isolation and living alone

There are only so many times a living-alone-Single-extrovert can hear the words ‘isolation’, ‘social distance’ and ‘cancelled’ before the weight becomes a little too much to carry and it has to leak out of my eyes! Yesterday I had a significant ‘moment’ (think tears, snot, a few little hiccup-y gulps and one or two audible groans!).

Last month I shared a post how long ‘til the realise I’m dead? and it seemed to resonate. Single people commented repeatedly “This is exactly how I feel!” and married responses repeated the sentiment “I’ve never even thought about this before.”

The same people who worry about not being discovered to have died are bound to be experiencing an additional layer of anxiety in the face of these shut downs and measures of separation to responsibly manage the movement of COVID19 and it’s impact on our health care system and to protect our most vulnerable.

CHECK ON THEM!

Social media is being flooded with posts from Introverts saying this is their idea of heaven. From what I understand, the cancellation of social events and being ‘forced’ to stay at home are the stuff their dreams are made of! 🙂 HOWEVER, even the most introverted of introverts could acknowledge that, as much as they love being alone and are personally energised by that time to recharge, there’s also the reality that without the interruption of exchange with others there can be an un-health that shapes their thought life. As much as they can do without social interactions, the circuit breaker of other people’s engagement in their thought processes and internal dialogue is a healthy and necessary thing.

CHECK ON THEM!

As organisations (like mine!) move to working from home (can we just pause for a praise break that we live in such technologically advanced times – so many opportunities to stay working and connected through online platforms!) while this is a fantastic provision – it’s also a socially isolating move. Many living-alone-Singles rely on the accountability and regular interactions of work life and will struggle without it. As churches move to streaming their services, be reminded that it’s not just the sermon or worship our congregations will be missing (in fact, these things have been out-source-able for a long time now) it’s the connection to one another, a sense of engagement in something bigger than themselves, the opportunity to keep regular relational accounts with one another – to give and receive prayer and encouragement.  (My church has set up an online/phone prayer service to facilitate this – what a great initiative!)

CHECK ON THEM!

For those of us living alone who have the love language of physical touch – this experience has another layer of impact. The social distancing protocols don’t apply within your households. You might sleep closer than 1.5m to your spouse. Go ahead and TRY convincing young children not to invade your (or each other’s) personal space – that’s not happening! So, even in a time of physical disconnection you’re experiencing some connection. In my regular life I can go days without physical touch and now, it’s mandated! In my little ‘moment’ yesterday, this was part of my processing … how long do I have to go without any physical connection?

CHECK ON THEM!

I messaged my friends – the ‘her is ours now’ family referenced in this blog being family to those without family – and shared about my little meltdown and said “I decided you could adopt me, then if we need to isolate I’ll isolate with my ‘family’”. The response was, essentially, an affirmation that they thought I already WAS adopted, and that if we get shut in as family-units then my place of shut in is with them! “If ‘Her is ours now’ then ‘her corona is our corona now’ too!”

Of course, we’re prayerful that the measures our country are employing now might avoid a complete lock-down. Things are changing daily as we continue to track the spread and learn what we can from other countries (another praise break – how grateful are we for all the fabulously smart and compassionate people in our medical system?!) and there’s no real point in leaping ahead to worst case scenarios. Being sensible and caring in this moment is our best next step. If I came to know I was infected I would never intentionally expose them to the virus.

But, I can’t tell you the relief that came to me in my emotionally charged episode, to have my friends make it clear that I won’t have to be alone. It was such a circuit breaker for my fear, loneliness, overwhelm and distress. There’s a plan, an option.

CHECK ON YOUR LIVING ALONE FRIENDS.

If only to give them a safe place to process the emotions they might be feeling. Each of us will travel an experience like this differently as it’s shaped by our lifestage, personality, health status and other factors. Let’s do what we can to grow in our understanding and empathy for one another.

how long ’til they realise I’m dead?

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I wondered if it was just my overactive imagination, or perhaps the product of watching too many true crime documentaries, but a quick poll of some of my Single friends tells me I’m not alone in asking this question. How long could I be dead before people would notice I’m missing?

I’ve seen the news reports – I’m sure you’ve seen them too – where neighbours alert authorities to an unpleasant smell, an overflowing mailbox or dogs barking incessantly and the subsequent inquiries reveal someone who has died. Clearly, some time ago. And it had gone seemingly unnoticed until now. It’s one of my worst fears.

As someone who lives alone and quite independently, there are often long stretches of time between points of check in. Frequently, when travelling between locations – the office, home, from one work visit site to another, church, a friend’s, the gym, a family event – I’ll find myself calculating the amount of time there is until the next point that my absence would be noticed. My church friends might just assume I’ve slept in or I’m speaking at another church, the gym has my money and doesn’t check to see why I didn’t show up to a class I’ve booked, my work colleagues could assume I’m having meetings or working offsite … it leaves substantial chunks of time in which I could be dead (or in less dramatic but still significant difficulty!) and no one knows yet.

I spend a lot of time on the road. That same active imagination allows me to envisage a scenario where I’m involved in an accident of some catastrophic, fatal nature, and the attending emergency services have to find out who I am. They could discover my home address but no one would be there. They could knock on a neighbour’s door but it depends which door they chose as to how helpful that would be. They could try the last number called in my phone – but that could be someone that I don’t even know personally. Anyway, these are long drives, I’ve had plenty of time to (over)think.

I recently saw a conversation thread on an online chat forum that raised the topic of Singleness and Illness. Pertinently, several Single post-ers commented on bouts of sickness that saw them home-bound for multiple days without anyone inquiring or offering assistance. For many, it was not so much the issue of being unable to look after themselves or requiring medical care but the fear attached to the experience. What if my condition worsens? How long must it be before someone notices my absence?

Of course, the answer is simple and, perhaps, obvious. A Single person who is sick just needs to make sure they let someone know they are, right? But the flip side of that is the often larger fear of Singles that they are perceived as needy or overly focussed on themselves. “Hi Pete, just ringing to let you know I have a bit of a cold coming on.” “Lucy, it’s 8:07, I’m leaving home. It’s 8:52, I’ve arrived at work. It’s 4:39, I’m going home via the supermarket.”

Every time I speak (write) something like this out loud it’s met with an enthusiastic cry of “yesssssss!” from Singles and a general sense of relief to hear that someone else knows and understands. That maybe they’re not so strange, or needy, or self-focussed – that maybe, just maybe, this reflects a legitimate heart cry to be known, looked-out-for and not too far beyond the reach of care or interest.

Couples and families, next time you’re feeling “checked up on” you might consider the gift that is to you. When you’re someone’s someone, they generally care about where you are! They keep short accounts. They check if you’re not where you’re meant to be when you’re meant to be. There’s a blessing in there that you could be mindful to appreciate.

And all of us, check in on your Single friends! Notice when they’ve not been in touch for a while, inquire about their health, show interest in their movements and schedule. It doesn’t take much to keep everyone connected … and off the news!

your single friends need you (probably more than you need them)

A few years ago I was sitting with my housemate and we both got a text message from a married friend. She was letting us know that she’d had some medical issues arise. There’d been some preliminary testing that was either worrisome or inconclusive enough to warrant further investigations. So she was going to have more tests done and was asking for us to be prayerful.

My friend and I both thought to respond in the same way and I sent a message back including “I hope you have some friends journeying this with you”. We later discovered that this was considered to be a strange kind of response. There she was informing us as her friends and inviting us to be part of the process – why were we questioning whether she was including her friends? Ultimately as a married person the need to contact friends was triggered far later in the process than it might have been for a Single person. A Single person who is experiencing negative health symptoms would probably contact a friend straight away. A Single person would seek the opinion of a friend or family member to know if they should go and get that checked out. A Single person might let a friend know that they’re going to a doctors appointment and perhaps even invite them to come along. So by the time further testing was required a Single person may have included their friend/s a lot more in the process. The reality is that for the married friend she had been processing all that with her husband up until that point.

Single people can have different expectations and requirements of friendship.

For a Single person, their friends are the entirety of their network of advice giving, problem-solving and listening. For those who are married and in a family environment a friend serves a different purpose. If circles of trust were to be drawn a spouse might find themselves at the very core and then friends at varying stages of distance in the widening concentric circles. For a Single person without a spouse at that core, often friends are drawn into a place of higher trust, of higher reliance; of higher connectedness.

What this creates is a potential power and need imbalance in friendships. Where the Single person requires more of you than you require of them. Where your name would be listed closer to their inner circle than their name would to yours. A friend of mine recently recounted a revelation she’d had of this when her Single friend asked her to come around to look at her new flooring. She thought it was an odd request until she connected with the fact that she would have had numerous interactions with her husband over new flooring and not felt the need to tell others – whereas her Single friend might not have had any engagement about her floors with anyone else. Perhaps a trivial example, but a helpful illustration of the different experiences.

This plays itself out in many ways, including socially. Where a planned social gathering might be additional to your weekly social calendars and fuller household, it can be the entirety of a Single person’s social connectedness. Where a cancelled dinner or a lack of invitation might result in you having a more quiet night at home, for a Single that could equate to being completely alone.

My friend Nancy and I talked about this recently as we sat across from one another at dinner. I made the observation that I needed that interaction more than she did. She’s married and is also a mum and as we talked some more she reflected, “I don’t think I had ever really considered how much my relational tank is filled incidentally and how that shapes how many friends I need, what I need from them, and the time and space I have to give them.”

What that means is that a Single person needs to maintain a lot of relationships to ensure their input and output are sufficient to experience the human connection we are built for. Even for me, as a highly extroverted and socially and relationally competent person, that can be EXHAUSTING! There’s a lot to balance to ensure that there are enough of those once a week, once every fortnight, monthly catch up types of relationships to spread across the day to day of life in order to keep the relational tank at a healthy level. That need makes us vulnerable. There’s great risk attached to this reality that we probably need you more than you need us.

Singles, identify and own this reality. You need others. It’s risky. It’s exhausting. It takes intentionality and purpose but you can create the kinds of relationships that will allow you to give and receive the love, belonging, serving, fulfilment, purpose and joy that you need.

And for you non-Singles, maybe you could do a self-audit like my champion friend Nancy, to recognise the level of relational filling you operate out of before leaving your house or making any extra effort. It might increase your sensitivity to the needs of the Singles in your world and grow your understanding of the neediness they experience and the risk they take to stay relationally engaged.

why I (happily) live in a tent

You know those years that become lifetime markers? Where your story becomes divided into before and after? 2002 was that year for me.

Amongst a whole lot of changes, challenges and growth it was also a year of great loss. I miscarried a much longed for baby and then my marriage of 8 years ended.

As dramatic as it sounds, it really felt like I was “done”. My greatest hopes for my future – to be a wife and mother – were dashed. I’m 28 years old and I’m done. And, as if my own fears and doubts weren’t screaming loudly enough, others gave voice to judgement and condemnation. “Divorced people can’t serve in the church.”

Done.

Through a dear friend, God illuminated Isaiah 54 to my heart and rarely has a portion of scripture ever spoken so directly and powerfully to my very core.

It’s long. And there are many layers to the significance of all 17 verses and the context of the scripture in the greater biblical narrative. But let me highlight just a few (reading from The Message translation).

“Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.” v1

‭‭‬‬Boom! What?

“The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.” v6

‭‭‬‬🙋🏼‍♀️

So incredibly affirming and embracing. He sees. He knows. He holds.

Amidst all of the upheaval I was processing two big decisions – an apparent call into generations ministry and what to do with the large family home of which I was now in sole possession.

“More are the children of the barren woman…” at that time there were at least 30 who would come under my ministry umbrella! And God in His grace called me to nurture an ever growing gaggle of children and families that shaped a culture and focus for ministry in the context He placed me. Also moulding a lifelong ministry message and opening my heart and arms to some incredibly special little ones He has gifted to my life over the years since.

But, to the main point of this reflection – the Tent.

“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” v2

‭At a time when it felt like my world and my dreams had been completely shrunk, God’s word to me was one of expansiveness and big picture dreaming. Spread out!!! Think big!! So, as I looked at this big 4.5 bedroom home – purchased with the dream of hosting a growing family but now just a home for one – God was shaping a vision for a different type of filling and a redirecting of my mother-heart to a different kind of loving.

Thus The Tent.

Make room. Make room for ministry, for meeting spaces, for parties, for storage; for a community trailer. Make room for guests, for those in need of emergency accommodation, for the convalescing, the international traveler, for the visitor and those needing a place to call home. Make room for dinner parties for 16 and takeaway on the couch for two. Make room for dreaming and writing, preparing and creating; for baking and making. Make room to embrace and to launch. Make room for tears, for doubts, for reflection, for grieving, for searching; for prayers. Make room for great joy and loud, loud laughter. Make room for deep learning, for growth, for failure and recovery. Make room for singing and dancing and trampoline jumping. Make room for babies and children, for youth and their leaders, for mentors and friendships, for family and colleagues. Make room for memories and moments.

Make room.

Stretch your tent curtains wide. Don’t hold back.

A vision for a physical location, but more importantly a mandate for a way to live. Make room. A desire for an ever-enlarging heart. For ongoing and greater generosity. For continuing openness even when wounding or grief would seek to close me down. For hospitality in its truest definition – welcome, inclusion, comfort and connection.

And now the Tent has relocated. But the physical aspect has only ever been one part. So even though this iteration is smaller (for now) the prophetic vision over it is still as large. The door is open, the kettle at the ready, the guest beds are made, everything is to be shared and my heart’s desire is to always be a place of welcome for all who would come.

The full text of Isaiah 54 (The Message translation) can be found here

being family to those without family

“Her is ours now!”

This was the declaration of a new 5 year old friend when she discovered I didn’t have my own family. She had inquired about it after a few visits where I’d shown up clearly without one! “Does she have a family?” Her dad assured her I had parents and siblings, but she was thinking more about the kind of family that would come along with me. After some reflection, she made the decision that this ‘no-family’ situation would just not do and announced my immediate and complete adoption into hers!

Out of the mouths (and hearts) of babes.

The reality is that there are many Singles who journey life in the void of all that we are designed to express and experience in family. That’s where you and we come in! The opportunity exists for us to be family to those without family. Here’s some thoughts to consider as we endeavour to do that and do it well.

not all singles are created equal

Every Single is unique. Personality and temperament; factors like extroversion or introversion, history, circumstances or life stage, contribute to ensuring every Single has a unique set of needs as well as contributions to offer. While some generalisations might be made about certain demographics, there are often more exceptions than inclusions.

assume nothing – talk about everything

The only way to ensure what is on your heart to offer to a Single in your world is going to be accepted in the manner you’ve intended is to avoid assumptions and ask lots of questions. What are the situations that you find most difficult? How can I best support you? Is it helpful if I did “this” or would it be better if I did “this”? I read/heard/saw this from another Single, is that your experience? How does it differ? etc Often, things done with the greatest heart to help and include miss the mark because of the misalignment of expectations that could be easily averted if communication had been clearer.

what you take for granted

In the busyness and monotony of your every day life it can be easy to take for granted some of the things you experience in family (and potentially, even begrudge them). The buzz of noise and chatter as family goes about their regular routine, the sharing of responses over something seen on tv, serving one another in practical ways, incidental contact that happens as you move around each other, externally debriefing your day, a kiss goodnight – all this and more takes place in your home constantly and, often, without much thought. Singles often experience deep longing for these experiences and also could benefit from the grace, capacity for compromise and others focus that these circumstances demand.

the gift of normal

Don’t underestimate how powerful it might be to include a Single friend in the normality of your life. As chaotic or mundane as it might feel to you, it could be an incredible gift to someone whose day to day is often absent the dynamic these family environments bring. It’s possible to inadvertently communicate to a Single person that they’re an imposition or separate to your family when there’s a sense that they require a level of ‘hosting’ that is disruptive, rather than a type of inclusion that is mutually beneficial.

singles have more to lose

True, the responsibility to extend invitation, action social planning or nurture relationships doesn’t rest solely on those who are friends to the Single. But, the reality is that in the instigation or execution of such interactions a Single has less to offer and more on the line. If your family invites a Single person to dinner – whether they say yes or no, you’ll still be having a family dinner; if they cancel last minute, you’ll still be having family dinner. For a Single – the contrast is stark and so the risk is greater. When a Single invites a family to their house, they can’t offer an existing social dynamic – you’ll need to bring that with you. Until you are there, nothing is happening! It might seem an obvious point to make but perhaps it’s a perspective you haven’t fully considered. It’s certainly a dynamic by which many Singles feel hamstrung.

monitor & adjust

Seasons and circumstances are constantly changing. What works in one stage of family or life rhythm will need to be adapted as things shift. A biological family navigates these transitions constantly and included others can also – but it requires communication. The courage to ask the questions as changes happen will ensure that relationships are kept strong and mutually edifying as each new season is embraced.

LISTEN HERE – for further ideas for being family to those without family

READ THIS (“arriving alone”) – a practical encouragement to support Singles by helping them overcome a simple yet often debilitating obstacle

 

 

At least we came!

Most Sundays at church I get to stand on the platform at some point and look out at all the brave souls who have made it to church that morning. I say ‘brave’ because I think sometimes (most times?) the well-dressed, sweet-smelling, generally-got-it-together people looking back at me are not really indicative of the true story of what it took to get them there!

For some reason, getting up on a Sunday morning – even an hour later than you probably do for work – can be the hardest task of your week. Kids that neversleep in decided to do it TODAY (or they wake at an hour that is un-godly … even on God’s day!!)! The ‘leisurely’ breakfast went feral when one of the children decided to be ‘helpful’ with a whole box of cereal. The weekly ‘you’re-not-wearing-a-basketball-uniform-to-church’ and the ‘no-you-can’t-wear-your-flowergirl-dress’ (or a combination of both) battles have been waged … with tears … from everyone! Husband/wife decided to drive “that” way instead of “your” way and then parked in the“wrong” place and did that “thing” they always do …etc etc … Continue reading

5 ways to build up your kids min team


Kids Ministry is an exciting and exhausting place to serve. Those who do it well will absolutely love it and give their all to it – but that doesn’t mean they are immune to feelings of doubt or fatigue.

Here are 5 very simple yet super effective ways you can make your Kids Min Team better – building them up in their sense of purpose and energy to continue to invest in our kids and community.

1. Thank them

Give them a high five at sign in. Tell them you appreciate their commitment to your children. Help them understand the impact their serving has on you and your family. Remind them of the important part they play in your church community. Drop them a note, give them a FaceBook shout out, or speak it out loud.

 

2. Know their names

Make the effort to learn and remember their names. Get to know them. Find out what year they’re doing at school, what they’re studying at Uni or where they work. Try and discover what they do for fun, what their favourite chocolate is, what music they listen to or what sport they follow. Your effort will communicate such high value to them.

 

3. Bring them coffee

Because Sunday mornings are hard y’all!! Surprise them with coffee or breakfast donuts and fruit. Buy the night team a pizza for supper or bring slurpees on a hot day.

 

4. Give them feedback

When your kids remember something they learned at Kids Min or when they tell a story about something their leader did – pass it on. Help them understand how their influence reaches beyond the scheduled ministry times. Encourage them to know the impact they are having in your kids’ lives.

 

5. Serve with them

Join the team – Kids Min teams ALWAYS need more members – and multiply their ministry effectiveness by adding your own gifts and skills. If you can’t be part of the scheduled ministry times, find ways to serve from home or during the week.

PICK ONE (or more) – and do it NOW!

C3 Hobart

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The community of C3 Church Hobart invited me into their conversation about being “Better Together”. They’ve been exploring relationships, parenting and marriage. 

On Sunday March 27th I shared into the topic of Singleness. Or namely “How can the church family be family to those without family?”

Overwhelmingly the response from those in attendance includes comments from Singles expressing such joy to have their unique situation highlighted and understood. And from marrieds who are encouraged to consider what they have to offer to Singles in their circles looking for a deep sense of belonging and inclusion. 

You can listen here : 

http://c3hobart.org.au/26032017-kim-smith/

I can’t believe I don’t have a baby 


I’m over 40 and I’m Single and childless …and I just can’t believe it. 

Sometimes I am hopeful that might change, sometimes I’m quite at peace and content if it doesn’t, sometimes I’m overwhelmed with the grief and sadness of it – but mostly, I just can’t believe it. 

I just can’t understand how this is the way my life has gone! All I’ve ever wanted to be is a wife and mother. Instead, I continue to experience so many other amazing things that I didn’t expect, or even imagine would be part of my life. I have so many other roles – a friend, an Aunty, a Pastor, an author, a speaker, a leader, a traveller – I love so much about my life. But I just can’t believe I’m not a mum. 

I love babies. I love children. They seem to love me (well most of them). They run to give me hugs, they fall asleep in my arms; they each have their special nicknames, hugs and traditions. I have a well-developed ability to sleep literally anywhere (including standing up – true story) at any time which I am sure would be a handy skill to have as a sleep-deprived new mum. I have a full heart and an empty home.

I am supremely confident of God’s nearness and His love. He leads me, He defends me, He grows me in wisdom and in His grace. He comforts me. He blesses me abundantly. While I completely trust His plans and purposes for my life, I don’t completely understand them. I’m sure He knows what I long for. 

I can’t believe I don’t have a baby. 

My Singleness doesn’t feel like it has an end date. I can marry at any time – and I hold the deep hope that I will on an open hand. There’s a biological reality to my capacity to conceive and carry a child on which the window is rapidly closing, or may have already closed. 

I can’t believe I’m not a mum. 

I think it’s okay to say that out loud. I feel like it’s healthy to express that in context to a greater sense of contentment and peace. Because the sense of disbelief is actually the feeling that rises most regularly. Sometimes it’s so strong it physically arrests me and I literally stop what I’m doing and shake my head – I’m sure I have a confused expression on my face. 

And then? Well, then I take the next step forward into whatever else is happening and whatever else is coming.