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Wanted: Christian guy who doesn’t live with his mother

Kristin Billerbeck puts a religious spin on chick lit with her story of a single girl’s quest for love, marriage and meaning. Here’s an excerpt.
/ Source: TODAY

Ashley Stockingdale, 31, has a respectable (read: boring) job in Silicon Valley as a patent attorney. It’s the kind of life that causes her mother to ask repeatedly, "Now what exactly do you do there, dear?" Given that in Silicon Valley the single men outnumber the women 2 to 1, Ashley can’t help but wonder why a cute, eligible, Christian girl ("with absolutely adorable shoes") sits home most weekends. Kristin Billerbeck was invited on the “Today” show to discuss her book, “What a Girl Wants: A Novel,” as part of the NBC News special series, Faith in America. Here's an excerpt:

Chapter One
"This is Rick Ramirez, reporting for Entertainment This Evening." The announcer rolls his "R's" to emphasize his Latin heritage; he's a cross between Ricardo Montalban and the used-car salesman up the street. "We're live in Silicon Valley at the celebrated wedding of Ashley Wilkes Stockingdale to the world's most eligible bachelor, John Folger, heir to the coffee fortune. Not since JFK Jr. have the world's single women mourned a wedding as today, but Ashley is the woman who stole his heart — the woman who left the sworn bachelor no other option but marriage. And we hear the ladies cry, Who is this woman? For more on Ashley, we go to Jen Jenkins in 'copter 7."

"Rick, we're live over the Stanford University chapel, awaiting the much-anticipated arrival of the enigmatic Ashley Stockingdale: A woman who brought Manolo Blahnik, shoemaker to the stars, all the way to California to design her diamond-encrusted bridal slippers. Who is this Ashley?" Jen leans into the camera's lens, "I'm glad you asked."Ashley Wilkes Stockingdale came from humble beginnings, and grew up in a quaint California bungalow. The child of a homemaker and a carpenter, Ashley always knew she was destined for something great. Although there was time for frivolity, like high school cheerleading, Ashley was a serious student, passing the California bar her very first time out. And she hasn't forgotten her roots; when asked if Franklin Graham might perform the ceremony, Ashley declined, choosing her beloved pastor instead. Rumor has it she'll arrive in a cream-colored, body hugging Vera Wang gown. The world waits ... back to you, Rick."Yes, the world waits. And so do I. There's single for a season, and single for a reason. My singles' pastor used to say that and laugh like staccato Spongebob. I remember thinking it was hilarious until the day I turned thirty. Then my thoughts turned much darker, like hey, maybe I am single for a reason. That's a depressing day, when you realize Prince Charming isn't riding in on a white horse, and J. Vernon McGee is starting to sound awfully handsome on the radio. I gaze around the singles group and it's rife with its reasons. Tim Hanson has those hair plugs that look like he's sprouting rows of corn on his head. Jake Henley has been pining over an ex-girlfriend that no one's ever seen, for going on three years now. He still talks to her on the phone, and I just want to say, "Wake up, dimwit! She's moved on!" To waste your life on an emotional relationship that is going nowhere is such an easy out, don't you think? It makes him unavailable, and avoiding commitment is now that much simpler.There's Kay Harding, resident organizer and anal-retentive of the group. She can run everyone's life perfectly and is content to do so. The sad thing is we all go along, without enough will of our own to plan our social lives. Kay does a fine job, and we always have something to do on Saturday night, so who's complaining? Kay's home looks like Martha Stewart lives with her, but she's alone. Just like me. So here I'm left to wonder, if all their reasons are so blatantly obvious, what's mine? And why can't I see it when I see everyone else's so clearly?

When I graduated from law school from Santa Clara University and became a patent attorney, I thought the world was my oyster. My head had a hard time fitting through the doorway, it was so grossly oversized. It's been shriveling ever since with the daily rejection that is my reality.My mother told me that no man wanted to marry a lawyer. "You're too educated," she'd say. Like I was supposed to dumb myself down for Mr. Right. I laughed at such a ridiculous concept. After all, I'd dated plenty in college, but I waited on real romance because I knew there was someone out there who would make my feet tingle and my brain fog. Alas, I'd settle for a phone call at this point. My mom's intellectual theory is starting to gel like her aspic. But I live in Silicon Valley — it's not like intellect is a bad thing here — so where's my knight in shining silicone? Family support is everywhere. Besides my mother, there's my brother who calls me "bus bait" — as in, I have more chance of getting hit by a bus than married after thirty. They've proven that study is totally bogus, but does that mean anything to my brother? Absolutely not. I just pity the poor woman who eventually gets stuck with him. He's a bus driver, by the way. And probably the one to run me down just to prove his point.

Don't get me wrong. I live a full life as a Christian single, and I'm not waiting for life to start when I get married. I just can't stop wondering, what is my reason? Do I have some glaring flaw that I cannot be witness to? This kind of thing just drives me crazy, like when men my age marry twelve-year-olds fresh from college. Okay, so they are in their early twenties. But I remember rooting for The Bachelor when he chose a woman twenty-seven. Finally, a man who saw a little age like a fine wine, rather than vinegar past its prime. Yet here I sit, with all the same single people I've been sitting near for years. Once in a while, we'll get some cute young thing in her twenties and some single guy swoops out of nowhere and whisks her away. Leaving us "reason" people wondering what strange scent we give off. Maybe it's desperation.I don't feel desperate. I sing in the worship band, I work at the homeless shelter, and I'm busy nearly every night of the week. Granted, my busyness translates into which reality television show is on that night, but I still have my routine.Kay Harding has taken the podium and her familiar voice breaks into my thoughts. "Saturday night we're going to the local Starbucks for a talent night. If anyone wants to sign up, please see me after Sunday school." Kay takes the pen from behind her ear and attaches it to the clipboard. "I'll send the sign-up sheet around, but see me if you're performing."The thought of invading a local coffee house and humiliating myself sends my stomach surging. At the same time, I know I'll be there. What else do I have to do? I'm in such a rut. It's like when an engineer tries to explain a new segment of technology to me. I know I'll eventually get it, but the early frustration leaves me wondering why I do what I do. Jim Henderson is clapping. I call Jim "Wild at Heart Man" because he can't seem to say a thing without quoting John Eldredge. Trouble is, I think Jim missed the message of that book because he's not more masculine, just more annoying. Of course, I'm not one to judge because I've been sitting here, same as him, waiting for someone to bear witness to my feminine wiles.Seth Greenwood stands up. Seth is the one anomaly in the group. He's handsome, albeit bald, but that doesn't bother me. He has crystal blue eyes and a heart as big as the San Francisco Bay. He's a programmer — read: Geek. But who isn't in the Silicon Valley? He's thirty-four — granted his baldness makes him look a little older — but he's always there for anyone who needs him. Including me. Right now, he's got an out-of-work salesman friend living with him. And that guy brought two cats along. Seth's "reason" is probably just fear of commitment, the universal fear of single men everywhere, but something tells me he won't stay in that trench forever. So I guess maybe he's a "season" man. Time will tell.

Seth takes center stage over the rickety music stand. "On Wednesday night, after Bible Study, we're watching 'Notorious.' It's an old movie with Cary Grant" (the women coo here) "and Ingrid Bergman" (now a few guys whistle). "Anyone interested — "  Seth looks over at Kay and her organized clipboard and winces just a bit. "Well, anyone interested can just show up on Wednesday night. We'll know why you're there. Bring a snack, or be at the mercy of my fridge." Seth sits back down, and I feel my smile break loose. Seth encapsulates an invisible charm, like Fred Astaire. You can't really see his attractiveness in a Hugh Jackman way, but there's something about him that throws you off, in a good sort of way.The singles' pastor stands up. "If that takes care of all the announcements, I have one of my own." Pastor Max Romanski is dreamy to look at, sort of a cross between the quarterback in high school and the president of the student body all grown up. Not the cool guy who peaked in high school, but the one whose gift transcends adolescence. Max is tall and radiates this vibrant love for the Lord. Just by the way he looks at his wife — all googly-eyed, like a lovesick teenager — makes you appreciate him. And maybe covet just a little bit.Max's wife, Kelly, is a beautiful, blond, doe-eyed princess. Sweeter than caramel, there is no mistaking why Kelly is married. She was the girl in high school we all wished we could be, with the right clothes and the stylish haircut. I can't imagine Kelly ever not knowing how to look. Max beams a grin, ideal for one of those BriteSmile ads. "Kelly and I would like to announce we are expecting a baby, and we're due in July."Everyone claps. A polite round of applause that implies joy for the new gift of life, yet an irritable jealousy that no one wants to feel, but who can help it? Every time someone gets pregnant it's just another reminder: There's Absolutely No Chance of That Happening in My Life Anytime in the Near Future. Unless God is planning another Immaculate Conception, and I'm thinking He's done with that kind of miracle. So I clap a bit more than the others, and smile. It's one of those plastered, fake smiles, but it's all I can manage. I am happy for them, really I am, and I know that envy is a sin, so I force such feelings away. But when I help throw another shower, and when I hold their perfect bundle of joy, it will hurt — and I hate that I feel that way. I notice that I do better at reacting than Kay Harding. I can't imagine what it's like for her with everything in her life so ordered. You almost believe she could snap up a baby by putting a line item in her Palm Pilot. But it hasn't happened yet and she's past forty. The age that invokes panic in us all.

We move on to prayer. Same old stuff. If we were any shallower in our prayers, we'd be floating. It's all about jobs, and job changes, and maybe moving from one apartment to another. But who among us would dare to bare their soul? It's as though announcing our loneliness is like making it a reality. Heaven forbid we discuss something publicly that actually means something to us. Like, it's been six months and I haven't had a date, or that, as sad as the coffee house talent show is, it's the highlight of our week. But we don't say any of those things. We either say everything's fine, or we whine about our jobs and apartments.Truthfully, I can't really complain about work. I picked a boring profession, and it is a real snoozer most of the time. Since my expectations weren't high in the first place, I'm content. Being a patent lawyer and working with engineers, you'd think I'd have beaus galore to choose from for potential husbands. However, at work, engineers are on a different plane. They're not thinking about dates or women, they are thinking about an integrated circuit they must procure, and since they can only open one mental compartment at a time, my chance of getting a boyfriend at work is about as slim as Ally McBeal's neck.After prayer, we go into Bible study. Right now we're studying submission to authority. Maybe Pastor Max is hoping to defer some job prayer requests, but so far it isn't working. Submission, to a single, is a bit like explaining commitment to a male. It makes sense, but you don't really have much of an opportunity to test-drive the sermon without a partner. We go home to our separate apartments, and we think about submission, but unless the neighbor's cat walks by and we bow before it, the good intentions drift away. I have no trouble being submissive to my boss. She tells me what to do; I do it. It's not a hard concept for me, really. Since there's no one else in real authority over me, I guess I'm okay there. Max winds up his lesson with a hearty, "Go rejoice and be glad in this day!" His invocation announces Sunday afternoon has arrived. Now, as a collective entity we will head to a local restaurant, most likely Chili's or Applebee's, and prove to the waitress why we are all single. Kay will order like she's at a San Francisco five-star restaurant, Hold this, this on the side, blah, blah, blah ...Someone will inevitably snap at the waitress, usually right before we all pray for the meal. The bill used to come up short, so now Kay ensures that all bills are tallied separately, yet another reason for the waitress to hate us. Someone used to assume that tax and tip is taken off the tally, rather than added, and a few of us had to add an extra dollar. It's never worth the argument, but it makes me cringe at the witness good Christians can be: willing to sacrifice their faith for that extra buck.

So I'm in a rut. And short of jumping from an airplane, which I'm not inclined to do, or planning a vacation, which I can't afford to take, lest someone else takes my position, I have no idea how to get out of my current situation. I've considered online dating, but then I think, do I want my computer to reject me, too? Remembering Meg Ryan's excitement when she had e-mail in "You've Got Mail," I can't help but think what an empty in box might do to me. Like, "I can't even see you and you're still a loser!"Maybe I need a makeover, but I already got one of those cute blunt cuts. One thing to remember when you get your hair chopped like a movie star is that they still have that face, and you still have yours. So while it may look cute for Halle Barry to get shorn like a hairless Chihuahua, it is simply not a good look for me. I was going for a Reese Witherspoon look this time, but Reese lives a charmed life. Her hair flips right; mine is in a perpetual state of confusion. "Are you going to lunch with us, Ash?" Seth asks. I don't want to admit I have nothing better to do, so I answer, "Of course I am. Wouldn't miss it." I'm downright perky with cheerleader enthusiasm. "Sam is driving. Do you want to come with us?"Now, I'd like to think of this as chivalry, but parking is limited at the restaurant and in all probability, it's a logistical issue that drives Seth to ask me about a ride."Sure." I shrug, but my heart does a little cartwheel. It's those blue eyes of his. They are like a gemologist's dream of aquamarine and sapphire. The perfect jewel created by God alone, and when they're pointed at you? Well, at the risk of being cliche, my knees go weak. Seth and I have a long history. He calls me when he gets dumped. I call him when no one calls me. We've been friends for years. And friends is all we'll ever be.So I grab my Prada bag, a gift to myself when I passed the bar, and I follow Sam and Seth to the car. I say follow, because unfortunately, chivalry is dead in Silicon Valley. I know from experience that Seth won't open my door, and he'll make me sit in the back while he rides shotgun. It's hard to overly romanticize an engineer. They are what they are: practical above all else. And at six foot two, sitting in the backseat is wholly impractical for Seth.I look into those blue eyes, and I envision a future where Seth thinks of me as a girl. He may have his Master's Degree in Engineering Management, but he's in the first grade when it comes to women. I can picture him pulling my hair before I can picture him kissing me. Of course, this infers I have hair left to pull and sadly, I don't. I used to have cascading tresses like the romance books say, but a picture of Reese Witherspoon in InStyle and I was a sheep to the slaughter.We pile into the Saab, Sam's beat-up version of the European sedan, and we head to our familiar hangout. The waitresses are probably fighting now as to who will get us in their section.Excerpted from “What a Girl Wants: A Novel” by Kristin Billerbeck. Copyright © 2004 by Kristin Billerbeck. Published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.