The Grove – Singleness

“Twenty seven.”

I was 19 and was talking to a fellow counselor at the summer camp where I worked.  Many of the counselors were older, married, and mothers to a camper. She smiled and in response to the confident age I announced I was going to get married she said, “I hope it works out, but when you get married isn’t something you can control.”

Guess what age I moved to China.

In a sense, I have been married ever since.

I have put off writing this post more than any other I have written. If I’m awake in the middle of the night, my mind drifts to it and I dread needing to write.

Here are two reasons I don’t want to write this – 1. I do not want to be a go-to person for singleness. This was not my dream.  I did not picture myself being single and though I am very, very happy, I do not think it’s because I’m single. So it’s hard to write about something that has nothing to do with my contentment.  2. Though very, very happy, I can still feel like an outsider at times.

You know this month we’ve looked at TCKs and marriage and now singleness.  You also know one of the reasons I love Velvet Ashes is because we are a place for all women. Single, married, happy overseas, drowning overseas, divorced, raising little ones, living in empty nests, young, old, in-between. There is something we each can offer to one another. I need you and you need me.

But as a 46-year-old single woman I also scare you. And that makes me sad.

As we planned out these three weeks, there was a throw away comment. “We need to protect the hope of the young women and if we only hear from older single women … well.”

I am no longer the “young” single. I am the cautionary tale.  When did that happen?

Young single women reading this, cherish your dreams, your longings. I love the energy and hope you bring to us, to me. I love the ways you throw yourself at life and have so much before you. If you hope to get married and have children and bake cookies and build family memories, this is good and honorable and exciting.

But it is not a given.

We started this conversation in December and one of the questions in the comments asked me how do you have peace and joy as a single person.

In that post I wrote about playing Old Maid and said: When it comes to singleness, I can say this for sure: Jesus is into being a game changer. And I stand by that. Jesus values and loves and uses and disciplines me because I am, not because I am _(fill in the blank)______ (single, married, a mother, awesome at language, a killer baker, a sports fan).

No, He places value on every single person simply because they are. When he declared “It is finished” from the cross, he changed who is invited to “play the game.” He did not, however, throw out all rules.

I said above I do not think my happiness, joy, and contentment have anything to do with being single. Here is the secret to my contentment: accepting the reality of limits and freedoms.

I do not dwell on what I don’t have. I enjoy what I do have.

As a single person, I have limits placed on me. But getting married wouldn’t change that reality, it would shift it. I’d still have limits.

On the flip side, I have all kinds of freedoms as single person. Parents have freedoms too, they just look different than mine.

Parallel Lives

I have been in the unique position of having a dear friend with the same name, major in college and love for the Lord. The major difference, she married when we were 21. Our parallel lives have allowed us to “do life” on similar paths separated by continents. We offer each other a glimpse into “what my life might have been like.” So much sameness, so much difference.

A few years ago she said the kindest thing to me, “Amy I didn’t know what I was choosing when I got married at 21, you have shown me much by making different choices.” She is happily married and the mother of three (how can the oldest soon be going to college?!). But she sees I haven’t missed out on life, I have lived full-on, engaged and invested.

To my sisters reading this who want to SCREAM, “BUT I DO NOT WANT THIS LIMIT.” I hear you.  Neither did the woman whose husband had an affair, or had a child who is on the autism spectrum, or she herself has health problems. Life does not always happen the way we’d want. Living within limits is not just for the single.

Our limits point us to God. They say, “This is where you end. You are not limitless, only I AM. I give you limits to remind you who you are so you remember who I AM.”

Cry out, unabashedly, and unashamedly to God.

But like the good Father he is, it’s not all about limits. There are freedoms offered to each path in life. And I delight in my freedom. When I was deciding whether or not to leave the field for a season, one benefit I had was I was only deciding for one. If I crash and burn, I’m only taking one down. When I want to exercise on a Saturday morning, I don’t have to coordinate with someone, I just go.

I have more to say (of course :)), but this conversation will continue to unfold over time, right?

What limits and freedoms do you experience? What helps you be content?

*****

Alright, let’s here from all of you.  If you’re new to The Grove here at Velvet Ashes, this is our weekly time to share our hearts, our words, our art on our prompt.

Here’s how to share on this week’s prompt “Singleness.”

  • You can share with us in the comments, if you don’t have a blog of your own. We have the amazing ability to post images in our comments! So post images of your art and/or share your words there.
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  • If you have a blog, write or make art based on the prompt and join the link-up!
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  • Please select the permalink from your post (so not your blog’s url,www.daniellenotyetthere.blogspot.com but your post url:http://www.daniellenotyetthere.blogspot.com/2013/11/todays-day.html)
  • Click on the blue “Add your link” button below to add your blog post to this page.
  • It will walk you through selecting which image you want to show up in the linky.
  • Then your picture and link will show up below!
  • Then be sure to go visit each other’s sites and share some comment love! It’s the rule. We applaud brave hearts!

If you’re reading in email, be sure to click “Read in Browser” to go to the site to view the link ups and conversation in the comments.

 

Photo Credit: kpwerker via Compfight cc

48 Comments

  1. Kayla May 29, 2014

    I’ve been dreading this post all week. I’ve been mulling over what I would say. I’m a blogger and normally I would post a blog I had written… but this subject… it’s so raw that I haven’t been able to put words to such a public medium. This has been the dreaded animal… I feared moving to China I was signing my hopes and dreams of marriage away. My brother joked (not realizing how much it hurt me) that I would be the last in our family to get married and at last find some Asian man who would take me… I cried tears over that comment.

    Fast-forward about a year. I’m dating a Christian American guy who lives six hours by train from me. We met online (after I joined the online dating site with a friend as a joke). He’s an incredible guy and I fully believe was a blessing sent from the Lord. I don’t know if I would’ve made it through my first year abroad without his constant encouragement and support as a friend and then as a boyfriend. Now, I struggle with the realities that many single women face… I have waited 23 years to give myself to the man I will marry, but my boyfriend already made the decision to give that away years ago. It’s been a struggle reorienting the dreams of the little girl who hoped her future husband would save himself for her. This reality has caused judgmental thoughts in my own mind and caused a rift in my relationship with Ian. We are continuing to work through my judgmental spirit and pride. To all the women on VelvetAshes who married (or are dating) a man who isn’t a virgin and didn’t save himself, how do you battle through the emotions and struggles?

    I find so often that being single has its joys and benefits right now in the midst of being difficult. I have been able to travel SO much in my first year living overseas. I’ve been to four countries (five if you count Hong Kong) since I moved to China. I’ve seen much and done much with the freedom of traveling as a single. However, there have been difficulties. I have had huge spats with a roommate who is very hard to live with and is brutally honest to the point of hurtful. I have struggled feeling like I have a place in this community. I don’t yet have that girlfriend in China whom I feel like I could confide in. There are days I wish I had a husband… someone who would be a constant in the transition. And yet, I know, with every transition, I would also have a husband who would be transitioning. God has become so present this past year…. I’ve had my ups and downs with Him, but He has been so faithful and for that I am forever grateful.

    1. T May 30, 2014

      Hi, Kayla!  No one has commented yet on your question of how other VA women deal with/have dealt with dating/marrying a guy who isn’t a virgin…so, I’ll offer my two cents.  You can judge if they are worth even 2 cents!  I met my husband my first day on the field.  He is American like me, and helped me thru culture shock (mostly against my team!), etc during my first year.  We were just friends (and living in the same city) during that time, but I was smitten from the beginning.  We got engaged after a year of friendship and married the next year.  My husband was a virgin, and so was I.  Here is where I might jolt you a bit…I don’t think that it was a big deal at all.  I agree that virginity is God’s best for us, and it is nice to know that he doesn’t have other experiences flashing thru his mind, but men’s poor minds are pretty full of images that they accidentally see everyday, so in my opinion, past events don’t sully them all that much more.  If your boyfriend is repentant about his previous actions, and has changed his lifestyle on purpose, then I would ask God to help you get over it.  The thing that concerns me is that you might be focusing on this and miss something important–like your compatibility, how closely your life goals (calling, vision) align, if you have similar ideas about children and what ‘home’ is and how much money you want to be making and spending, if your boyfriend is really one who strives to follow Him always and with his all.  Also, you are still quite new to this life…ask your self tons of important questions–one would be:  “If I had met and dated Ian in my hometown, would it have worked out well?”

      I hope that other married women will weigh in on this, so that you can get more than just my perspective on it.  I also want to encourage you–meeting my husband on the field has been a huge blessing in a lot of ways–we both were committed to long-term service before marrying, so we know that neither of us is having to be dragged along as one person follows his or her calling.  That is super helpful.  We also love the same people group, and have extremely similar opinions and ‘work’iology.  Again, I hope others will weigh in.  God’s grace and clarity for you, Kayla!

      1. Amy Young May 30, 2014

        Kayla and T, thanks for this string! (Like you, T, I hope other married women will chime in). Kayla, I really appreciate this question (and love talking about these kind of things). All I’d add to what T said is that it seems a good sign you’ve been able to communicate what’s really going on inside of you to Ian.

        And even beyond the scope of this scenario (virginity), knowing that those we are in close relationship with (spouses, siblings, kids, maybe even long term teammates) are going to disappoint or not meet some expectations. I know that my mom has shared with me how she had to let go my dad getting my M.A. realizing it was really important to her, but clearly (wink), not important to him. It might seem small or silly, but to her, it was a big deal and she knew that she needed to let it go instead of trying to force him to conform to her ideal.

        I’m eager to see what others will add to this :)!

        1. Kayla May 31, 2014

          To all the ladies that responded, THANK YOU. You have brought such a fresh (and important) perspective. There were definitely things you mentioned that I hadn’t thought of or considered in a certain way before. I definitely had realized that there is more to a marriage than ones virginity status before marriage, but it’s definitely something that has had me all tripped up. It’s been such an area where my pride gets in the way… and it’s been an area I’ve had to ask for a lot of forgiveness around. You’ve given me lots to chew on and lots to think about. So grateful for this community and a space to be honest and real.

    2. Kimberly Todd May 31, 2014

      Hi, Kayla. You directed your question to marrieds or dating who have lived through this. I haven’t. My husband and I were physically virgins when we married. That said, I have had dear friends who have wrestled with this one. It’s not a deal-breaker. If, knowing you, Ian is faithful to you, which it sounds like he is, keep on fighting your way through your emotions, judgment and disappointment. I agree with T, there is way more to compatibility, and I agree with Amy that it’s a gift you can communicate with him what’s really going on inside you. Don’t bury it. Work your way through it and fight to come out on the other side where forgiveness and redemption are a part of the story of your relationship. That’s a good trend to set from the beginning. There is always a fight for authentic intimacy in marriage. The field it’s fought on varies from couple to couple. Ours was also in the area of sex, but it wasn’t any of the “normal” stuff. The commitment, counseling until we found one who could actually help, the fight to forgive and move forward into intimacy, and then to fiercely protect those places in one another that were once wounded and will always be sensitive. It was worth it.

  2. JulieB May 29, 2014

    “I do not dwell on what I do not have.  I enjoy what I do have.”  Love this.

    We would all do well to make this our attitude in life!  Thanks Amy!

    I sure would love to meet you someday!  I read your blog before we ever came to China…..and now am sad that now I am here and you are not!  I just know we would be friends but alas, we can do friendship through VA!!  Appreciate your wisdom and sensitivity in so many issues.

    1. Amy Young May 30, 2014

      Julie, and me you! I have a feeling our paths will cross in person some day 🙂

  3. Susan Gaines May 29, 2014

    Amy, you are spot on.  No matter what our state, single or married, childless or with children there are always limits.  I’m 65 and have been married 36 years (a sheer miraculous feet of accomplishment).  I was 29 when we married and at that time age 30 was considered old maid.  Because of my past, when I came to Christ at 23 I entrusted the area of relationships to God.  He had so much work to do on my heart that he put me on a no dating shelf for 5 years and then uniquely and, I believe, miraculously provided my husband.  I didn’t wait to live life to the fullest while single.  I bought my own home & when I regularly cooked gourmet meals co-workers would ask aghast, “For yourself?”  Why not?  Why would I wait for a man to enjoy gourmet food?  I want you to know that when the Lord finally did supply my husband, the decision to marry was excruciating because God had also make my singleness so rich and fruitful.  One gives up things when single.  One equally gives up things when married.  Either way, it is a win/win situation if you live for Christ and either way is perfectly wonderful and perfectly awful at times.  Just as you say, Amy, there are always limits and challenges on either path.  Even though I have and adult son and new grandson, I relish being “Aunt” Susie to many.  Married or single, God has always provided me with the best family members.  If my husband dies would I suddenly seek a singles fellowship group?  Why in the world would I do that?  I didn’t do that as a single!  My identity has never changed.  Life was rich,  fulfilling (and frustrating) as a single; it has been rich, fulfilling (and frustrating) married.  God will accomplish what He wills in me and through me married or single.  Trust and contentment in Christ is available to us whatever our state.  Keep sharing, Amy!  I’m not sure why you dreaded this post.

    1. Amy Young May 30, 2014

      Susan, that’s kind of how I have felt about life — it’s win/win. Paths may look very different and include really different experiences and realities, but they each can offer something rich (and painful). What I loved about your comment was the ways in which you were not waiting for life to start or “saving the best” for later (i.e. gourmet cooking). Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts, Susan!

  4. Maren May 29, 2014

    Exactly what I needed to hear!   Over the past 10 months, I’ve moved countries, moved into a full 9 hour job, and gotten married.  Marriage is amazing but I’ve spent a good portion of the 10 months mourning the loss of my freedoms.  I enjoyed my single days, I enjoyed hopping on a plane one day and getting to a different city the other day.  I enjoyed my full Saturdays free to sit and read. But those days are gone and can be done with more planning.   Now, I need to refocus on what God has given me a married woman, what God has given me as a full-time middle school teacher and what God is doing in my life through those things.  Trusting God that this is His best for me.   🙂  Thanks for sharing, Amy!

    1. Amy Young May 30, 2014

      Maren, glad this was a timely word. I think major times of transitions can be wonderful and exhausting as we take on the new and let go of the old. And sometimes it’s the littlest things that can surprise us. My sister said it was much harder to get enough sleep the first two years of marriage because she hadn’t anticipated what a transition to learning to sleep with another person in the bed would be (and she enjoyed when one of them had a work trip and she could catch up on her sleep :)). I know she didn’t see that one coming when she got engaged :).

      I like how you say that some of what you enjoyed as a single can still be a part of life with some intentionality and planning. Good reminder to me to look for “work arounds” and not just focus on what I might not have :). Thanks!

  5. Morielle May 30, 2014

    Amy, you protect my hope. Every moment I spend hearing from you makes my hope stronger. And it’s less because of the external factors of your identity and more just because of the way you view the world. You help me to see that it’s going to be a mucky, crazy, bumpy, UNEXPECTED journey, and what God gives me is probably not going to match up with what I want or expect, and that I should be super *excited* about that, even while being honest that it will be tough, really tough at times.

    Thanks for what you’ve written here. I love it. I love the way you’ve lamented the way we tend to see each other first for our status (abroad or at home, married or single, parent or not) and then thoughtfully shown how the issue of singleness is so much broader even than what single women think it is. It dives deep to a cry in every woman’s soul: a cry to love and nurture, to matter, to be known, and to be comforted. And what a tiny blessing it is when I’m able to see past the brokenness in my envy of others’ blessings, to the beautiful God-given desires beneath. And, even better, communicate with a friend in such a way that we both see it in our every day lives.

    1. Amy Young May 30, 2014

       A cry to love and nurture, to matter, to be known, and to be comforted. “

      Morielle, I think that cuts right to the heart of it –because marital status isn’t a constant (people marry, people sadly die, sometimes divorce enters the story), but these universal needs will remain and can (and need) to be expressed in all aspects of life. I appreciate the depth of thought you bring to us!

  6. Cecily Willard May 30, 2014

    Is it okay to be brutally honest and say, “I don’t like this!”?  Amy, you wrote that someone said, “We need to protect the hope of the young women and if we only hear from older single women…”  OUCH!

    If Amy is old, then I am older.  But what needs to be protected?  Why, when I was “young” did I not have role models of healthy, older single women?  If I was “protected” from them, it was to my harm.

    There is a fullness of life outside of marriage.  And why do I need to be labeled as an “old single woman” and kept from view of “young” single women who long to be married?  I don’t label myself this way.  I am just a woman, seeking to follow God with all of my heart.  Can that be a good example to anyone at any stage of life without having to hide the fact that no man ever took interest in me?

    I’m sorry.  But that comment really hit a sore place.

     

     

    1. Morielle May 30, 2014

      Cecily, that comment you quoted also made me angry. It made me angry because as a relatively young woman, I don’t want people to assume that my highest hope is to be married. If it is, I have a serious problem of priorities. The hope that older women *should* be protecting and fostering in younger women is the hope that God will use them and challenge them and make them grow and draw them close to Him and that, in short, He will care for them as only a perfect Father and Lover can, whether or not they ever get married.

      Cecily, both you and Amy have done that for me with the frank way you’ve shared struggles and lessons the Lord has been teaching you, as well as ways He’s been comforting you. You’ve protected my hope by showing me that while the struggles go on throughout life, so does the endless comfort of God’s Word and Spirit and direction. YES the fact that you are a woman seeking to follow the Lord with all of your heart is the most important thing about you. And YES that has been a valuable example to me.

      So, in addition to being thoughtless and cruel, that comment was just plain wrong. (It is possible to believe marriage is a good thing, while also recognizing that it may not be the best good. Or even good for everyone. I’ve just been reading Perelandra aloud to a friend, and we just read the bit about how things may be good on one world and bad on another. Is it not the same with people?)

      1. Cecily Willard May 30, 2014

        Thanks, Morielle.  I was so upset by what I read that I was shaking when I was writing my comment on here.  Then after I submitted the comment I melted in tears.  Only God knows why I reacted so strongly, but thank you for your comment.  It is like balm to the pain that came from those hurtful words.

        1. Danielle Wheeler May 30, 2014

          Hey Cecily and Morielle,  I know it’s the middle of the night Amy’s time, so I’ll let her respond when she’s awake. But I will share the heart of our VA team. (I’m not sure when that comment was made or if it was during a VA planning meeting.)  I know that in planning we talked about wanting to hear from single women of varying ages.  From the multiple single women friends that I am blessed to have, I know that there are different struggles and emotions that come at different stages of singleness, especially as child bearing years come and go.  We wanted to honor the different facets of singleness.

          In no way do we think that older single women should be hidden!  In fact, as I raise my own daughter, I LOVE that she has the example of beautiful strong women living out the call of God without being married.  I purposefully make sure she knows that marriage is not the goal of life.

          So thank you, ladies, for being those shining examples.  May present and future generations look to the way you find your Hope and follow in your lead.    

          I’m so grateful for the way that Amy got to the heart of it all, by acknowledging that we all have limits, limits we don’t want, but ones we can wrestle through together, leaning on the only One who is limitless.

          Much, much love to you!!

          1. Amy Young May 30, 2014

            Thank you Danielle! I was indeed asleep (though maybe at the point you were commenting I was up blowing my nose because I have  head cold, alas. But nothing serious!).

            Cecily and Morielle, maybe only one or two more things I’d add to Danielle’s comment, is (clearly, um stating the obvious) these “issues” — parenting, marriage, singleness are deep and complex. I love that we aren’t afraid of the deep and complex, but even in that, VA is limited too :). We are constrained by “only” four posts a week on subjects that are vast. In addition to what we’ve already discussed this week … there is so much we haven’t even hit on. For example, the single women having to confront whether or not to harvest her eggs because she’s going through cancer treatment and they won’t survive it. (I feel I’ve gotten WAY off topic to the heart of your comments :))

            I am thankful we try to create space for all of us!

            And in that comment, I was reminded two things:

            1. Amy, note to yourself, what throw away comments am I making that really aren’t the heart of what I mean. Not to freak myself out and over police all of my words, but just to be a bit more mindful myself 🙂

            2. When something “sticks” (virtually every comment made around me floats right by) — listen to it. Why did this stick? What is God wanting me to pay attention to in myself? Not to nurse a wound, but to learn about myself and move closer to God.

            Thanks for your comments and not just letting them eat away at your souls :).

            (I just reread this and if we were playing a drinking game with diet coke with the word “comment,” my can would be empty! Sorry for the lack of creativity in word choice :)!!)

  7. Laura May 30, 2014

    Amy, thank you! As I have watched my close friends marry and start families, I’m reminded even more of the freedom and limits each of us has, married or single. I find that focusing on the freedoms I have as a single helps me to be content with the fact that my life looks different than my friends’ lives.

    1. Amy Young May 30, 2014

      Me too :), Laura. And I think you are at the stage where it began to be most obvious on the surface that I was on a different path than my friends (especially from college). Thankfully, it was also at that stage some of my richest relationships in China started to form. AND I nearly died in China when I was 29 and honestly that helped me be grateful with any life in general 🙂

  8. Cecily Willard May 30, 2014

    Thanks, Danielle.  Obviously I felt safe enough here to say, “Stop!  That is hurting me!”  Even though the emotions came like a flood and I didn’t really understand why they overtook me.  Except I know that I have an accuser and one who twists words and meaning in order to wound me.  As I thought about it, I realized that in my mind I went to the place of thinking that I was some kind of freak of nature to be protected from when all I did “wrong” was fail to attract a man and score a husband.

    Extreme thinking?  Absolutely!  Am I sensitive?  The answer to that is quite obvious.

    Thanks for continuing to accept me here in these pages as we all walk out life together.

    1. Jennifer May 30, 2014

      Cecily,

      You are not alone. I had the same reaction to that. I too am older than Amy is, with a very different experience that she has had. I have too many people right now who do not want me to say what I am thinking and feeling. That simply hurts.

      1. Amy Young May 30, 2014

        It does hurt when we can’t share what we are thinking or feeling!

      2. Cecily Willard May 30, 2014

        Jennifer, I would like to hear your heart.  If you want to connect, you can find me on Facebook.

    2. Amy Young May 30, 2014

      Cecily, I think that is one of the Accusers greatest tactics, to whisper “you are the one who is ‘wrong’ or ‘different'” and it can come to anyone — one woman’s husband may not be like her friend’s husband and she feels shame over the difference. Or our kids are “different” in ways the Accuser likes to poke at.

      Here is the truth (and I say this to myself as much as to you and anyone reading this) — You are an image bearer of the Most High God. As such, you are attractive and worthwhile and a rare treasure. Who and what you attract, add worth to, and give yourself to will vary and that is good!

      (but when those waves come, they can almost take us out, can’t they :))

      1. Danielle Wheeler May 30, 2014

        As I thought about all this a bit more, I wondered if this comment struck such a sensitive chord, because it touched a raw and very real wound in single women. I think as a society (even or especially as a Christian society) we have made single women feel “less than.”  We’ve made marriage a goal/expectation for life, rather than presenting it as one path for life.  Such a shame, when Paul says that it is better not to marry!

        Clearly, as a society, as a church, we have wounded you.  We have failed to honor your beautiful life, to esteem you as the role models you are.  On behalf of the married culture, I want to apologize.  May you be honored for the amazing lives you are living, dear sisters!  Praying healing for you all.  Much love AND respect to you!

        1. Cecily Willard May 31, 2014

          Thanks, Danielle.  Tears roll down my cheeks as I read your words.  What you say is so right.

          I am ashamed that I react so strongly to all of this.  For if I were strong, wouldn’t I let it all roll off like water off a duck’s back?  Not so strong, maybe, but so wanting to have a place and just be okay as is.  So thank you for your healing words.

          1. Kimberly Todd May 31, 2014

            Cecily, I’m so thankful for such grounded and compassionate voices here as Danielle’s and Amy’s and Morielle’s. Your feelings are valid, you’ve said nothing wrong here, and I hope your shame storm settles into a quiet affirmed calm very soon. In my time overseas I’ve undergone many a worldview shift and one of the ones that I cherish the most is all over this comment thread. Many of my dearest friends and teammates over the years have been single women. I haven’t loved them for what they have given me or for taking my kids off of my hands. I have loved them because they are and because they are His and the life we have shared together is so rich and fruitful. Largely because of these friends and models, I have let my own identity as wife and mother fall into place, and it is not my highest calling or even my greatest joy. When it is I have little idols everywhere and the life, joy, and height of the calling just drain right out. Our calling is the same, to uniquely bear the image of God, to love Him with all that we are and our neighbors as ourselves. I love the truth of multiple paths for this and I honor yours as I am content in mine. Peace be with you.

        2. Susan June 13, 2014

          I’m new to VA and just read through these comments. Thank you for your words, Danielle. Many married women have no idea of the silent tears the single women cry. Whenever I mention the struggles of singleness (I’m 56, now working in overseas work in the USA, but spent quite a few years overseas), the typical response is, “Well, married women have a lot of struggles TOO!” I’m not saying they don’t. But those struggles are more often recognized and dealt with through marriage seminars, ladies study groups, a multitude of books and resources, etc.

          As someone mentioned, we hate being viewed as always longing for marriage. Yet we also hate being excluded from activities because we create an “odd” number of people or “there’s no one for my husband to talk to” or a variety of reasons. I’ve also heard MANY times, “Just invite people over yourself! Don’t wait for them to invite you.” I’ve spent many years being the party person – and have enjoyed it. My house overseas was a great place for my married friends to gather, as we didn’t have to worry about the interruptions of children or disturbing hubby. 🙂

          But sometimes you get tired of doing all the hostessing – and you long for someone to just call you up and say, “Hey, we’re watching a movie tonight. Come on over!” How many times did someone invite me for dinner and I thought, “Wow, they really want to spend time with me!” and then I got to their home to find it was “Invite the Single Ladies Night” and there were 5 other single women there, too?! I lived on a large overseas worker center, but families seemed to retreat during the weekend. I didn’t blame them – their husbands were tired from the long work-week (and perhaps the wives, too) and they wanted quality time with their kids. But our center was so isolated that if no one invited me over (and I was too weary to hostess a group yet again), I had ZERO options. Did they ever think that one more weekend alone in my house probably contributed to the burn-out I later experienced?

          Instead, we all tended to “suck it up and tough it out” over there. We didn’t want to be the weak link who was complaining about things on the overseas field. Because, after all, we had CHOSEN to be there. We were supposed to rely on God and be strong and if we weren’t exhibiting that, our faith was weak or we were just whining.

          After more than 2 years going through recovery stateside in a place where I’d never lived before because I had no “home” here (my father died when I was in my 20s and my mom died while I was overseas – though I did get to spend 9 weeks with her), God has done amazing, wonderful, glorious things in my life. And not only am I realizing all that I was able to do BECAUSE I was single, but He’s graciously let me interact recently with MKs from a girls high school Bible study I had – and see them moving on with the Lord.

          I have also realized some needs and sought (and prayed) for them to be met in God’s way:

          1) I need a church family that will put its arms around me, that will miss me when I’m not there. (As opposed to the mega-churches I’ve been part of that meet in school buildings and have people passing in and out their doors, barely speaking to each other.)  I need to feel that I have something to contribute to that church family and to have opportunities for my gifts to be used(more than just in the nursery!).                                                                                                                                                                                    2) I need a family that I interact with on a regular basis. This still has its limits (I recently spent a birthday feeling pretty alone – friends did things, but not on THE day), but it means so much when the kids get to calling me “Aunt” and feel comfortable around me.                                            3) I have different friends for different things – one is a great person to do movies with, another likes to make cards, another enjoys the outdoors. I don’t always have someone available when I want to do these things, but sometimes I do.                                                                                               4) I need people I can pour out my heart to on a regular basis (EVERY woman needs this, whatever their status). And I need to be grateful for such friends, because they probably will understand far better than a husband would anyway. I need to have a listening ear for THEM, as well.                                                                                                                                                                     5) I need to PRAY and talk to FATHER when I feel I am lacking something or drowning in self-pity. I need to appreciate that my situation causes me to run to HIS arms and “lean on my Beloved”. And when I feel the need of something in particular, like someone to take a vacation with (one of the most difficult things to find when you are single, unless you have another close single friend who enjoys the same things) – I can tell Him and He will provide what/who I need.

          This is one of the greatest lessons I have learned as a single woman – to embrace the way these needs send me straight to the Lord and to let Him speak to me in my spirit and give me the love and care and fulfillment I need. “Touch” is still an issue – and a very great need for the single woman. But He can caress us in ways that don’t require hands – if we will let Him.

          Thanks so much for creating this opportunity, Danielle. I feel the Church has been remiss in ministering to the single woman. I think we’re viewed as “strong”, “independent”, “self-sufficient” – when really we’re often crying out for love and acceptance. I don’t want to be part of a singles Bible study – I just want to be a functioning part of the Body of Christ.

          Obviously, I could go on and on about this topic. 🙂 But I would like to pose the question of why I am seeing SO many single women coming home from the field worn-out, burned-out, etc. I know this is not exclusive to single women, but nearly every single female I meet seems to have come home that way. Why? What can we do to help? My organization has an excellent pre-field course – but still the women come home disillusioned, exhausted, and emotionally spent. I would very much appreciate the thoughts of others.

          With love and blessings….

          1. Susan June 13, 2014

            Sorry, I don’t know how to make my photo SMALL! 🙂

      2. Cecily Willard May 31, 2014

        Thanks, Amy.  Your words are healing, too.   “You are an image bearer of the Most High God.  As such, you are attractive and worthwhile and a rare treasure.”  It is true, but it must be received in the face of those waves that seek to drown us.

        “Who and what you attract, add worth to, and give yourself to will vary and that is good!”  This is a key statement, and resonates with what Danielle says about marriage being just one path ( not necessarily the best path) that doesn’t negate or diminish the path of singleness.

        A key for me, as a single woman, is to find that which I can give myself to, nurture and add value to.  As I do this, I find so much contentment.  The problem comes when I believe the lie that, because I have not been chosen by a man, I am diminished and rejected and will always be “less than”.  But, THIS IS A LIE.

         

  9. Grace L May 30, 2014

    I hope to give hope to any single woman serving the Lord overseas. I was single when I first started to serve in China at age 52. The call was strong and thus I followed the leading of my Lord. I struggled with my singleness because with all my heart I wanted to find a Godly husband. I finally had to relinquish these desires and I told the Lord that if He could use me better as a single woman than as a married woman, then I was willing. It was a tough surrender but I had to get to that place. A year later our Matchmaker brought me together with a man from my home church back in the states. Marrying him at age 56 actually meant that I had to leave the field to go back to the states while he continued to raise his youngest son just starting high school. But he started to join me on yearly trips to China to interact with the UPG I had been focusing on, and a few years later God also called him to this work. We have been living in rural China now for almost 8 years, serving together. I turn 70 later this year and our work here is not done yet. These older years of marriage have been the most wonderful years of my life (even though I lived a very full life before). I share this to give hope to other single women, whether you be younger or older. God doesn’t give up on matchmaking just because you are over 40 or even over 50. So if you have that dream or desire, don’t give up on it; but surrender it to the Lord. He knows best how He wants to use our willingness to serve.

    1. Morielle May 30, 2014

      Thanks for sharing your story, Grace! I too hope to get married. But I’m very aware that Amy’s sentence “It is not a given” is true. And the Lord has said quite clearly to me, “Not now”. Its a tough surrender for me to let go of the reigns. I feel like I have to force myself to let go anew every day. But hearing stories like yours, where God did such surprising things to get you where He wanted you and also asked you to live through long periods of uncertainty, make it easier. “He knows best how He wants to use our willingness to serve.” Amen.

    2. Amy Young May 30, 2014

      Grace, I love hearing bits of people’s life stories! And you are an encouragement to keep up with kingdom work throughout all of life. Agreed that in God’s economy it’s “never too late,” though it may look different than we had imagined (here I’m thinking of the young woman who strongly desires to birth her own child — sadly there will come a point at which that simply is no longer an option). But if God has given a desire, it’s good to listen to it, pray for it, and not become consumed or defined by it :).

      (P.S. One of my grandma’s was Grace L — for her maiden name —  and I strongly believe I was in China as an answer to many years of her prayers so I loved just seeing your name :))

  10. TC May 31, 2014

    Thank you for this post and for the love and labor it cost to put it out there. I am wrapping up my 5th year in China and am looking forward to the next. This year, as I am nearing my 40s, I have been coming to terms with my singleness. I’ve also, I guess, been grieving my singleness and those dreams I’ve longed for and now realize I may never experience. I was thinking the other day about my singleness and how so much of it seems to be a spectator role of life rather than a participator. I get to watch my friends be parents and wives, but I don’t often get to be a part of all that as well. That is partly why I think I am grieving. I don’t feel all that welcome or completely accepted for who I am among my community (not back home in the US or here) and I’m coming to terms with the fact that I have chosen a path that not everyone can or will understand. I have to be okay with that and move on. I’ve had boyfriends in the past and I recently realized that what I missed most from them was not just the closeness and companionship but the being adored by someone else. Someone valued me and made me feel loved. I don’t get that here. I am not celebrated. I am not valued. I realized that I do have that adoration but it comes from Him and that is where I shall run to and take shelter. I am, we all are, truly precious and lovely in His sight. My completeness comes from Him and no other and that is actually a very special gift. Yesterday there was a baby shower here but I didn’t have the heart to go. The last wedding I went to, I was a mess! I know that it sounds so selfish to not rejoice in a friend’s happiness, but I feared that I would just be a blubbery mess the whole time. I don’t want to be selfish and I don’t want to be envious. I don’t want to sit around feeling sorry for myself all the time. I want to finally be at this point of contentment in Him and to be able to be truly happy for those He has chosen to bless in these ways. I’m not sure how to get there but to continue to hide away in the shelter of His wings. To trust that real rest and true definition come from Him. He is the answer.

    Does anyone else out there struggle to be happy for their married with kids friends? How do you get to the point of peace and contentment and acceptance of where He has place you? How do you lay your dreams down and take up His instead? How do you stop comparing and feeling sorry for yourself?

    1. Cecily Willard June 1, 2014

      Thanks, TC, for your vulnerability.  So much of what you say echoes what is in my heart–especially the envy part.  Weddings and baby showers have often been so hard.  The hardest was watching my siblings and cousins, all but one younger than I, getting married and having kids.  Now that I am the only “single” in the family…

      I have gone through the grieving thing that you describe.  I remember the day that it really it me that I wasn’t going to be able to bear children.  I wept and I wondered if the deep pain would ever be soothed.

      The grief comes in waves–ebbs and flows.  It gets “easier” as time goes on, and as I find the joy in the things the Lord has created me to do.  The hardest part, I am finding out this week, is the whole labeling thing.  I just want to be a person in relationship with other persons.  But instead we are shuffled around into different categories or just left outside because we are “single”.  But nobody really talks about it, it just is.  That is why this discussion this week has surprisingly uncovered so much pain.  (BTW:  I am sorry for taking up so much space on this discussion!  I am embarrassed.)

      I just wanted to assure you, TC, that you are not alone in any of this.  Would love to connect with you somehow to walk together in this.

      And, thanks, Kimberly Todd, for your healing words.  (There was no place to “reply” to your comments.)

    2. Caitriana June 1, 2014

      TC, thank you so much for posting. I have been hanging back from commenting on this topic, because I have really been struggling with (dis)contentment about it all for the last while. I *want* to be fully satisfied in Him, as I should be, but find that instead I am, more often that not, grumpy and resentful and envious, if I look inside. Bleh. Not good.

      It’s just so painful, often. I love my brother and sister, nieces and nephews dearly, and love spending time with them, but there have been so many times when I’ve gone home afterwards and in the dark of the night wept for longing and loneliness. Then there are the innocent comments that stab like a knife, which mean reeling and clutching the bleeding wound inside while keeping the smile and light heart on the outside. I am truly happy for my family and friends who are married and have kids, but am scared of becoming bitter about it – of withdrawing, because that’s easier than engaging and taking the pain. So, I want to echo your question – how do we avoid the trap of bitterness, how do we learn contentment?

      Cecily, thanks for your assurance that it does get “easier” over time. It’s good to learn from others who have trodden the road ahead of us!

      I am encouraged that even for the apostle Paul, contentment was something that he *learned* (Phil. 4:12), though he wasn’t specifically talking about this issue. Knowing that even for Paul, contentment was something that he learned, rather than something supernaturally handed him on a plate, is encouraging!

      And recently, I’ve begun to be glad that even though I am not content right now, I am discontented with my discontentment. I really want to be content and satisfied in Him, and I think dissatisfaction that drives us to seek Him more is a good thing. But yeah, if anyone has more thoughts on how to grow in contentment, please share them!

       

      1. Cecily Willard June 1, 2014

        I hear you, Caitriana, loud and clear!  I am so glad we are having this “conversation”.  The enemy likes us to think that we are all alone in our thoughts and feelings and discontentment.  But that is a big fat lie.

        Learning a lot about lies lately!  And maybe that is a key.  What are the lies that we are believing about out singleness, about us?  Maybe we are just as guilty as anyone for compartmentalizing and excluding ourselves because we have bought the lie that we are incomplete, rejected, left behind.  Rejection is a tough habit to kick, I’ll be the first to say.

        What do you think?  Are there lies you have been believing?  Like, “I can’t be content as a single?”  And what does the Lord say when we bring this all to Him, when we invite Him into the conversation about the discontentment, envy, bitterness, fear?  Or, do we not even invite Him into the conversation because we are angry and accusing Him for our predicament?  (GUILTY AS CHARGED ON ALL COUNTS.)

        The beautiful thing about Paul learning contentment is that he, too, was single.  So, if he can learn it, so can we.  And, for me it seems that contentment doesn’t come when I focus on my singleness, but I focus on all that God is doing in and through me, and how I am more “alike” other people than I am “different”.

        Ha!  Maybe I find myself trying to give answers to the questions because I want everybody to stop hurting and be happy and content.  I should know better!  There isn’t a quick fix, but there is a way to contentment and rest, so let us travel the road together.

      2. Morielle June 1, 2014

        Caitriana, nothing much to share in response to your questions (such good ones! I hope others reply!) but I just have to say that what you shared about Paul was really good for me to hear. I too often think of him and other heroes as having gifts like contentment “handed to them supernaturally on a plate”. SO GOOD to remember they struggled just as I am struggling now.

        As my mom would say, “the gift is the struggle, the struggle is the gift”. Struggle, long waits, uncertainty. That’s such a huge theme in how God works on all kinds of scales. If it were only about the end result, would history even exist? You and I could be handed perfect contentment on a plate now or we could have to go through the decades of struggle that are our lives and wait to have our contentment perfected. The end result would be the same. Yet God chose to give us the struggle, proving there is something good in the struggle itself, something totally independent of the end result. Don’t ask me what…. But I do think I get a little comfort in the midst of a struggle when I remember those words from the Teacher and say to myself, “Without even thinking about the consequences of this struggle, I can still say with confidence ‘This struggle is itself a gift’.” Sometimes I say this at the same time as I say, “I HATE THIS!” and usually the frustration is more than the comfort. But I am grateful for the assurance all the same.

        1. Caitriana June 3, 2014

          Thank you, ladies, for your comments! Just sharing and talking about these things is a great help and encouragement!

    3. Amy Young June 2, 2014

      Hey TC and all :),

      The part that struck me the most from your comment/questions was the participator/observer distinction (and I think this tension can be felt by married women as well!) — I think that may be one of the keys to the lies — “my real life Or the life I want will start when ….” I think, we each also have some (some, not all!) role to play in letting people know how to respond to us in this area. My dad really hated that he was losing his hair when I was a kid and Mom sat us girls down and said, “Look, your dad really cares about this area and we really care about your dad. So, we are not going to make bald jokes or by bald jokey cards.” It was helpful as a kid to know and something that could have been really hurtful just became a thing my dad had to deal with himself instead of dealing with it AND our comments.

      For me, when I was turning 40, I decided I wanted a big murder mystery birthday party — I knew that being single and turning 40 had the potential to be an elephant in the room for my team and community and wanted them to know that I was OK with it (not saying this will be the case for others). My birthday is near Christmas and not at a convenient time for a big party, but I though, by gum, I have come to all of your wedding showers, baby showers, weddings, this child’s birthday party, that child’s special celebration … and overall, done it gladly. So, you all can show up once for me! :). And they did. The food, costumes, and laughter was amazing. Now, this is just the way I did it and it worked for my team in Beijing. I know there are a lot of other ways someone can mark a significant milestone that would have more of a lament to it and would love to hear others share their experiences!

      1. Kimberly Todd June 2, 2014

        I would have loved to be a part of that party. What fun! Have a picture handy?

        1. Amy Young June 3, 2014

          Any excuse to wear a tiara 🙂 (you know one of my life mottos is “everything’s better with a tiara)

  11. Meagan Stolk June 2, 2014

    I have been so busy of late that blogging and commenting have been placed on the back burning as I struggle through the last few months overseas. This topic is such a hard one for me that I knew it would be impossible to write something about, only that it is a fear of mine that my time serving overseas may come to an end because of my singleness. It is something I am wanting to pray through and surrender, but it is so hard to let go of my iron tight grip on this desire….and why do I desire it so? Why do I believe serving overseas as a couple or with a family will be any easier than serving alone – in fact it may be harder in some aspects. Over time the loneliness and disconnect becomes overwhelming and I find myself losing the ability to feel comfortable around others (especially single guys). I am surrounded by some of the most beautiful women I have ever met, many wanting to be married, and my heart breaks with the thought that they are more likely than me to find someone rather than the joy that we can have in fellowshipping together.

    1. Grace L June 3, 2014

      Meagan, my heart goes out to you. I felt the same way as I started to serve overseas. My desire to be married was so strong, but I had to surrender it to the Lord. I really had to feel that it was okay if the Lord could use me better as a single woman than a married woman. But now that I am married and we are both serving overseas together (in our older years), I do realize that the Lord is using me better as a married woman. I cannot imagine doing the things that we are doing now if I were a single woman in my sixties. Sometimes I think I was a pawn in the Lord’s hand to get my husband over here to China. Haha, but that’s okay too. I believe that God wants us to be willing to be used by Him in whatever way He wants. And we must trust that He is working all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Trust in Him for how He wants to and will use you for His kingdom purposes. He loves you and He created you and sees how beautiful you are. And He has a wonderful plan for you. Stay in the center of His will and trust Him with all your heart.

    2. Amy Young June 3, 2014

      Maegan, so lovely to hear from you! (Please read that with NO guilt or shame. Every now and then I think “I wonder what Maegan’s up to and bet she’s really busy. I hope she’s well.” And then here you are :). I’m just happy. I hear in your words the depth this topic can bring — the longing, the hope, the desire, the confusion. I will say, for me, what made a difference (and I  know not everyone has this luxury) was good friends on the field. As a group of us began to “get older” we formed the “Middle Aged Gals Supper Club” or MAGS for short. Someone would pick a restaurant none of us had been to and we’d all meet up every couple of months or so. It forced us to get out of our ruts and we slowly became the envy of the married folks because we had tried so many restaurants in our area. NOW, I know not everyone is going to have singles around them and the need to connect is deep and real.

      What are ways others have found to connect with people (both in your city and outside of your location)?

      P.S. trusting for refreshment while you are off the field for a few weeks!

  12. Katie Cranfill August 21, 2015

    This post was like taking in a breath of fresh air. I just moved to the field as a single woman (on a team with two families). I love being single on the team because I know it expands our opportunities to reach people, but it is different. This is my first time living alone. I chose to live alone (and still support that decision), but it is strange. I’ve only been here for 3 days and still have to get my home put together, but I find that I am often on my computer seeking community while I’m at home. Perhaps this is just what it feels like to go from having several roommates to living solo. In any case, this post reassures me in the single life. Thank you.

    1. Amy Young August 21, 2015

      Katie! Welcome! Seeking community in times of transition sound totally normal :). To go from roommates to alone in a new context … grace to yourself! You’ll get there, but don’t feel you have to BE there right now 🙂

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