No matter how hard I try to prepare myself for disappointment, I can never quite make it. The hopeful romantic dreamer in me always believes the guy will love her back, she won't lose her job, the editor will say yes, and everything will work out in the end. Which means that no matter what I do to be ready for the worst, I am never truly prepared and the bad news devastates my heart.

A few weeks ago, while vacationing in Colorado, I attended church with friends and the pastor spoke about brokenness. Two things that stood out for me were that 1. situational brokenness is universal and, 2. it's about the questions, not the answers.

Everyone experiences heartbreak. Mine just happens to center, for the most part, around my childless singleness. But I am one of millions. I know many of these hurting women. Some are my dearest friends; others are strangers, yet, when I look in their eyes, I see the same ache I feel. Since it's such a heart-shaped pain, though, we tend to think we're all alone. Surely no one understands. Ah, but they do. And we can find comfort in that, while remembering the comfort we receive needs to be horizontal as we reach out to and encourage each other.

Then, of course, there are the questions. Every devastating disappointment leads back to the depth of our insecurity: Does God love me? Does He care? Ironically, God has questions of His own: Will you still love me? Do you trust me? And He wants to know why I won't talk to Him. I suppose it's because I feel trapped in a whirlpool of the same prayer repeated over and over, and I wonder if there's any point.

Of course there is. The point was, is and always will be my relationship with God, the work He is accomplishing through me, and, ultimately, the glory my life brings to His name. As long as I'm wallowing in self-pity, focused on my disappointed hopes, I'm letting the brokenness defeat me rather than allowing it to heal my heart and draw me back into a deeper communion with Him.

Everything that happens in our lives has purpose, great or small. Whether it's so I can put an arm around a friend and tell her I know how she feels and mean it, or it's to allow God to accomplish far greater purposes. Much like he did with Joseph, who must have often wondered why the Lord seemed so distant while he was sold, beaten, imprisoned and forgotten. Yet he continued to trust and obey and, one day, could say to his brothers,

"Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive" (Genesis 50:19, 20).

Can we trust God enough to let Him break us ... and then be patient enough to see what He will do with our lives, one exciting, unpredictable ache at a time?

Love the One(s) You're With

I have never been in love on Valentine's Day. There, I said it. It's a fact, Jack, & denying the truth publicly won't make me feel any better. So, I admit it freely &, in accepting the truth of it, can also say, with a twinge of sadness, that it's actually a good thing.

Over the years--decades, in fact--the holiday has become all and only a celebration of the love I have for friends and family. Am I aware of hand-in-hand lovers with their meaningful glances and champagne whispers? Well, sure. Kinda hard to miss it. The hearts & flowers & chocolate fairly squeal the benefits of romantic love into our faces. We are surrounded by happy two-somes & their ubiquitous Facebook announcements of long-term commitment. Yes, Valentine's Day is, and always will be, the toughest day to ignore my lonely single heart.
Which means I have to try a little harder. Put my focus on friends & family, watch anything BUT romantic movies, find new &, occasionally, unique ways to enjoy the day. Tonight, I'm meeting other single friends for dinner. Last year, I spent time with my family. Several years ago, I hosted a princess party & invited all my girlfriends to dress as their favorite princess for an evening of sweet treats & silly games. Another time, we dipped fruit & wafers in chocolate fondue while laughingly listing our least favorite romantic songs & movies at an Anti-Valentine's Day Party.

Ironically, it seems I am less likely to sit at home bemoaning my singleness on February 14th. I choose to grab onto the love I have for family & the camaraderie of friends instead. To think about all God has given me rather than the longings still pounding against my heart.

I'll leave that for the other 364 days of the year.

Runaway Train

I am frustrated by my limitations. I can't make someone give me a job or stop an employer from letting me go, no matter how desperately I need the work. From now on, the decision made by any of the publishers considering my manuscript is out of my hands. I will continue to get older, meaning more wrinkles and age spots and unwanted hairs -- whether gray or in unappealing places -- as the years go by. And I cannot make someone fall in love with me.

But there are things in my control. My weight, for instance. Yet I often find myself acting like my fatness is something that happened to me, not something I do to myself. Instead of making smarter choices, I give in to the craving of the moment as if I am powerless to say no. So I eat what I don't need when I'm not hungry, then boo-hoo over pictures that "make me look fat."

Can I find the power within me to change? To undo years of bad habits and replace them with actions that will improve my life won't be easy, but that's a cop-out. We don't make wise decisions because they're easy. We make wise decisions because to do otherwise makes a waste of the years God has given me. My existence on this earth lasts only a moment, as long as it takes a leaf to fall to the ground.

"For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." -- James 4:14b

Of course, this change must go further and deeper than eating right and exercising regularly. All the areas of my life where I make excuses for bad choices must be reconsidered. God doesn't ask me to make the best of the years He has given me. He expects it.

"For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." -- 1 Cor. 6:20

So, when I start feeling frustrated by my limitations, perhaps I would do well to remember God is in control and "with God all things are possible."


Going Solo

I titled this “Going Solo,” which almost sounds like the journey is just getting started rather than what it actually is: the only one I’ve ever known. You can’t be mid-forties and single and not have a very clear understanding of what that involves. It means you don’t have someone to pick you up at the restaurant door during a rainstorm. It means you’re on your own when it comes to killing spiders or trying to figure out your taxes. And if you want to start a freelance writing business, you certainly do not have a second income or your spouse’s insurance to hold on to during the dial-up years.

Those are the selfish reasons. On the giving side, if you’re in the mood to make chicken stir-fry or a pot roast, you can’t be sure you’ll have someone to share it with. You might not be able to give that perfect gift to your perfect someone at the perfect moment. And all those smiles and hugs and kisses you’ve been saving up may never find a beneficiary.

But do you let it get to you? Do you give up? Or do you continue to wait, believing in something bigger than your limited imagination could ever configure? It might not make things easier, but knowing God is right there with you can certainly make the solo journey a lot less lonely.


Here We Go Again ...

Well, here I am, once again trying to figure out what to do with my life. After two and a half years at Cedarville University, economic cuts have cost me my job.

I'm choosing to see this as an opportunity. After all, I've been frustrated lately by the difficulty I've had finding time to do my own work. I still have this nonfiction book about being single over forty haunting me. Wouldn't it be nice, I think, to finally finish it and move on to another project?

My problem is too many ideas. I need to focus and finish. Now I have all this time -- five months! -- to do just that. It's pretty exciting when you think about it ... and I've been thinking about it a lot. My recent Facebook status updates have listed reasons to enjoy or appreciate being unemployed and looking at it that way has encouraged me.

Unfortunately, we are in a recession and full-time writing jobs are hard to come by. I'd rather not move if I don't have to. I like living so close to my family and I've made good friends in this area. But when your options are limited, so are your choices. I may not have the luxury of choosing where I want to live. Five years ago, after I was laid off from Focus on the Family, I wanted to stay there, too. I soon realized that wasn't an option, so I moved. The upside to that was the chance to live closer to family. I hope I won't have to leave Ohio in order to get a job, but I have to make a living.

For now, though, I'm not planning to move. In fact, it's looking good to start my own business so I'm working toward that. Time will tell and your prayers would be appreciated.



“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket -- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

~~ C.S. Lewis

I'll Just Get a Cat ...

How does loneliness feel? That ache? That empty pounding in your brain? And then, to your surprise, you realize you're getting used to it. Eating lunch alone doesn't bother me at all anymore. Driving alone. Celebrating alone. Whatever. So, I ask myself: have I become boring? I mean, there is a lot I will -- & won't, for that matter -- do to protect myself, my heart. And I go home instead of out. Ugh.

All I need now are some cats.

But it's something I'm working on. Forcing myself to get out no matter how soft my slippers are or how many movies are loaded up on my DVR.

Here's the downside of that, though: Going out means meeting new people. Some of those people are guys. Single guys. Single, close-to-my-age guys. Guys I'm in danger of falling for because I'm a girl &, well, that's what I do. Whether I want to or not. And hopes rise only to be dashed again & I get another cat & lock my door.

Sure there's the hope that this time will be different. But age is my enemy. How many times do you have to be disappointed before hope fades to hesitation and hesitation turns to bitterness & despair? After all, I tell myself, isn't it better to expect the worst than to constantly be let down?
Animal shelter, here I come!

Guess I'm just not sure where God fits into my gradually decaying hope. Maybe He wants me to hope for something else. Certainly I still put my hope in Him, but what does that mean? That my hope is in His love for me? That I trust Him to continue to care for me & provide for me?

Well, there it is. The problem is it isn't about me. It's about Him. And if He can use me better as a single, then my hope must be in that -- not in any human relationship, but in what He wants to do in my life for HIS glory.

End of pity party.

And yes, I do believe God likes cats. . . .