Adventures in Christian Dating: 2015 Edition

2015 was my first year of dating post-divorce. Since the relationship that led to my marriage was something that I stumbled into unexpectedly at the age of 20, 2015 was also (in a lot of ways) my first year of dating as an adult. I probably wasn’t your typical 33 year-old divorcee looking to get back into the dating pool for a couple of reasons: (1) I’m very serious about my faith and want to find someone who will attend church regularly with me, (2) I’ve only slept with one man my entire life, and (3) my preference is to wait for marriage before sleeping with anyone else. Being those things in the age of “casual” sex… oh boy.

I tried three dating sites over the past year: OKCupid, Plenty of Fish, and eHarmony. [1] Here’s what the past year has taught me:

You wanna see men get emotional? Tell them “no” – The “women are emotional” stereotype was always misogyny at its most transparent, but reject a man’s advances as politely as possible and (in some, not all, of them) you’ll get a sea of raging emotions that rivals that of any teenager. They get mad when you say they’re too old for you. They get mad when you say they’re too young for you. They get mad when you write back to say you’re not interested. They get mad when you ignore their message altogether to show you’re not interested. They get mad when you ghost them. They get mad when you let them know soon after the date that you had fun but you’re clearly not a good match for them. They get mad when they write to you to make fun of your Christianity and tell you to read some Richard Dawkins, and you tell them Dawkins is for pansy pop atheists who need other people to do their thinking for them and to try a little Foucault or Martineau.

53 yo "rock star" rage
53 yo “rock star” rage

There are plenty of good men out there who handle rejection gracefully. But the #ByeFelipe hashtag (which is wonderful, which you should read all about) exists for good reason.

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Review: The Five Love Languages

The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman [1995; Audiobook, July 2006]

(Warning: Book Review + Relationship Autopsy ahead)

A friend of mine recommended that I read this book shortly after my husband got together with the mistress that would end our marriage. She described Chapman’s theory to me in detail and said that she felt my husband and I had experienced so many disconnects because we speak different “love languages.” The theory sounded solid, so I asked my husband to read it with me, but to no avail. While I liked the idea of the book, I didn’t actually get around to audiobooking it until now, well over a year later.

The basic premise of The Five Love Languages is a simple one: people give and perceive love in different ways (“languages”) and couples often experience disconnects because one person’s way of showing love falls flat with another person. The five languages Chapman lays out for us are Quality Time, Physical Touch, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, and Receiving Gifts. For example, a woman who experiences love primarily through Receiving Gifts may not feel loved when her husband regularly compliments her and says how much he appreciates her (Words of Affirmation). That same husband may feel baffled that his wife feels so unappreciated when he tells her how wonderful she is all the time. He is giving love in his primary love language, but she feels love in a different way, therefore they disconnect and both feel frustrated.

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Merry Christmas!

Advent_Wreath_5_Candles
Merry Christmas!

Today was a different kind of Christmas for me. The brokenness that is divorce means that I only see my children every other holiday. My XH has them in Florida, visiting with their grandparents. I spoke to them on Skype today and they seem well. They return tomorrow, and we will open the presents under the tree on Sunday morning, so it isn’t much of a delay. Still, it is sobering to realize that I will only spend four more Christmas days with my daughter before she becomes an adult. Today I only had my brother with me for Christmas, and though he is wonderful and I love him a lot, it’s been my loneliest Christmas so far.

I don’t feel alone though. As hard as it is to be without my kids, I know that, given the circumstances, everything is as it should be. Their grandparents love them and they are making new childhood memories in Florida, and I won’t have to wait long to see them. I have a roof over my head, food to feed them, and there are presents under the tree for them. God has blessed us.

Constantine opening presents at his grandparents' home in Florida
Constantine opening presents at his grandparents’ home in Florida

I spoke earlier this year, in my testimony, about my beliefs on the Incarnation and what it means for humanity. I will lay down my life to empower the weak and helpless, just as Jesus did for us by choosing to become human, walk among us, and die for us. Christmas is when we remember that first step he took for us.

I hope your Christmas has been a good one.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent: Peace

Last year’s post on the 4th Sunday of Advent featured a long list of hectic things that had been happening to me as a single mom.

Things have been tamer for me as of late. Then today happened.

Today I went to a lovely and fun evening Christmas service at Willow Creek Community Church, had a really fun time with some people there.

My disabled daughter also smacked into a pillar and chipped her tooth while she was there. And when I got home, my son dropped my smartphone (which probably retailed for $500-$600 new when I first got it 20 months ago) and the touch screen shattered. It isn’t registering touch, so it’s currently completely unusable.

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Third Sunday of Advent: Joy

Our Advent wreath last year with three candles lit.
Our Advent wreath last year with three candles lit.

Earlier this year, I attended a soft skills training on “stress management.” It was a small class (3-4 people plus 2 instructors), so everyone in the class got to share a bit about what makes them stressed. I found myself talking a lot about my kids. Working to support my kids, commuting long distances to support my kids, living on a tight budget because of my kids, and the endless grind of the life of a single mother with so few breaks from the kids.

At a different point in the class, the instructor asked us to write down what makes us feel happy, and at the top of my list was . . . my kids. When my little boy giggles at me, when my daughter is being goofy, when we do something together as a family. The source of my greatest stresses in life is also the source of my greatest joy.

I read an article earlier this year about how some pain actually enhances pleasure. I’m not sure I’d feel the highs with my kids were it not for the lows.

The third Advent candle represents joy. The pink also reminds us to look ahead to Christ’s sacrifice. The joy of the Savior’s arrival in this world is linked to the anticipation of his sacrifice for us all. We can’t have one without the other.

Tonight, I’m gathering my children around to light the third Advent candle and sing “Joy to the World.” May you find joy this Advent Sunday.

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Second Sunday of Advent: Love

Our wreath last year on the 2nd Sunday of Advent.

I’ll never forget the definition of love that was given to me at a youth conference, years ago, when I was maybe 12. It must have been a good youth conference, because that definition has stayed with me my entire life.

“Love is choosing the highest good for the other person.”

In our society, talk is cheap. A classic hallmark of emotionally immature people is saying “I love you” too early in a relationship. This kind of thing can even be a mark of abusive behavior, called “love-bombing.”

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First Sunday of Advent: Hope

Advent_Wreath_1
Today is the first Sunday of Advent for the year 2015. We enter into my favorite season from a past year that has been one of continuing transition for my family. I switched jobs (just two weeks ago), started a certificate program at the local community college, have made good progress on my thesis with a solid goal of finally finishing my MA degree in May 2016, and have gotten acclimated to the life of a single mother and divorcée. My brother, who lives with me and had been my primary caregiver for my children, went back to work for the first time in six years, which has meant putting my son in part-time child care and my daughter in after-school care. As I look to the future, I am pondering the possibility of returning to my family in Seattle next summer, after I finish both my programs. It would mean trying to line up both a job and a place to live before making the cross-country move, so I am apprehensive about the future.

Yet, I am hopeful. My favorite passage in the Bible reads (emphasis mine):

Jeremiah 29:11-13 ~ “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Hope is a powerful thing. The Reformer Martin Luther once said, “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” Often we think that we have no hope, but if this were true, we might not choose to keep going. And when we look to God and his promises for our hope, he can do amazing things in our lives. On the dawn of Christ’s coming, Israel looked to God for the hope of the promised Messiah.

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Huldah the Prophet

A short but significant account of a female prophet occurs in 2 Chronicles 34. In this chapter, King Josiah of Judah makes the decision to restore the temple of the LORD. In making repairs to the temple, the high priest Hilkiah comes across “the Book of the Law of the LORD”—probably all or at least part of the book of Deuteronomy.  When the book was read to King Josiah, he “tore his robes.” Apparently the people of Judah were unaware of the Law and had not been following the commands contained therein. King Josiah then orders Hilkiah and four other top-ranking Judean officials to “Go and inquire of the Lord” on behalf of himself and all of Israel and Judah concerning the teachings found in the Law of the Lord.

Hilkiah and the other officials seek out the prophet Huldah, who tells them, “This is what the LORD says: ‘I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people—all the curses written in the book that has been read in the presence of the king of Judah. Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all that their hands have made, my anger will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.’” (NIV) She then adds as a message to King Josiah, “Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. Now I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place and on those who live here.” (v. 24-25, 27-28)

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Why Egalitarian

A wall painting (c. 5th century) depicting a scene from the "Acts of Paul and Thecla" wherein Paul and Thecla's mother, Theocleia are both exhorting Thecla, their hands raised in a teaching gesture. Theocleia's eyes and hand have been vandalized.
A wall painting (c. 5th century) depicting a scene from the “Acts of Paul and Thecla” wherein Paul and Thecla’s mother, Theocleia, are exhorting Thecla, their hands raised in a teaching gesture. Theocleia’s eyes and hand have been vandalized. [1]
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I am a Christian egalitarian. I believe that God calls women as pastors, elders and deacons so that we should be ordained as such, and I believe that leadership of a Christian household should be shared between husband and wife with neither having final authority over the other and Christ being regarded as the head of the household. My position stands in contrast to Christian hierarchist [2] positions which restrict women from certain church leadership and teaching roles (usually pastor, elder, and sometimes deacon) and teach that the husband possesses some kind of final authority or leadership role in the home.

I arrived at this position through years of prayer, study, and personal experience. Here are 12 reasons why I am a Christian egalitarian today:

(1) Because the Creation narrative teaches that, before the Fall, men and women were created equal.

In the first Creation narrative in Genesis 1, both the man and the woman were created in the image of God (1:26-27). Both were commanded to have “dominion” over the earth (1:28). There is no trace of hierarchy in the text here. The man and the woman are equals in paradise, and God calls it “very good”  (1:31).

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Finding God’s call for your life when you’re a struggling single parent

I attended a women’s theology conference in February 2014. The theme of the conference was “purpose,” and the other women at my table were chatting excitedly about figuring out God’s calling in their lives.

I didn’t feel like I could join them. I’d had my son on September 29th of the previous year and asked for a divorce exactly one month later. As I sat at that table, my car was in the shop, undergoing expensive repairs. I didn’t have a job. My estranged husband was looking into apartments so that he could move out, and I had no idea how I was ever going to care for my children. I wasn’t chatting excitedly about mission or ministry; I was thinking of those two human beings whose lives depended on me and how I was going to feed them.

When it came my turn to talk about what I believed was God’s purpose for my life, through my tears, I told the other women at my table my fears and concerns. I said that I really wasn’t sure what God had for me in terms of mission or ministry anymore because I was just struggling to survive.

And one of them said, “Right now, God’s mission for you is to take care of those children. Don’t you worry about anything else for the time being.”

It was like a great weight lifted from my chest.

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