Empty chairs at tables. A double bench on a patio. Thanksgiving and Christmas planning. Needing to pick up a bookshelf. A piece of cheese.
These things have nothing in common, except that they are all things that made my loneliness palpable within the last month. .
There are four chairs at my parent's dining table, we only occupy three. I dream of the third being filled one day. I sat on their patio while visiting one weekend for a quiet moment outside, longing for someone to be there with me as I sipped my coffee. We talked about Thanksgiving and Christmas plans. The holidays, the worst time of the year. A friend reminded me about a bookshelf that I'm getting from her and I thought of how it won't possibly fit in my two-door car, so how will I get it? Three pieces of cheese sat on the counter to top burgers. I wanted there to be four. This may be the most ridiculous one of all, as the man who may one day come could be allergic or, as tragic as this would be, despise the stuff.
"'Tell me I’m not going to stay here,' she breathes into the phone. 'Just tell me this won’t be my forever.'" Hannah Brencher shared in one of her Monday e-mails. She was talking to a friend who was over being single. "Been there," I found myself saying. Which also happened to be the title of that week's weekly email. A friend who also gets this dose of honesty in her inbox texted me while I was at work asking if I had read it yet. I hadn't and she told me to wait until lunch or something to read it. Basically forewarning me that I would be a hot mess after reading it. She wasn't wrong, but at the end of it, I came away with a whole new perspective on my singleness. An "aha!" epiphany moment and a slap in the face all at the same time.
Sunday I sat across the table from a friend while at lunch and I told her that August had sucked. It had. The end of July is when things really began to spiral and then just spilled over into all of August. It wasn’t fun. I don’t know that I’ve ever had quite a month like August was. She asked me what sparked it, what started the downwardness? I couldn’t tell her, because I’m honestly not sure.
July/August marks three months of counseling. Maybe it’s that I’m getting to those places where I desperately need to be, but don’t want to be. Those places where my emotions have been buried for so long, that I’ve never let anyone see them. They are starting to come out now. And that is scary.
See, I’m a peacemaker. A 9 on the enneagram and avoider of conflict. Something else that means? For me, I don’t do vulnerability. I can look at every single relationship I have — family, friends, guys — and see that there’s only a certain level that I go to. Eventually, we get to a wall and I don’t want to go over it. I’ve never had a thing for heights and apparently never a thing for depth when it comes to relationships.
I don’t let people see me cry, I stuff and bury emotions until they fester, and then I explode into anger.
Does’t seem like a peacemaker at all. Because there hasn’t been any peace.
Last week, my counselor handed me some fruit from a tree in her backyard. And I've been thinking about it all week long. I'm sure she plucked them from the tree and handed them to me only because I asked what they were out of curiosity. But, my mind has constantly gone back to those little green fruits that look like limes on the outside, but are like oranges on the inside. Whatever they may be, they are fruit. And when she placed them in my hand and told me to let her know what I thought about them, my mind was flooded with thoughts of how the Lord is growing fruit in my own life.
There is a quote, that I can't for the life of me remember right now. Something about holiness and something about hard places. But those two words have been repeating themselves over and over in my head this past week. Since the start of the year, I've been wanting to find my one word for the year. A word that could encapsulate the year and help me keep my focus throughout the year. I went over word after word, never feeling like it was quite the one.
About a week ago, I finished reading a book that is coming out in March, "Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot" by Mo Isom. I was on Mo's launch team for her first book, and while this one is quite different in content, I felt like I needed to apply to be on her team again. So, I did. And when I learned I was on the team, I thought to myself, "Now you actually have to read this book." I wasn't sure what to expect in between it's pages, but I was intrigued.
If anything, I thought it would be a great resource for later, when or if, I got married. But now, after finishing, my kindle version is highlighted up and down of truth that speaks so much new life into my singleness. That is one thing that I wasn't expecting. But it was something that I've been unknowingly praying for. Another prayer that I had forgotten I was praying. When all the chapters were read, a renewed singleness is what I found.
Honestly, I've been over it. Completely over being single and all that it offers...and doesn't offer. I've struggled through my singleness more times than surrendering it to God. But why? Why would I constantly want to tie myself to bitterness, anger, loneliness, and jealousy? Those things only inflict more of themselves. They lead me nowhere towards light and only deeper into darkness.
The crawl towards light seems to be a never-ending, all out fight most days. There is lots of kicking and screaming, much like a child. And while a lot of that has been directed to God in my anger, I also throw a lot back to myself. Because when you're the only one in the room, it's easy to make yourself the target. And words thrown at myself are easier to fix than holes in the wall. Or so I tell myself.
Words are powerful. They speak life and death. No matter if you are speaking them to others or yourself. And before reading Mo's book, one that I didn't know how much I would relate to or needed, I wasn't expecting to read words that gave me a new hope in my singleness. But that is what came.
And while I highlighted up and down, there are some thoughts that I wrote down from Mo that I have been clinging to in the week since I finished her book. Each day, I pray through one of them. Expectant that God will answer. That my daily surrender of my singleness will pull me closer to light than the darkness. That each day, my focus would not be my singleness, but of what God has for me that day. That each day would drive me closer and closer to His holiness. I've prayed that God would use every second of this time and for Him to encounter me. To equip me with strength. To teach me daily how to walk. And for His love to compel me.
I've realized over my prayer journey, that oftentimes I pray for the wrong things. Always masking my true agenda in words that seem right. Never quite praying in God's will or for the things He would have for me. But, the past week I have watched as He has answered my prayers, in ways that may seem small, but speak in such loud volumes, that I cannot ignore it. When I prayed for Him to encounter me, He met me in a quiet, morning moment of bright stars shining down into my backyard. When I prayed to be equipped with strength, He met me at a hard day at work. He is daily teaching me how to walk, how to give Him moments that matter. And when I asked for His love to compel me? He brought a college friend to my mind as I sat in church this morning and then again as I sat on my bed weeping, as that same friend posted that she had lost her earthly father.
I almost wanted to take back my morning prayer today. As sitting on my unmade bed crying wasn't what I expected when I asked for His love to compel me. But His love compelled me to call out to Him on my friend's behalf. To offer words, then tears when the words wouldn't come. Sometimes, my tears are the only offering I have to give to God.
And while I can't remember whatever that quote is, I'm learning that holiness is found in the hard places. That there in those moments, where the stars shine bright and where I'm left crying on my bed, in those hard moments, He is revealing Himself to me, showing Himself holy. When the prayer has left my lips, I then anticipate His answer. I wait with great expectation.
That word for the year? Expectant.
Expectant of what His answers will be. Expectant of what He will show me. Expectant of what hard times will inevitably come, but expectant that His holiness is always to be found if I ask Him to show it to me.
This year, Lord, with my heart renewed, I wait, expectant of all that You will do.
More Things From Mo
Click here to pre-order Mo Isom's new book, "Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot", available March 6th!
Click here to order Mo's first book, "Wreck My Life."
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Click here to check out her website.
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A few weeks ago, the tree in my front yard was full of bright, pink blossoms. A hint of spring in the middle of winter. Today, the leaves are green, bright and colorful in the midst of other trees still bare. Yet, nearby, pink azaleas, both light and vibrant, are already blooming as well. Petals and green leaves hold on tight under a sky mixed with grey and white clouds with a hint of blue sky, as the wind blows dead, brown leaves across pavement.
I love watching the wind blow. You can see it travel, first hitting a tree way off and then others following suit as their branches and leaves begin to sway side to side. Petals and green leaves seem to dance, while the dead leaves tumble across the driveways. I want to be like the petals and green leaves. Holding tight to their branches, dancing as the wind blows by. Blooming. But, I find myself more like the dead, brown leaves. Tumbling, head over heel, as the wind blows. Thrown from driveway to driveway, trampled by feet and car tires. Nothing to hold on to.
My mind doesn't dance with the wind, it tumbles with constant worry. Worry about all the things that can go wrong. Worry about what I will do next. My mind doesn't dance with the wind, it tumbles with constant sadness. Sadness over things I do not have. Sadness over how lonely my heart often feels. My mind doesn't dance with the wind, it tumbles with being angry. Angry about all the things I can't do. Angry about how things always seem to be just out of reach.
My mind tumbles, but what does it take to dance? What does it take to bloom? The petals, green leaves and dead leaves all feel the wind. The wind moves them all in some way. Attached to their branches, the petals dance as the green leaves follow. The dead leaves tumble by, no longer is their place on the branch. They all feel the wind, but whether they are attached to the branch or not, determines how the wind moves them.
Apart from Christ, my Branch, I can do nothing. My mind will tumble all day long, as the wind blows, and as long as I'm not connected to Him I'll keep tumbling. But, how is it, why is it, that even when I find myself attached to the Branch, I don't always see myself blooming? Or dancing? Only tumbling? I know the source of everything I need, but I'm not letting Him nourish me. Instead of letting Him grow me, I'd rather fall off the Branch. Yet, I know that the moment I leave the Branch, nothing will be the same. And all chances to bloom will be gone, tumbling down the pavement with me. Apart from Him, I can do nothing.
The wind is coming, it's inevitable. Worries, sadness, anger. If I'm the dead leaf, I'll only continue to tumble when the wind reaches me. But when attached to the Branch? I'll have life, vibrant and bright. And when the wind comes, I'll be able to dance. And one day, if I keep hanging on, I might even bloom.
I haven't read something so timely needed in my life as the article that I just read and have shared at the bottom of these thoughts. I had just finished reading about the birth of Samson in Judges 13 and then about the nameless woman that was Samson's mother. A companion study book, that my roommate brought home one day, profiles more than 400 women in the Bible, Manoah's wife, Samson's mother, being one of them. The author writes on how this woman was many things, including being a disappointed woman because of her barrenness. A privileged woman because she was visited by an angel of the Lord. She was a Godly woman because she was a humble Israelite and described as faithful, self-sacrificing, holy, and "must have had a life corresponding to the separated character of the son she was to bear..." She was a happy woman because her prayers were answered as Samson came to be. But, she was also a sorrowful woman because of the way her son turned out.
I keep going back to what she was like as a Godly woman, because that is ultimately something that I strive to be. The author of this companion book points out that there is "no record of complaint or impatience over her childless state." In fact, I think she probably prayed a lot. Constantly, maybe. In return, "her prayer lightened the burden of her loneliness and sustained her patience. As a God-fearing Israelite, she had faith that He would answer her prayer."
So much do I see myself in this nameless woman, of the desire to have something that is yet to be. Yet, where she was strong and faithful in her praying to God, believing that He would answer, I am weak and lacking. My prayers are more cries and tantrums during fits of anger and loneliness. My first thought is often not to pray, but to turn my face and walk away from the Lord. But, what a lesson to learn from this nameless woman on faith and prayer. Constant and faithful prayer, when combined with the belief that God will answer, is life-changing. This woman's praying "lightened the burden of her loneliness." Yes, she had the companionship of her husband, but her heart was now naturally desiring a child. And the lack of that, her barrenness, created a new feeling of loneliness that only a child was going to fill. Yet, she believed and had faith that God would answer, so her constant prayer "sustained her patience." We don't know how old she was, so we can't be sure of how long she had been fighting this loneliness of being barren or how long she had been waiting for a child after her marriage began. But, anyone who desires something so deeply within their heart and is living without it, whether that be a spouse, a new job, or a family, will probably tell you that even one day, is one day too many without it.
The days kept passing and the nights still came. She was still without a child, but her patience only grew stronger because of her constant prayer and belief that God was hearing her. The moon would rise and the sun would set, but she never stopped believing that her prayer would go unheard. She must have believed that his mercies are new every day and that joy comes in the morning, because one day, many prayer-filled days later, her patience and faithfulness were rewarded. She had a son, Samson. And while her son lived a life that sometimes led him astray from the Lord and caused her sorrow, she knew he was her blessing, her answered prayer. And her story gives us an example that while God does indeed hear our prayers, the answers may not always turn out how we expect them to. But, no matter what the answer, we can expect the Lord to be glorified.
I never thought much about marriage or having a family when I was a teenager or even in college really. It wasn't until I graduated and eventually became settled in a job that those two dreams, those prayers, started coming into the light. Small whispers of what the future could look like. But then, the loneliness hit. The loneliness of turning twenty-seven and watching your friends get married and start their families. Of watching your friends get pets together, take vacations, get promotions, and buy a house. Those small whispers became loud screams of anger and questioning why it wasn't my turn yet. What did I need to do? What did I need to change? Who did I need to be?
On Manoah's wife and Samson's mother, the nameless woman, Herbert Lockyer said: "Barren though the nameless wife she was, she was yet believing."
I need to pray. I need to throw away my unbelief that the Lord isn't hearing me. I need to be more like the faithful woman that Samson's mother was. I need my prayer to lighten my burden and strengthen my patience. I need to not let loneliness win. I need to stop pushing it away and acting like it isn't something I feel. I need to see that my singleness isn't something that needs fixing. I need to believe this article below.
But most importantly, I need to believe that the Lord is good. That He hears my prayers. That His mercies are new every day. That joy comes in the morning.
"Lord, soften my heart." That's the prayer that I always whisper on February 14th. And I repeat it often throughout the day, because I hate that day. Honestly, I do. It's the one day I hate. I hate it because the enemy uses that day greatly against me.
Yesterday I woke up eager to spend the day at church. I had some small Valentines for my two-year olds, I was excited for worship, excited to see friends, eager to hear the message. And then I got on Facebook. Mistake number one. Flowers here, couple picture there, engagement countdown, cute kids in reds and pinks. Then I went to Instagram. Mistake number two. Same thing. Twitter came third and so did mistake number three. Same thing, just 140 or less characters. Immediately I just wanted to throw my phone and slip down under the covers again. "I hate this day," I muttered to myself. My heart starting to harden.
I made it to church, red lipstick and red necklace completing my outfit for the day. Because maybe that would help mask the hardness that was growing in my heart. I was the opposite of the Grinch, instead of my heart growing three sizes, it shrunk that many and more, growing harder with each shrink. Rowdy kids in Sunday school, sticker massacre on the floor, and little tantrums all began adding on to my growing frustration. "I hate this day," I said to myself. My heart growing harder. After making it through Sunday school, I walked against the crowd into service. I found my roommate and flung myself down, flustered and relieved to be done with kids for the day. Maybe I could finally start to enjoy the day. But it was too late.
The mutterings of hating the day, the whispers screamed by the enemy, the hardening of my heart. It had all worked. The foothold of the devil was great and he was about to ring the victory bell. I sang songs through gritted teeth, clasped my hands tightly together essentially in fists. My heart wasn't just hard, now I was angry. Angry that this day that I hated had to fall on the Sabbath. Angry that I was alone. Angry that I was allowing myself to believe the lies of the devil. Angry that instead of surrendering my thoughts and my sin to the Lord, I was choosing to hold on to it. I was just angry. I wanted to fight. I wanted to leave. I hated this day and just wanted to be back in my bed.
And then Pastor got up and said he was there to speak the Gospel. Because it was something we needed to hear. It was something I needed to hear. And in my anger, I didn't walk out. I sat down and said to myself, "Lord, soften my heart."
I sat and I fought through my feelings. I fought back against anger. I fought back tears. I fought back resentment.
I sat and I listened. I listened to love being spoken. I listened to reminders that I was choosing to ignore. I listened to truth.
I whispered, "Lord, soften my heart." And he answered back with love.
I was reminded of a love so great, so beautiful, so strong. That a man, perfect in every way, was given to me by my Heavenly Father to die for me. I was reminded of a love so great, so beautiful, so strong. That death and a grave, couldn't stop that love. I was reminded of a love that I was made for. I was reminded of a love that sets me free from every sin. I was reminded of a love that restores everything and brings back everything that was lost.
I was reminded of a love that fulfills every longing of my heart and gives me a hope and a future wrapped in eternity.
A future that is real, that is personal, that is certain. A future that is unimaginably wonderful.
My song of anger began to change. "Lord, soften my heart." Erase the lies of the enemy. Let those whispers be drowned out with cries of rejoicing! Lord, I pray that I won't hate the day. May I sing with open hands to you and with a smile on my face. Lord, soften my heart. Let this love that is great, beautiful, and strong always be real to me. May I always listen to the songs of love being sung over me and not the whispers and mutterings of hating the day.
Let the hardness on my heart fall away and let love fill those places.
"Lord, soften my heart."
I pray that you didn't spend yesterday in anger. But, if you did, may you whisper the prayer of "Lord, soften my heart." I pray that the love so great, so beautiful, so strong that even death and a grave couldn't contain, will replace the hard places in your heart. I pray that the whispers of the enemy be replaced with cries of rejoicing. I pray that we love the day.
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I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to my singleness. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only single twenty-something that feels that way. If I am, don't tell me.
I love it for obvious reasons. I only have me to think about when it comes to major life decisions (like quitting a full-time job). I only have to worry about providing for myself. I can take spur of the moment trips whenever I want. My weekends are devoted to whatever I choose to do and not having to be here or there. I get the whole bed to myself. I can drink the whole pot of coffee. The house can be however messy or clean I want it to be.
I also hate it for obvious reasons. It can be lonely, because as a single, there is only one of me. Literally the definition of single is "only one in number." There isn't anyone to share the pot of coffee with in the morning. Trips by yourself can be wonderful, but road trips are always better with a buddy. There isn't anyone there to bounce ideas, dreams, hopes, fears off of and get their opinion. Two for one deals just aren't the same. I have no one to bake for.
Getting honest here, I think one of the hardest things for me is getting my faith and my singleness to collide. Faith is all about trust and being confident that God is who He says He is. I trust and believe that God is who He says He is. And I believe that He will use every season of our lives for His glory if we are willing and obedient to trust Him. Singleness should be the easiest area for me to hand over and let Him use, but for me it's the hardest. I want to be open and willing to follow the Lord during this season, but it's like I'm not willing to give up my singleness entirely. And when I say "give up" I don't mean in the sense of one day not being single, but in that if I say, "Lord, use this season entirely as You wish." I'm afraid of where He will lead me.
Yet, fear and trust cannot exist together...
And I cannot surrender one part of my heart and not another. He gets it all.
There are days that I feel I would be okay and enjoy being single for my lifetime. And there are days that I deeply long to be married.
The constant daily struggle is handing it over to the Lord, trusting Him, and trading my feelings, desires, and wishes for His.
A couple days ago one of my friends shared a video of David Platt speaking on singleness and authentic Christianity. I listened to it on my way to work one morning. It encouraged me, but also challenged me. After listening, I asked myself if I was fully allowing God to use me in my singleness for His glory. Clearly, by my thoughts and rant above, the answer is no. There is so much more that God may be calling me to, but by not surrendering my singleness fully, I won't ever know what that is. Platt said something in the video that really challenged me:
"There is a divine purpose in singleness that must not be wasted."
Whether single for a lifetime or not, I want my life to be one of undivided and undistracted devotion to the Lord.
Fully surrendered and all for His glory.
Not a moment wasted.
I'm not exactly sure where He will lead me or what He will lead me to. And I don't know what the journey there will look like. Yet, I know that my ultimate call in life is to proclaim who He is to everyone and make disciples of all nations. The journey can only begin with a fully surrendered heart. And I don't want to waste another day.
Singleness is both a gift and a struggle for me.
It is something I daily need to surrender to the Lord and trust Him with.
What do you need to surrender to Him today so that you don't waste another day?
Follow Me :)
The thoughts below were written while I was watching the sunset you see here.
The weekends that are filled with family and friends are some of the best. And some of the hardest. Not too mention when those fantastic weekends are near the holidays. I think most singles would agree that the holidays are the worst.
They are the best because of laughter, dancing, and smiles. They are the hardest when you are single or missing a family member. Because, it's during those times, that you want someone to be sitting next to you on the bench watching the sunset. Or you want someone in the seat next to you singing whatever song on the radio with the windows down. You see the silhouettes of coupes on the bench by the water and wish it was you.
And as much as I can confess that I've wanted all those things that I just said above, I can feel the sweet Lord wrap His arms around me tighter and say, "All in My time, child."
And the only reply I have is, "Okay, Lord. I'll trust You."
Follow Me :)
Another day passes, another friend gets engaged. Another friend jets off on their honeymoon. Another friend pins away all the decorations they can't wait to add to their future house. Another friend announces their family is expanding by two little feet in 2015.
Another day passes and all I've done is driven to work and driven home again.
I'm not saying I'm not happy for these friends. I've said that a bunch and I've truly meant it every time. I enjoy getting to celebrate with them at parties and shower them with gifts. It seems like an incredibly exciting time. And I love the smiles that never seem to leave their faces.
But, I'm also not saying it's always easy for me to be happy.
I've heard it said a thousand times over, "enjoy your singleness" and I'm sure you have too if you are a single twenty-something. Our single days are the best, we can invest our time wherever we want, we can grow significantly in the Lord and serve Him all the more. We can go wherever and do whatever we want on a whim. We can order take-out every night and let the dishes pile up in the sink.
Well, of course I can. But, I could do all those with someone too. In fact, if I'm being completely honest, I would rather do all those things with someone.
"Focus on where you are, a man will come later."
That is easier said than done. And frankly, I feel like every time someone says that to me, they aren't remembering how hard being single can be. Because, it is. Hard. Extremely some days.
It's not just the pestering from friends and family wondering when you will introduce them to someone or the massive amount of wedding invites covering your fridge and blocking you from that delicious ice cream dinner that awaits.
It's the feeling that there is a void in your life and it seems like it is never going to get filled.
"Fill it with Jesus. Get lost completely in him."
Again. Easier said than done.
Why? Because I'm human.
And the sinful, selfish, prideful side of me wants to argue that He isn't always enough. That there must be more for me, because everyone else seems to be finding it but me. When will it be my turn? When will I get to post a picture on Instagram or Facebook and gather 122+ likes?
In a book I was reading the other day, the author talked about how one season of her life was "rapidly coming to a close" even though she wasn't aware of it. Isn't that true for all of us? No matter what journey or season of life we are in, it could all change tomorrow. Tomorrow might be the day that the Lord reveals to us a whole new journey that we never dreamed about.
My journey of singleness could start closing tomorrow with the introduction of some new man...
What then? How would that even work?
If that even happened, I would have so many more questions than I do right now.
So, clearly I'm not prepared.
There are some days where I feel like my single days are coming to a close. Have I met the guy that I think would change that? Not necessarily, I just have that "it could be any day/month now" thought. Because, I think back to what people tell me and how they say to enjoy life and do the things you want to do now, while you can.
And I've done those things.
I've lived on my own. I've traveled and served in some amazing places. I've lead bible studies. I've saved up money and learned to manage it. I've been unemployed. I've been underemployed. I used my savings to try and pay student loans. (Those last ones aren't pretty, but that's life.) I've seen my favorite band in concert...multiple times. I've stayed up late for meteor showers that never came. I've taken random, midnight road trips. I've seen the sun set and I've seen it rise. I've learned to cook a meal and bake an awesome apple pie for dessert. I've explored National Parks and put my feet in the Pacific Ocean. I've helped after natural disasters and I've sat with the homeless. I've stood beside my best friend as she got married and rejoiced greatly when my sister told me she was pregnant.
There's a lot that I have done and yet so much more that I want to do.
But, do it alone? That is another question.
My singleness journey could be coming to a close without me even realizing it, but am I actually ready for it?
Do I like being a single, twenty-something? Depends on what day you ask me.
Do I love being a single, twenty-something? I can answer with a resounding no.
Has the Lord revealed and taught me a lot throughout this season of life? That is an overwhelming yes.
Has He ever failed me, let me down, or not provided for me? No.
The Lord is my strength. He is my Rock. He is my comfort. He is my portion and my help in times of need.
And that is something I can rejoice about daily. On hard days and easy days. In sorrow and in triumph. Single or not.
My singleness journey has truly been one of the most difficult seasons of my life. It is hard and often very lonely. And I think that is something that people often overlook or just don't want to say out loud. Yet, the Lord reveals Himself in beautiful ways. Whether this journey is coming to a close without me knowing it or is here to stay for awhile longer, I will rejoice and praise my Father for all that He has done for me.
Are you in a similar season of life as well?
Has this season passed for you?
Any advice or encouraging words for those hard days? Because let's be honest, they will come.
Follow Me :)
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