Wednesday, October 31, 2007

INSIDE LOOK: The Burdens and Blessings of Singleness

My long-time friend Kim, who helped me plan my announcement for my second pregnancy, and has virtually walked alongside me through MANY life changes, is a single 27-year-old woman. (I say virtually because we literally met online and have not -yet- met in person.) We have talked before, and I've read her writings, about the journey of a single woman who deeply desires to be married.

I invited Kim to write this month's firsthand account on the "first" of November, for Making Home's monthly "Inside Look" feature. Here's what she wanted to share with us:

I am actually a little proud of myself.

When Jess asked me about doing a guest blog entry on Making Home, I thought I would be able to write a deep, philosophical, heart wrenching article that would make all of you want to set me up on a date, because how can a creature so wonderful still be single? (I use sarcasm as a crutch. Embrace it. And oh - I will still take those dates, thanks.) But as I was looking back through my own blog for inspiration, I found an entry that kind of struck me, and I wanted to share:

I am TIRED of living out this reality - it feels like it is parallel to the one I think I should be living. I want to be married, working a regular old 9-5 job in an office, or more importantly, staying home with my kids. I want to be able to stay in Louisville and eat dinner with my family on Wednesday nights and go to church at the church where I grew up, and go on double dates with my brother and sister-in-law, and raise my kids with their cousins. But guess what? I can't have that life.

Now, I didn’t go out and get a husband and I have not had any children since June. But you know what I did? I made a choice that God gave me to make, and I am getting part of my dream - I moved home, and I am eating dinner with my family on Wednesday nights.

The above paragraph, however, also does illustrate what it is like, living a life that is a complete and total opposite from what you thought you’d do. I mean - in high school, I had it all planned out - married right out of college, three kids (one girl, two boys), and I’d stay home. We would travel and raise our kids in church and we’d spend the rest of our lives growing old together. (We being me and high school boyfriend. Just FYI.) In reality, I’ve struggled with having a broken heart and a relationship that was outside of God’s design. I’ve struggled with years of singleness when all my heart’s desire was to be married. I have struggled with being a bridesmaid in six (SIX! Twice I was the Maid of Honor) of my friends’ weddings, and being at the hospital through several births. Many of my friends are at least on their second child, or trying to be, by now. And while I most certainly celebrate with those friends and try to rejoice with those who rejoice, and while I would never wish that my friends did not have their husbands or children - I just wish I had that too.

I don’t think people who are on the other side realize what it’s like for those of us behind the fence. Perhaps that’s not fair, but that’s how it feels to be there. It’s like waiting for a plane to vacation, where everyone else is, and not knowing when the plane is going to arrive, or if it is. And yet you keep getting reports of how great it is to be on that vacation, and that when you get there, the wait is worth it. And you believe the people - you believe that it will be so amazing to be on this vacation, but you really doubt that you’re going to end up on the vacation, or worse yet, you fear everyone else will be done with vacation by the time you get there…

There are definitely blessings on this side of the journey, lest I lead you to believe otherwise. The biggest blessing is getting to be there for my niece and nephew, and getting to love on them and spoil them and watch them grow. I know that if I had my own children, my focus would be on them, and so for this time, I am very, very thankful. I can’t imagine loving any other kids more than I love those two! I am also thankful for the time to be under the teaching and example of some very wise, God-fearing women, and learning different approaches to being a godly wife and mother. I hope someday I can put them into practice.

I think perhaps the worst thing about being single, and perhaps the thing I want Jess’s readers to take away from this, is the exclusion factor. Not being a wife and not being a mother excludes me from really understanding the life of about 90 percent of my closest friends. (I have one single girlfriend over the age of 20. ONE. And she’s 30, and in the same boat I am in.) I know a lot about birth and pregnancy, mainly because of my own curiosity and study, and I know a lot about weddings, having helped plan or participated in so many. But of course, I don’t really know. I don’t really know what it’s like to join my life with someone else’s, for the purpose of bringing glory to the Lord and bringing up godly children.

That said - the exclusion makes a girl feel inadequate. Sure, those are often the core issues of womanhood, and I am so thankful for that! But just because I haven’t been there doesn’t mean I don’t want to understand. So when you come upon a single woman, especially one who is a little older, desires marriage and kids, and is biding her time - please take her under your wing. Take the time to teach her about wifehood and motherhood. Let her get to know and love your children. Include her in groups with other married women/mothers. It’s so important to a woman to know that she is still “valid” as a woman, and still has important things to contribute and to learn, even though she has not yet arrived. I am so thankful for my sweet friend and mentor, Amy, who is so gracious in allowing me to learn from her!

Another thing I would suggest to do if you have single women in your life is to pray with them and for them. Pray for them that God would strengthen their faith in this time of uncertainty, that He would give them grace to face situations that are sure to be emotionally challenging, and that He would reshape the desires of their heart, if that is His will. Also pray for them that God will provide for them a godly, loving, and kind husband in His perfect timing (but it is okay to pray that God’s timing is quick!). Pray with them for difficulties they are facing and for emotional challenges. Pray with them that they would not be idle and sad, but that they would use this time to work hard for the Kingdom!

Finally - a very important thing is to be sensitive. Obviously you cannot shield any single friends you might have from heartache - but know that heartache is often an underlying constant in her life. Feel free to ask if she’s okay. Know that she’s heard all the typical lines before, and know that she sometimes does need reminders! Know that sometimes, it’s hard. All of it. Just love her anyway, and know she doesn’t mean to be a grump.

I hope, for those of you who are married and/or do have children, that this gives a little insight into the life of at least one woman who is sad she’s not. I definitely don’t speak for every single woman - there are many out there more godly than me! - but I do know that some of these feelings are common. And I am so thankful that I have women in my life like Jess who want to understand. When I sit and really think about my life, I am indeed pretty blessed.

Kim's online "home" is her blog, Strange Kind of Single. I'm so thankful to call her my friend, and to have the opportunity to learn from her.

I hope that you, if you are a married woman, also learned some ways that you can encourage and be a friend to the single woman around you. As always, any thoughts or comments you'd like to share on this issue would be welcome!


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