The mother and daughter sat across from each other in the small diner. Both adults but as with every child-parent relationship the child is still the child to the parent–no matter how old they get. The daughter took a sip of her latte and typed feverishly at her keyboard. She had brought her laptop so both could handle some unfinished business. The mother took her turn typing (although a little more slowly and a little less confidently) and was pleased with the outcome. They discussed their future plans to move in together. They compared the properties they had looked at; some good, some not. The deadline for moving was drawing to a close and both were walking by faith. The daughter had been down this path many times so panic had not yet kicked in. It would take a little longer for that to happen, if it did at all. Though their meeting was about the future they reflected on the now.
“Can you believe I’m this old?” the daughter said. The mother responded in equal amazement, “No. It’s crazy! I remember when you were in the womb…” and then as was their custom she reminisced about that time of pregnancy 30+ years ago. Her eyes glazed over and she held a far off daze. There were family members who had passed and many who were distant. “I never thought I would lose my whole immediate family”, the mother said. “Well, you have me” I replied. We sat in silence for a moment. It was just us. I never wanted it to be that way. I always wanted a family. I told her just as much that day. I told her how grateful I was for a spiritual family, these spiritual sisters that keep multiplying, but how I still desired blood relatives. “I wanted that for you too” she said.
I ran into a brother that day and teased him about being alone. He explained his wife and children were at a party and he had just gotten off his 2nd job. I was reminded of how different our lives were–his full with mouths to feed–my mouth sipping a latte. It’s easy to covet what one doesn’t have, to see the gift each season holds. Still, some seasons last too long…I told him about a writer’s class that I’m enjoying. “It’s finishing up soon but I’ll keep you in mind for the next one!” “Please do!” he said. Then I teased him about not having room in his schedule. He assured me he will make room. Funny, even with all the things I have going on in this season, I always seem to have room…
For the first time in my life I literally feel “older”. I’ve been thinking about the past and wondering about the future. I don’t have any goals set or big ticket items to check off my checklist. There are responsibilities to carry out and finances to build. There are a few trips I want to take and people I want to see. But no goals.
I think reality is setting in. Maybe that’s what happens in your mid 30’s. You realize though you have much ahead you have a good chunk that is behind and for the first time I have found myself second guessing past choices. My dad assured me on my birthday I had made the right choices. Then why do I not have what I want? I thought to myself. I wrestled with that question for a while.
I’m still wrestling.
The past cannot be changed, only our present. Our now choices will create our future. And as I told my friend last night, all we can do is walk in the light and understanding that we have today. I believe we are only held accountable for that much.
The year has flown by though some days seemed endless. I wonder how we got here often. How did we bustle through Thanksgiving and now Christmas is quickly approaching? Every year I struggle with the lack of family around this time and even though that is still a struggle I am grateful that God has given me something a little unique this year. He has given me community in my home (ironically as I typed that last sentence the cat busted through the door, into my room and is now doing “cat things” in it). My roommate has been such a joy and I love laughing with her. I’m certain she makes the Father laugh all the time. And then there’s Benny (the cat). Benny who acts more like a person and a dog most of the time than an actual cat. My roommate and I have had so many nutty things happen in this house with this cat we often joke about writing a book about them! Yes, God knew what I needed in this season, even if it wasn’t what I thought.
Often it is not what I think.
Yesterday we had our first holiday party. We combined communities and enjoyed the company of our friends, family and loved ones. It was a close intimate group which was about all our little upstairs duplex could hold but it was just enough. My roommate shared on her recent trip to Africa and that was beautiful and powerful all by itself. I am so blessed to see God move so greatly with her and bring to pass a long awaited desire of her heart.
Friday night she and I attended a holiday dance performance. There was lovely singing about Christ and salvation and hope and love. And beautiful dancing to compliment. There was food and people and fellowship and smiles. It has been a very full holiday indeed and there are 7 days left to celebrate! I got most of my shopping done but will have to fight the crowds for a few last items. I’m nervous to get on the scale these days because I know all the cookies and treats I’ve been consuming will eventually reveal themselves on it. It seems every other day a client is dropping off their “thank you” at work in the form of boxes of goodies and sweetness. And then of course we had an overload at our party last night. I’ll be taking the left overs with me to work on Monday!
Life is interesting. It’s not something you can plan for or control and that has probably been my most surprising and difficult lesson. Things I never could have imagined have happened, both good and bad. And yet by most people’s standards I am still “young”. Surely I am on the older end of the young adult spectrum but by next year I will have tipped over.
As unorthodox as this path has been, I know God has taught me that He is in control even when I am not. He is ordering my steps even when they seem disorganized. And He is surrounding me with people full of love, fun and laughter to make the journey a little more enjoyable.
In other news, if you or someone you know is struggling with the holiday blues as a single check out my latest Youtube video!
Also, recently I had a conference call to review the HTOHB study guide. The study guide is available as a FREE download! Just click here for the replay of the call!
This week was full of both rest and fun. Rest because I had 5 days off work (3 of those PTO) and fun because many days were spent with really good people. For Thanksgiving my mom and I went out to eat. Normally one of us cooks (usually her) but this time she wanted something different. After dinner we treated ourselves to a movie and then met her friends for bowling. It was a full day and I was thoroughly stuffed. Then Friday I had some alone time. I went shopping on Black Friday at my favorite mall and marveled at the crowds. Still, it was nice to be around so many yet be “alone”. What can I say, it is the introvert in me that appreciates such an occurrence…Later on I relaxed with a 90s flick, only to meet up with a good friend for a latte at Starbucks. I enjoyed a grande and even a chocolate chip muffin. Then Sunday my friend and I made our way to the Browns’ game. I will admit I have lived here over 10 years and have never been to a game! Lucky me the tickets were free, the weather was nice and our seats were phenomenal. It hardly mattered we didn’t win. We had fun anyway…
But even in the midst of all these blessings I would be dishonest to say this holiday was not without its own difficulties. The lack of family was evident for me while watching my mom’s friend’s daughter and her fiancé interact. I glanced at her ring once or twice and stuffed down the never-ending longings…There were moments I was home alone when I really didn’t want to be. Instead I wanted people, I wanted companionship, I wanted love. But as I told my friend last night on the phone, even with all the people who do love me, they will still choose family over friendship. It is natural. God does set the lonely in families, but I often wonder, when will He not need to? When will I have my own?…
The holidays are here and they are festive. They are a mixture of fun and rest. They are a mixture of enjoyment and lonelineness. That is life. The movie my mom and I saw had a character who was facing a divorce. She was freaking out and said “What will I do now?” My mom replied at the large screen in front of us, “Keep living”. She was right.
One thing I have learned in this season is the importance of resilience and the ability to keep moving forward. Someone near you dies? You keep living. You lose your job? Keep living. Depression hits? Keep living.
It has been a year where I have practiced this concept to “keep living”. It has been the fastest year of my life. There were nights I didn’t think I would get through, but I am here. And you are too. And that means there is a hope for the future.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Yesterday my roommate left for Africa. It has been a long awaited dream that is now being fulfilled and I bless God for that. She has been preparing Ben-Samuel all week long for her departure as best she could. With limited understanding between species who knows how much he actually understood when she told him frequently she would be leaving for a while. Though I care about Ben he is really her cat and so she does all the heavy duty stuff for him. When he was sick she took him to the vet. She changes his litter, buys all his food and is his primary caregiver. He has also gotten into the habit of sleeping in her room most nights. For that very reason I have been a little concerned about his response to her departure.
When we got Ben it was clear he was suffering from abandonment and really enjoyed people. He was so excited to be in our home that he made sure he was apart of every conversation and even made it a point to sit at the kitchen table to join us for meals! I have never seen such a cat. When we are lounging around the house he easily climbs on our laps and even computers just to snuggle. But lately I have noticed he has gotten even more attached to my roommate and thus I wondered how would he respond to her absence?
I can’t help but see a parallel of this season with God and Ben’s relationship to my roommate. She made sure to spend extra time with him, love on him and even tell him that she would be gone for a little while, but if Ben is anything like me, those things would fail in comparison to the seemingly never ending absence. You see, I can look back on this prior year and see how God was preparing me for the season of “silence”. I can see how much He was overwhelming me with feelings of His love. I felt it everywhere and wondered at people who did not. I can see how He was revealing Himself to me and who I am to Him in my heart and mind, flooding me in every waking moment of this revelation. I can see now it was all preparation for the darkness to come.
I tell myself cats are like kids and are resilient. I tell myself Ben will be ok and though he doesn’t know it, her leave is only for a short while. I must also believe these things about myself. I am learning resilience these days. I’m learning to be secure in a love I most days no longer “feel”. I’m learning to trust the Word over my emotions and I’m learning that though I may still desire a sign a sign has already been given. Many signs in fact.
Right now as I type this post Ben is sleeping on my leg. He has joined me for an early morning snuggle after trying to eat my cereal. For some reason he likes people food…
And in that picture I am shown the need to adapt. And the need to seek out other ways to have our needs met. And I am grateful for this picture which I’m sure is given from the Father of all creation.
Me: When looking back on your time of singleness what would you do differently now that you are married?
Jennifer: I would look to be single for God. To live purposefully as a single person.
Me: What life lessons have you learned from being married that could help singles in their season? How can we prepare for marriage NOW?
Jennifer: A man or woman will not “complete” you. Only Jesus can do that. So if you are waiting to get married to “start” living for God or start walking in your purpose, you are in for a rude awakening. Live now as though you are married – set apart for God.
Me: What tips would you give your daughters when preparing them for their single season?
Jennifer: If you are messed up you can’t be happy or make anyone else happy!
Me: How can you see God’s hand on your story?
Jennifer: I truly believe and received through many confirmations that Chris and I are supposed to be together. Although I know that God honors all marriage, I feel great knowing that God gave others the heads up about Chris and I. We didn’t start off with the perfect story or our eyes completely set on God but we came to a place where we made some decisions. We decided to pursue God with all we had, no matter what that looked like.
Jennifer Branch is a wife, mom, creator, delegator, admin, business woman and stewards a plethora of gifts and talents. She enjoys organizing and crafts and diligently seeks God with all of her heart.
This weekend one of my besties asked me along for a road trip. I of course said, “yes!” And off we went to Indiana to visit her fam. It has been go go go non stop full of extroverts and activities. Definitely an energy remover for this introvert but still enjoyable 😉.
Seeing her with her fam made me acutely aware of my own desire for family. That area of life has been a source of pain. At one point one very important woman made up the wholeness of family for me but then that season ended–10 years ago to be exact. She went to “be with the Lord” and though the teaching I’m under has helped me understand she still surrounds me along with the cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 11) most times that understanding isn’t enough.
Today is her birthday. If she were here we would rejoice about all the blessings I have as a result of her sacrifices. We would talk about the spiritual revelations we were having. How God was moving and all that He had done. This time I’d take her out for dinner because now I’m the adult and can do such things. We would talk about my love life and the waiting in it. She would tell me she was praying for the right person to come along and to trust God. She would look at me lovingly, beaming with pride.
Even though I don’t have her here in the natural to do those things, I have her daughter. Her daughter is just as proud if not more. She made just as many sacrifices so that I could have better opportunities. She loves me just as much.
These women have been the reason I am where I am today. And what they could not do in and of themselves God did through them. And when there was no man to help He became that man. He became all that I needed. He stepped in and filled the lack.
Now I am lacking nothing. Sometimes its easier to say those words than others but all the time they are still true.
Happy birthday to my dear grandmother who is cheering me on as I run this race of eternity. As I fight the good fight, carry my cross and head towards the finish line. She left such an example of how to win this race.