Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Dear Church ~ Heartfelt Notes from 8 Single Women * Part 2

Wow.

Praise God.

Carol, Dar, Loralu, and Lux kicked off a great big soiree {I love that word!} a few days back.  If you missed the first post in this little Dear Church Mini-Series and the follow-up powwow in the comment section, it's right here. Do take the time to read what we're doing and why.  It's that imperative.

Hundreds of you Facebook aficionados joined this community's regulars and a number of curious onlookers stopped in and ended up offering a whole bunch of sensitive reflections in response to what you read.

Just super.

And in the process, a few of you have asked the essential question, Now What?  So this mini-series will morph into a 3-parter.  This subject is just begging for continued dialogue.  And I couldn't be happier.

Please continue to invite your Facebook and Twitter friends to come along for the ride ... and if you're sharing on social media, feel free to let me know in the comments.  I want to offer you my simple but heartfelt gratitude for spreading the word that single women in the church don't have to feel isolated, and that together, we can join hearts and hands to spark a fire that can change the world for Christ, no matter what our marital status.

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Meet today's four friends.  They're lovely and discerning.  And from their unique perspectives, they each have something to say worth savoring, just like their sisters before them.  Their hearts' fervent cries deserve an attentive, warmhearted response.




Let's kick today's dialogue off with Lynn ...
The first time I entered the auditorium of the church that I would soon call home, I watched the patterns of the carpet in each step, and quickly found a place in the mid-section to sit.  When I finally lifted my eyes to the surroundings, it seemed all I saw were couples. But I breathed deeply, and opened to God's promises with the bible I planted on my knees.  I knew He told me I belonged, was loved no matter my status as a single, a divorcee in this place where people meet to worship Him.  I knew He did, yet still longed to feel that belonging, part of a community with others no matter my status.

A Christmas Women's Dinner was announced and I found myself after the service at the Welcome Booth buying a ticket.  The woman who sold me the ticket asked about me, and I shared it was my first time.  And then she graciously offered me to join her table of friends at the dinner.  Although taking my phone number, I was still surprised to receive her call a few days before the event, confirming my attendance.  The evening was wonderful, and I met another lady, Betty, who would become a mentor for me, as well as expect me to sit with her and her husband, Bert, at service every Sunday.

Those events, that included being embraced by Christian couples, were steps in my healing and my walk back to faith.  I also was encouraged by a woman pastor to take leadership courses, which led to leading studies, prayer walks, and even spiritual retreats as a single.  I must admit there are times I still feel I don't belong especially when I start to compare myself to the leadership team at our church who are all married.  And I wonder what right do I have to dream of larger leadership opportunities as my bio does not include 'happily married'?  So like that first day I entered my home church, I open His word to remember that I am loved deeply, no matter my status.  However, it is so comforting to also know Betty and Bert are there to show me His love too, no matter that I am a divorced single in a Christian church.
{Lynn's online home}


And Mary's got a letter for you ...
Dear Church,

I arrive each weekend and walk through your doors finding my seat in the dark and hoping for obscurity. Sometimes I sit with friends and other times I am seeking solitude with no intentions of bringing any notice to myself.  I look like most everyone else that enters your church doors and from the outside there is nothing that distinguishes me as any different from the majority of the congregation.

But I ask you to take a long look into my heart. Listen well and ask me what makes me “me”. You will be surprised to find out that just looking from the outside in can be deceiving. You see, I am a single mom, and as welcoming as you claim you are, there are many times when I feel like I don’t fit the norm. I am not dating and am not sure if that is even in my future, but my heart for God is focused and open to all He teaches and wants me to learn.

Being single in the church is like being part of a secret club that is best kept a secret. I understand marriage and the church’s emphasis on staying married, but my story does not fit that mold. So I ask you now, how can you open your hearts to us and draw us into ministry and deeper relationships? A first glance will not show you all I have to offer. Spend some time with me and you will see a woman who loves God dearly. A viable woman who offers life experiences that speak of challenges, but end in a beautiful story of the redemption of God.

Let me leave you with these words. I long to feel accepted, get connected and feel valued as a member of your church. I have chosen a life as a child of God and am ready to dig deeper and share my faith with others.  These words from Psalm 139 remind me that my story was written even before I was born. Each word, sentence, paragraph and chapter was crafted by God as His plan for my life.

My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

My story is uniquely my own. God chose me even before I chose Him. Our stories are now connected. Will you take the time to listen to my story?

From.

A Single Mom and a Beautiful Child of God


And here comes Sharon with some very practical thoughts ...
When I became a widow a little over three years ago there were two things that really bothered me.  Over and over the Bible tells Christians to take care of widows.  I wanted to have some things fixed (or changed) around my house and I contacted three different Christian contractors.  They knew from the start that I was more than willing to pay whatever they charged.  I wasn't looking for a hand-out.  Not one of them followed through.  They didn't return phone calls like they said they would, they didn't send me estimates like they said they would, they didn't show up when they said they would.  I finally got frustrated and started calling contractors who weren't Christians....and they showed up right away and did some of the jobs.  Also, two men from my church offered to come take care of something for me (I hadn't asked them to do this) and once they offered I never heard from them again.  I had to wait for my son-in-law to come from PA to help me.  I don't have any family living close by and sometimes I need help with projects.  I've heard several women say they have the same problem, so it's not just me.

The second thing is that I really missed having interaction with men.  Occasionally I'd be invited to a dinner or something with one or two couples, but that was rare.  I voiced this longing to a friend once and she invited me to join their small group Bible study, which was made up of couples I knew, plus one other single lady.  I loved hearing the guys' input during the study and also interacting with them during the dessert time.

Before my husband died I didn't realize how important it is to include single women in mixed groups.  Now I know.


And last, but certainly not least, Valerie brings her wisdom ...
Words are weighty.  They can hang heavy on hearts that are longing for encouragement and understanding.

Some of the most awkward and unhelpful words about being single have come from those in the church.  Although delivered with good intention, I'm often surprised that so little thought is given to how they might sound to a woman logging decades of singleness.

-God has someone for you, you just haven't met him yet.
-Maybe you're not trying hard enough to meet people.
-Have you thought that maybe you can serve God better single than married?
-When you stop looking, God will bring someone into your life.

Those words put a heavy burden on me and make some incorrect assumptions about God.  Instead, what if those in the church asked me how they could pray for me? What if they invited me to classes and events in the church that weren't organized by age or marital status but instead included everyone?  What if their words affirmed me as a person, who just happens to be single?

I'm probably more sensitive to remarks about being single, but maybe "words fitly spoken can be like apples of gold in a setting of silver" (Prov. 25:11), and I would treasure those words like they were precious metals.
{Valerie's online home}

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What next?

The grand finale of our little Dear Church Mini-Series will offer some thought-provoking questions and give you opportunity for purposeful, meaningful dialogue.  We'll link hearts and heads together to figure out where we go from here as individuals, friends, online community, churches.

  No matter what our marital status.

 so you won't miss this potentially lifechanging gathering.



55 comments:

  1. What a great series Linda!! I love, love, love the face to faces! You're so creative in the way you're using your blog my friend. Keep it up:)

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  2. Lynn's post brought tears to my eyes. I long for a "Betty and Bert" in my church. And kudos to the lady at the welcome booth. Inviting Lynn to join their table was the most gracious act of Chrisitan love I have seen in awhile plus a phone call. Get out of here, who does that?

    I totally agree with Sharon cause I was the other single lady at the couples Bible study with her who needed the male perspective in my life. I have never had or do not presently have a male's spiritual viewpoint.

    I believe Mary and I shared some of the same things. Her comment on wanting others to share time with her so that they can see her love and faith in God hits the bullseye for me.

    And Valerie hit the nail on the head with all the silly cliches that people bring to a single who desires companionship. Wishful thinking never gets us anywhere.

    I know we do not have the ultimate platform for church problems. There are many needs in the church but itsn't it great to be heard. Thanks, pal for giving us a voice.

    Thanks Ladies for all you shared!!!!!!!

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    1. I was so blessed by the invitation. An invitation can change a life...and so agree with all the ladies. The cliches Valerie shared are something we know that the intent is good, however do not bring us closer to the connection we may prefer with the one who is standing right in front of us! May you be heard Carol, and know that God hears always hears you.

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    2. Yes, yes! I'm guessing that many couples could be a 'Betty & Bert' if we readjusted our priorities, if we paid more attention to the Spirit's promptings, if we stepped just a bit out of our comfort zones.

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    3. Lynn - cliches? UGGHH! Some of us should learn to be gracefully still and quiet instead of filling the room with words that can never be retrieved ...

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  3. Oh my goodness, what a good conversation you have started here. I have single friends in the church and will be sure to send them this way.I clicked over to the first post and read through the comments. So much good stuff. And interesting stories from each person.

    I've been married for 16 years, but for a long time went to church alone. It's hard. So while I'm not a single in the church, I have felt like one.

    My husband does come now, thank goodness!

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    1. We'd love to meet your friends, Alecia. Yes, please bring them by for some warmth, some dialogue. They are most certainly welcome here ...

      And yes, you've been in good company with other married women who feel like singles on Sunday at 11 o'clock ...

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  4. Thank you Linda, for gathering these ladies together and share their voice as a single in church. And I echo every one--the want of heart connection that Mary refers to; the want of a males spiritual perspective Sharon was missing, and those cliches that Valerie experienced. I think the bottom line is we all long to be connected regardless of our status.

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    1. Yes, Lynn, yes. God's placed that desire, that need for connection deep in each of our souls. It's a good thing.

      We long to know that we matter, that we make a difference, that others care about who we are.

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  5. I appreciate the stories of each of the women who have shared today and the other day. Today, I especially resonated with Valerie's words. She expressed thoughts and feelings that I too have thought and felt. Interesting, I noticed two themes in this series - a longing to belong/a feeling of loneliness and a desire to be seen as a person of value regardless of marital status. So thankful that you have started this conversation, Linda!! I did link up with you for part one and will again share a link to this post on Emerging Butterflies :-)

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    1. Brilliant! You've hit the nail on the head here, Dar -->'a longing to belong/a feeling of loneliness and a desire to be seen as a person of value regardless of marital status.'

      Yes, you've said it all. And thanks so much for bringing your readers over from your place, too! How cool!

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  6. I would be interested to know where Lynn's church is---maybe I can commute. Two things I noted about Lynn's comments---she put herself out there and someone responded. So as you discuss the answer to this dilemma, I would be interested to hear responses from others. Unfortunately, I have given up---but I might be willing to try again with some encouraging comments. What we see occurring in church is also evidenced throughout society. We have all plugged in and withdrawn--and forgotten the art of verbal conversation. I am thankful for your leadership in this dialogue.
    Blessings, Friend!

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    1. Commuting would be an interesting option, huh?

      I can only pray that your pivotal involvement in this dialogue will encourage you to return to the church, friend. How much they are missing without your wisdom, your wit, your beautiful presence.

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    2. Alberta may be a bit of a commute! I know I have had even married people tell me they feel alone in a church. I think if the leadership team at the church makes an intentional effort to meet people where they are at, create a safe space to connect (so we take that first step ourselves), and develop the gifting of those of hospitality, there would be many connection occurring within the church environment. Lulu, my hope is you will be be connected as God intends, drawing you to those that need you, as well as build you up.

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    3. And if the leadership team, for some reason, doesn't step up to the plate and carry out this intentional effort, let's just see the need and respond to it in whatever ways are most authentic for us.

      Too often we wait around, hoping that someone 'in charge' will take care of doing what we believe needs to be done, when all along God is calling US to step up to the plate and embrace the call ...

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  7. Linda, thanks so much for featuring these women and this important topic. Just last weekend, I had the privilege of sitting next to a single mom for a meal at a women's retreat, and she told me about her struggle to feel accepted in the church. Thank you.

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    1. I'm guessing that she was incredibly blessed by your attentive presence and conversation, Betsy.

      And I'm thinking we know WHO placed you side by side at that table ...

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  8. Linda, I love your heart. As you may remember, I got married one month before my 42nd birthday, so for 41 years, this was my life. Table for one. Thank you for giving a voice to my single sisters. May God give us ears to hear.
    xo

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    1. Oh Lyli. Table for one. That hit my heart hard when I read those words ...

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  9. Great series, Linda. I love hearing these voices. It brings wisdom to all of us. "Before my husband died I didn't realize how important it is to include single women in mixed groups. Now I know." We all need to know. Thanks for sharing these ladies with us!

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    1. You've said it well, Lisa. We all need to know.

      Actually I think we do know. We just don't want to be inconvenienced. Too many of us are just too plain self-absorbed.

      Sigh.

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  10. Linda, you've done it again. I want to meet these people!

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    1. Michele, we want to meet you also! - You and an entire community of others. We long to have a dialogue about the deep as well as the silly. I would love to hear your stories and long to tell you mine. So grateful for Linda beginning this conversation, and your comment.

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    2. ;-}

      I do love introducing people to each other when I know they'll just CLICK!

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    3. MIchele- I would treasure the chance to meet you in person. You are one of my favorite online people and I know we wold have plenty to talk about especially since we both have sons!

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  11. Linda,
    What a great series! You've highlighted such an important topic...Thank You!

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    1. Glad you're here, friend! Always ...

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  12. These have been great! We do often focus on families in church, but that leaves so many out. I will try to keep my heart open to what I can do.

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    1. When we decide to keep our hearts open to the moving of the Spirit, great things are bound to spring forth!

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  13. Hi Linda! What beautiful stories from some ladies I know, some I've just met here. Beautiful because they are real and speak to us, who should have the heart of Jesus. (Lynn, I wish I did live in Alberta...I think we'd have some great talks.)
    Our sisters belong to our family, church and otherwise, and should be seen as the fellow child of God that they are. I remember when I was single, and feeling lost at church myself. It's hard to find a toe-hold. All I can say is "I hear all of you", and you make me want to soften my heart, and reach out.
    Thank you Linda. You know how to support and encourage. It's so rewarding to see that.
    Ceil

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    1. And this you said, Ceil -->'It's hard to find a toe-hold.'

      Even as 1/2 of a couple, I can heartedly agree with this truth. And it gives me just a peek into what my single friends have to walk through ... on their own. And a real understanding why some just give up after a few really crummy experiences and don't come back.

      Gosh, what a loss for us all ...

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    2. Yes Ceil, most likely we would have some great talks! Maybe you could drop by sometime! We are all children of the same Father, so thus connected.

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  14. I love this series, Linda. I think it's so great to get a single person's perspective. My heart goes out to each one. I "know" three of these women. :) I love that Valerie told specific statements that can hurt. Also the verse mentioned - "words fitly spoken can be like apples of gold in a setting of silver" - is one we all need to remember with every person we meet. Blessings and hugs to you all!

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    1. Trudy, yes! I'm thankful Valerie spelled out some worn and trite sayings that do nothing but discourage.

      We need to love each other better, don't we ...

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  15. Thank you, sweet friend for giving these women a voice, a place to be heard. Sharing our stories brings understanding, and makes us more compassionate, I think, to one another's struggles. And you, my friend, are settling into a nice groove here ;)

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    1. Oh yes, you're so wise, June ... this --> 'Sharing our stories brings understanding, and makes us more compassionate.'

      And that's who we want to be, for sure ...

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  16. I am beyond honored to have been part of this series. I tend to speak straight from that place in my heart that stores all my emotions. But love that I learned from the other women who joined you here for this series. I would love nothing more than an invitation from someone to "join them". The power of those two words would make the day of many singles. Thank you for this series. I have had a lot of traffic especially on Facebook from people who were interested in reading the words of these women. I also have had a few comments that I will share with you via email. You have created an inviting home that many love to come and visit!

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    1. How grateful I am that you're in my life, Mary, and that you continue to share your love and wisdom in this little community. Thanks for taking the time to share this week's dialogue with your friends ... and then to let me know that it's made a difference for them.

      And yes, yes. Let's hear it for many more invitations extended right and left.

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  17. This is profound and deep! I never knew how much a struggle being a young widow or a mature single is until my encounter with a young widow and re-connection with my friend. Thank you for very critical spotlight Linda. You can read about the widow's encounter here: http://blogs.premiumtimesng.com/2016/04/03/172069/

    God Bless friend

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    1. Dear Ifeoma ... you're making a vast difference for the Kingdom, friend. Thank you for sharing your post from over Nigeria way. This challenge is a worldwide opportunity for us to be grace and mercy to others.

      Blessings ...

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  18. I think people naturally assume way too much ... about everything and anything. I appreciate how these lovely women have exposed so many of those assumptions in such a gentle, honest way. Just this morning I heard a little devotional thing on the radio about how singleness is a "gift" and how people who are single should look at it as such. My first inclination was to groan and roll my eyes, but now I'm wondering how the women in your series feel when they hear things like this. Another one for Valerie's "awkward and unhelpful" pile, maybe?

    Count me as another one who loves what you're doing with your blog, Linda. Every post is a gift. :-)

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    1. Gosh, I'm with you and Valerie. I do hate platitudes.

      Father forgive me for every single mindless one I've uttered along the way.

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    2. Hi Lois, you've asked a great question. I have mixed feelings about someone saying this to me. There is an element of truth that singleness is a gift and a blessing. It is also true that it is difficult some days. really difficult.

      A perspective I have tried to cultivate is that both singleness and marriedness have aspects that are gifts and blessings and aspects that are difficult. I have had many married friends who have struggled in their relationship with their spouse, who have faced heartache and trials because of their marriage. Honestly, when I think of how miserable they are, I am thankful that I am single. On the flip side, when I see happily married couples it's easy to see the difficulties of being single. In all of life, whether married or single, I believe it's important to look for God's gifts where ever we are and to count our blessings rather than getting mired down in the difficulty of our situation.

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    3. Your perspective is so wise, Dar ...

      Yes and amen to looking for God's gifts wherever they may be!

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    4. Lois- hearing "singleness is a gift" can be a blessing for me somedays and other days I would be hurt by those words. Most days I do believe that God has me exactly where I am supposed to be and that is a gift. If we know we are honoring God in our lives whether we are single or married, we have the greatest gift.

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    5. Oh, to have your gracious perspective when words could leave us feeling otherwise, Mary.

      I think too often people say things just to fill in the blanks, those awkward spaces that arise in conversation. Oh, to focus on all that unites us, not separates us ...

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  19. The 'should' word in that statement makes me roll my eyes, Lois! We shouldn't be 'shoulded' on whether single or married, in my opinion. Instead of saying 'singleness is a gift,' I think it could rather be stated that every day is a gift from above, whatever our status. And if we happen to be single, may we know we are just as loved and be content in that love.

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    1. Oh, well said, Lynn.

      Can we eliminate the word SHOULD from the English {and every other} language?

      Please?

      ;-}

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  20. Thank you for this series, Linda. We've recently had some single ladies come to our church and I'm hoping to learn things that will help me avoid putting my foot in my mouth!

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    1. Oh yeah, we've all got that foot-in-mouth disease from time to time, Jerralea! I'm learning that it's better to err on the side of quietness. More often than not, a lovely smile or a gentle hug goes a long way to show we care ...

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  21. Just catching up on some of these. This is a really terrific series, Linda. I am sure the Lord was speaking to you when He nudged you to write this. I have forwarded this post to several single ladies in the church where I served prior to retirement. Love and good thoughts for you for the weekend, my friend.

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    1. I love that you're sharing the wisdom of our sisters, Pam. Kindred spirits are we ...

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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