Monday, March 11, 2019

Book Review: Party of One

I really wanted to finish this book this weekend! Success!

Two weeks ago, I was at work and suddenly wanted to read a book on singleness. If I remember right, I had been mulling over the concept of accepting this season of life as semi-permanent--and how does that affect how I live?--and how does one do it well?

So I went online looking for a book. I had one in my wish list, but it mentioned something about Sex and the City culture, and that's so not the culture I am surrounded by. I wanted something more relevant to me who does not work in a high rise or wear high heels (like, ever). So I searched Amazon. I bypassed any books that were theological addresses by married folk. Right now I wanted something for singles by a single. And preferably an older single.

Well, Party of One isn't written by an older older single--she's 29 at the time of writing--but otherwise, I think it was exactly what I was looking for.

Negatives first. I skipped one of the three chapters on sexuality because it looked like it was not going to be edifying for *me*. The other chapters on that subject were confusing to me--I couldn't understand what she was trying to convey. Even she said that her editor insisted she stop and define what "sexuality" means. At one point, I became very frustrated--and scribbled my frustration in the margins--as she seemed to keep blurring, or at least avoiding distinguishing, the very clear black and white lines we have on the subject in Scripture. So there is a hint of possible liberalism in the book, and also, later, some of what would be called feminism.

Positives: Joy Beth Smith has her finger on the pulse of today's Christian singleness! The first third of the book was a constant YES! THAT! Mmhm! Preach it! 😛 Party of One is the most accurate summary of current Christian singleness I have read apart from blog posts. Her style is a discussion. It is not meant to be didactic, though it is, but not in a theological, or removed/distant, or me-when-I'm-feeling-spiritual, sense. She desires marriage, and her vulnerability in expressing that in the pages is a bit astounding. But she also pushes for living life NOW. She also brings up assumptions we have--our common church culture background stuff--and even if you disagree with her conclusions, it's nice to have all those things brought up and acknowledged.

So, in summary, I was encouraged by reading something so true to our lives, and I did a lot of underlining and note scrawling. She challenged some of my thought processes (or autopilots) about singleness. I'm glad I read it.

"We live our single lives, and we give ourselves permission to hope for more. We take the vacations that might have been more fun with someone else, but we snap pictures and try the fried alligator and have a fabulous time regardless. Marriage shouldn't be the gatekeeper to happiness and life experiences." --Joy Beth Smith, Party of One

"Even if you don't get married, you'll be okay. I know you want marriage and kids, but no matter what, you're still going to be okay. You  may have unmet desires, but life goes on." --Party of One, quoting "Gina" (p. 155)

"Success in this world is the woman who lives her whole life longing for marriage, remains single, and dies more convinced than ever that God is good, with 'Glory, glory, hallelujah' as the last words on her lips." --Joy Beth Smith, Party of One, p. 155

"[Y]ou finally get up the courage to voice one of your deepest fears to some close friends: 'What if I never meet someone?'
"And then someone responds too quickly, almost flippantly, 'Oh, you'll get married.'...
"A husband is not a sure thing.
"We can't continue to put prophecies in the Lord's mouth and call it comfort." --Joy Beth Smith, Party of One, p 11, 14.

"Instead of leading with 'Oh, are you seeing anyone?' I'd love to be engaged in conversation by being asked, 'What are you doing for the kingdom? What are you passionate about?" p. 212 <--these are great questions for all of us to ask each other, no matter marital status!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

244: journaling? moaning? pointless? just saying?

It's a hard season right now.

It's not the hardest. It is a gazillion shades below the hardest.

In fact, I have a hard time looking at others and saying it's hard.

I am tired this week. But how can I confess to my friend who is a mother of three boys, 4 and under, that I--the singleton--am tired? And yet I do. I confess it in a way couched in self-deprecation, "I don't have mom stamina yet. I haven't been gifted with that. I'm tired." And she kindly gives me an out: "emotional exhaustion."

It's hard at work right now. Not the hardest. Second to hardest. :) I was thinking on my drive home from Jazzercise tonight that it is like I am in the ocean, in the water. I keep dropping underneath the surface. And then, I find myself bobbing up above surface again, and I'm not quite sure how I got here, or how long I have been under the waves. I bob up to the surface and feel--not to mix metaphors--like I'm on top of the ball again. But--to go back to the ocean analogy--the whole time my head is above water, the waves keep slapping salt water into my mouth. I am being beaten even while surviving. But how can I complain--or even explain--to anyone? It seems ridiculous to say I cannot juggle xyz when other teachers juggle XYZ. So I say, "I know others do this, and are able to do this, but *I* am struggling."

I am going through personal disappointment. The kind that catches you like seaweed, dragging you along the ocean floor for a bit as you watch the coral and crabs and sea anemones do what they do while you pass by. "Huh. So here we are again. After all that, here we are again." The scenery is very familiar. And I know I won't feel the bite of the coral in my flesh, the abrasion of the sand, the choking of salt water in my eyes for long, but this is my present. No one's fault but my own. Tale as old as time. Moving on.

I know myself well enough to know that, at the moment, I just need sleep. I have "matured" enough to know that my "hard season" is not the end of the world, and that I will face much harder seasons in the future. It is difficult to even SAY I am having a hard season when I look at those around me, and those who have gone before me, who have so. much. more. on their plates than God has given me right now. Like, seriously. What am I complaining about?

I have attainable-ish dreams for my future that excite me. I have nights and weekends when I escape with godly friends, and goodness, I am spoiled. I'm going to Hawaii next month too! I have been reading--oh, SUCH good books (thanks to the motivation of a Facebook Book Reading Competition that I know I won't win, but I'm taking advantage of the fire under me while it lasts). I have health, minimal family drama, job security, etc. etc. etc.

So that's where I am right now I guess. Everyone has something, right? Something good, something hard. I am thankful to my friends who sympathize with me and don't throw their hard in my face as comparison. I hope that I do the same for them.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

243: not worth a title

Apparently I wasn't willing to put the work into blogging every day when I started that series on my interests.

It has been a hard last few weeks. But Friday was a good day at work, and today it has been wonderfully dark and drizzly outside, creating a feeling of rest and comfort inside.

I am doing the Teachers in the Word Christmas reading plan this season. It's really nice to have something to keep up with consistently! And I also have a mini-reading plan on names for Christ by Natasha Metzler. And I started Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift in November to give me a running start (which also has daily Scripture passages). I'm actually not ridiculously behind, which is nice!

In the singles social media group I am a part of, arranged marriage (and its ilk) has been a recent topic of conversation. Lord, is this desire within me of You or my flesh?

And yet, something stirs when I hear the stories of God putting two people together. The difference is that in my culture, two people come together in love and feelings, but in other cultures, two people come together with commitment.

I want that.

Is it practical? So not!

But the idea of choosing someone, or of being chosen and choosing back, and then basing the future on a commitment that will not fall into divorce because there is nothing to "fall out of," the idea of working through differences without the backdoor that you would have in dating--no, you get to work it out knowing that this is who you are meant to be with--that is supremely attractive to me.

I suppose all that (commitment, choosing, working through differences) happens in marriage no matter what relationship you have had to get you there. But there is a reason why arranged marriage cultures have a lower divorce rate. And the perfection of feelings and circumstances that we require of single people today before they can commit to marriage is fantastically also unreasonable.

A girl tonight shared that in Russian Christian culture, the guy prays about who God wants him to marry, hears from God, goes and proposes to the girl, the girl prays, and then they marry. No dating. No wondering if they married the wrong person, because God showed them.

Oh, Lord God.

I do not understand why He works differently in this culture. If He does work differently. I do not know why I am part of a FB group of some 400 conservative Christians who are unmarried and yet (most) want marriage. I do not know how to balance the stymie inherent in my American early 21st century culture with the sovereignty of God in individual lives.

But there seems to be something wrong in this culture that is preventing what seems more doable in other cultures or in other centuries.

I want to be part of whatever that is in other places and times that makes this thing of getting to marriage less impossible and more natural. Is it supposed to be this ridiculously hard for so many my age and older?

And at what point would I be willing to lay aside my culture and all my fears for the sake of "marriage"?

And what does God's wisdom say?

Meanwhile, school is back in session tomorrow for one more week. We got a new washer and dryer after using the neighbor's for, what?, 3 weeks? And Christmas is a-comin' and I already have been using my recently-purchased-from-Hobby-Lobby wrapping paper! (granted, for non-Christmas presents. Ah well.)

I think I can still say I am content with single life. I don't think I'm discontent. But content does not mean sit back and do nothing, now does it?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

242: Interest #2

You know what I really like? But it's not anything you could claim as an interest, it just stirs me up.

I like being able to trace God's work in me. I love noticing His sovereignty doing something good through experiences I wouldn't have chosen. I love recognizing how He's used different things to make me who I am thus far. If I had followed a different path, would I have gained or learned or developed the same things?

So it's one part self-aware, one part psycological, and one part thankfulness to God that He's the author of this story.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

241: Interest #1

I have long known that I do not like the question, "What are your hobbies?" What am I to say? When I'm not teaching, I'm Facebooking or watching movies? Sometimes reading? #lame. Recently, someone asked me my interests. And again, I stared. "Writing." Ok, there's only so much conversation you can pull from that (especially after listening to someone share about their passion for yoga and rock climbing). When I complained about my boring-ness to a friend, he snidely remarked that my interests are talking on the phone (because I've rediscovered the benefits) and mail order bride books. Hardy har har.

And so, it has been decided. I have started paying better attention to what interests and excites me. Futhermore, I'd like to share my daily findings here. For the record.

What to share today? There are just so many things to choose from! :D

For now, I'll start with something super obscure. In my "saved for later" Amazon list, I've kept a book called, Longing for Motherhood: Holding on to Hope in the Midst of Childlessness by Chelsea Sobolik. I heard it mentioned again on the radio tonight, and I'm considering purchasing.

Why does a book so irrelevant to my stage of life interest me?

A couple years ago I picked up Natasha Metzler's Pain Redeemed, and, really, my life was changed. From what I remember, it is her wrestling with the Lord with infertility, but the themes of pain and dreams dying are common to any of us.

Chelsea Sobolik's book is about her wrestling with the diagnosis when she was still a teen that she would never be able to have children. At 33 years old, I'm not married, I don't when or if I ever will be, if I will ever be able to have children. I, too, have wrestled with the Lord. I think that her biographical account would be both heart-touching, edifying, and on a spiritual level, relatable.

It also interests me because it is a real issue women deal with. Depression after giving birth (the term alludes me) also piques my interest because I think it must be so helpful to know that those feelings are not just unique to you, and as an outsider, I would want to have compassion on a mother dealing with that. I guess it fascinates me.

So, I just have to decide whether to spend another $20 for $5 off on Amazon before the end of November.




Tuesday, October 9, 2018

240: the latest

Has it been nearly two months? It has. What can one say? I am teaching three grades again (so far I'm not dying, by God's grace), I have a side writing job (yay for writing =ing moolah), my back is killing me while I sleep (so lots of making time for chiropractor appointments and exercise classes), and I'm on a no-sugar/dessert break for a month (and in that, I am dying).

Thus lie the pros and cons of my natural life.

No love life, but it is currently the three year anniversary of my last break up. Not that I haven't had heartbreaks since then, just nothing official to point at.

And spiritually? Well, this last week, not so great on my end of faithfulness, but I did learn something about a week and a half ago. I started praying "Lord, I trust You with _______" and "Lord, I lay _______ at the foot of the cross." Usually I constantly repeat, "Lord, help me do this and that and the other," which is actually very draining on me. A laundry list of all the areas where I need help can at times feel like reliving the burdens of the day, not unloading them. The alternate verbiage of "Lord, I trust You to _______" was a completely, utterly new way of praying for me. It actually felt like  leaving the matter(s) in God's hands. I trust You to help me be gracious towards this person. I trust You to give me wisdom on how to help this student. It's leaving my sanctification in God's hands and, seemingly, having actual faith that He will accomplish it. The only problem was having to check myself when it started feeling like I had to say the magic words. Because, the few days that I did pray that way, there was noticeable improvement in my day.

And as for praying "Lord, I lay ____ at the foot of the cross," it was an alternate way of my normal, "Lord, please forgive me for this and that, and if that was sin, and for that stupidity"--spiraling into a slight haze of depression-esque-ness. Instead, laying those things at the foot of the cross, in my mind, was an, ok, this and that way that I messed up and sinned, I lay it before You at the cross (on which the blood of Christ has already made atonement for me). Finit. The end. *contented sigh*

So that's the latest with me.

P.S. The kids at school are memorizing 1 Jn. 2:1-8 this month. That means every day we sing that "He Himself is the propitiation for our sins." Talk about a very unique vocabulary word!

"Say to Him, 'Here, Lord, I give myself to you. I have tried in every way I could think of to manage myself and to make myself what I know I ought to be, but I have always failed. Now I give it up to you. Take complete possession of me. Work in me all the good pleasure of your will. Mold and fashion me into a vessel that seems good to you. I leave myself in your hands. I believe you will, according to your promise, make me into "a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work"' (2 Timothy 2:21)." --Hannah Whitall Smith

Sunday, August 19, 2018

239: rolling it on

In Psalm 37:5 it says, "Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass." 

Proverbs 16:3 is similar: "Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established."

I looked up the word "commit." It's the Hebrew "galal," meaning to roll away/down/together.

I love that! These nagging anxieties that mount up like stones. Plunk. Then another, plunk. These unavoidable burdens that clump down into the soul and drag along the bottom.

I am trying to practice rolling them onto the Lord. It is so easy to ignore my worries, let the gnawing-away at my peace linger. Last year (I probably have said this before), I struggled with praying, partly because I had SO MANY anxieties and moments of failure and cares built up--I had no strength to pull them out one by one and give them to the Lord in prayer. I would say, "Here they are, Lord. Help me," but I was still shoulder-bearing undefinable, shadowy burdens. They weren't rolling over.

So right now, in this end of summer, beginning of the school year season, I am practicing rolling those worries over to the Lord and not carrying them with me throughout the day. He tells us to. Isn't that amazing? He tells us to be anxious for nothing but to let our request be made known to Him. He tells us to cast all our care on Him because He cares for us. We are encouraged to make Him our rock, our defense, our water in a thirsty land. 

"From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I." (Ps. 61:2)

He doesn't want us to feel like we have the responsibility to carry around these weights with us throughout the day. Do you ever feel like that? As if carrying around the worry is a responsible activity? That it is making a difference? That's not Truth. Truth is that we are to roll our worries onto Him, and let Him deal with them.