Happy Valentine’s Day!
I know this can be a hard day for several of my friends not currently in relationships. I know it can also be a hard day for people in relationships, as they face unrealistic pressure and expectations to have a perfect relationship on this day. I don’t know where you’re at as you read this, or what season of life you find yourself in. What I do know is that years ago a wise woman talked to me about appreciating each season of life for what it has to offer. Since then, I’ve tried to live more fully into what each season of life has for me. I’ve trained myself to look for the benefits of where I’m at in life, instead of wistfully wasting my life wishing for what I don’t have.
Life comes with all kinds of seasons. When I was in grad school, I loved soaking up the opportunity to learn, to sit under leading scholars, to network with my peers, and to take one too many study breaks getting fresh baked cookies from the café on campus. When I lived by myself for a year, I learned to appreciate the quiet and solitude, to value more intentional time with friends, to understand more about who I am as a person, and to find out just how clean I really do keep the kitchen when I don’t have others to blame for not doing the dishes. When I moved back in with roommates, I learned to trade in my space and independence to make room for relationships, and learned to appreciate how great it is to walk through life so closely with a few godly women.
Some seasons come and go more quickly than others, while others seem to linger like an unwelcome guest. In my life, the season of being single has stretched on for longer than anticipated. And yet, rather than begrudgingly endure, the longer I stay single the more I’ve learned to love this season of my life. I’ve learned to not only endure, but to embrace and genuinely love this stage of my life. With each year that passes I’d like to think I’m learning to live more fully into what this season of life has to offer, and to live more fully into who God has called me to be.
What has helped me, more than anything, is to practice gratitude for all the things available to me in this season of my life, and to pursue the things I know I have time for in this season that I might not have time for when another season comes along.
I choose to think about what I have, and not what I don’t have. I’ve spent the last year of my life choosing to be thankful for what this season of life can offer. I can travel. I can invest deeply in friendships. I can be independent and plan my schedule without worrying about how it affects someone else. I can invest in new activities. I have a LOT of freedom.
I also think there will be other, new things to be thankful for in other seasons of life. Things like having a partner who always has your back, and settling down and building a family. Things like never having to find another roommate because you’ve found your forever roommate, and never having to do awkward first dates ever again. Things like experiencing the joy of children. I’m not saying one season is better than another. I’m saying that I think what we are called to do is find the joy and gratitude that comes with each season and do our best to do each season well.
As I think back over the last year of my life, I see so many ways in which being single freed me up to pursue so many incredible opportunities. If you’re wondering what could be so good about being single, here’s what it has looked like for me over the last year:
- I picked up paddle boarding and now I love hitting the water and exploring local harbors. I also started doing yoga and playing basketball once a week.
- I crossed items off my bucket list, including a life changing trip to Israel where I got to walk where Jesus walked and see the history of the Bible come alive. I ran a half-marathon, and took a road trip up the whole length of the California coast.
- I asked a friend to help me build a table, and learned a few new skills in the process. And now, one of my favorite things to do is have friends over for dinner and we sit around this table that I built and we share life around the table and pour into each other’s’ lives.
- I went on a 3-day solitude trip and camped out at Lake Tahoe, letting my soul breathe deeply of the beauty of God’s creation.
- I paid off all my debt, and learned how to make and follow a budget so that I’m able to give, save, and be financially independent and responsible.
- I studied the Bible and read books that deepened my faith.
- I started learning about and getting involved with a non-profit that fights against human trafficking, and I’m planning a trip for this summer to Thailand and Cambodia to learn firsthand about the work they are doing. I’m training for my second half-marathon and planning to use it as an opportunity to raise awareness and funds for this same organization.
- I practiced being quiet, listening to God, setting aside time for solitude, and seeking God’s guidance for my life.
- I invested into my community and built deeper friendships. I hosted dinner parties and practiced cooking. I learned new recipes, and ate healthier.
- I did go on a lot of dates, and continued to learn more about what I’m looking for in a man, and, maybe more importantly, more about what I’m not looking for in a man.
- I took a lot of fun trips to places like Big Bear, San Diego, and Santa Barbara. I explored new restaurants and discovered new coffee shops.
- I pursued my dream of writing, and finished a 9-week discipleship curriculum that we are now using at my church.
- I invested in younger women and poured into their lives, and tried to point them to what it looks like to follow Jesus.
- I learned to walk more closely with Jesus.
- I was able to be there for my friends and support them when they were going through hard seasons.
- I learned more about who God made me to be, and what I want to do with my life.
I could probably keep going, but I’m sure you get the idea. It’s not that I want to brag about how great my life is. I really don’t, and my life is far from perfect. There are plenty of hard things and painful moments and stupid and sinful and selfish choices I made in the midst of all these things.
But I really want some of you to see that being single can be a beautiful thing.
I really think some of you need to hear that singleness is not a disease.
I really need some of you to know that there is nothing wrong with you.
You are a complete person. You have a full life to live. You have a God who loves you deeply and perfectly just as you are.
This season of being single comes with its fair share of challenges. Believe me, I know them well.
But the beautiful thing about you is that you always have a choice. You can choose what you will let your mind dwell on. Yes, your heart will ache, and ache deeply, on some days. You’ll wonder what God is doing, and question if you can really trust Him. But you don’t have to let your emotions define you. Let yourself feel those emotions when they come—don’t ignore or repress them—but don’t let those emotions control or define you. You might feel alone, and you might feel hopeless. Those are real emotions. But there also deep and profound truths you can choose to hold on to and let your mind dwell on.
God is good. He hasn’t forgotten about you. You can trust Him. You can choose to stop feeling sorry for yourself, and instead practice gratitude for what this season of life has to offer. You can choose to pursue everything available to you in this season of life, because before you know it this season will be gone, and you’ll never get it back.
I’m choosing to use this season to live fully into everything God has for me in this stage of my life, and to become more and more who God created me to be.
Today, for my Valentine’s day, I’m going to have coffee with my mentor and catch up on life. I’m going to go run and train for a half marathon. I’m going to go shopping with one of my friends. I’m going to meet another group of friends tonight and we’re going to have dinner and play games and enjoy life together. I think it’s going to be a great day, and there’s nothing better or worse about my day, or yours, based on a relationship status. Your day will be what you choose it to be.
As you go throughout your day, let me leave you with a few questions to reflect on:
What season of life are you in?
What are you thankful for in this season of your life?
How are you using this season to live more fully into who God created you to be?
What truths do you need to be reminded of to help you hold on to God during this season?
Here’s a few pictures from this past year. As I look back at these memories, I’m pretty sure I would consider myself incredibly blessed to have another year like this!