What I Wish the Church Had Taught Me about Singleness By Gina Dalfonzo

One By One by Gina DalfonzoWhen a friend who works at Baker Publishing sent me a photo of the cover of Gina Dalfonzo’s debut release last November, all I could think was, “Hallelujiah! It’s about time someone unpacked the relationship between singles and the church!”

Gina has graciously agreed to guest post this week. Her words were and encouragement to me and I know they will be for you. One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church is in stores this week. You can purchase a copy here.

When I was in my mid-20s, I started work at a place where one of my colleagues was a 40-year-old single woman. She was a very nice woman—good at her job, easy to talk to, and pleasant to work with. But—true confession time—for a long time I felt a little bit freaked out whenever she was around.

Why? It’s hard and embarrassing to explain. Frankly, I’m ashamed when I look back at my own naïve and immature frame of mind. I felt freaked out simply because she was single and 40—and there were not many voices in my life telling me that this was a good or even an okay thing.

My mother, to be sure, had always wisely told me that there was nothing wrong with staying single if I didn’t meet a man I truly wanted to marry. But, though I appreciated the principle, I had never really taken that idea seriously. Of course I was going to find a man I wanted to marry—didn’t every woman? Just because my own dating life had been pretty sparse up to that point didn’t mean he wasn’t going to walk into my life eventually. That was how it worked.

Except that for this woman, that wasn’t how it had worked. And her presence made me think, “If it happened to her, who’s to say it couldn’t happen to me?”

But, remarkably, she seemed okay with her singleness. It was all the more remarkable because she was a Christian, and Christians, naturally, were marriage- and family-focused. That had been my experience my whole life. All the Christian dating books talked about how God would bring your destined mate into your life if you just did everything right. Rarely was the idea of permanent singleness brought up . . . and when it was, it was not usually brought up in a good way.

Like when Leslie Ludy wrote in When God Writes Your Love Story about her struggles to trust God before she was married:

I pictured myself trusting God with this precious area of my life, only to end up sitting in a long, gray, tentlike dress, staring forlornly out the window and rocking my life away in a rocking chair. . . . Looking back, I laugh at such a thought. That was before I learned what a true romantic God is. If I had only known what he had planned for me . . . I never would have doubted for a minute!

In her earnest effort to persuade people that God is in charge of our love lives—a great thing—Ludy inadvertently ended up painting a terrible picture of lifelong singleness—not such a great thing. If only she, and other Christian writers on the subject, had managed to convey that God is good and life is good whether you get married or not, what a blessing it would have been to many who started losing faith as time passed and no God-ordained spouse showed up.

If there is one thing I wish I had heard from the church in my adolescence and young adulthood, it’s this: Even if you never get married, you’ll be okay. Extended singleness is not some terrible wasteland where the unworthy are left stranded and forsaken.

Oh, it can be hard, don’t get me wrong. It can be really, really hard. But even if God mysteriously turns down your petitions for marriage, even if you go for years and years wondering why it just isn’t happening for you, that doesn’t mean He doesn’t love you. And it definitely doesn’t mean He’s left you alone. He’s not the kind of God who does that.

Today, I’m the one who’s in my 40s and still single. I don’t know whether my younger friends ever feel weird around me for that reason. If they do, that’s all right; I’ve been there, and I understand. But more than anything, this is the message I want to send them: Single life is just another kind of life. Sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s beautiful. Sometimes it makes you lonely, and then sometimes it brings moments that are gloriously fulfilling. It may not be the life you expected, but it can still be a really good life.

It’s true that, if you never get married, you’ll struggle and you’ll suffer—because that’s what life is like. It brings struggles and suffering to us all, in all kinds of different ways. But you can have help facing those struggles when you hold on to God and His promises—His real promises.

For, contrary to what all those well-intentioned writers and teachers and thinkers told you, God never promised that everyone gets a husband or a wife. There’s no divine formula that automatically makes it happen. God is not some cosmic Oprah who proclaims, “You get a spouse! And you get a spouse! Everybody gets a spouse!”

What He does promise is that He will never leave you nor forsake you. And with Him in your life, no matter what, you will be okay.

Gina Dalfonzo is the author of One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church (Baker, 2017).

Girl Story

Writing friend and mentor, Don Pearson released his book iParent: Gender Trends, Online Friends & the Soul of Your Child:a couple years ago. iParent addresses the role technology plays in the lives on adolescents in our culture and how parents can interact with their children to form meaningful relationships and relational patterns in a shallow culture. iParent really is a must-read for anyone raising children in today’s technology drenched, relationally deprived culture.

A few weeks ago on his blog he featured a post entitled ‘Boy Story‘ listing out the basic pattern of life facing boys today. He asked readers to step in and talk about how they would have influenced the man in a different direction.

He asked me to write the girl version and that went live today as ‘Girl Story‘. Check it out and share with your friends!

The Pep Talk You Didn’t Know You Needed!–Susie Finkbeiner Guest Blogs

I met the wonderful Susie Finkbeiner through the wonderful Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing (April 10-12) and have loved getting to know a small bit of her heart for writing and her wonderful sense of humor through the Breathe Conference, her splendid blog, and her first novel, Paint Chips. Her latest novel, My Mother’s Chamomile, was released just last month and I highly recommend you check it out! In the midst of her novel promotion hubbub, she has been gracious enough to send a postcard Preppy Bohemia’s way. I was encouraged by her words and I now you will to! Don’t forget to give her a follow either by blog or by twitter, or a like facebook-way too!

I wove my very first fiction in kindergarten. I told a tale of a master ballerina, age 5, who stunned audiences with her spinning and twirling and leaping.
The ballerina was offered a job dancing on a big stage. However, she turned it down so that she could go to school. The tiny dancer’s name just happened to be Susie. And, well, she was me.
And, no, she couldn’t demonstrate the moves at school. She didn’t want to show off. And when I say “she”, I mean “me”.
My very first fiction was a big whopper of a lie.
I learned that day that I could take life and look at it from a different angle. I could see what was and make it into what could be.
Really, that’s all that fiction writers do. Even the ones who write about mythical creatures such as unicorns and vampires and Amish. Hold on. Amish are real. Right?
Flash forward an undisclosed amount of years. I’m now a working author. I’ve written two novels and am working on the third. I get paid to do this. And if that’s not the biggest gas in all the world, I don’t know what is. That’s not to say I get paid a lot. Still, I get some cash out of the deal. I love where I am now, making up stories, hoping that people will believe them.
But, somewhere in between ballerinas and published novels, I matured from a liar to a novelist. Was that transformation magic? Did I wish for it to be and it was so? Did I fall down the lucky tree and get smacked by every branch?
I’m happy to let you in on my secret. I’d love to share how I wound up sitting at my desk, wearing pajama pants, and making up novels. Come in close. Here’s my secret.
I worked really, really, really, really hard.
There you have it, folks. The magic, sparkly bullet is hard work. Oh, and a lot of perseverance and determination added on top.
From the day I lied about being a ballerina to this day, I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words. Possibly even millions. I don’t know. I’m a writer, not a mathematician. I’ve read thousands of books. I’ve had more rejections than acceptances. I’ve fallen on my face more than I’ve soared.
Can I tell you a little something about the down-side? The rejections? They’ve made me better. Stronger. More confident. Because I get back up, put my fingers on the keyboard and keep working. Also, they make the successes that much sweeter.
Are there short cuts? Ways to bypass the hard work? Sure. I suppose there are. But, would good writing be the result? It’s not likely.
It takes hard work. And when the work is done, you start over again. You work even harder. You strive to

make the next better than the one before.

Goodness gracious, this sounds really hard, doesn’t it?
That’s because it is. Here’s the thing, though. It’s worth it.
I don’t know your dream. I’d love to hear about it. Truly I would. Maybe you want to be an actor on Broadway. Possibly you want to invent something really cool that will enhance our lives. You might really want to be a Geometry teacher, in which case, God bless you. Seriously. Whatever your dream, I guarantee it will take a lot of work to achieve. It will take training and education and discipline. You will have to make sacrifices and give of yourself.
You will have to work really, really, really, really hard.
I promise, you will.
But hear me out. It will be worth it. Even if the biggest stage you stand upon is in a community theater. Or if you invent something that is cute, but not hugely useful. Even if all of your Geometry students fail miserably. I will tell you this, if you give your heart to it, no matter what, you will be a success.
If I wake up tomorrow and have a big, huge, “no thank you” letter in my inbox from an editor, I will still write.
If next week I find out that fiction is a bust and that nobody wants to read it anymore, I will still write.
Why? Because I love it. Even if no one ever reads another word I write, I’ll keep putting in the work.

I truly hope you will, too. 

Pete is Different

My dear friend, Pete Ford is today’s guest blogger. Pete has been a huge supporter of Preppy Bohemia from day one and is a fellow Inklykr (My amazing writing group). He just launched his own blog Pete Tweets which features samples of his creative non-fiction and poetry and lots and lots of haiku. I have been so impressed by the growth Pete has made in the past couple of years, both as an artist as well as a young man. He loves writing, philosophy, and swing dance and often does all of them simultaneously… or not. In this piece, Pete writes about fitting in and acceptance.

Tommy is different. Jacob is different. Jacob is popular, captain of the football team, has tons of “friends”, even a girlfriend. Tommy sits alone in his wheelchair at lunch, has never had any friends, has never been the champion of anything. Tommy is “special”. Jacob is “extraordinary”. If racism is dead, then why is discrimination so rampant?
Jacob and Tommy have some things in common, though. Both were created with the dignity of humanity and uniqueness. No one talks to Tommy and everyone talks to Jacob, and yet no one really cares about either. If you hang out with Jacob, you’re cool by association–and he is cool because someone decided he is. Yet if you are seen saying hi to Tommy, you are uncool by association–and he’s uncool because we decide so. Whose opinion counts, anyway? Why do individual opinions always bow to “public opinion”–which is made up of multiple individual opinions? Why does the minority always bow to the majority rule? Because the majority has more power from more members. Yet the majority could switch its decision. Why do we chase after something so fickle?
Tommy is different. Jacob is different.
Pete is different. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at him–or so he hopes. He tries his hardest to fit in and be unnoticeable. He does anything to avoid detection and especially avoid conflict. If only he can please people then maybe he can avoid conflict, and obviously what everyone wants is to be left alone. So be it. Or so he tells himself. If he stands out too much, he is scared of being treated like Tommy, as “different”. So Pete hides. Tommy hides. Jacob hides. Each in different ways; but each is hiding.
Pete is afraid of being like Tommy, but being like Jacob doesn’t sound too bad. Popularity sounds good. He longs for a place to belong, a place he is accepted. What if standing out–in a good way–would help him fit in? Why is it always easier to see the fun parts of being like Jacob than the hard parts? Why do we assume being like Tommy is bad and never see any of the blessings? What if having less is really more? So if Pete can’t achieve standing out in a good way–popularity– then he is determined to aim for a balance between the two and never stand out.
For how different they seem, Jacob and Tommy are remarkably similar. Neither Tommy nor Jacob have friends. Which is worse: shallow “friends” or none at all? If they leave during hard times, are they even real friends during the fair weather? Pete doesn’t have friends because he is still hiding.
To fix these problems of everyone being different, we pick the lowest common denominator. We teach to the level of the dumbest student. (And with our low expectations, we don’t offer anything to strive for.) But what of the smart students? We waste potential in some because others don’t have the exact same potential. “Fairness” is unfair to everyone because it demands conformity in place of uniqueness. So is saying that one is “better” at something also saying that (s)he is a better person? If we admit that one person is special, do we deny the specialness of everyone else? By definition, special means unique. We kill uniqueness. We all dress the same, learn the same, act the same.
We are also told to tolerate the differences of others–or at least you must tolerate me, but I don’t have to tolerate you. Apparently, we should tolerate diverse evil, but good doesn’t need to be tolerated because it claims to be too exclusive. We are told tolerance is acceptance and acceptance is participation. Is it even possible to respect something and not participate at the same time? And if you don’t conform, you are spitting in the face of the minority by not “tolerating” them. Boy, those people really can’t tolerate intolerance. Because they absolutely know there is no absolute right or wrong.
Why all this confusion? Because the majority rules, and the majority has declared that we must especially tolerate the minority–because it is a minority. Minorities deserve better treatment. But what happens if the minority becomes a majority: is it to be less protected? Somehow, the minority of people has the majority voice through media. We have bought the story that “everyone buys into it.” “All scientists believe in Evolution.” “99% of people are homosexual.” And if you don’t participate, you’re an outsider, going against the wisdom of the times. But since I don’t fit into the majority of “tolerators” (and by this I mean “participators”), I have become a minority, yet I am still not “tolerated.”
We band together based on similarities, yet to figure out who a person is, we ask how they are unique: that’s what makes them cool. When we describe a person, we point out how they are different from us, yet we also associate them with a group they are similar to. A white man tells his wife that he met a black man–this is not negative discrimination, it is description. He uses himself as a basis for introducing the other person: he points out differences between himself and the man and similarities the man has to an ethnic group. When a white man reads a story, is it wrong to naturally assume that the main character is similar to himself? Must he assume that the character is white, black, hispanic, Native American, and tribal African (all at the same time), just to be inclusive?
I understand that the language we use reflects our beliefs, but why do we have such specific euphemisms for “Native Americans” and such? Why do we get our shorts in a knot because someone uses a “politically incorrect” phrase to describe us? And if he’s a white male, he must be racist! Why are we so sensitive?
Yet for all our desire to fit in, we still create reasons to celebrate our uniquenesses from the crowd and our bonds to a group. Even though Pete wants to fit in and be accepted, he hates being stereotyped or lost in the shuffle. He wants to stand out somehow. Yet for all this trying to be the same and fit in and assimilate, we compete to be differently hipster to stand out. We feel the need to stand out and defy stereotypes. We take pride in being different (positive different, not negative different). We avoid using cliches and create our own brand of uniqueness to distinguish ourselves from the other 6,999,999,999 people in the world. But the different is only cool until the different becomes the same. Hipster ceases to be cool as soon as it becomes mainstream. Then we have to search for a new form of hipster. Because of this, we are protective about our differences and hold others at arms-length because we don’t want them to adopt our brand of uniqueness. Uncool is cool until it becomes cool.
Well, I should say that uncool is cool only as long as you associate with other uncool people. Uncool is not cool in and of itself since uncool is lonely. But together, with others who are “uncool”, we can be cool. And here lies a paradox: Association is required both to be cool (hang out with the cool kids) and to be coolly uncool (hang out with the geeks)–yet we are told that if we let others come too close, they will rob us–so we only let them get so close. We need other people to validate our worth, so we use them. But what if everyone else is trying to figure out life just like me and is just as vulnerable and self-protective as me?
There is a unique bond in being different so even outsiders band together based on similarities. We have a deep desire to fit in, belong, be accepted, find a home. Geeks hang out with other geeks–even if they geek about different things. Outsiders become insiders amongst themselves–even though they are different. The things they share in common include being outsiders and being passionate about something.
What would the world be like if everyone decided that being a geek is cool and people became geeks to “fit in” with the crowd? For one, there would be a whole lot of counterfeit geeks: being a geek requires passion and a willingness to be different, not a need to fit in. But if geek became mainstream, geeks would naturally separate themselves off again.

Pete finally asks himself why he cares about what people think of him, what people call him, if he fits in. He realizes how stupid it is to base everything he does on what he thinks others will think of him because of that. Indeed, everything we do, we do out of our self-image: not only what I think of myself, but also what I think others think of me (which usually isn’t true). Now, Pete is different. Pete is unique. Pete has friends who care about him because he isn’t always self-protective and can be vulnerable. He can trust. And just as much as he doesn’t want to be judged and stereotyped, Pete also extends the same grace to others.