Monday, April 18, 2016

Dear Church ~ Heartfelt Notes From 8 Single Women

I'm excited to introduce you to a bunch of women who are wise and savvy creatives, leaders, administrators, chefs, professionals, teachers, adventurers ... and part of this online community right here.  I've invited them to put pen to paper and tell the church truths that need to be heard about single women.




This isn't the kind of post you briefly scan before you click-and-run.  These women are courageous enough to open their hearts to you because they know this is a safe community where they'll be heard well, authentically validated, and joyfully affirmed for who God has shaped them to be.

So settle in with a refreshing beverage and meet eight extraordinary women with some significant insights.  Their words are worth savoring, so this'll be a two-parter {and for whatever reason we'll hear from them alphabetically}, so be sure to return in a few days for more conversation.

Best of all?  These radiant friends aren't defined by their marital status, they're defined by their Savior.

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Let's kick this party off with Carol ... 
How often have we heard after a night of socializing, having dinner with friends, or spending a Sunday afternoon with family that “we had fun and let’s do this again real soon?” I went to NYC with a friend and we sat for hours while she had cancer treatment. That too was fun.  

What do these things have in common? Community and a sense of sharing are the common themes. Feelings, hopes and struggles come to the surface at times like these and they are soul-invigorating events.

As a single, I long for the church to be a place of community. Most days I spend time doing a variety of things alone. Then it comes to Sunday and sitting by myself in church can unravel me especially if I had a tough week of dealing with hard things ALONE. I believe community would also involve an invite to dinner and a real effort to get to know each other better. I would greatly enjoy someone coming over to me at church and genuinely asking me how my week went. Remember, I have no one to bounce things off of on a regular basis. Community, for me, is being real, getting more acquainted, experiencing multi-dimensional thinking and being known and loved for who we are together.


And then, there's Dar ...
When my dear friend Linda asked me to comment on What Single Women Want the Church to Know, one thing immediately came to mind. Church can be a lonely place for single women. In a community that is often focused on families, it can be hard to find a place to fit in as a single woman. However, rather than focus on what the church doesn’t do in this area, I’d like to share two ways in which specific individuals at a church acted sensitively to this need.

Mother’s Day can be a difficult day for women. For me it is always a reminder of what I long to be, but am not. In a sea of women who’ve borne children, I feel lonely. One year as I was leaving the church, they were handing out a flower to each mom. The sweet woman handing them out stopped me as I tried to escape. When she tried to hand me a flower, I said, “I’m not a mom.” She responded, “Yes you are, you mother your students, the kids in the youth group, and other children in the church” and handed me a flower. I experienced a level of recognition and acceptance that I carry with me to this day. 

At the same church, another family took me in as one of their own. I lived away from my biological family and felt lonely without them. This dear family at my church invited me into their home weekly for Sunday dinner, to birthday and holiday celebrations. They gave me the gift of belonging in a place where I felt very alone. Often singles are relegated to a place outside the flow of family relationships, to a place in the body that fails to recognize them as valuable people. The loving, inclusive actions of these people gave a cherished and powerful gift to one single woman.
{Dar's online home}


And here comes Loralu aka Lulu ...
My marriage of 40 years ended and not only was I abandoned, rejected and alone, but I was devastated.  Time stood still and I became mired in the quicksand of grief.  Then the church stepped in.  My church, the church community in my hometown and especially my small group pulled tightly around me, propped me up, and grieved with me.  They never allowed me to sit alone, they continued to seek me out, they trusted me with the same responsibilities and invited me to participate in new ministry opportunities, and most importantly they prayed for me.  After a life time of being one of two, I was beset with the responsibilities of daily life as a single at a time when I could not think beyond the moment.  I was not totally alone though—as every time I expressed a need-a doubt-a question-someone stepped forward to help.  The church small group I helped lead had a cross section of society including the married, divorced, widowed, and single.  We had learned to love and accept a divergent community through serving each other.  But sadly I was not always open to a stranger entering our midst.  There was always a disruption of the flow when a new member and at times even a stranger entered the group.  I was always hesitant and even resentful of starting over from square one of building trust and comfort.  By being obedient and including those who were different, God stretched us and taught us the depths of His great love for us.  The New Testament church was modeled beautifully as we lived life together.  In retrospect this worked so well because they knew me and my story.  One of the many ministries I assumed in this land of the familiar was Sunday greeter.  I was really good at greeting strangers and making them feel welcome.  In my smugness of a job well done, I assumed someone else would help them find a fit and integrate them into the body.  I now know how wrong I was to drop the ball and leave them floundering, with my reluctance to leave the familiar.

I moved to be near my daughter two years later.  The reality of being divorced hit me full force with that move.  I gathered up my courage and sought out a church –walking into a huge building with a great crowd totally alone.  I have never felt more alone in my life.  The one place that should provide security and comfort was awkward and left me feeling as if I was only allowed on the fringe.  Somehow we forget, Jesus sought out those living on the fringes.  We all enjoy our comfort zones of the known and even noticing those who are different becomes rare.  At a time when I was not only alone maritally, I was also friendless in a new city and invisible within the church.  I became frustrated and depressed when my repeated attempts to fit in fell flat and I retreated to the security of my home.  And there it slowly dawned upon me, I was experiencing the same others had experienced when I was the neglectful greeter.  After all who is the church, I am the church—not the leadership, not the lifelong members, not the sacred pew sitters, but me.  I wore the same guilt as I sat there in my new church week after week and ignored the new strangers who walked through the door.  I failed to reach out and touch the unfamiliar because I was too focused on my own pain to notice others in the same place.   So my plea to the church and me is- Acknowledge the stranger and work to include them—their condition is not contagious and they may have much to offer.  Look for the strangers in your midst and embrace them into the fold.

I cannot leave this subject and not tell you the most important thing God has shown me during this season.  He has faithfully been by my side—never abandoned me, rejected me, nor forsaken me.  He has held me when I cried, given me answers when I thought there were none, revealed Himself to me in a tangible and real way that I would have never known in my utopic life while married.  The greatest sense of aloneness has also brought the deepest knowledge of God –who He is and what He has promised.  I am not perfect, the church is not perfect—but God is perfection in action.  His abiding love is enough.  
{Loralu's online home}


And last, but certainly not least, there's Lux ...
Singleness is either a phase or a lifetime choice.  We are single because of many personal reasons, but as human nature, we also need to feel included.  Most of the churches I go to provide activities where in single people can learn, enjoy, and explore while they are still free.  Sad to say, some churches don't have this.

I hope church leaders or spiritual communities can be more sensitive to the needs of the single.  This is like a preparation stage for us for our lives ahead.  We need guidance from the church, encouragement, and support as we go through this phase in our lives.  Or for those who chose to live single blessedness, may churches give them the spiritual support they need.
{Lux's online home}

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what are you hearing?


meanwhile,
 please share today's insights
 with your Facebook and Twitter friends!

introducing friends to each other at
Anita's  .  Kelly's  .  Holly's  .  Jennifer's
  Holley's  . Leah's  .   Lyli's

60 comments:

  1. The resonated theme is connection, no matter the 'status.' Thanks for this series Linda, and a space for singles to share their voice.

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    1. Dear Lynn ... I can't wait to share your story in a few days!!

      Thanks for being a key player in this little mini-series, friend ...

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  2. Hi Linda! I know a few of your women here, and the theme of singles in the church is an important one to address. It's such a problem that anyone would feel so alone in the middle of a gathering of the faithful, but I know that can happen. Probably more than I would like to admit.

    It all begins with me. If we all reached out and smiled and extended our hands, we'd start creating that Body of Christ in our midst.
    Beautiful post,
    Ceil

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    1. You're so right, Ceil. We all have to figure out how best we can reach out to those who are new, who come alone, who have heavy burdens unspoken, who feel like they don't quite fit in.

      We're all in need of warmth and welcome. And we're all able to extend something ...

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  3. These woman are amazing and brave. I love that every one of them approached singleness and the church a little differently. I can relate to each woman on a certain level and long for the community they all seek when I am at my own church. Thank you for sharing the voice of the single woman in the church! You my friend will bless many with this mini series!

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    1. You're up next, Mary! I'm so looking forward to sharing your story ... thank you for your willingness to extend your heart to us here.

      ;-}

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  4. Such a wonderful word picture of The World, Linda. We are all different, and yet we all are alike in our need for community. Thank you for giving me the privilege of sharing my journey, thank you to the others who are willing to share their stories, and pray with me that we might reflect Jesus as we gather as a church.

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    1. Your comment reads like a beautiful benediction on the hopes and dreams we share, Lulu ...

      Amen and amen.

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  5. I also am blessed -- SO blessed -- with the presence of single women in the life of my family. They are "aunts" to my kids, sisters to me and my husband, and a steady part of our lives. We have a twenty plus year tradition with a couple of single women who share a home and a ministry -- we've had a Christmas "party" with them since our boys were tiny, and this year, we brought our daughter-in-love and grandson into the fun. I love how my single friends have made special room in their hearts for us -- and for God.

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    1. Michele ... and you said, 'I love how my single friends have made special room in their hearts for us -- and for God.'

      And the rest of us are wholeheartedly agreeing with your gratitude!

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  6. A big thank you to these brave ladies for sharing their stories here; and to the four yet to post their stories too.

    Loneliness can be so soul destroying ... until we realise we are never alone. He is but a prayer away.

    God bless them all; and you too Linda for this series.

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    1. You might have a fabulous sense of humor, but you are an effective encourager as well, Victor!

      So glad you've dropped in this afternoon ...

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  7. As soon as I read your opening, Linda, I thought of how thoughtful you are to now do a series about singles after having the marriage series. It's so good to get their insight. My heart goes out to each of them, and I'm looking forward to the others' stories. Thank you for providing a safe community for everyone, no matter how different our lives are. You are a gem! Hugs!

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    1. Yes, let's hear it for safe communities online as well as where we worship. What a gift to give one another, no matter what our marital status.

      Thanks, Trudy for being that kind of giver ...

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  8. Great idea to do this, Linda! What I heard in reading these stories is what I have heard often from single women in the church where I served on staff as well as when I was in a private clinical practice. It can be hard for many to recognize how family oriented our churches can appear to be. It seems that divorced or widowed women feel especially hit since they lived in a married world and too many times, their couple friends don't feel as comfortable having them over as they did when she was a "couple". This is a message that needs to be spoken about out loud and more often. Thanks for bring this to the site! Love and hugs, my friend!

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    1. As ever, you've captured the essence of the message, Pam. I always appreciate your keen perception and strong discernment.

      Since we've both served on church staffs, I have a feeling that what's resonating for you does so for me ... and I long for our church leaders ... and those who sit in the pews ... to receive the message that's being sent with honesty and grace.

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  9. Thanks to the women for sharing. It is so important to have your voices heard throughout the church. We are all children of God: single, married, with or without children, employed or unemployed, college age or seniors. We all need to share our joys and struggles so we can continue to grow more like Him. I appreciate your honesty and look forward to the next group.

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    1. Good point, Marilyn ... maybe we really do grow to be more like Christ as we do life in community instead of isolation ...

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  10. Awesome idea - to give voice to unique situations. I'm married, and a mom, and it might surprise some of these women above to know that I feel some of those same things. Unsure how to greet people, worried about how to get beyond the 'friendly greeting', not sure how to fit in the people already there in the church, etc. The over-riding thing I hear is that we ALL need to reach out to each other more, and not assume the person we're smiling at has everything they need at their fingertips. Love this - ladies, thank you for sharing!

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    1. Oh my, Carol. This you said -->'Unsure how to greet people, worried about how to get beyond the 'friendly greeting', not sure how to fit in the people already there in the church'

      That's me. That's all us introverts, no matter what our marital status. I've been living through this the past year in the new church we're attending. It's hard stuff, for sure.

      And you've provided the solution, that we all reach out to one another. If we all lived that out ... well ...

      What would our churches look like?

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  11. Thank you, Linda, for thinking of approaching this topic. I love how God put a common thread through each story and tied them together. Sadly, I hear about an unmet need for connection not only from singles in the church, but across the board. So many have commented, and rightly so, about the need to look past our own situation to reach out to others. Blessings to each who have shared in this community.

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    1. And thank you for linking this gathering up over at Emerging Butterflies!

      Sweet!

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  12. Thank you for sharing these tender insights about church and community from women who are single.

    It helps me to be more mindful and spurs me on to break out of my introverted shell and reach out to others.

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    1. Us introverts can come off as aloof and unfriendly when we're really just trying to survive a gathering as we head to the door.

      The reality is that it's oh-so-hard for us to make small talk, to chit chat with people we barely know.

      Time to break out of our well-worn comfort zones. Yes, Karen, you've hit the nail on the head.

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  13. Thanks for sharing these stories Linda. It is easy to forget the loneliness or the needs some of the people have in the church while running here and there. I need to keep my eyes open wider.

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    1. I'm betting that your church is a safe and welcoming community, Bill. You always offer grace when you come here ...

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  14. Love this series, Linda! I've been single-again for a l-o-n-g time and I've been in church leadership for many of those years. But even in a highly visible place, you can still be lonely as a single in the church. Everyone assumes that you must have friends and invitations because you are physically seen in many places. The truth is that you can be seen physically and not really be seen emotionally and spiritually. I praise God for the few people who have seen beyond the public me and worked to get to know the private me. But I still struggle. I live in a small place now and go to the smallest church I've ever attended...and I still don't have people here in my real, off-line life that I would call friends. It's a struggle.

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    1. Holly, please know I am glad you're here. You bring a special gift of your singleness paired with your call to leadership that is so powerful. Thank you for your vulnerability laced with wisdom.

      Isn't it interesting how our struggles can somehow inspire others?

      May God redeem our lonely moments ...

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  15. Excellent post, Linda. We all need to listen to the needs of our single friends and learn what we can on how to mutually encourage each other. I've been blessed with several singles who teach me so much. I remember how I felt as a single adult with a child in a church full of marrieds and how awkward it was. With more and more singles-again or singles delaying marriage or not getting married at all, we really need to encompass ALL in our churches, not just the couples.

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    1. Our own personal experiences really can inform us, can't they, Lisa ... when you've been there / done that, you come with great wisdom and insight.

      And I'm sure your single friends would say how YOU have blessed them greatly!

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  16. What a powerful post, Linda! Each of these ladies have deposited wisdom. I'm listening....and looking around my own community and church pews now as a result of their words. So good.... Thank you ALL for sharing.

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    1. You're so right, Kristi ... our sisters have helped open our eyes yet just a bit more through their honest vulnerability.

      I'm glad you're here doing this dialogue with us, friend!

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  17. These thoughts from single women were so interesting to read. I often think of the person that just lost their spouse and having to do all the things alone that you would have done as a couple, like something as simple as sitting in worship. This is a great reminder to be there more for them. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I hear from my single friends that Sunday mornings at 11 o'clock ranks as the toughest hour of the week.

      Just sayin' ...

      Thanks for being here, Debbie!

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  18. Linda, thank you for asking these women to be here and sharing their stories. I am a single woman too. And my heart too yearns for the things these women are asking for. And I think it makes it even harder for me since I work at a church. I want to offer opportunities for our singles but if I bring it up, it feels like it's all about ME and it isn't at all. Thanks again!

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    1. Tara, a big thanks for gracing us here with your presence, with your passion for ministry, your perspective ...

      Maybe God's planted that dream, that vision for opportunities for singles? Maybe there are others on the sidelines that are just hoping and praying that someone will do something that addresses their needs?

      May you find encouragement in this dialogue here.

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  19. Beautiful post- and thank you all for sharing your stories!

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    1. Aren't they terrific women, Ally?

      Meanwhile, I'm intrigued by your blog's name. I'll be by to check it out!

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  20. Thanks for doing this series. It is great to hear the different perspectives but also see the common theme that we want to connect and belong. My experiences of going to church as a single person, especially in moving to a new city, have not been good, even though I know the sense of being overlooked or excluded has not been intentional, so I think this is an important topic to discuss.

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    1. Yes, yes, yes, Carly! We're gonna keep talking. And I want YOU to be a part of the conversation, ok?

      And this I will promise, that you will never be overlooked or excluded around here.

      I look forward to continuing to connect with you. Welcome!

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  21. What a wonderfully important series, Linda! I love Dar's story about the flower and the perfect words the woman handing it to her said. These women are strong, brave, and beautiful. Thank you for the introductions, my friend.

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    1. I love coining this little series as an opportunity for introductions, Candace. Perfect!

      You heard my heart, girl!

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  22. Hey, Linda - neighbor here from #TellHisStory!

    Wow! This was so different from anything I've ever read and it was awesome! I am not single but it was truly neat to be able to read what these lovely ladies had on their heart for the Body of Christ to know. One of their testimonies resonated with me in that I, too, would sit on the pew and dwell on my own pain so much that it nearly blocked out everyone, especially the unfamiliar. God is so good and I look forward to following up to read more. I know single ladies in my own church who would appreciate this!

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    1. Welcome aboard, Meg! Thanks for jumping right into the conversation. I love when someone new feels comfortable enough to do so!

      Thanks for sharing hope with your single friends. And please come back soon, ok?

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  23. Wow Linda... This struck a chord with me... Thanks for taking the time to offer up these testimonies and also thanks to the lovely ladies who shared. I know I have on my heart a few gals at my own church who I will now think of in a different way and I'm compelled to reach out thanks to your efforts... ♥

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    1. You're so right, this is a TERRIFIC bunch of women, isn't it, Heather! The next group is coming along sometime today.

      Love the conversation they've kicked off, for sure ... and that you're here, too!

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  24. Hi Linda,
    You are so inclusive and gracious to consider all of our stories and give us a space to share, connect and be encouraged! You are an inspiration! xo

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    1. You're up next, girlfriend. Yay! I so appreciate that wisdom that you share here ... and there ...

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  25. These insights are all so poignant and eye-opening, Linda, especially Lulu's final words: "The greatest sense of aloneness has also brought the deepest knowledge of God –who He is and what He has promised. I am not perfect, the church is not perfect—but God is perfection in action. His abiding love is enough." I don't have the experience of being a single woman in church, but what she says here is common ground that goes much deeper. Blessings to you and all these women who were bold enough to share here ...

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    1. Yes, yes. I agree, Lois. Poignant and eye-opening. The next 4 will be coming through the door before long.

      There's alot of common ground going on, for sure. Our souls yearn for the same things no matter what our marital status ...

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  26. Hi! Coming to you from The Loft this morning. I always look forward to what you share. I opened to this post, got a chai latte and enjoyed fellowshipping with your friends. Thank you. Thank you for letting them draw the truth from their heart and share it with us. We don't know we have a blind spot until someone tells us. Thank you. Blessings, my dear friend, blessings. Chris

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    1. A chai latte certainly is a fine companion to some enlightening conversations. Thanks for settling in with us here, Christine. Love it.

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  27. What a great idea, Linda, to feature these singles and have them tell us what they need. We just recently had some single people start attending our fellowship. I'm going to be even more intentional about including them.

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    1. Jerralea ... I love that word 'intentional.' And the Spirit is able to prompt and nudge us gently but firmly as we embrace that kind of lifestyle. And those kind of relationships.

      Beautiful.

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  28. Thank you for this important series. I empathize with so much of what is shared here, but as a married mother, who attends church without her (unbelieving) husband. I've really had to push myself to go and keep going. I sit alone with my kids, unless I spot someone also sitting alone that I can sit next to. There are lots of other things that make it an extra struggle for me as a different kind of "single" at church...but I'm learning to keep pressing in, to get more involved and to cry out to God when the hurt hits.

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    1. Anna ... your vulnerability with us here is a true gift. You have reminded us to be aware of the pain that often accompanies a woman with an unbelieving husband as she walks into the house of God.

      That you've chosen to press in, to be involved, to cry out to God are important lessons for us all. I appreciate that you have shared from your heart.

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  29. This is great, Linda! I do think there is a disparity between the way marrieds and singles are treated in the church. It's been that way for a very long time. I'm grateful that you're giving voice to these women who've experienced this prejudice in their lives. Our churches should be welcoming communities no matter who we comes through our doors. As usual you find ways to touch on such relevant topics and needs, my friend! Hugs to you!

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    1. Yes, Beth, let's give voice to women who are experiencing this kind of spiritual prejudice. Yes, let the church be a welcoming haven, not some kind of country club for those who happen to wear a ring on their left hand.

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  30. Hi Linda, I had to come back to read this one, I missed it! This is touching. reading how these women feel and how they are treated is a call for more connection, community and togetherness.
    Thank you for sharing your space with them. A few of them are friends and I read their blogs too but I didn't know this part of their personal struggles!
    God Bless Linda. You have always been a pace setter....Tight Hugs

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    1. This is a universal calling, isn't it Ifeoma. And what I've been hearing is that it has nothing to do with culture.

      But EVERYTHING to do with community. Compassion. Grace.

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'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda