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Hey everyone!

You may have noticed that there hasn’t been much activity on this blog for well over a year. Both bloggers have gone through some major life changes since the last post in September 2010. For Bethany, that meant relocating, grad school, and no longer being perpetually single. For Emily (moi), that meant also relocating, job readjustments, and writing a novel.

We’re just gonna let this blog lie for now, I think. I can’t speak for Bethany, but if you’re interested in reading up on my ongoing life adventures, including topics related to faith, singleness, and my upcoming novel, you can check out my other blog, Em Speaks.

Thanks for reading!

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Sometimes one huge thing completely derails an otherwise fine day. Sometimes lots of little mishaps add up to create an unpleasant week. Such things can really mess with rational thinking.

When you’re having a bad day, week, etc., does it ever start to make you feel miserable about something completely unrelated?

Personal example: Back when I had a sad, unhealthy body image, I would feel miserable about being fat even though that really had nothing to do with why I would have a bad day. Perhaps I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before, I had a difficult assignment at work, the coffee was stale, I was defriended by someone on Facebook, and my electric bill was higher than I expected it to be. Somehow this would end up with me being miserable about my weight, even though my weight had absolutely nothing to do with anything else going on. It was just something that seemed easy to point at and focus on and wish to be changed.

Since working to make peace with my body, this doesn’t happen so much anymore. But yesterday I found myself doing it again, only about something else.

I’m having some issues at work, and this week I felt quitting—and I mean quitting in a loud, dramatic way that would be truly memorable at the company for years to come. I didn’t; I’m still here. But it’s contributed to my already-growing job dissatisfaction, anger at a coworker who hates me for no reason, frustration with my limited budget, and exhaustion from two years of ridiculously early work hours.

Because of my penchant for the dramatic, the rise of formerly buried feelings, The Enemy sowing seeds of discontent, or any combination thereof, I began to feel frustration with other aspects of my life besides work. This occurred even for things I had been content with the day before—and my singleness in particular. It’s not really a surprise, since my singleness is still an area where my contentment is weak overall. But on my way home, exhausted and drained and just weary, I started to wish I wasn’t single, that I had a boyfriend to vent to (I don’t know why this would be different from calling an existent friend and ranting to her, but therein lie the logical fallacies), and the familiar feelings of “Ugh, WHY DON’T IT??” came back.

I’m not sure what it was that woke me up from this way of thinking—most likely simply the promptings of the Holy Spirit—but somehow I realized, “Hey, my singleness has nothing to do with these problems I’m going through right now. And if I magically became romantically attached at this moment, it still won’t solve these problems.”

I don’t know what human inclination it is that makes us place blame on some outside object, even if it’s completely irrelevant and irrational, but it seems to happen to a lot of us, and I am not immune.

So, based on my own recent experiences … if you find yourself feeling low about your single status (or something else entirely), try to trace your thoughts and feelings and pinpoint the true source of your discomfort. If it’s something you can fix or change, do your best and then move on. If it’s something completely outside of your control or abilities, submit it to the Lord, pray through it, and be patient.

Whenever I read a description or participate in a discussion related to the oh-so-popular-in-Christian-circles topic of married v. single, something always leaves me squirming and dissatisfied. I may have finally pinned down the reason for this, but I’m not sure I can express it with any degree of eloquence.

One thing that bothers me is that singleness is almost always treated as a temporary condition. It’s usually a given that Christians will marry. Sometimes singleness is spoken of like a very long sickness that you must endure until you can be “cured” with marriage. I would, of course, be lying if I said that I have never thought of singleness like that. But lately I have been strongly considering and praying about the prospect of never marrying, and in some ways I find that a desirable future. The fact is, not all Christ-followers will marry, and I could very well be such a person. Granted, the odds indicate that most of us will marry, but God does not always follow statistics.

Another thing that bothers me in the topic of marriage/singleness is that many Christians like to talk about the great benefits there are to marriage. Not only is there the obvious (you get to have SEX!!!), but a Christ-centered marriage is a great evangelism opportunity, you have a (presumably) lifelong companion and best friend, it’s a reflection of the covenant between God and His people, it’s the foundation of the nuclear family that is the foundation of society, and so on.

But if you’re single … well, sorry, you don’t get any of those things.

What do you get? Um … I dunno. Something, I’m sure. I think Paul wrote about it somewhere. He liked being single, didn’t he? Yeah, I think he wanted everyone to be single. Haha, he was a funny guy.

The worst part of being single is that you can’t say any of this without sounding like a bitter spinster, even if you speak out of genuine concern for the issue (ok, even if it is with a twist of irony).

I really wish more people would speak about the benefits of singleness in Christ—ideally, those who are single themselves, or married people who can at least be honest about things they miss about being single. Although maybe it’s not practical, since as time progresses those of us who are singles will become even more of a minority, and it will just look like we want special treatment. Sigh. But then, I do understand that since most people will marry, that’s what gets the most attention. Also, the world has such a warped view of sex and marriage that I very deeply understand the necessity of addressing that within the church.

I just wish we singles could get a little more acknowledgment and encouragement is all—preferably some that doesn’t involve hearing, “Awww, don’t worry, it’s okay, you’ll find that guy someday!” I might not! That’s my whole point!

There are really a ton of perks with being single, but not everyone would agree with my idea of a “perk,” and I’m afraid that if I list them, I’ll look like I’m bitter, overcompensating, averse to marriage, family-hating, and so on. But I did anyway, months ago, and these things haven’t changed. Except to say that lately I have realized how God has gifted me with singleness (at least for the time being) as an opportunity to grow closer to Him. And NOT just in the sense of “relying on God so I can endure singleness until it’s over.” But God has given me so many opportunities that I do not think I would have had if I had not been single.

I must point out that in I Corinthians 7:7, Paul refers to both marriage and singleness as “gifts”—one for some, the second for others. And yes, he does not forbid marriage, but he does point out that marriage does bring its own difficulties, and singleness its own benefits in verses 32-35 (emphasis mine):

I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.

I know you can sigh and say yes, you’ve heard this passage a million times, it was written for a different time and place, you still hate being single, etc. etc.

Fair enough. I’ve been there. I’m sure I’ll be there again.

BUT. As I’ve grown in my faith and become closer to the Lord, the idea of a life devoted to Him and the ability to focus more on Him has become of greater importance. I don’t mean to bash marriage and say it’s less holy than singleness or that those of us who are single have a closer connection to Jesus. But it’s true that singleness can make it easier to focus on Christ, and that marriage, although a beautiful covenant established by God, does come with its own distractions and complications.

I should add that singleness is only less distracting if you are not focused on finding “the one” that God has for you. Not to say that you shouldn’t ever think about it, if you do want to get married someday. This is just another example of how you need to “let go and let God,” as they say. Please, trust my own experience when I say that letting go of such things makes worshiping, depending on, and learning more about God that much more special and rewarding.

But then, this applies to all believers, no matter their relationship status.

I am not trying to bash marriage. But if I said I still wanted to get married someday, I don’t know if that would be entirely true. And yet, saying that I don’t want to get married might also not be true.

I simply believe that people who are single and don’t want to be, should focus on Christ first and not be overly concerned with finding that other person, but concentrate on living a God-pleasing life.

Personally, right now I’m in a place where I no longer have any idea whether I am gifted for marriage someday or lifelong singleness anymore. But what I don’t want is anyone telling me, or making me feel, that my current / possibly future position in life is at all pitiable.

That’s all I ask.

Hey all…

OK, here’s the deal. For several weeks now, I had been planning in my head some sort of “final post” for this blog, because I can’t keep it up on my own (Bethany has gone AWOL, but not in real life, thank goodness!), because I already write for my day job AND for the novel I hope to publish one day, so I can’t write for a public blog either, and because, to be honest, being single has kind of sucked for me lately, and I haven’t wanted to address that to a wide audience.

Before I could write that post, however, God gave me another spark of insight, and I knew in an instant that I had to share it.

If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, you know that I’m pretty much anti-“settling” when it comes to finding that life partner. But there’s a difference between settling and having realistic goals. Settling is a defeatist, “I guess I can’t do any better” attitude that can be downright dangerous. Having realistic goals/standards is healthy, honest, and gracious toward yourself and the other person. I believe that it’s just fine and dandy to have an idea of the “perfect” mate and to have a list of ideals traits that he/she would have — but ONLY if you are aware that 1.) NOBODY is perfect, and 2.) God may have a different plan for you.

My church recently completed a series about relationships, sex, boundaries, and the (different) roles of men and women. At one point, my pastor said that, whatever the foundation of your relationship is, you have to keep doing that to maintain the relationship. If your relationship is not much more than sexual attraction, you have to keep having sex and being sexually attractive for your partner if that relationship is to last for any amount of time. If a relationship is based on having a rich partner, they better hope they will always have money, or someone is going to book it when times get hard. If your relationship is centered on Christ, then focusing and growing in Christ will keep you together.

Tonight, when talking to a friend from my small group, we were discussing people (mostly guys, but this applies to girls as well) who have an idea in their head of the perfect mate. They are not going to let go of any particle of that, and they will not “settle” for anything less. (Think Mr. Elton from Jane Austen’s Emma, if you’re familiar with that story.) In some ways, that can be admirable to hold out for the right person, but not if they refuse to be at least open to the idea of someone different. And if they do find that perfect person, guess what? If the relationship is based on that person being perfect, then that person has to KEEP being perfect if that relationship is to be maintained. The moment that the “perfect” mate ceases to be perfect, even if it is just for a moment, that will shake the foundation of the relationship. How sad is that? One little slip-up, and your entire relationship is in danger? That leaves little room for grace, patience, basic human frailty, and—well—love. (This is kind of a lesson you learn from watching The Philadelphia Story, I just realized.)

So what do you do? By all means, hold on to whatever non-negotiables you know you must have: A Christ-follower, someone with a job, someone who loves his/her mother, etc. But be aware of differences and imperfections, and love everyone as Christ calls us to do.

ETA: This post also means that I’m not giving up the blog entirely. I never intended to remove it, and now I think I will plan to post more in the future. It just will be more infrequent, since it still does have to be put aside for the sake of the bigger things I’ve mentioned above. But whenever I am so inspired, I will be posting again sometime.

Hello, everyone. I hope you had a nice holiday weekend (those of you in the U.S.) and an excellent start to the week.

Very often God provides answers that I need to hear, not necessarily ones I want to hear, or ones that directly answer my questions. My last post was a plea for help and advice in figuring out how important physical attraction is in a relationship. Recent messages at church, my prayer time, blog posts from others, and insight from the Holy Spirit have yielded a number of answers—none of which answer my question per se, but are far more important.

Here they are:

1. If physical attraction to my Hypothetical Future Husband is my top concern regarding my maybe-someday-future marriage, then my heart is not in the right place, and I have bigger problems than that.

2. God calls us, as Christ-followers, to love without prejudice, discrimination, expectation, or selfishness. Whatever guy (or girl) enters my life for however long, I need to love him (or her) anyway, no matter how attractive (or not).

3. I Thessalonians 3:24: Faithful is He Who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

Have a blessed start to your week.

You guys, I’m in a bit of a quandary. Or probably a lot of a quandary, actually. I could use whatever input or advice you would be willing to give on this matter. But it involves me being publicly vulnerable in a way, which I hate.

So here’s the deal. Essentially, physical attraction: how picky are you allowed to be?

Here’s what I already know:

1. Physical attraction or appearance cannot be the basis of one’s judgment of a person’s character, beliefs, personality, health, intelligence, etc.

2. It also cannot be the foundation of a solid, lasting, Christ-honoring relationship.

3. It can also fluctuate.

4. “Looks can be deceiving” and “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

5. Novels, movies (BOLLYWOOD, I’M LOOKING AT YOU), and TV shows are not real life, and not relationship examples to follow.

6. Henceforth, when I refer to guys as “unattractive,” I mean in my eyes and my eyes only. Beauty in the eye of the beholder, etc. etc. etc.

Sometimes I think I am a lot more visual than most other women. I know I’m not unique to all of history, but when I hear some story about the “conventional wisdom” of men being more visual than women in some way, it’s difficult to understand how womenaren’t. Maybe I have fewer female hormones, or maybe it’s because this particular piece of conventional wisdom is utter crap anyway. However it happens, it happens to me.

I’m single, and I want to get married someday. There, I said it. And like most other people, I want to marry someone to whom I’m physically attracted—after the other prerequisites such as spiritual, emotional, and intellectual compatibility.

Recently, I started thinking about this a lot, mostly because I started to try online dating again. I’ve kicked eHarmony to the curb and decided to try OKCupid, and so far it’s at least been fun and interesting, and I’ve gone on one nice-not-great-but-not-terrible-either date via that site. Here’s the deal, though: the only guys interested in me are either not Christians (and therefore not optional as future-spouse material), or are not in any way physically attractive.

This has been kind of a theme my entire life, both on and off the Internet. I’m attracted to guys who end up not interested in me, and I’m just not attracted to most guys who find me attractive. I am not talking about the classic “I’m attracted to jerks” dilemma or “why don’t nice guys like me?” I have been attracted to genuinely wonderful guys that just aren’t interested in me, and there have been total jerks who have found me attractive despite my lack of interest in them. For the sake of this particular blog post, I am ONLY talking about physical appearance/attraction.

Although I have a particular “type” that I prefer, I have found many different guys attractive, and I am completely reconciled to the fact that I may not marry someone who fits my ideal. And because I myself am not conventionally attractive, I already know I need to have realistic expectations overall.

Also, there is a “range” of how attractive I find someone, which I think I’ve talked about before. I don’t quantify it when I see someone, but for the sake of clarification I will use the 0-10 scale. Anything below 3 I consider “unsalvageable,” meaning that no matter how awesome he is and how compatible we might be, I just can’t get past how unattractive I find him. Anything between 3-4 and 6, and I will find him much more attractive on closer acquaintance, if he’s the right kind of guy. If he scores an arbitrary 7 or more, then he pretty much meets at least most of my ideals, so physical attraction is a given, although what remains to be seen is what lurks below the surface AND I AM TOTALLY AWARE OF THAT.

Now, I do try to have an open mind about it. The guy I went on a date with? Not attractive to me (to someone, I have no doubt; just not me) at all, but I went and had a perfectly fine time. But even when I try to have an open mind when I find guys unsalvageably unattractive, it still doesn’t change anything.

What bums me out is that if only guys I’m not attracted to are attracted to me, then I’ll never find someone I’m attracted to. I don’t know if it’s that unattractive guys find me more approachable, or if I’m sending out some kind of vibe I don’t even know about, or if I’m really actually just that unattractive myself and I should lower my standards. And even thinking about not being attracted to good guys makes me think, “I’m a horrible, shallow person and I don’t deserve nice things anyway.”

BUT AT THE SAME TIME, I’ve never met a married/dating couple that didn’t find each other physically attractive somehow. And most “how we met” stories involve noticing some good-looking guy/girl hanging around/pouring coffee/in the same church pew/across the cell block.

I’m basically asking the same question I asked a few weeks ago: Am I being too picky? Unlike last time, however, my conclusion is a resounding, “I DON’T KNOOOOOWWWW!!!”

Bethany’s advice has been, “Hold on to what you want, but keep an open mind,” and I think that’s spectacular advice that so far I haven’t been able to improve upon. This is where any input from you guys comes in: what you’ve learned through your life experiences, advice for me, scripture references, anything. And if you’re struggling with the same question, please do share that too.

Unless you still live with your family (or a family of some kind), as a single woman you have, at some point, dealt with the issue of cooking for one. Although it can be a fun time to explore options and creativity and try new recipes with only your own health and taste buds to worry about, it can also get tiresome. Of course, you could eat out and get take-out for every. single. meal, but that gets quickly, ridiculously expensive.

I was doing some research to find ways to save on groceries that wasn’t the already-heard-fifty-times “Use coupons,” “Buy generic/on sale/in season,” and “Don’t shop when you’re hungry.” I found one great post on the site Wise Bread (which I had admittedly never read before) called, “Grocery Shopping for the Cheap and Lazy.” Despite its (honest) title, the advice is also good for singles, even if they are neither cheap nor lazy.

The article includes such gems as:

Sure, maybe I use too much salt and vinegar, but hey, it’s my palate, and if I want everything to taste like dill pickles, so be it. I’ll worry about someone else’s palate when the time comes.

Also, “Do not fear butter. It makes everything better.” I’m pretty sure I want that on a bumper sticker for my car someday.

Some of the advice is common sense: don’t buy things in bulk if you won’t use it all, and cook foods that will taste good as leftovers. Some of it is less conventional, but still makes sense: be sure to try ethnic foods and shop at ethnic stores, allow yourself one indulgent item that will make you happy to cook, and if you must drink, booze it up at home for cheaper.

Be sure to check out the entertaining article, and many of the links from it. You’ll learn something.