There is a skill in learning to find beauty everywhere.
Finding beauty and hope where there is pain or unmet longings is a challenge for all of us, but one I want to be better at embracing. I am writing today to remind myself of that possibility.
Mother’s Day is a holiday and can give us the appearance of joy, after all, it’s a holiday, but for many of us it can be painful. A mother who has passed away, an abusive mom, wanting to be a mother and experiencing miscarriages, stillbirths or the inability to conceive, illnesses and tragedies that take away children far too young, the pain of an abortion and feelings of regret, broken relationships in families that leave mothers and children alienated from one another, the weight of being a single mom and trying to be a mom and dad at the same time, and for some like me… a singleness that has seemed to drag on for far too long all can lead to Mother’s Day bringing a certain sadness.
In my time line of life, I assumed I’d be married 10 years ago. I thought I was close 3 years ago. I thought by now I’d definitely have babies. It’s been a long time to wait. No babies, no husband, and no sex (yep that too…I know… it sounds like crazy talk for most of you).
Delayed gratification and disappointment comes about in unique ways for different people. For me, much of it has to do with wanting to date and marry a man who is following Jesus with his whole heart. Guys who don’t love Jesus seem to adore me and guys who do, well, have been few and far between. As a Christian, putting off sex and waiting for a Godly man has to do with my love for Jesus and desire to obey him.
But it is frickin’ hard.
Every offer I reject because I am waiting in hope because I want to be obedient to Jesus niggles me with a certain amount of disappointment. I have walked away from some really kind and good and beautiful men. All because I want to be obedient.
I have also been wounded by guys who claimed to know Christ but whose life did not reflect submission to him in any way. It’s sometimes tempting to just give it all up and date whoever I fancy next.
If the gospel wasn’t so beautiful and I didn’t believe God loved me so much that waiting and trusting him with my desires was good, I would toss in the towel now.
Waiting is HARD.
Especially waiting for sex. Let’s be honest. It sounds crazy to most people.
It is crazy.
If Jesus hadn’t shown me over and over again he was good, and worth trusting, I would not be here. I would just do things my way. It won’t make sense to many of you, but I’ve known him a long time though and I know his ways are good, so you can just trust me on it.
And you can think I am crazy. That is okay.
Knowing he’s good doesn’t mean I don’t wrestle with it all. I am known for being feisty by nature. I think it’s about being small. “Pocket rocket” is what friends called me in England. That feistiness is not limited to people or concepts or justice. I fight with God from time to time. I have fought with some really hard questions in my faith which you can ask me about if you want.
I might never get a husband and sex and babies but can I still find beauty and joy and contentment? Despite the frustration, I think the answer is yes.
Here are some practices I have found helpful…
- Celebrate beauty I love being a woman. There is beauty all around me if I will pause long enough to see it. Slow down, look around, and soak up the beauty around you. I literally stop and smell flowers. I pause to take in the beautiful rocks towering over the Ledges Trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Parks. Every time. I have been there more times than I can count and I always give myself a moment to pause and look and feel awe. I love watching a face light up with sheer joy on the dance floor. As much as I love to dance myself, sometimes it’s just beautiful to stop and watch someone else and appreciate their joy. We can do this in a thousand ways if we slow down a little.
- Celebrate others. There is joy to be found in celebrating others. Let yourself feel it when people get engaged, married or have babies. Let yourself be a complex emotional being. In learning to celebrate others, even when we are sad that we aren’t there yet, something wonderful comes out of it that I can’t describe. We were built to be other’s centered. The more you can praise other people instead of falling into the comparison trap, the more joy you will experience as you give it away to others. It’s weird like that.
- Give yourself permission to grieve. It is okay to grieve what isn’t. Maybe you are single. Maybe you have miscarried or had an abortion or a child that died. Giving space to be sad, and to mourn loss is okay. Sometimes I think we are afraid of pain so much that we try to rush past this stage. This stage is important to long-term emotional health. We need to be allowed grief time. Don’t numb yourself. Don’t become too busy. Just pause and let yourself mourn and be sad for a bit and even weep. It’s good foryou.
- Mentor someone – I can’t count how many younger women I have been able to mentor over the years in my adult life. Well, I could, but it would take awhile. I have the gift of time. Expressing some of the nurturing aspects that we have as women by taking a younger woman under our wing: listening well, being a friend, praying for them, and seeking to encourage and share hard earned wisdom is a great way to build others up and find a practical expression for some of our desires that would come with motherhood. It’s not the same, but it’s joy filled.
- Hang out with people with kids- My life has been infinitely fuller by spending time with friends who are parents. I know some single people avoid that because it reminds them of what they don’t have. Yes, it might remind us of something that is not there for us, but the pay back is so much greater. I get to express my mommy desires by loving other peoples’ kids. I can babysit and give exhausted parents a break. I can play, be silly, take kids to play with puppies, buy them ice cream, take them for hot chocolate at Starbucks like I regularly do with my nephews, and then give them back to their parents all wound up with sugar. Really it’s a taste of the best part of parenthood without the 2am feedings. We were meant to live in community. Mine has been fuller by having both single, married with kids, married without kids, and single parent friends.
- Embrace life fully. Pick a hobby and get good at it. If you don’t have children, you have more time than most. Use it well. Use it to find joyful things to indulge in.
Dancing brings me joy. Dancing with a good friend is even better.
- Travel if you can. Life feels on hold when you are waiting for something you really want. But don’t live like life is on hold. I spent my 20s well. I lived overseas for over a decade. I traveled to 33 countries (maybe… losing track now). I have had my worldview broadened by making friends from around the world. I slept on the streets of London in front of the Russian embassy with some friends to get a visa. I learnt to understand the Geordie accent (kind of). I have salsa danced in seven countries. I was evacuated out of Kosovo. It’s been a time of learning and embracing life fully, even while I wait, even if I would have liked to have been married 10 years ago. Waiting doesn’t have to mean standing still.
- Don’t kill desire. Let yourself hope. There’s this quasi-Buddhist tendency in our culture to squish desire. I will argue with the Buddhists that desire is good. It makes us alive. Without it we turn into rocks that are unable to love.
- Embrace pain, over numbness. Along with not squishing desire, pain has a teaching element. Don’t run from it when there is life to be gleaned out of it. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel pain, we can’t find healthy sources of healing. Pain is a gift. It’s an indicator of what is wrong. Use it to tell the story it’s trying to tell so you can find healthy sources of healing rather than numbing it with substances or experiences that won’t allow you to heal. There’s a book out there called The Gift of Pain by Philip Yancey. I haven’t read it. But if you are afraid of pain so much you numb it, you probably should read it.
- If you are single, be a learner (or whatever stage) Outside of spending time with friends with kids; get a good theology of marriage, of sex, of being a parent. I love Tim and Kathy Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage. It’s one of my favourite books ever even though I am not married and haven’t experience much of what they speak about. We can take the time we aren’t in the stage we want to be, to learn and grow from those who are ahead of us, so we are wiser and more prepared in our expectations. I love their brutal honesty. It’s refreshing.
We became friends our freshman year of college. I am in touch with this amazing family no matter where in the world we are…
Baking and cooking with nephews…
Christmas’s in England were often spent on Skype or Facetime… It was so fun watching him open and promptly put on this present and begin to crawl around the floor roaring like a lion. He was such a cute little lion.
Entertaining my wee cousin at a wedding while her parents were in the wedding party.
Isn’t she lush?
This was a terrible failed attempt to do those “cute baby poses” you see on Pinterest. My week old niece was furious at me for making her cold, putting her in tulle, and then face-planting. Oops. Baby photographers out there, props to you.
My little buddies.