Living Learning Loving
The newest review on Amazon calls it a “Great Guide” – “An excellent book for struggling single moms. Gail’s story is a great testimony for any single mom to see that she can succeed regardless of her circumstances. Thank you, Gail, for your love and passion for single moms.”
At this time of year that can seem harsh if you are single and wanting to be married. My gift to you is my experience and how powerful the lesson of waiting can be.
Learning to Wait
I know you can get lonely. I know you can crave companionship and sex and love so badly that it physically hurts. But I truly believe that the only way you can find out that there’s something better out there is to first believe there’s something better out there. What other choice is there?”
He’s Just Not That Into You
How can you know if the relationship you are in is love? Do greeting cards, candy, and flowers demonstrate real love? Does saying “I love you,” make it real? Love is a verb, an action, reaching past the uncomfortable parts, the daily grind, the boring day and bringing with it kindness, understanding, forgiveness, and willingness to serve, for no other reason than love. I learned about unconditional love mostly from my mother. Not that she ever said much about it, she simply lived it. She was love in action. Romantic love, though different than the love of a mother, should stretch itself past the flowers and chocolates into action also.
If human love does not carry a man beyond himself, it is not love. – Oswald Chambers
I was a single mother for sixteen years. I won’t say it was easy or that it always went well during those waiting years. However, I still remember clearly my grown and married daughter, Treva, repeating to me something I had often told her, “Good things come to those who wait.”
I didn’t learn much about life planning and waiting well as a young woman. I liked being married, being a wife, and a mother. It wasn’t easy removing my first wedding band. Symbolically my life was as vulnerable as my bare fingers. A pale indent remained around my finger where the custom-made ring had been. I desired to have a sense of power over anything in my messed-up life, so I had my ring melted down and remolded into a dinner ring. Tears were just below the surface as my heart melted along with it.
Surely there would be another husband for me, I thought, but no one came along. So, I waited. I’d often watch with envy as others dated and sometimes remarried. At the ballpark, I cheered alongside moms and dads who went off home together. Going out was terribly awkward. No man seemed to be a match. So, I waited.
While I waited, I decided to focus more on self-improvement, so I went back to college for a master’s degree where all of my skills were put to the test. I gained much more than a degree. My self-confidence soared. My children and I created new adventures. My salary increased. Eventually I became a more appealing woman. By being my best self, I attracted men who were also functioning at their best.
Never view waiting as wasted time, these are simply opportune moments allotted for the purpose of regaining some inner stillness, calm and clarity. – Michele Howe
Accepting your humanness and living your life boldly may bring you into conflicts with your upbringing or your religious community. It’s not uncommon for people in Christian singles circles to tell women to, “Make a list of all the things you want in a husband and pray over it.” They assure them that God will honor their prayers if they do this. I do not know which of the scriptures they use to substantiate this, but they firmly believe it. I didn’t see the manipulation in this thinking, so I made my list.
My man would:
- Attend church with me
- Not have abandoned his wife and children
- Adore my children as if they were his own
- Be as comfortable and handsome in a suit as in jeans
- Be smarter than I am
- Of course, be handsome
For several years after I was divorced I did not date. Few responsible men are interested in marrying, or even dating, a woman who was a single mom with three young kids. Years pressed on and I crawled into bed exhausted and alone every night. Returning to college satisfied my desire for a change and adventure– for a while and other projects and work kept me occupied.
As the children approached adolescence, I began to seriously wonder – What did life hold for me? My list hung on the back wall of my mind. Were there any men like the one on my list? None that I met.
I made the decision to jump back into the dating arena. Being a single parent for over ten years made the leap awkward. Friends pushed and prodded. Soon I found myself in love with an ex-Navy man who was highly intelligent. I could check off, “Smarter than me.” He had not left his wife, another check on the list. We attended church together, another check. However, a red flag went up when he exhibited moments of rash and embarrassing behaviors. One such incident occurred during a Sunday assembly of our single’s group. Our guest speaker was presenting a message when my Navy guy blurted, “Isn’t that unfair to women?” so loudly that everyone froze. I sank, wishing the floor would swallow me, when I felt a friendly hand squeeze my shoulder from behind me. It was a man named Sam. That was the beginning of a genuine friendship between Sam and I which developed slowly over four years into a romance after Navy guy and I split up.
I was on my way to NASA and looking forward to an exciting day. They were presenting a program for teachers of visually impaired students. I taught children who were blind and appreciated any guidance I could get. An overnight visit with my best friend, Sue, who lived near NASA, would be an added treat.
I would easily get to NASA in an hour on the familiar route that led to Houston. I was traveling at the speed limit of 55 MPH as I came over an overpass. The cars in front of me were stopped cold! Someone was attempting to move a white trailer onto the freeway from the shoulder. CARS IN BOTH LANES. . . SLOWED TO NEAR STOP. Which way should I go?
I slammed on the brakes. It was too late.
My sedan hit the rear bumper of one of the cars. Air bags blew, I knew I had hit the car in front of me, but didn’t know what hit me. My face is numb. It must’ve hit the steering wheel. My teeth hurt. I ran my tongue over my teeth. They all seemed to be in place. Something felt terribly wrong. What had happened to my face?
“Ma’am,” I heard a man in uniform say as he opened my car door. “Are you okay?”
He bent over, saw my face, and moaned, “Oh, no!”
“We need an ambulance over here!” he screamed across the top of my car to others along the roadside.
Still so stunned I was afraid to imagine what I looked like. I was rigid in my seat and dared not look in the mirror.
Sympathetically he asked, “Is there someone I should call for you?”
My mind raced. Who should he call?
Sam and I had been dating each other for almost two years but with no commitments. Should I call my brother instead? Sam, a dentist, probably had an office full of patients. All his employees were preparing for a full day’s work. He couldn’t stop in the middle of a procedure.
Finally I gave the officer Sam’s work number, because I couldn’t remember my brother’s. What did I look like? How would he react?
“Ma’am, let me help you out,” the officer said as he pried my foot off the brake pedal where it was still rigidly pressed hoping to stop the disaster.
By this time I realized I couldn’t see with my left eye. Something was terribly wrong. “I need to go to an ophthalmologist.” I kept repeating. No one responded. “Please just take me to an ophthalmologist.” The ambulance took me directly to the hospital.
People scurried past me in the emergency room. Chills ran through my body. My legs began to tremble. “May I please have a blanket?” I spoke to thin air trying to get a nurse’s attention. I trembled. Could they hear me? No one came.
But Sam came. My Hero.
He was wearing his scrubs with “Dr. Sam” monogrammed over his left chest pocket which gave him more authority in this environment.
A young nurse stuck a clipboard in my face and ordered, “Sign this.”
Sam pushed her clipboard aside. “Get her a blanket. She can sign that later.”
Once under the blanket the chills finally stopped and soon after a doctor looked at my eye. “You have a traumatic cataract,” he seemed surprised. “You need to be taken to an ophthalmologist.”
Sam carefully sat me in his car and drove me directly to the ophthalmologist. My face still numb and my nose stung with a second-degree burn from the airbag. My face was swelling, raw, and bloody, but my heart was touched by Sam’s tender care for me.
When the receptionists saw me at the eye clinic, they took me to the doctor immediately.
“You’ll have an ugly eye,” he said lacking any bedside manner. I still had not seen my face.
The airbag had slammed my glasses against my eye, destroying the pupil, ripping the iris, and permanently damaging the lens. The pupil would never close again.
In the following year, I had extensive surgery to the front part of my eye. Students from the Houston medical school were called in to observe this “unusual case.” Before it was over, twenty doctors or soon-to-be doctors gawked at my “ugly eye.” During the second surgery damage to the macula was discovered. The macula is the spot on the retina where the most visual input takes place. This left me with a permanent slight blind spot in my left peripheral field.
Sam took care of me through it all, and he has ever since. As limited as my sight was that day, I could see clearly Sam was a keeper. Trauma often reveals truth.
Sam met some requirements on my checklist, but not all. He was equally handsome in a suit and jeans. He was a successful dentist and certainly smarter than me. He even sang in church, though he was more scientific than spiritual. However, he had been married twice. He had left his first wife. I began dating him a year after his second wife left and they were divorced.
I was determined and stubborn about plans for my future and Sam knew I might not stay in the area much longer. I had no idea that Sam was making plans of his own, though I knew he was considering a new home. He had sold a large family house after his divorce and was living in a small rental house. One Sunday afternoon as we drove his old blue Suburban through a developing subdivision he slowed down and said, “Which lot would you buy, this one or that one?”
“It should be your choice,” I said. “It’s for your house.”
“What if it were your house? It could be.” More than a little surprised I chose the one I liked.
After four years of developing a true loving friendship, Sam gave me a spectacular engagement ring. I took it to show my daughter who knew about diamonds. She examined it carefully counting the pavé diamonds under the solitaire. She said, “Mom, there are sixteen—one for every year you waited.”
There is one thing about dating I’m sure of. And that is. . .Take Your Time. Seems simple, doesn’t it? It is not. So many rush love. Or they hurry marriage. Or they take the first one who shows any interest. Romantic love should stretch itself past the flowers and chocolates into action. In the long run, it is the kind, understanding, forgiving, and serving of one another that will sustain a true love relationship. A healthy relationship, takes time to develop. This requires patience.
We went on to design and build our home. The hitch came as we planned our wedding. Our desire was to be married in the church where we had worshipped for several years.
In a meeting with our pastor to discuss our plans, he told us, “For me to marry you in this denomination you must sign this document.” The document required you to state that any previous marriage ended for reasons approved in scripture.
Sam refused to sign it, and I don’t sign documents regarding issues of the Spirit. My creator and I have an unwritten agreement. So, we were faced with a problem. If we were to marry, we would have to step around the rules of our own church. And we did.
Before you get the idea I don’t think rules are to be followed, I would like you to understand, rules are for the betterment of the people, but sometimes rules need to be examined. Not all rules should be followed blindly. Scripture is filled with men and women who have stepped around the religious gatekeepers to do God’s will. Here are a few examples from scripture.
- The woman, who touched Jesus cloak, broke Jewish law, because she was struggling was uncontrolled bleeding, that the doctors of her day couldn’t cure. Luke 8:44
- Rehab lied about hiding the Hebrew spies. God honored her due to her obedient faith in spite of her professtion. It is believed she was a prostitute. Joshua 2: 2-4
- Tamar was a virtuous woman, who after being widowed twice was put aside by her father-in-law, Judah. Yet she risked everything, even her life, and certainly her reputation to have a child. Children were the only source of support a woman had in those days, and to deny her the right to have children, was to deny her a future. Genesis 38: 15-16
Well-behaved women rarely make history. – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
A dear pastor friend and his wife drove for six hours and performed the ceremony in a beautiful local church. One of my blind students sang. Sam’s daughter played the flute and my two sons walked me down the aisle. All our children participated in our special day in some way. That was in 1996.
Over the years together we have had a strong marriage and through our union, have blessed many lives. What if I had insisted on following my checklist? What if we had not stepped around the rules? Because I ignored “the list” and someone else’s unhealthy rules, our family has been blessed beyond measure.
- My daughter was able to travel to Russia where she found and adopted our granddaughter.
- My son survived a personal crisis.
- Another son received his first truck.
- My daughter had a “Dad” that she so yearned for.
- I was free to resign a stressful job.
- I was free to speak at national conventions across the country.
- I was able to develop the SMORE for Women ministry.
- The SMORE ministry has blessed many single mothers.
Sam and I are contributing members in our church, which, by the way, is not the denomination that refused to bless our marriage.
Though I’m not an expert, these are simply a few things I’ve learned along the way—a long, long way. Before dating, do your homework. Learn about men. Not your dad or brother, but men who will have a different agenda in mind where you are concerned.
- Men are different from women. “Duh” you say, but how often do you expect a man to understand you? To be more like you?
- They think differently.
- They have different motivations.
- They have different agendas.
- Men have an agenda that involves satisfying their needs. And believe it or not, so do women.
- Men who truly love and are committed to you will go to great lengths to provide for and protect you.
- He will want to be in your presence.
- You will not have to call him. He will call you.
- He will recognize your value if you value yourself.
- You do teach the man how to treat you.
- Men need validation.
- Men need your respect.
- Men need to hear your compliments and acknowledgements.
Life is complicated and life as a Christian can be messy. There are many ideas in Christian circles about dating and relationships. Some are not even scriptural. I encourage single women to trust what the Bible has to say about relationships. Take the stars out of your eyes. Be fully aware that even one fling can change the course of your life. What I have today was certainly worth waiting for.
I’ve heard it said our children will not do as we tell them to do, they will do as we do. It’s the impression we leave that will make a difference to them and the choices they make. As a single mother, sometimes you are the biggest influence in your children’s lives. Imagine you are walking along and stumble on a rock and fall into the mud. It’s the impression you leave when you sink into the muck of life that your children will notice.
Seems simple, doesn’t it? It is not. Above all, take your time. Good relationships don’t just happen. They need time, patience and two people who truly want to be together.
S’MORE TO CONSIDER
What are your feelings toward being single?
Do you feel you have ever truly been in love?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
How did you know?
Is there an area of your life that you have opened to unhealthy behaviors when it comes to dating?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
Are there areas in your life that you are willing to work on in order to attract a better quality man?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
What are some areas you think could use some improvement?
When you are in a dating relationship how does your male friend respond when you say no to something he wants you to do?
Have you lived through at least one of life’s crises or unpleasant situations while in the relationship?
[ ] Yes [ ] No
How did that situation affect the relationship?
Let me know your thoughts. . .
I raised three children as a single mother before I remarried. I have experienced the potholes, pests, and perils of being the single head-of-household. As an educator in regular and special education for twenty years I know a great deal about child development and how to handle kids. I am the founder of SMORE for Women, a nonprofit whose goal is Single Moms, Overjoyed, Rejuvenated, and Empowered. I’m also a Certified Professional Coach and my stories have been published in several Christian books and magazines. My book, Living Learning Loving is available on CreateSpace, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble online.