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.