It’s a Friday night. Jolene and I wandered into a hair salon to get our hair washed and dried. It is a wonderful way to spend $0.75. As we were reclined over the hair sinks I said to her in a sultry sarcastic voice. “Jolene, it is Friday night, and I have a man washing my hair!”
If you’re going to be a single woman living overseas, you gotta have a sense of humor about it. I know there are so many of us out there. Velvet Ashes has devoted this week to us. So let’s talk about it. Here is what this life means for me…
“Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.” – Thomas Aquinas
As a single person I long for conversation that occasionally runs deeper and connects me to another person. That is why He sends friends. Jolene has been one of those people for me. As the only other single person on my team I didn’t really choose her as my friend. Yet we really have been able to feel safe with one another. I first realized this one Friday when the two of us decided to go to McDonalds for convenient comfort food supper and left comforted on more than food.
God has also showed me how to be friends with couples. Many of the people my age are married and it has been important for me not to be afraid of being friends with them as a couple, honoring those marriages and learning from the couple as I observe and interact with them. And a myriad of joys have come from long conversations over coffee after their kids are in bed, and the beauty of watching them love each other.
The most difficult thing for me in overseas living has been dealing with sickness. I have had several bouts of different kinds of sicknesses throughout the years that have wiped me out for days, sometimes weeks at a time. I have learned to live with pain and make decisions about my health, but that doesn’t negate that dealing with sickness alone is hard. My family is supportive and my team stepped up when I needed them to fill in or just give me extra grace. Yet advocating for my own health has been challenging with the nagging question of “am making the right choices about caring for myself” at the back of my mind. Although I don’t have that “other half” to advise me on medical concerns, it has pushed me to Him, my lover, healer, the trustworthy One. And when I feel weak, I know He is strong.
In the eyes of the Chinese…Single Person: 单身的人(dan shen de ren) = only one body
Whether during office hours or even in those free moments between classes, a common question from students is, “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”
They expect one simple answer, but there isn’t one.
What a chance for some life on life communication! I usually say something along these lines: “I am waiting for the one God has handpicked for me.”
Chinese taxi drivers like to delve into those personal topics like salary, and marital status and age. Conversations with them usually go something like this: After I tell them my age, “You’re 34? And you are not married yet? Yes, I am, and no I’m not. Why not? No one has asked me to date them yet.” A touchy subject to discuss with strangers.
And after those feeble beginnings for both the student conversation and the taxi driver conversation, their responses tend to turn to, “Well you can marry a Chinese man then!” This train of thought is delivered with big smiles and hope in their hearts, and I love them for that hope. And then I get the privilege of explaining, “To me it is most important that my husband will share my faith, my values and my culture.” Sometimes they respond with “You are too traditional” or “Well China has believing men.” But then they don’t understand that it is so difficult for the believing young people. There are more women than men in the fellowship of believers in China, even more so than the North American body. It truly is a difficult topic to broach with the Chinese as even I don’t understand the full extent of my singleness. But my hope is that they see Him in it and at the very least that it makes them think about their own relationships.
“Being an auntie feels like such a gift to be given – when I felt that ache of love for the baby my beautiful sister is carrying, I saw my world take on a new shape.” ~Susannah Conway
I have been a pseudo-auntie for quite some time now. It started my first year in China with the kids of my team leaders. And it continued on. Among the North American community in China, the parents have commented on how great it is to have people to fill those roles of the aunts and uncles their kids are missing as Third Culture Kids. I am utterly thankful for the myriad of kid moments now, even as I wait for the potential of having my own. One friend has even called me a “child whisperer,” and I am honored.
“He made us with a purpose in mind. We are not made to be put on a shelf and collect dust, but to be used…” ~Carolyn McCulley
Everything in this next category is two-sided. It is the category of FREEDOM. Why is it two-sided? Because I still want the joy of marriage. I would gladly set aside this freedom for the chance to be a wife if that is what He has for my future. Although I recognize the freedoms of singleness it doesn’t make the hope of marriage any less profound.
The Freedom of Travel: The freedom to go to and live in a country and job that fit me well is so valuable. During any given holiday, I could choose to go to a neighboring city, climb a mountain, wander through a market, randomly take a bus ride, or just sit in the local coffee shop and read. I wouldn’t have to give any of it a second thought. And because of this freedom I have seen so many amazing sites in China. Even after 11 years I sometimes still feel surprised by the reality, “I have lived in China and loved it!”
The Freedom to Study: I have been very blessed to have been given the chance to study Chinese. In addition, I have had the opportunity to get my Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the professional development I’ve had in this field that I love.
I hope in reading this installment you have felt a small slice of my heart. Can anyone relate??
1 Peter 3:5 says, “For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.” Let us all put our hope in Him!