Valentine’s Day: survival and sensitivity tips

Like most holidays, Valentine’s Day can be fun for some people and painful for others.   If you’re in the midst of a budding romance or deeply in love with your soulmate of 30 years, it can be a sweet time of celebration.  But if your Valentine has never shown up, your marriage is strained, or you have lost your spouse to divorce or death, the day is a vivid reminder of what you’re missing.

If you’re in the latter category, here are a few pointers for surviving Valentine’s Day.  (You folks who are love-struck, don’t tune out, because some “sensitivity” tips for you will follow.)

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Is singleness a tragedy?

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I finally got the courage to approve the comment.  It was written in response to a post I published some time ago about feeling left behind in the marriage department. The reader incorrectly interpreted that I was making light of my struggle, and wrote, “Please don’t refer to heartfelt sadness as a ‘pity party.’ To leave this earth without marriage and family is a tragedy for too many people.”

While she missed the overall intention of the post, which was to celebrate how God helped me focus on the blessings in my life, what continued to gnaw at me was her statement that being single is a tragedy.

If what she wrote is true, then nearly half of the adult population in the United States [1] are living  tragic lives.

To put it more bluntly, it means my life is a tragedy! Continue reading

Happily Ever Single

th2VVPPJUT“Maybe you’re the girl thinking you’ll end up alone.”  These lyrics from “Someone Worth Dying For” by Mikeschair still make me cringe when I hear the song come on the radio.   While the overall message of the tune ultimately has good intentions, it sadly puts singleness on a short list of worst-case scenarios.

I’ve seen an unhealthy fear of singleness drive many women (and some men) to a desperate pursuit of marriage.   This was especially true when my peers were in their 20’s and 30’s.   When I parted ways with a guy I was dating in college, I remember him gasping, ‘Will I EVER get married?” He was 21, and the next gal he dated said, “I do.”   When I was 39, I received a note from a friend in her early thirties. In it she described her plan to lasso a man. Clearly forgetting my age, she stated emphatically: “I will NOT be 40 and single.” She was not.

I, on the other hand, breezed into my fourth decade decidedly unmarried. Surprisingly, I did not turn into a pumpkin, a reclusive cat-lady, or whatever other fate-worse-than death scenario people believe will happen if you don’t marry by a certain age. Now in my mid-fifties, I can testify that remaining single is nothing to be feared or avoided at all costs. That’s why it concerns me that there is still a subtle, yet prevailing attitude that singleness is an inferior destiny – or worse, abnormal. Continue reading

In Everything Give Thanks

thSUZ2OHATMany families maintain a Thanksgiving tradition of going around the table laden with turkey and fixin’s and having everyone share what they are thankful for. The responses are usually predictable: “I am thankful for my family, my home, my friends, my job, my good health . . . and of course the food!”

Indeed, we should be thankful for all those things. But this year, I’m challenging myself to go deeper in my gratitude.

There’s a verse that says to “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (I Thessalonians 5:16-18, NASB).

In everything? Other versions of  Scripture say “in all circumstances,” (NIV); “no matter what happens” (MSG). This deepens the scope of thankfulness to well beyond “good things” and pleasant situations.

But surely it doesn’t mean we should be thankful for bad things, does it? I don’t believe so. However, it does provide a call to be thankful in the midst of, and in spite of, the difficulties of life.

Here are a few reasons I have found to be thankful in the middle of challenging circumstances:

Trials: Difficult situations are by nature unpleasant, yet they are the “Miracle Grow” that causes our character and faith to blossom. In addition, they cultivate sensitivity to others who are going through similar situations, and equip us to be an encouragement to them. A rough stretch can also supersize our thankfulness when we reach brighter times. After a devastating house fire, I am much more appreciative of the roof over my head.   Following several years of serving in a toxic work environment, I thank God continually for my current place of employment where I am treated with kindness and respect.

Weaknesses and limitations:  My chronic health challenges are a constant reminder of my physical weakness. Yet they also cause me to rely on God daily for strength, which is a faith-building process I would miss if I could operate in my own power. Although my health issues narrow the scope of activities I can pursue, my “limitations” also help define the areas God  wants me to focus on (like writing this blog)!

Denials:  Life is filled with constant reminders of what I don’t have. Scrolling through  Facebook can be tough as my friends gush about their perfect mates, talented children and adorable grandkids. In moments where all I can see are the “good things” I’ve missed, I am thankful that I can trust God to know what’s best for me. I remember that I am set apart for His service (not set aside). When I reflect on what I haven’t experienced, I’m also thankful for what I’ve been spared from. Only God knows the heartache, injury and loss that I’ve been protected from throughout my life.

As the saying goes, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.”  Though life is certain to contain a combination of joys, blessings, trials, limitations and denials, I am grateful that I can trust God to be with me through whatever lies ahead.  He will supply the things I need and never leave or forsake me.  And when it’s time to enter eternity, where every tear will be wiped away, I can’t wait to thank my Savior in person.

As the aroma of turkey fades from the air, I encourage you to join me in finding reasons to give thanks in every circumstance, not just this holiday weekend, but all year long!