids doing school from home – an impossible task.

My single friends who live alone are struggling with loneliness and the extra stress of being entirely alone other than Zoom or Google meetings. My elderly single friends who live in senior living communities are even more cut off than normal, not being allowed visitors and having to totally quarantine for 14 days any time they leave the campus for doctor’s appointments or supplies. My single friends with roommates are having to evaluate how much exposure each of them has with jobs and family obligations and make incredibly tough calls about how to live together safely. My single friends who, like me, lost their jobs are dealing with the fall out of not having another income to rely on, not having a spouse to float us on their insurance, not having extra support. My single friends who still have to go into work (thank you, essential workers!!!) go home after stressful days to empty apartments. 

I don’t have a solution to these struggles – they are part of the reality in which we will most likely live for many months more. I just want to let you know that I see you, I see the extra layer of loneliness and sadness, the extra layer of stress, the extra layer of grief many singles wear at this time. Yes, married couples struggle too, and there are many others who have it even harder right now – the chronically ill, black men and women, those sick with Covid-19, those who have lost loved ones recently, poor and vulnerable populations. I do not pretend this is an easy time for anyone and, in fact, have two separate friends who are in the very beginning stages of divorce in the midst of this craziness, so I know marriage doesn’t solve hardship and can actually cause more of it.

But today, I wanted to recognize my single brothers and sisters out there who are doing what they need to do to survive each day in the face of a constant looming threat. You are making all the decisions for your household yourself. You are creating quarantine bubbles so you can still reach out and love others. You are crying in your rooms alone. You are overcoming shyness and exhaustion and other difficulties to get on yet another Facetime to try not to become a total hermit. You are checking your finances and trying to be wise, all on your own. You are grieving the loss of dream jobs, family members, friends, travel plans, and other things the coronavirus has stripped away from you. You are “attending” church online and texting your greetings. You are going to work in person or online or looking for work. You are battling anxiety and depression and grief and fear each night, alone. And, on top of all this, you are still dealing with everything you already struggled with in “normal” life. 

I see you. But, more importantly, God sees you. And He loves you. And He is with you – you are not alone. Our Christ was a single man with the weight of the world on His shoulders, separated from His Father, often alone and misunderstood. He understands your fears, your worries, your concerns. You do not have to be strong on your own. 

Romans 8:35-39 

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God is here with you. I know this knowledge doesn’t make the hardships go away, but I encourage you to turn to Him in prayer with your concerns, loneliness, and fears. 

Know that there are many of us out there in similar positions – the world of singles is vast. You are not alone. I encourage you to reach out to your friends. And I’m here for you too. Comment, e-mail, reply. And if you’d like to hire me for a Biblical Counseling session or a few, just fill out the bottom form on the Speaking and Counseling page.