Sunday, May 24, 2009

Random Thoughts on Being a Single Woman in the Modern Church

Okay, these are just some random thoughts I've been jotting down lately on the subject of being a single woman in the church and how my life experiences have shaped my opinions of that. Please take these with a grain of salt and a sense of humor as some as this is supposed to be both enlightening with a touch of humor at the same time, if that's possible.

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My experiences and interactions with other people’s marriages have definitely shaped my opinion of what it is to be married and what it is to be single. As a high school student, I had a rosy, idyllic view of marriage. I saw only what I wanted to see and never saw the hard side of marriage, the stress, the arguments, and the compromise. All I saw was the constant companionship (wanted or otherwise) and was convinced I would be married with babies by age 19. I never once thought as a young student that marriage was not for everyone. I was convinced that we would all grow up, pair off and have our happy little families (reminiscent of Leave It to Beaver) in our perfect Christian communities. Marriage was my answer to everything: How am I going to support myself? Don’t have to because I’ll have a husband for that. What am I going to do with the rest of my life? Be a mom. What am I going to do for an education? I’m going to be a mom; I don’t need to go to school to learn that.

Around 20 years old however it was like the blinders were taken off. Granted, I had always been a little na├»ve and unobservant, but when people I loved, people I thought were unshakable broke down before my very eyes, it impacted me in a big way and it definitely hit home that marriage is not the answer to everything. It wasn’t that I became anti-marriage, but I have definitely an advocate of the single life as well as cautiousness and careful consideration in pursuit of marriage.

It was a big epiphany for me to realize that I wasn’t supposed to be focused on marriage. (Shock! I know!) Even within my relationship with God, my prayers would sometimes (oft times?) begin and end with the request for my long-awaited husband. I asked for a husband more than I asked for peace, or guidance, and more than I even worshiped God. It took a lot to come to grips with the fact that that just wasn’t healthy. Even now, I’m still struggling with giving God the right place in my life. Over time, my request for a husband has been replaced by prayers for jobs, for good grades, the occasional request for world peace, and the ever-on-my-mind prayer for financial aid among other things.

Now that I am getting into what I would deem my ‘truly single’ life (finished my undergraduate degree and am looking to go into the realm of ‘real jobs’) I realize that marriage is not something that I want. I know people think I’m crazy, and many think I’m misguided, but I really don’t see a problem with living the single life. The unmarried life has been extolled in the Bible for various reasons and marriage is never listed as a necessity for spiritual fulfillment or obedience. I cannot tell you how many times people have told me that I will change my opinion when ‘Mr. Right’ comes along. They can’t seem to handle that anyone could be content, and where they’re supposed to be, in singleness. A friend jokingly told me once that it was because all married people wanted us to be as miserable as they are. Truly, though, I just don’t know how to explain this to people. I don’t see my staying single as a ‘misguided reaction’ to the failing marriages around me, and neither do I see it as a selfish decision of not wanting to give up my time for another human being (as that's not really the purpose of marriage anyway). I am not opposed to the idea of marriage. Indeed, I suppose it is possible that I could eventually marry (though I have no desire for it right now). However, I am not planning on it. The idea that we (especially single women in the church) are supposed to put our lives on hold for the knight in shining armor to come sweep us off our feet is preposterous.

It almost seems as if the heroes of our favored novels (Christian, classics, and otherwise) have ruined us and ruined our perception of men. Men are expected to live up to the fictional-likes of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, Mr. Rochester (perfect, despite his faults), and the occasional Christian romance hero. These ‘ideal’ men are nowhere to be found and they have skewed our idea of what a good man looks like. Instead of seeing men as human, and accepting their faults as we expect them to accept ours, we hold them up to a fictional standard that is only achievable on paper. While I recognize the place for good literature (and most of these books I would hesitate to call ‘good literature’, particularly outside of the realm of that which would be found in a solid literature class), I cannot stress enough that these standards of fool's gold should be taken with a grain of salt (make that a cup of salt!). A friend from my early college years deemed Christian romance fiction ‘Christian erotica’ and more and more I am seeing that I agree with his opinion. Christian romance novels (I can think of several authors I read when I was younger) create false expectations, in a similar way to pornography, that are always disappointed when we encounter real people.

What has really irked me most about my experience with being ‘single’ in the church has been the assumption that I have not yet reached adulthood because of my marital status (or lack thereof). Granted, I will admit that I have not reached what I hope is my ‘peak’ of maturity (and there are those I know in their 50s and 60s who hopefully haven’t reached theirs either!), but when I see the young marrieds (same age as myself) welcomed into churches more than I am, I find it just a little bit insulting. Is there such a thing as marital discrimination? However immature or mature I may truly be, I believe that we all have something to bring to the table. I have been enlightened by conversations with everyone from the four-year-old in the nursery, to my 82-year-old grandmother, and many people in between and I believe that we all deserve the same amount of respect, regardless of how big our entourage is.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday

Yay for farmers' markets!

As a break from the monotony, Grandma and I ventured out to the Flint Farmers' Market today. I must say it... I'm in love! It seems like I only find the good places in a town once I'm ready to move out... Perhaps I need to extend the duration of my stays... Anyway, back to the farmers' market. Incredible. Between the two of us, we picked up fresh vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper), fruit (watermelon and the first crop of cherries!), herbs (peppermint and basil), cheese (Fontina!), liver (not my favorite I've found out, but it's cheap), a baguette, and even an ice cream cone. This is better than the fair, this is better than the amusement parks. I could spend the whole day just sitting and watching people go by or perusing market stands.

The true beauty of the farmers' market (or at least this one as I don't know how others work) is that you know it's local and you know it's in season. It's kind of disturbing to me to think that I can walk into a grocery store in the middle of December and find tomatoes... Yes, I do like my produce during the winter, too, but it's just a wee bit unnatural.

Another nice thing is the prices. I know that sometimes it's pricy. The cherries, for instance, were $5.00 a pound. On the other hand, we have the vendor who sold us six gorgeous tomatoes for only $2.00. and the bag of basil that only cost $2.00. Even with the slightly higher prices, though I am getting a deal because it's better quality food (whereas at the grocery store, I usually come out with something overprocessed). And I end up paying less because the temptation of processed, frozen, pre-packaged food is non-existent at the farmers' market. :)

So on to a similar subject: gardening. My tomato plants seem to be doing well. I'm pretty sure they can't wait for June (and neither can I), because I will finally be able to transplant two of the four out of pots and into the ground once the fear of frost has passed. Cannot wait for yummy tomatoes in the summer. Actually, right now I am really missing having a yard for gardening. No such luck here and that's fine. However, I can't help but look longingly at the flats of vegetable seedlings and wish I had the space. I'm already pushing my luck with a few tomato plants, so I think I'll leave it be.

Back to the farmers' market (kind of): With out lovely produce we got today, I got to make a few things for dinner which just might make it on to my favorites list.

1) Mediterranean Tomato Salad (or at least, that's what I'm calling it) -- two medium tomatoes, a quarter of a green pepper, and a half a cucumber all chopped into bite sized pieces. Add a pinch of basil and a few pinches of peppermint. Drizzle with olive oil and just a tad of vinegar (I used apple cider, but I think red wine would be better). Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy. If you all know Woody's Mediterranean Deli in Lansing/East Lansing/Okemos, this is very similar to their greek salad, however they have the advantage of using fresh mint. I have to resort to dried.

2) Cherry Clafoutis (It's said cla-foo-TEE, apparently) -- Okay, this is a little on the humble side. It is incredibly simple and almost unassuming as desserts and tarts go. I can say that Grandma definitely wasn't impressed at all. Her comment? She 'didn't dislike it'... Okay, so Grandma's comments aside, give this recipe a try. I used a recipe from foodnetwork.com and it seemed to work really well (I used a heavy casserole dish instead of a dutch oven). So, basically this is an eggy sort of cherry tart. Can also be made with pears or other fruit, but cherry is most common. It is not very sweet (only a 1/4 cup in what will become about eight portions). It is (I believe) traditionally a Frech breakfast food. And, hey, I'm hooked. If I could have this every morning, I might actually eat breakfast.

So, sorry for the disorganized post (looking back through I can see that it's dotted liberally with parantheses...). Enjoy your Saturday, and here are some pictures for you as you go.

Clafoutis just out of the oven.




First cherries of the season

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Again (with an Update)

Hi guys,

Know I've posted this already, but I wanted to post again to see if you all could lend any more advice/insight (and thank you, Nat, for your comments originally). I wrote a post back in February about ideas for churches trying to 'bring in' our (as in twentysomethings?) demographic. If ya'll have the chance and have some thoughts, I'd really appreciate either a comment left our an email shot in my direction. I am getting ready to compile a 'report' of sorts for my uncle and just wanted to get as many opinions as possible.

(PS: Sorry if any of ya'll have tried posting comments and been unable. I was getting some random messages once in a while and was going to try to limit who could comment on posts. However, I selected the wrong item and limited the commenting only to myself... Lovely. I am a genius.)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Weekend Update

(And, no, I wasn't thinking of SNL when I thought up that title -surprisingly enough)

Not much happening. Mother's Day is tomorrow. (Happy Mother's Day, Gina, Mom, and Grandma!) Got a beautiful hanging plant for Grams this afternoon. They are called Million Bells and look nice, and also are easy to maintain (Always a plus!).

Got to explore a new store today. Jenny B's Garden Spot may be a new favorite of mine. Not one I'll frequent very often, but a definite highlight. It is an all-organic, all-natural, etc., etc., nursery near where I live and I couldn't be more pleased with all the help from the knowledgeable staff. I love it when I can go in knowing nothing, ask all sorts of questions, and not feel like I'm annoying someone to death!

So, besides Grams' new hanging basket, I also picked up four Juliet tomato plants. Two are in pots and two will eventually be in beds and I think they'll work well. I have named two. Yes, I name everything. So Pot #1 and Pot #2 are heretofore known affectionately as... Frankie and Johnny. Hehehe. Yes. I know.


I am going to sound like such a nerd here... I got organic fertilizer (no, not that kind) and I am really excited. I am not really too thrilled with the idea of MiracleGro(r), so finding a natural, organic option was pretty cool. Meet Dr. Earth. I will let you know how he does this summer. :)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Graduation Pictures (Anecdotes to Follow)

Dad, Mom, and I after graduation outside of the arena.


This illustrates how incredibly exciting the ceremony was. And an incredibly adorable little girl.


Me standing still. Waiting to go sit in a folding chair for two hours.


Grandpa Gl., Grandma Gr., Me, and other Grandma Gl.