Archive for the ‘Contentment’ Category

Solitary Thanksgiving Joy

Friday, November 27th, 2020

We all know the holidays this year are fraught. I live on the opposite side of the country from my family, so I don’t usually get to indulge in our big enormous wonderful Thanksgivings, which we traditionally celebrate with Hatch relatives the day after Thanksgiving.

But I have friends like family nearby in Virginia, so I usually go to one of my friends’ houses and celebrate with their family. I have two friends who live nearby whom I’ve known since 3rd grade (in California!) and celebrating with them, I never feel alone. Last year was more difficult than most, since my mother was dying, and passed two days after Thanksgiving, after many of her kids had gathered and sang hymns to her while her sister played the violin. A rainbow even came out! But I was in Virginia, and celebrated with my friend’s family who had suffered their own loss of her stepfather that year. But that was a hard Thanksgiving — and there’s no way this year wouldn’t be better.

Since I work in a public library, I figure of all my friends, I’m the most likely to pick up Covid-19. It would probably be worth it to celebrate with my friends if the only risk was that I’d catch it from them — but I would feel horrible if I gave it to them or any of their parents. So this is my year to celebrate Thanksgiving alone.

It’s also a time for reflection. First, my former father-in-law passed away the Sunday before last. So close to my parents’ deaths, that’s hard. But I started a project of compiling pictures of him that I had taken over the years. (I’ve been digitizing negatives.) Those pictures reminded me how happy I am that my kids had devoted and involved grandparents while they were growing up. (My own parents had a much bigger family and didn’t have so much attention to spare. So I loved that my husband’s parents did.)

Then yesterday happened to be the ten-year anniversary of the day my divorce was final. At that point I still didn’t want to get divorced and still hoped that somehow we would still be reconciled. But you know what? These last ten years have been good, and full of blessings. And I no longer want to go back to that marriage, even if I could.

When I thought about a menu, I decided I was hankering for roast beef. So I found a crock pot recipe on the internet. Last night, I made the homemade cream of mushroom soup it calls for (delicious!) and Chocolate Angel Pie (basically chocolate whipped cream in a meringue shell).

But this morning I didn’t set the alarm and slept late. By the time I got the ingredients thrown into the crock pot, it wasn’t going to be ready until 8:45 pm!

And then I realized: Who cares? I could have a late breakfast, a late lunch, and a late dinner, and no one at all would be upset with me. And I wouldn’t think anyone was upset with me. Later, I sat on the balcony reading and thought how nice it was to not have to hurry up and get ready to go anywhere. Yes, a solitary Thanksgiving has its own wonderful charms.

But the truly wonderful part happened on my walk.

I was taking pictures of leaves, marveling at how many beautiful ones are still out there.

While I was walking, I was praying. It’s Thanksgiving. I was thanking God for my life. I was thinking about how those ten single years have been lovely. I was counting my blessings. Thinking about the new online groups I’ve joined since the pandemic hit. Even though I’m not around family, I’ve got new friends who love and appreciate me. And life is good.

And once again, I got to thinking that maybe I should stop asking God to find a life partner. Sure I’d like to find someone before another decade goes by, but maybe I should just focus on all the good I already have in my life. After all, I’m not an easy person to match. Maybe God isn’t answering that prayer because He knows I’m happier single. Life is good, and this day has been nice not trying to please anyone but myself.

When I walked back to the lake (My walk takes me past the lake, into the woods, and then back.), I was still looking for the great blue heron who likes to come by, with no luck. Wouldn’t it be nice to see him for Thanksgiving Day? But it was such a beautiful day for giving thanks.

And then I remembered the Theme I’d chosen back in January for 2020. I already blogged about it. The theme is to ask with Shameless Audacity, as Jesus tells us to in Luke 11.

So I did it — I prayed that God would let me see a great blue heron today, for Thanksgiving. I acknowledged that it was shameless audacity on my part to ask for it. But I did ask. And then I kept walking, thinking it wasn’t going to happen this time. And that’s okay.

A couple minutes later, some ducks splash-landed on the lake next to me. Fun! I thought that at least I could take nice pictures of ducks.

But while I watched a second group of ducks land, right behind them came a great blue heron! It squawked at them, then decided it didn’t want to land next to them and swooped in a big circle around the end of the lake — and came straight toward me!

It kept squawking, as if to say, “YOU WANTED TO SEE ME?!! HERE I AM!!!” (I’ve never been sure I heard a great blue heron’s voice before, in all the time I’ve watched them.) It veered away from me and flew further down the lake.

Then it flew onto a rooftop, and I happily took about a hundred pictures of it with the sky as a background.

But wow! If I thought my request was shamelessly audacious, I didn’t begin to predict the shamelessly audacious answer I received. That heron buzzed me! I wanted to see a heron? It flew at me, squawking!

I’ve been looking at Creation Psalms lately, and yesterday it was Psalm 139 — The Lord has searched me, and he knows me. Right now, Tauren Wells’ song, “Fully Known,” is playing. “I cannot find the reasons why you’d give me so much.” God knows me, and he delights in giving good things to his children.

And I feel so thankful.

I know what my next shamelessly audacious request is. What’s yours?

Contentment vs. Asking with Shameless Audacity

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020


(Picture from June 1, 2013.)

I’m on my annual Springtime personal spiritual retreat this week. Monday it began with me thinking about how happy my life is and how fulfilling so many of the activities I make a regular part of my life are, because they express who I am.

This was happening the day after, on Sunday evening, I got a message on an online dating site from a guy who ended up being a scammer. There were three big tip-offs: The first message was generic. (I specifically ask on my profile for non-generic messages.) The messages made it clear he was not a native English speaker. (That’s theoretically okay, but wasn’t obvious from his profile, so he was probably a scammer operating from overseas.) And the big tip-off, which I always always answer with a No was asking to go off the dating site right away. (And my No means they stop sending me messages.)

So Monday I was discouraged with online dating, but very happy with my life as it is. So I began thinking, Maybe I should give up on the whole idea of ever finding another man and getting married again. It would be nice, sure, but my life is good and I for sure don’t want to have someone in my life who doesn’t fit with me, who instead of appreciating the way the things I do express who I am, puts a damper on me doing those things.

In short, I’m content. That’s good. So why even bother with having an online profile? Maybe I should just plan on spending the rest of my life happily single.

The next morning, as part of my spiritual retreat. I looked again at the verse and theme I’d chosen for 2020.

The verse was Luke 11:9 — “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

The theme was “Shameless Audacity” — from Luke 11:8. Jesus has told a parable about someone asking for bread at midnight. “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” And then he launches into verse 9, telling us to ask.

And I’ll be honest: What instantly comes to mind to ask God for is a man who loves me and loves God, a man for me to marry.

So I thought, I will ask again. I won’t completely give up on the idea.

But there was a problem with that. Yesterday I started feeling discontent. I was thinking more about what my life is missing and less about what I have.

This morning, while I went on my walk, I was thinking how to balance Shameless Audacity with Contentment. I don’t want to lose my joy and contentment because I’m asking God for the desires of my heart.

I do think God wants us to ask for the desires of our hearts. There’s this verse, and there are many others.

I think of the quote from C. S. Lewis, “We are far too easily pleased.

But it feels selfish and greedy to ask for something more when my life is already so very good. In fact, wait a minute, it feels like shameless audacity.

And I think maybe that’s the way to pull the two together, to be content while still asking for more — and that’s to acknowledge that it’s shameless audacity by being grateful.

In fact, it goes back to Philippians 4:6 — “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

And rather than feeling discontent from doing that — when I acknowledge the shameless audacity and combine it with gratitude — I feel a whole lot of joy.

Because it reminds me that God the Father loves to give good gifts to His children.

While I was walking, I thought of another, much smaller request, that feels like shameless audacity. I haven’t seen the great blue heron who frequents my lake since the stay at home order happened in March. So, yes, for a few days I’ve been praying that I’d see one.

Well, this morning I acknowledged that the irises I’ve been taking pictures of this week have been amazing and stunning, so it’s shameless audacity for me to ask for something more, but yes, Lord, I’m going to ask to see a great blue heron.

And sure enough, a person walking a dog ahead of me startled a great blue heron, so it flew to the other side of the lake.

And I saw another fly by my window in the afternoon. (This is after not seeing one for more than two months.)

And maybe if God grants that small shamelessly audacious request, maybe He will grant the bigger one.

He doesn’t have to, and I know He doesn’t have to, and I am happy and content and thankful for the life I have and it will not be a tragedy at all if I am single for the rest of my life.

But I’m going to be shamelessly audacious and ask.

Envision Today

Friday, June 29th, 2018

A year and a half ago, a friend suggested an exercise to me: You envision a day in your life ten years in the future. What do you want it to look like? Describe it in great detail.

The promise is made that you will be surprised about how much that you envision will come true.

I was thinking about that exercise today. I was going for a walk by my lake. It was warm, yes, but cool breezes were blowing. I’d gotten a close up look at my friendly neighborhood great blue heron. Lovely flowers were blooming. It was simply beautiful. My heart was overflowing.

I started thinking, if ten years ago I had envisioned today, could I have imagined much better than this?

Now, if I were imagining a perfect day, I would have gotten up a whole lot earlier than I did today. But there are a whole bunch of elements of today that will be dreams come true:

— I’m going to spend hours reading out on my balcony.
— I got to go for a walk in a beautiful place.
— I *can* take a nap, take it easy, sing along with Christian music….
— I will post thoughts and they will be “published” on my blogs.
— I’m on the Newbery committee, for crying out loud!

Okay, it’s not as impressive when I write it out. But I’ve been thinking lately about Psalm 103:5 — “who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.” When my desires are satisfied with good things, I want to *notice* it. I’m a bit stressed because I need to spend every spare minute reading – but that’s a dream come true!

The truth is, when I envisioned my life ten years in the future – Future Sondy had a wonderful husband who was sharing in all the activities of that day I envisioned, and making them better.

But I’m noticing lately that dreams can come true even if that particular dream hasn’t come true yet.

Lately I’ve met some single men near my age – and I haven’t been attracted to them, and they have shown no signs of being attracted to me. And I just hate the part of me that is disappointed by that! It’s an attitude of scarcity – that single men near my age are rare, and I’d better hope if I meet one that we’re a good match, because otherwise none of my dreams will ever come true!

I’m speaking against that. I like what Michelle Obama said at ALA – that she’s found you can have it all, but usually not all at the same time.

The truth is, right now I’ve got a dream come true of being on the Newbery committee and getting legitimately to spend hours and hours of my time reading. Often out on my balcony with birds chirping around me and gentle breezes blowing.

And you know what? It really is easier to do that while I’m living alone.

At the same time, I’ve noticed how richly blessed I am with friends – and a wide variety of friends, women and men, young and old, from so many different backgrounds. Last night I got to read at Silent Book Club with a friend who’s older than me and a delightful storyteller and another new friend who likes to read horror stories and is a young college student and drives out an hour from West Virginia to meet with us.

But I like this idea: Envision Today.

Sure, I’ve frittered away a lot of this day, but that’s a luxury in itself! I’m going to get to sit out on my balcony and read. I’ve gotten to post on a blog some of my thoughts about life. I’ll get to connect with some friends on Facebook.

And look at that. A box of books just arrived at my door from a publisher!

Yes, I can imagine a day where NO dreams come true. But I don’t want to generate that kind of vision, so let me instead look at some really bad days I’ve had:

There was the day I went to court and my divorce became final. That day, my lifelong friend, who was my maid of honor at my wedding and a witness in my divorce, along with another much newer friend, took me out to eat. Showing that even on my worst day, I have loyal friends.

Or how about when I was in the hospital after my stroke? Again, friends came and helped. I went in the hospital the day before my son’s birthday – but my ex-husband rose to the occasion and drove to pick up my son a day earlier than we had planned. I was cared for even when I couldn’t care for myself. Even my work colleagues contributed some of their own sick leave for me.

Tomorrow I have to work. Working in a library has many situations that are definitely *not* dreams come true. But it also has many situations that are. Tomorrow, I’m hosting Family Math Games, and I can easily imagine that I’m going to get to see parents interacting and having fun with their children, who are learning, also having fun, and feeling loved. I can easily imagine that I will get to help a child find a book they’re going to love. And after work? Why, some more reading, of course!

I’m not trying to say that every day is a dream come true. But when dreams do come true, I really want to notice it!

And, honestly, until January 28, 2019, I’m on the Newbery committee – so the truth is that every day *does* have at least one dream come true.

But what about January 29?

I guess what I’m saying is that I’d like to make a new habit. Envisioning a day ten years in the future is a great exercise. I added some good things into my life after I did that.

But I would also like to make a habit of Envisioning Today.

I’d like to do meaningful things, and I’d like to notice that I’m doing them.

And when my dreams come true, I’d like to notice it.

Three Little Lessons

Friday, April 6th, 2018

I was thinking today about what I’m learning in my life lately. And I came up with three things. Thinking about them made me happier today.

The first one came from lately being hyperaware of single men somewhere near my age and whether I might meet them. A friend told me about a single man she’d met – and there was absolutely nothing to indicate that he might have anything in common with me – except that he appeared to be single. (No ring on the fourth finger of his left hand.)

On top of that, I’ve been joking with friends about where I might meet single men – it’s pretty much an attitude of scarcity.

But lately I’ve been talking with other single women. We talk about how nice it is to set our own schedule and make our own choices and pursue our own interests. I’m remembering a bigger truth:

Lesson One: Even if I never get married again, I’m going to have a richly happy life.

When I think about what I don’t have, I forget how wonderful my life is right now.

I by no means want to get married just for the sake of getting married. I do believe that someone may come along who could enhance my life and make it even better than it is now. But if such a man never comes along? It is no tragedy. Life is very good.

There’s a balance. I don’t want to rule out finding a partner or shut men out of my life. But lately, I was thinking a little too much about “finding a man” as being a problem.

But I absolutely don’t want just any man. Being single and somewhere near my age is not enough! He’s going to have to be exceptional to win a place in my life!

And today was a good day to remember that. And relish a day that was exactly what I wanted it to be.

Lesson Two: Enjoy this time while I’m on the Newbery committee.

I recently made a new plan to get more reading time in: Reading every day from 7 to 9, whether morning or evening or both.

But then I noticed I wasn’t necessarily getting in a quiet time. And I was getting a little bit uptight about whether I got the reading time in.

And I just need to remember – this is a time I’ll look back on all my life. Might as well enjoy it!

With that in mind, today I sat out on my balcony in the afternoon and read a book from start to finish!

It meant that I needed to do some other things from 7 to 9 tonight. But while I was out there, winds were blowing, and birds were singing. It was warm enough I didn’t need a jacket. The wind meant I could hear gentle ripples coming from the lake. I have a comfortable chair and can put my feet up.

In short, it was a lovely, idyllic afternoon. I’m so glad I seized the opportunity while I had it.

Lesson Three: Remember how far the Lord has brought me.

This came from reading Mark 5:34 this morning. Jesus says to a woman whom He healed, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

I’ve been reading Project 52 this year, which I wrote last year. And it reminded me that 12 years ago, I was suffering. Suffering greatly.

Today, I am free from my suffering.

And I am so thankful.

Okay, those lessons aren’t as big as the ones I learned when I was suffering. But they were good to think about today. Call them Lessons in a Time of Joy.

Nostalgia

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

Last year, I wrote Project 52, writing about all 52 years of my life, a year each week.

This year, I’m reading what I wrote, at the same pace, covering a year each week. Right now, I’m reading about the time I’m most nostalgic about – my kids were young, we lived in Germany, and were visiting castles on our free weekends. In the pictures, you can see the joy on their young, sweet faces. Ah! That was the life! Looking at the pictures alone lifts my spirits.

But you can see the danger. I can’t visit castles any more. My kids are grown (as they should be!). And I’m not married any more. Nostalgia’s dangerous because it can lead to discontent.

And I have to admit that Valentine’s Day plays into that. I agree with my little sister that it’s lovely to have a holiday that celebrates love and romance, which are both beautiful things and make the world a better place. But the danger is being discontent.

Now, I know full well that while I am on the Newbery committee would be a really bad time to look hard for a new man in my life. It just plain wouldn’t be fair to go online and find a match and then tell him, “I like you, but I don’t have much time to spend with you until next year. Sorry about that.”

However, that doesn’t help all that much when Valentine’s Day comes around and I start being tempted to discontent.

Today I was looking through my journal where I wrote down the things I thought God was telling me over the past ten years. Now, I thought He was telling me that my ex-husband would come back some day – and I don’t think that any more.

But I keep going back to the things I thought God was telling me to do. I believe that He was telling me to Wait – and that was a good thing. That was not a mistake.

He also gave me words of loving encouragement – way too perfectly timed to be coincidence: That He was making me beautiful, and making me shine like a star. That He loves me, deeply and amazingly. That He notices me, cares for me, and is watching over my life.

And, come on, Sondy – I am on the NEWBERY COMMITTEE!!!!!

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the day will come when I am nostalgic about this time – right now, today – when I’m on the Newbery committee! and spending all my free time reading.

I have a wonderful home. I have a lake to walk by. It’s not as pretty during the winter when there’s no snow and everything’s brown – but I brought my camera on my walk today to remind me that it’s still beautiful. And as I’m writing this, it’s snowing outside.

The truth is that the Lord has showered me with blessings – already, right NOW.

If I do get married again some day, I have no doubt I’ll get nostalgic about this time when my time is my own. I can spend an extra hour on my quiet time, write a meditative blog post, go for a walk around my lake, and, of course, read, read, read – and nobody at all feels neglected.

So, again, I’m using the power of future nostalgia to remind me that I am gloriously blessed.

And I am loved by the Lord.

I’ll finish with the amazing verse I felt like God gave me last May. It reminds me that I am amazingly, wonderfully, beautifully blessed.

And, doggone it, I’m going to enjoy it!

Song of Songs 2:10-12 —
“My beloved spoke and said to me,
‘Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come.'”

Yes, I’m loved. Yes, the Lord is making me beautiful.

It’s time for singing!

Stones of Help, Stones of Fire

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Today is my 52nd Birthday.

Because 52 is such a cool number, and because there are 52 weeks in a year, I’m embarking on Project 52 — reflecting each week on one year of my life.

I’ve also been thinking very much about Healing today.

Ten years ago this summer was when I left Germany, utterly brokenhearted, and moved to Virginia.

Now I am settling in — and I feel Healed. And that’s a wonderful thing.

And I was thinking about I Samuel 7:12, where Samuel sets up a stone as a monument to God’s help. He names it “Ebenezer,” which means “Stone of Help,” and says, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped.”

Today I planned to go to Great Falls, which I did, and pick up a stone to remind me of God’s help. I have some other stones. This one (actually I picked up two) is going to represent Healing.

Here are the stones I chose along with some souvenir playing cards from places I loved. (I played some solitaire tonight using 52 cards at a time. It’s appropriate!)

BirthdayStones

But, rather more amazing — this morning I checked my doorstep (I’d forgotten to check last night), and there was a birthday package! It contained a gift from my generous friend Lauri Ann of beautiful opal earrings.

Opals are special to me because one of my favorite books as a kid was a book written by missionary Isobel Kuhn called Stones of Fire. In it, she compares a Lisu tribeswoman to a fire opal. She talks about how the colors of the opal come from pressure and brokenness.

I love that thought. As I’m thinking about Healing — I declare that my healed broken heart is part of what makes me beautiful.

So my Stones of Fire are also my Stones of Help. They speak to how far God has brought me — and that He has not only Healed me, He used those awful times to make me beautiful.

Three years ago when I went to Great Falls on my birthday, the many great blue herons I saw represented Great Blue Herons of Happiness.

This year, they were back!

GreatBlueFalls1

So the walk in great falls was about Healing and Happiness both.

GreatBlueFalls2

We got amazing views of many, many herons.

GreatBlueFalls3

And here I am modeling my Stones of Fire that represent Healing, with a Great Blue Heron of Happiness behind me.

Opal

Hitherto hath the Lord helped!

Blizzards and Contentment and Trust

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

BlizzardwithCardinal

We had a blizzard last week. I live in the DC area — you might have heard.

I find with a blizzard, people tend to either love it or hate it. I LOVED it!

We had plenty of warning — so my workplace at the library was closed on Friday just in time for me to get home just as the flakes were beginning to fall. Then they continued to fall — extremely thickly — for the next more than 30 hours.

The area isn’t prepared for such a rare event. With 30 hours of heavily falling snow and more than 2 feet of snow on the ground, this did break records. So besides the weekend, when I hadn’t been scheduled to work (but all activities were cancelled), I got Monday and Tuesday off work.

Snow days are gifts of time. Plans get cancelled, and you get to take time out of your routine. This time, for the first time in four years on a snow day, I had my son (newly graduated from college) home with me, so I wasn’t all alone.

After the blizzard ended, on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, I went for a walk through the snow. It was incredible! I love to walk around my lake on a sunny day, but this was a whole new adventure and each day was different.

BreakingTrail3

Mind you, each excursion was so much work, I’d then wipe out my afternoon by taking a nap to recover. There was a part of me that thought I should “use” the time. But it was so worth it.

And I’ve felt good! All my life, I’ve been plagued by headaches — until recently and “the change” — and I haven’t had a headache all month! Not even going out in the cold and snow! Not even with major weather fronts coming through! This all still feels miraculous and wonderful.

And I got time to work on my website and add cool math stuff, and I have a manuscript being considered by an editor, and I’m doing things at work (when we’re open) that make me happy, and life is just very good. And did I mention I got to walk in the snow this week?!!! (And it was so cool!!!)

Blizzard6

All this boils down to — I have been Happy lately. Very Happy and Content.

So I’ve been thinking about Contentment in the context of trust. And, yes, in the context of singleness.

One of those prayer requests I mentioned in my post last month? I’d like to find a new life partner.

But this past week, I’ve been happy and content in the here and now — and I think that helps me to trust.

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul tells us present our requests to God with thanksgiving — and the result will be peace.

I’ve found this week that it helps me trust that God will bring me good in the future if I focus on how much good God has given me in the present.

I do realize there’s a balance. You want to be content — but you don’t want to be complacent. You want to be thankful for the present, but you don’t want to fail to grow as a person.

For example, I had a wonderful time in the snow. I have a garage and only one car, and I live in a condo which hires a company to clear snow — so I didn’t have to do any shoveling. I was happy about that, maybe too happy — I didn’t help my neighbors much. (In my defense, I’m not really supposed to carry heavy loads since my vertebral artery dissection and stroke four years ago. But that wasn’t really my motivation.)

In the example of looking for a new life partner, it’s good to be content — but how much should I be putting myself out there, looking online or going to meetups? If I happily become a hermit, is my trust in God expecting Him to do a miracle and bring someone into my shell? I do think there’s a balance.

I’ve had a small personal breakthrough in the past few years. I feel like I’ve come a long way in forgiving my ex-husband, and I have friends again who are men — from a variety of settings. I admit, I had generalized some of my anger and was leaning toward the “Men are skunks” view. (It was interesting recently. Something came up that had me shaking my head about “men” — and I was able to trace it back to a specific incident where I was still angry with my ex-husband. Once I took that out and looked at it and did some forgiveness work — it also took out the generalized anger.) And it’s so nice to get past that, and men add something to my life. (Mind you, my girlfriends have ALWAYS been there for me and are the ones who helped me even survive my divorce. But there was a gap in my life.)

There’s a balance in that, too. All these men I’m friends with are either married or for some other reason not an appropriate life partner for me. And it’s easy, in a low moment, to get discouraged by that fact. To jump to the conclusion that it will be impossible to find a nice single Christian man appropriate for me and even God can’t pull it off and start feeling sorry for myself.

But choosing contentment — I can see how those friendships enrich my life and even add male companionship (in a friendly way), which I was missing and does me good. And instead of stressing about the fact that these men aren’t ever going to marry me, I can find a whole lot of joy in what they do bring to my life.

Just yesterday, my sister posted an amazing poem that reaffirmed this idea for me.

We may always love, but we may not always serve.

This also applies to my ex-husband. I had to come to the place where I can love him — yet release him and go on with my life, not wanting to be married to him again. To remember the good, but accept that this is past. If I’ve truly forgiven him, I can still love him and wish him well. But I have had to accept that there is no longer any way I can serve him. (In the past, when I would try to do something nice for him, he definitely didn’t take it in the spirit it was offered.)

I had to see that wanting to serve someone has a selfish side. Can I be happy that so many of my men friends have beautiful relationships with their wives — exactly the sort of relationship I’d like to have with someone?

Well, the answer is that — when I’m content, I can.

And when I’m content, it’s easier to trust that God is going to take care of the future.

And when I’m content, it’s even easier to brush up that online profile and do a little looking. But also not be too horribly disappointed when that man with the interesting profile never answers my message.

It’s all a dance.

I was talking with my son today about being a rule-follower (which I am). He says he likes it when there are clear processes. (Looking for a job after college is not a clear process!)

I think the path of trust is also like that. Not a clear process. A place that needs balance. You want to be content but not complacent.

And then, every now and then, you get a wonderful gift of a Blizzard!

Blizzard4

BreakingTrail5

Let Nostalgia Work for You

Monday, September 21st, 2015

This is another post about a strategy for dealing with loneliness. It’s tied in with being grateful and enjoying the moment.

I was walking around my lake yesterday morning.

Clouds

And I began to imagine what my life will be like if I do find a wonderful man and marry him. The fact is, I know if that happens, no matter how wonderful the man, there will be things about my life now that I will miss.

And isn’t that true about all the past stages of your life? It is for me. There’s something I miss about every one. Even the most horrible time in my life when my ex-husband was in the process of leaving me — my girlfriends really rallied round and supported me, and I felt very loved. I had daily quiet times without fail and with a sense of desperation, and I also felt loved and cared for by God.

Of course, other stages are much easier to be nostalgic about — when my kids were young and we’d climb the mountain behind our house after dinner most days, for example. Visiting castles in Germany. Being a young carefree college student. Even when I was recovering from my stroke, I had something to focus on other than my divorce. And received wonderful loving care.

Funny how no matter how many difficulties — there are still things to be nostalgic about.

So one way to practice gratitude is think — What about today will I be nostalgic about in five years?

And then ENJOY it!

I do not believe a person should ever ever ever pray for patience. Instead, you should pray to ENJOY the time God is giving you right now.

I admit, there are times I wish God would hurry up if He’s going to bring a wonderful man into my life. But I want to make the most of this time.

After all, I know I’ll be nostalgic about it some day.

Might as well dance.

HeronTakeOff

Meaning in Solitude

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

I’m having trouble with loneliness lately.

And this annoys me. I’m an Introvert! I love solitude! I have absolutely no desire to get a pet (I’ve spent enough of my life — including childhood — caring for others). I don’t want to add more activities to my life. (I have added some, and it’s been a good thing, but just to add activities? No! I want more alone time.)

There are reasons why loneliness has become a problem recently. My youngest turned 21 and started his last semester of college. My oldest lives far away and is changing gender. I’m missing being married, missing my ex-husband-as-he-was or at least as-I-thought-he-was. And I recently had something happen that discouraged me about the chance I will ever find an available man who loves the Lord and wants to follow him.

Mind you, I know good men, intelligent men, attractive men exist — I see plenty of them at church, devoted to their wives. And I’m not wanting to be envious or covet other people’s husbands. If they showed any signs of preferring me to their wives, they would instantly lose all my respect! But it is easy to look at other people’s situations with envy (not reality) and at my own past with nostalgia (not reality) and forget about all the good things in my life now.

I’m coming up on 10 years since my ex-husband moved out. And I maintain that those are NOT wasted years.

But it dawned on me that I was always a person who invested a lot of my purpose in my marriage. I always wanted to be a wife and mother, and became both relatively young. And I wanted to stay home with my kids (always hoping that would give me time to be a writer, I have to admit). I did end up working part-time, but I didn’t really have a career until after my husband left. And I happily moved around the world wherever my ex-husband’s job sent us. Mind you, that was to Germany, a place I loved wholeheartedly! But I didn’t have to work out where I wanted to go or do — I was part of a couple, a family.

I wish there was one answer to loneliness. If you’re feeling lonely — do this! The truth is, there are strategies. I know about many of them. And I practice them. I wish that took care of it!

One strategy is gratitude – which is why I’ve revived my Sonderblessings blog. Another strategy is going out and doing activities (Yes, I do some.), which is why I joined a gaming group, competed in a Splendor tournament last week, and went to the National Book Festival yesterday.

But today I’m thinking about Meaning. I catch myself thinking I might not ever find another partner — and that that would be a tragedy.

It’s true that I might not ever find another partner. But I declare that that would NOT be a tragedy!

The fact is, when I’m thinking rationally, I would rather not be in a relationship at all than be in a relationship with someone who isn’t trying to follow the Lord with all his heart.

And I definitely don’t want to get my meaning from a man. (Though at the same time knowing I would throw my heart into helping a partner accomplish his purposes. But I don’t want that to be my only meaning.)

So the strategy I want to talk about today is finding meaning, purpose, and joy in life alone. Why did God create me? What does he delight in about me? What ways can I uniquely serve him and make the world a better place?

Today in church the person who gave the message talked about going barhopping with a friend — for Jesus! That is not my mission! (See above: Introvert.)

However, I am a writer at heart. I want to write more about my journey, reaching out to my fellow travelers. We’re all in this together. I know I’m not the only woman walking alone for a season. And I know we women walking alone aren’t the only ones who get lonely.

So I offer this idea: Create a visual mission statement. Here’s mine.

Sondy Sue

I don’t remember why it came up, but a friend who’s a coach at heart suggested this idea to me awhile back. He showed me his, which was tiled with stunning images as the background. (Judging by his Pinterest page, he is exceptionally good at finding stunning images.) At first I thought I’d use my own castle pictures to do something similar. Then I thought of this picture taken last year, when I was on a 50th birthday celebration trip with two of my dearest lifelong also-50-year-old friends. We took it on the top of a mountain at sunset, and it speaks to me of possibilities, lasting friendship, and joy.

As for the mission statement itself, I like sevens. And I was thinking about what things stir my heart, put a sparkle in my eye, and make me uniquely me.

I now have the mission statement on my computer desktop. Looking at it helps me with loneliness because it motivates me not to waste time with computer games, but to enjoy the opportunity to do things I was uniquely created to do. (Like write! And that is more easily done, honestly, when one has solitude.)

Your visual mission statement won’t look anything like mine. But if you’re going through a solitary season, your life is not any less meaningful than it is when you’re in a partnership. This isn’t a “between relationships” time, it’s a meaningful, rich, joyful time of its own.

Or so I’m telling myself. 🙂

Thanksgiving Psalm

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Blossom

In my last post, I looked at the form of the Lament in the Psalms – the most common form used in the Psalms. I posted an example I wrote a year ago.

Yesterday, I thought it was time I wrote another personal Psalm. However, I wasn’t in the mood for a lament. I’d been trying to remember the bright side of being single lately, and I’d been succeeding. In fact, writing out the lament itself brought me to a happier place.

So instead, I decided to write a Thanksgiving Psalm. And I’d focus on the wonderful home that I feel was a gift from God.

Here’s the form of a Thanksgiving Psalm:

I. Introduction

I will exalt you, O Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
— Psalm 30:1

II. Call to Praise

Let the redeemed of the Lord say this –
those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.
— Psalm 107:2-3

III. Account
A. Crisis in Retrospect

The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
— Psalm 116:3

B. Deliverance
1. I called.

Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, save me!”
— Psalm 116:4

2. You heard and you intervened.

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
–Psalm 30:11

IV. Praise

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for men.
Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders.
— Psalm 107:31-32

So that’s the basic form.

My challenge is this: Try using this form, along with parallelism. (Repeat yourself!)

It’s a lovely way to remind yourself what God has done.

Here’s what I wrote yesterday morning. It’s not eloquent – just an example of how you can use this form to recount something God has done for you.

God is good.
It is always worth it to seek Him.

Praise the Lord for his kindness;
praise Him for noticing our needs and longings.
Notice the Lord’s compassion,
for He notices us.

I was abandoned and alone,
in debt after divorce,
a single mom with an empty nest,
pouring money into rent,
with a guest room that was never used,
with furniture for a family I used to have.

I asked the Lord if I should look for a home to buy,
or look elsewhere for a job?
Should I stay where I’d healed after my divorce
or look further afield for something new?

He answered to enlarge the place of my tent
and spread my tent curtains wide.

I thought I found a home—
farther from my church than I’d wanted,
but surely the best I could afford?
It didn’t have a view,
but couldn’t being nice inside make up for that?
Then it fell through, after inspections were done.
I had to start all over again.

Then I saw this place, and looked out on a lake.
The first place kept me busy
while waiting for the gift you had for me.

And every day I look out on my lake
and my soul is soothed.

I’m near my church family,
and the whole church helped me move.
Now a Small Group meets in my home,
and I’ve had more visitors than my last two homes combined.
Walking by my lake
restored my health after my stroke.
The birds and ever-changing plant growth
constantly speak of your loving care.

Father, I thank You for giving me the disappointment
that led to the perfect timing of the home you had for me.
Thank You for knowing what I needed in my life
for this time.
Thank You for giving me much more than I asked for
and always dealing with me with love.
Thank You for the egrets and the great blue heron,
the robins, blue jays, woodpeckers, and cardinals.
Thank You for the enticement to walk
and the soothing lap of the lake.
Thank You for Spring blossoms,
Summer growth,
Autumn splendor,
and Winter whiteness.
Thank You that Your gifts never run out
and You are good.