"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."- Epicurus
A thin line of sunlight peeked out from the dusty sky, and day peered at me through my back window that happened to overlook a dusty croquet playing field and a small vineyard. From the comfort of my chair, I could hear the faint voice of the sellers that were peddling their goods on the labyrinth of roads in the hutong. At twenty-eight, my life had settled into a predictable routine. I'd get up, find myself some breakfast, write (if I had time) for the educational magazine publication I'd been doing freelance work for, get lesson plans in place, and leave for work around 8:30. Work happened to be teaching. I was content with what I was doing but there was the gnawing question of "What next?" I'd been living my dream, except there were a few pieces still missing.
There are many things one is told when one is single.
- If you start doing the right thing, someone will come along and join you. (Implying that you aren't doing the right thing if this doesn't happen.)
- You need to put yourself in a place where you can meet more singles. (Implying that you isolate yourself which may or may not be true. Some are not comfortable around large groups of strangers. Namely, me.)
- You need to get online and try the online dating thing. You know you could meet someone. (Implying that perhaps you'd come off better virtually than if you were in real life.)
- Honey, God will send you someone in His timing and it will be perfect. (And what if it takes more work than the 'firework' image of God just sending you someone and all the sudden, wham, you understand each other perfectly?)
- You are getting old. (And the other part of this will go without saying because really, one knows one's age and one's desires.)
And I'd been told some of these and a few others that I'll not mention. In the quiet of the night, he tells me he prayed for me before he even knew me. I'd been doing the same except somewhere in the late twenties I stopped. Perhaps it was not what God wanted, I decided. Maybe I needed to be single. Maybe this before me was to be my greatest work. Days would come and go, I'd host students, play my piano, write, and teach, and take myself to bed in my little apartment knowing that I was doing a good job with what I'd been given, and trusting God with what I had not been given.
My life has changed drastically since then. It has been a difficult change, but at the same time, I've been given two great gifts, my husband and my son. I forget some days, when the laundry heaps and piles of dishes remind me that I've got some other people to care for other than myself, that these people are blessings. They get to see the real me, the one that has to repent of ungratefulness, the one that works in the garden with runny nose and rashy skin, the one that walks and writes, the one that one calls wife and the other calls Mama. And it makes me want to be the best Mama I can be. The choosing of joy in the midst of the mundane, the looking for beauty in the middle of the normal---please--I want that. It is here that I want to be real.
And I tell him, "It sure took you a long time to find me." And he says, "Well, I had to travel halfway around the world." This love we have, it takes work, it is work. On days when I'd rather be doing anything else but household chores, I remind myself that there were lonelier days when I had no one to care for but myself. There were no piles or laundry, no mountains of dishes because it was just me.
"Good morning, big boy," I tell him. He grins at me and jumps up and down on his mattress, and extends his arms. Here we start again, we begin a new day as the great ball of orange greets the green prairie grass causing the dew to dance in her light. Thank you, Lord, today, for this. Today. Remember these gifts as the things you once hoped for.
How do you cultivate a heart of gratefulness for what you have been given? What are you giving thanks for today?