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.
This weekend I felt the desire to be around people. That was such a vulnerable place for me. I pride myself on being self-sufficient and independent. Most only children are probably used to being alone. I even more so as I experienced periods of time in my childhood when there were simply no friends. No people. So I hid in my books and grew closer to my best friend at the time–my grandmother. That was a way that I coped with not getting needs met. When I became a believer one of the gifts God gave me were real friends. People who loved unconditionally and who stuck by me no matter what. But there is a season for everything and some of those friendships have ended. Still, I am surrounded with community and people close to me who I do life with. This weekend when I felt in need of people I could very easily have reached out to any of these people that make up my community. But it wasn’t just a person or persons I was desiring. It was a specific kind of community I was desiring.
It was family.
I’m in a season now of going back to the beginning and I’m learning how vital it is to be born into this world surrounded by love and acceptance. But really how often does that happen? And even if we are born into affirmation of purpose and identity, that does not mean we will be raised with these assurances. Most people experience a breakdown in their family structure due to life. Some have even more extreme circumstances then others. Whatever the circumstance, our personality and life decisions are influenced by the environment we are raised in. God knows this and still uses all things to work together for our good.
I often think of Moses who was given up by his family for his own good. And then somewhere down the line he reconnected to his people. He was used to deliver them b/c he had been separated from them and his separation led to his own freedom. And theirs. I can relate to that story in a lot of ways.
I was blessed to connect with family this weekend. It wasn’t my blood family but they are so saturated with love that they don’t make a difference. There is a scripture that says God will set the solitaire in families. I will be honest and say I have despised that scripture. Often He has put me in others’ families but I have so desired a family of my own. But then I remembered, no person can complete me. No person can fulfill me. No person can meet all of my needs. Even if I had my own family, they would not be able to fill this hole I feel in my heart. Instead, they would just be there to enjoy, just as I am enjoying this community of people God has placed in my life in this season.
Maybe one day, when that hole is filled, there will be others I can call my blood family.