Party of One: A Book Review

Listen, we all know that singleness is my jam, so it should come as no surprise that I still collect books on this little fascination of mine. Honestly, most of them say the same old thing, which is why I’m popping in here to gush about finding a fresh perspective on the subject.

Party of One by Joy Beth Smith is not about providing more cliche answers, but about making room for the discussion the church is not having about sex and singleness. (And might I just add, it’s about dang time.) I did my fair share of blushing and cringing through a certain chapter, so I can confidently say that I don’t agree with every opinion voiced within these pages. Heck, I can’t say that the author agrees with every opinion she presented on behalf of her fellow single women, but at least we’re finally having the conversation.

While I’ve heard a whole lot of complaints over the years about purity culture and Joshua Harris’ infamous I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I didn’t understand how these things were to be blamed for a broken view of sexuality… until Joy Beth broke down all the things I was taught in youth group and so graciously explained how these teachings may have been harmful to me. Guys, it hurts how right she was. By the time I put this book down, I was feeling absolutely liberated.

My favorite concept from this book, however—the one that will stick with me forever—was the perspective a twenty-eight year old woman shared with Joy Beth on her ongoing struggle with still being single.

“It’s not what I was prepped for,” she said. “It’s not what I envisioned.”

She goes on to say that her whole life she was taught to be a wife and mother, but no one ever taught her to be a woman.

“My biggest struggle is knowing what womanhood looks like, what identity and completion look like, apart from the goal of marriage.”

And that, my friends, is why I champion the cause of the single Christian woman. Because we’re all struggling to find value in ourselves when church culture has taught us to find our worth in marriage and motherhood. Because we deserve better than to spend our lives waiting for a husband who may never come. We deserve to be validated as a Party of One.

A Life You Can Fall in Love With

“Is it weird,” she asked, “to see Josh get married when you’re still single?”

“No,” I shrugged. “I’m used to it by now.”

Which is true. I mean, it was weird when she got married. She was the first of the “younger generation” to tie the knot, and she married my baby brother who was certainly not old enough to get married, right? But the next three years have been so full of both bridal and baby showers that I hardly blink at the news that yet another kid is getting married and having kids of their own.

As I sat there watching the bride and groom share their first dance, I pondered my sister-in-law’s question a little deeper. Is this weird? Is it strange to watch Josh—this boy I’ve known all his life—get married?

Yeah. Maybe a little. After all, last time I looked, the kid was about twelve. But is it weird that he’s getting married when I’m still single? No. Not at all.

I don’t expect everyone to wait on me. They could stay waiting forever and, as you all should know by now, waiting is not what I am about.

I watched Josh’s hands dance up and down Maria’s shoulders and wondered (as all good writers do), what if?

What if I was living for this, hoping for this? What if I spent my single years obsessing over the thought of having my turn on the dance floor? Would it be weird then, to witness this moment?

I think, in that case, the answer is yes. Yes, this is weird and hard and decidedly unfair. I’m twenty-five years old; Josh is just a baby.

But I don’t live for him.

Him—the elusive someone who is supposed to come sweeping into my life and become my everything. The someone I’ll wear a white dress for. The someone I’ll devote the rest of my days to.

If I’m going to be honest, I thought I’d be married by twenty-five. As a child, it seemed as good an age as any to start settling down. As an adult it seems sort of like a cruel joke I played on my future self.

That’s right, make plans, Rebekah. It will be so amusing to see how unexpectedly your life actually plays out.

This is perhaps the part of the story where I’m supposed to become angry and jaded and bitter, but that seems to sad of an ending, so I rewrote it. I took this unexpected mess of a life and decided I wanted something different than a fist to shake at heaven.

I wanted something more magical, more unpredictable, more poetic than that.

I wanted a life I could fall in love with.

So I threw myself into my work, and befriended coworkers and customers alike.

I signed a lease and started collecting things to furnish a home of my own.

I filled journals with stories and ideas and words that may or may not be better left unsaid.

I started taking ice skating classes and, you guys, you guys, I am learning how to twirl. (Well, pivot, really, but it’s where the spinning starts… so maybe soon?)

I am trying to be spontaneous and adventurous and vulnerable. I am striving every day to let down my hair.

Would I like to be married? Sure. Maybe one day.

But not at twenty-five. Twenty-five has a different ending in mind for me.

And that’s okay. Different than I once expected, but okay.

Some people say that every girl deserves a man who will treat her well. And maybe they do.

But what I hope that every girl has, regardless of her relationship status, is a life she can fall in love with.

Love your life, darling, and if you don’t, rewrite it.

Make it the kind of life you can be proud of. Make it the kind of life you can find joy in. Make it the kind of life you can fall in love with.

You deserve that.

You really do.

Know What You Want

She’s nine years old and already boy-crazy, staring after the director’s son as he walks out the door.

“Girl,” I say, shaking my head, “you concern me.”

Her head whips around, blonde hair slapping into her face as she plants her hands on her hips and says, “Girl, you  concern me. You’ve never even had a boyfriend!”

Touche, my young friend. Touche.

Because there’s really no way for me to come back from that, is there? No way to explain to anyone—let alone a nine-year-old—that I chose this. The singleness thing. How I wear the “never been dated” label like a crown. Tall and proud. No regrets.

It’s a fact that knocks the socks off of every nine-year-old girl I meet. (Sometimes I think that alone would make it all worthwhile, but I’ve got an ornery streak like that.)

I’m not ashamed of my relationship status; I just find it hard to explain at times. Because most people don’t think that being twenty-two years single is a thing to be proud of. In fact, I’d venture to say that most people, like a certain nine-year-old I know, would say that this actually concerns them to some extent.

Well, I’m sorry that you’re concerned, but I’m happy as I am, thank you very much. So, how have I managed all these years? I’m so glad you asked.

In my book, I talk a little about how I quickly decided that I didn’t want to spend my teen years in the business of broken hearts. I didn’t want to make the mistake of getting completely lost in a guy like some of my friends had done. But I’m realizing more and more every day that what ultimately kept me single was not what I didn’t  want, but what I did  want.

If you truly want to be happy and single, you’ve got to know what you want. (And what you want has got to be more than a husband and children and a cute little house with a white picket fence, if you know what I mean.)

This may sound ridiculous, but the real reason I avoided the dating world in high school is because I knew I was bound for the mission’s field. I wanted that little office nestled in the mountains of Virginia where people came together to further the Gospel throughout the world, and I knew that office was a long way from Ohio. And I knew my heart was never very good at holding things lightly. And I knew if I got too attached, I’d never pack up and go.

So I made a choice. And I kept making choices that led me to this place here and now. Because when it comes time to choose between a calling and a possibility, I’ll take the calling every time.

Because I know what I want. I know where God is leading me. And I know how easy it is to forget all that when my heart starts skipping three steps ahead.

I still believe there is someone out there who will come along and fulfill my dreams of marriage and family and cute little houses void of white picket fences because who needs a fence when the world is your playground. I still believe he will come and fit into all the other dreams like that piece of the jigsaw puzzle that finally makes sense because I’ve turned it the right way.

But I’ve never believed that God would give me two dreams only to make me choose one over the other. And while I believe in sacrifice, I’ve never believed in surrendering vital pieces of who I am in order to become a vital piece of someone else.

Because I choose to believe that there will one day be a relationship that I don’t have to force. And I know, I know, yes, I know that the only way I can be happy right now is by knowing that this is the path God has paved for me. This is the life I was made for living. And I find great comfort in the fact that I don’t have to chase down my Prince Charming; I just have to discern what God wants for my life right now and trust Him to take care of the rest.

All of Him and All of Me {The “Other Half” Fallacy}

“As a single woman, I thought there was something wrong with me,” she confessed. “While all my peers were out there looking for their ‘other half,’ I didn’t want that.”

It wasn’t the thought of having a relationship that scared her, it was the use of that phrase “other half.” Because if she had an “other half” out there somewhere, it meant she wasn’t complete without him. It meant that she, as a single woman, was somehow lacking.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be a whole person on your own,” she said.

And it was all I could do to stay in my seat and remain silent when those words slipped out of her mouth, because my heart was singing a resounding echo of, “Yes! Yes! Thank you so much for going there!”

Because I think too many girls obsess over the thought of their “other half.” And I think that whether we realize it or not, that choice of wording plays out in our hearts in powerful and painful ways. Because as long as your “other half” is somewhere out there waiting, you are not complete.

I think it would be a dreadful thing to be missing half of myself. I have a hard enough time figuring out who I am without having to imagine that there’s still a huge piece of myself that I haven’t even met yet.

I don’t want to be half a person. I don’t want a fractured, broken, vital-pieces-missing version of myself to be all I have to offer my husband. And I certainly don’t want that to be all he has to offer me.

I want all of him and all of me. And I want to somehow meld all that together one day. But I still want to be whole in myself. Complete without him. And I want him to be complete without me.

When people say you should marry someone you cannot live without, I don’t think they mean it in a literal sense. Because I don’t think it’s healthy to depend on another human being like you depend on the air that you breathe. Because even though your spouse should be the most important aspect of your life, there will always be life outside each other. And I think so many of us tend to forget that.

Because what if we do believe in the “other half”? And what if spend our single years believing we’re not good enough on our own? And what if we do get married, but then tragedy strikes? As my friend shared last night, “What happens if my husband dies tomorrow? Am I half a person? I certainly hope not.”

I don’t think anyone should have to spend their life in pieces.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be a whole person on your own.

And I don’t want to live a fractured life, trying to discover how the pieces are supposed to fit together.

So let’s all take a step toward becoming whole.

all of him and all of me

 

Dating Isn’t the Issue; Waiting Is.

I knew when I wrote Beyond Waiting that it was going to brand me. Still I can’t help but sigh when I get certain feedback from people who hear I’ve written a book.

First, there are the people who get it all wrong and congratulate me on my commitment to celibacy. (Um, no.)

Then there are the people who think I should check out this story about some girls who are “living out my message,” and the next thing I know, I’m looking at the pictures of this t-shirt boasting the hashtag: #IWillWait. (If you know anything about Beyond Waiting,  you should understand why that slogan is a problem. Hello, we’re beyond waiting here.)

Then there are the people who tell me I should connect with so-and-so because we have “the same heartbeat.”

And that’s about the time I just want to shout, “You have no idea what my heartbeat is!”

Because most people don’t assume I had no desire to write Beyond Waiting.  Most people don’t understand that I never wanted to brand myself as the singleness guru.

So let’s get something straight, please, so I don’t have to smile and nod through all the singleness talks that everyone assumes I’m oh so interested in.

I don’t agree with all the relationship-rambling, purity-pushing, singleness storytellers out there. I didn’t write Beyond Waiting  because I wanted to join the bandwagon; I wrote it because I thought a vital piece of the story wasn’t being told. It felt to me like so many people were getting caught up in the so-called “rules” of dating that they were overlooking the problem altogether.

Dating isn’t the issue; waiting is.

The problem is that we’ve got our girls so wrapped up in the “Your Prince Will Come” mentality that they can’t see that there is more to life than happily ever after. The problem is that we’ve become so wrapped up in daydreams that we’ve forgotten to live the adventure that is waiting for us here and now—Prince Charming-less.

I don’t consider myself an expert on relationships. In fact, if you’re looking for someone who can speak from personal experience, I’m the last person you want to consult on that subject. That’s why I didn’t write Beyond Waiting  from the perspective that focuses on the someday guy.

Beyond Waiting  isn’t about relationships at all. It’s about you. And living your life now. And not waiting for someone to “complete you.”

And yeah, I’ve got opinions about dating and relationships, but they’re not the ones you’ll hear at those Christian conferences that talk about how true love waits. Mostly because they’re my own. Because I don’t believe there’s a formula to relationships so I’m not going to be the one to say you’re doing it wrong.

It’s not my job to convict you. It’s not my job to believe I know better than you.

But it is my job to encourage you to live each and every moment of your life. Because that’s how I would want you to encourage me.

Life is short. Each moment is a gift. The seconds are ticking away…
And no matter what our relationship status is, we’ve got to embrace them.

Fall for Him ~ A Book Review

Up until about a month ago, I had never been asked to write a book review. But when I got an email from Brenda Rogers asking if I would look over her e-book, I couldn’t refuse. Especially when I hopped over to check out her book website and found the words, “You do not have to recover from singleness. There is a better way.”

Yep. Hooked.

So I told Brenda to send me the book. After all, it’s only natural for an author to be curious about someone who wrote about the same subject from a completely different angle. …And that’s where the whole review thing got hard. Not because I didn’t agree with what she was saying, but because I couldn’t relate with what she was saying.

The subtitle should have given it away. Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. I am not—and have never been—a recovering single. There are girls who say, “Woe is me. I’ll never find Mr. Right. Just call me an old maid.” And then there are girls who are all like, “Whoo! I’m single! Footloose and fancy-free, that’s me.” *happy dance*

Now, those are two extremes, but on a scale of Sobbing to Celebrating, I’m doing a moonwalk on the C. I’m happy with my life as it is. I’m truly content to be single until God brings the right man into my life. And if that’s where you are, then this book isn’t for you.

But… what I saw in this book is a lot of what I was seeing when I decided to write Beyond Waiting. Because there are girls who struggle with their singleness. There are women who are struggling to find contentment regardless of their relationship status. And Brenda does a better job connecting with them than I ever could, because Brenda lived there. Brenda knows what it is to long for marriage more than she longs for her Savior.

And while Fall for Him was written for a woman much different than me, I was still able to pull out a few very profound truths.

fall for himLike, Brenda rocks that verse about God giving you the desires of your heart.

She reminds us that, marriage and talents aside, our only true calling is to bring glory to God…

And that community is essential to any human being…

That “shame is not present in holiness”…

And (preach it, sister) there is more to being equally yoked than just being saved.

So if singleness is a struggle for you, I’d encourage you to check out Brenda’s book. It may just change your outlook on life as you know it.

 

The Alleged Singleness Expert

Once you’ve written a book on singleness, people tend to assume that anything involving singleness, marriage, or dating must interest you. If I had a dollar for every time someone came up to me to point out yet another book, blog post, seminar, etc. about relationship statuses, I might actually be making decent money off this accidental venture of mine. And I might be less inclined to roll my eyes every time someone approached me with yet another you-name-it.

Because, seriously, it happens all the time and, honestly, I’m not all that interested in talking about romance and relationships.

So when a friend of mine posted a link on my wall saying she thought I would like it, I had one of those “ugh” moments. Except the title of this blog really intrigued me.

“I don’t wait anymore,” it said. So I clicked the link and read what may honestly be the best message on singleness I ever read.

Seriously.

Go read it and see what you think.

“’True Love Waits.’ Waits. What’s it ‘waiting’ for, anyway?”

Apparently I’m not the only person in the world who discovered that waiting is not always a good thing. Someone aside from me realized that the pat answers we give single people do more harm than good. And someone other than me decided that she wasn’t okay with it anymore.

“Whether it was the fault of the leaders, the fault of us girls, or both, a tragedy happened back then. A lot of girls were sold on a deal and not on a Savior.”

Somewhere along the line, we started to get this idea that singleness is an if/then agreement with God.

“If you seek Me first, then I’ll bring the right guy into your life.”

Well okay, God, but is that sort of like how my dad promised we’d get a horse after my brother was potty-trained? Because he’d been wearing big boy pants for seven years when we finally got one, and I don’t know that I can wait seven years for a guy. I’m sort of satisfied now, so could You hurry up a little?

“What if we as girls had learned early on that having Him was everything, not a means to the life we think He would want us to have?”

I completely and totally, wholeheartedly agree with Grace on this one. Somehow we’ve taken something as beautiful as purity and waiting and distorted it until it was all about a guy. But God didn’t give us a season of singleness so we could spend it searching for Mr. Right; He gave us that time to fall in love with Him.

We’ve lost sight of that. We’ve let our focus shift. And we’re insecure and unsatisfied because of it.

“I’ve planned major life decisions around possibilities. I lived like I was waiting for something.”

But you know what? There’s something bigger out there. Something better. God desires so much for you in this season of your life and He is simply waiting for you to reach out and take hold of the life He intended for you.

“I just didn’t want to wait anymore – didn’t want to live like I was waiting on anyone to get here.”

So maybe instead of “True Love Waits,” we should be saying it this way:

It can wait. It can wait until we’ve figured out what’s truly important in life. It can wait until we realize that what we’ve really been missing has been right there all along. After all…

“I already have Him … and He is everything.”