HER STORY: by jamee hudson
I was twelve when my dad died. He was the safety under which I knew freedom and light heartedness. After his second battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and a successful bone marrow transplant, he succumbed to a stroke resulting in a coma. We waited. We prayed. We let go. I will forever remember that day.
It was a cold, foggy morning in November when we turned the life support off. Later when we returned home, I remember waiting long after the house fell silent to slip outside. We lived in a log house in the country, tucked away on seven acres of woods. All I can recall was a desperate need for the sharp cold air on my skin and in my lungs. Finding a private spot, I sat in the light of the full moon and stared up at it blankly. The moon was a symbol of my childhood, innocence, holding all sorts of magic. That night, I prayed it would finally answer a wish, hoping its beams really did possess something magical and supernatural.
As sharp as the air around, so was my awareness. From where I sat, I looked out at the blackness surrounding me. I was tucked in such a small portion of the moon’s protective light. Like a switch, that blackness became darker and alive. The mantel of protection I’d never recognized, the priestly head that had presided over me, evaporated. Fear started to fill the gaps in my chest. Any sense of safety, of security that I had once felt as a child was gone and the darkness crept ever closer.
As I cringed from an invisible force, I felt a pause in the atmosphere and something open. More clearly than I could ever describe, a question probed at my mind.
“What happens to the fatherless girl?”
As if a movie reel in my mind’s eye, I saw a fatherless girl whose heart ached to fill the gap with crude interpretations of love and in the process shattering anything else that remained of her.
I thought, “No. That is not me! I don’t choose that! I don’t want that! Is there another option?”
Then another clip played. Another fatherless girl who removed her heart from any viewing eye, locking it behind thick stonewalls. Her protective shields prevented her from experiencing love to its fullest, causing a stagnation and decay that ate away at her slowly.
“No! I don’t choose that either.” Hopelessness clutched at my fate, believing that only two options lay before me. “There has to be another,” I pleaded.
“There is,” the answer echoed in my head. “You can choose Me.”
Timidly I wondered, “Well, what does that look like?”
“I can’t show you. You just have to choose. Choose Me and I’ll show you along the way.”
Every day since, I wake up and say, “I surrender. I choose You,” and Jesus has kept His word. I’ve never been alone or abandoned. That night when I made my choice, the darkness died and I stared at the moon with a new kind of promise and purpose in my heart. A promise of His true love and a purpose to learn what true love really is.
Here are a few things He’s shown me, so far, from “along the way”.
I’m twenty-four now. God is more tangibly my father than my memories of my earthly one are. There are so many lessons where He’s stepped in to teach me and challenge me to learn the things my dad wasn’t here to show me. Together, God has taken me on many adventures that have allowed me to travel a bit, accomplish some, see a little and change me a lot. Most of that has been just the two of us. Some might call that being “single”. “Single” denotes isolation, wanting, aimlessness. However, that word has a lonely connotation which simply doesn’t suit a daughter of God.
It wasn’t until I was twenty-one that I went on a real date. The few experiences I’ve had of that nature since have shown me a certain value in being purposeful in my singleness. As the vast majority of us ladies, I too desire to be married with a family. Truth is though, at the moment, I’m not. So what are we told to do in the mean time?
Problem is, we take that word and don’t know what to do with it
When I hear, “wait”, I immediately conjure images of standing in line, arms crossed, sighing and checking the clock every thirty seconds only to see it move counterclockwise. But we stand there, in line, waiting, because we believe there is something at the end of it. We practice faith here. In faith, I know God has someone for me and I trust that He will prepare us and bring us together. Faith, though, will always give you something to do and trust takes action.
When we watch a chick-flick, ooh and aah over a romantic story, daydream about perfect moments, our hearts flutter over long looks and tender words. The feelings that we associate with this would make us feel cherished and beautiful. We’re building expectations of how we want to BE loved. Yet, how often do we daydream about how TO love? I had a lot of ideas on how to appreciate me, but not on how to appreciate someone else. Several of us have a list of qualities we appreciate in a man. (Side note of wisdom: Remember to keep that list as things you appreciate, not expectations.) It’s time though, to start working on our lists of what kind of wives we want to be and the loving homes we want to make. Let me show you where I began with this list.
Remember the two images of a fatherless daughter? One clutched for love, the other cringed from it. All along, it’s never been about searching for love, nor hiding from it. It is about choosing TO love every day. Since the Bible says, “…for God so loved the world, He gave…” (John 3:16), then by learning to give is how I will learn to love.
So I ask myself, do I really have the capacity to give inexhaustibly and unconditionally as God has? That’s a big “no”. In pursing Jesus and exercising that kind of generosity in my daily interactions and relationships, however, I will learn. This is where I came up with what I call a new kind of Hope Chest.
Most might recall what a hope chest is if you’ve ever watched period piece movies. A hope chest was a trunk in which a young hopeful woman would collect things for her future home. The day she’d leave her parents’ home and move to her husband’s house, from her trunk she’d unpack carefully crafted and embroidered things to decorate her house, making it a home, warm and inviting. Prayers, dreams, and hopes went into that chest. Still, it also represented the skills she mastered and the time she invested.
The fashion of the day doesn’t necessarily call for embroidered cushions and crocheted doilies, but the intent of preparing for our homes is still a prevalent need. In fact, God gave us the Proverbs 31 woman as an illuminator to treasures in a well stocked Hope Chest. Check out Proverbs 31 and dissect it for yourself. For now, here’s an abbreviate version of a few things I found in this treasure chest.
Practical things include learning how to cook. Cook for two, cook for twenty. How to plan a meal ahead and always have something for you family to eat. Learn how to host and be a gracious hostess. There are many basic things like how to clean, do laundry, iron, mend clothing. Then take all these things and learn how to do these them regularly, working them into a routine. Don’t forget the kids. We need to learn how to care for and teach children of various ages. Care for our health and bodies, dressing in way that honors and glorifies God. How about learning how to handle finances- make payments, budget, save money, save coupons, pre-plan shopping, to bargain shop and so on.
That list goes on. It wasn’t enough that she knew how to do certain things, but she knew how to manage and run a household. Where do we gather these things from? We have a wealth of wonderful godly woman at church, in your family, in your community as guides and examples. There is some rich wisdom and many skills hidden an arm’s reach away from you. Ask. Seek. It wouldn’t be treasure if you didn’t have the courage to hunt and work for it. Then listen, listen, listen and practice, practice, practice.
This Hope Chest doesn’t just stop with the practical though. Interlaced with the accomplishment of Proverbs 31 woman, are many less obvious traits that take longer to cultivate.
Learning how to be engaged and engaging, how to be an encourager, discerning, gracious, peaceable, diligent, self-disciplined, judicious, modest, trustworthy, grateful, compassionate, servant hearted, wise; have respect and fear of the Lord; how to respond to and follow authority; to be faithful and loving. (See Proverbs 11:16, 22: 21:9, Act 9:36, 1 Corinthians 11:10, 1 Timothy 2:9-11, 3:11, Titus 2:2-5)
It can seem daunting, in fact, impossible. Having this list is not an absolute mandate, but more of a guide. We work on these things our entire lives (Remember that your Prince Charming will not be perfect either or have a completed list and will be continuing to grow. I put graciousness on that list, right?). Rarely is something of great value ever attained overnight. The point is not to check off lists. Instead, single or not, right now we’re fulfilling God’s purpose for us as women, as life givers.
In the meantime, here’s a picture of what you are working towards by investing in this Hope Chest and how to use it in the mean time.
In Singleness Purpose: Recipient(s)- Everyone you will ever encounter. Problem with the Hope Chest idea is we might get stuck in thinking it is solely reserved for marriage. Truth is though, as much as we continue to add to it, we also give from it. That’s how it grows. My entire life I will always be pouring into this trunk. I hope, when I am old and gray, its latches are as worn out as the pages of my Bible. The handy thing about it too, is that neither moths nor rust will destroy its contents (Matthew 6:20). Right now I get to practice these things with my friends, my family, the stranger in the coffee shop, the kid on the curb, at work, at school, at play. I will continue to practice long after wedding bells have rang too, because I keep in mind that marriage isn’t my ultimate goal. Marriage will one day impact how I travel on my journey, but it is not my destination.
Marital Purpose: Recipient(s)- You, your husband, and children. When the honeymoon ends and marital bliss flies out the window, you’re exhausted and your husband comes home about to take his bad day at work out on you, you press the pause button and reach into your Hope Chest. From inside, you retrieve empathy, a listening ear and heart, encouragement, prayer, and comfort. You don’t have to learn it on the fly because you’ve practiced it and stored it securely with care. You’ve also made a home that is a place of safety and rest, an oasis, which you both can retreat to after long days and crazy lives. When you are unable to give of yourself, you have a treasure of strength to draw from in order to love selflessly.
One of the things I remember about my dad is how he was both a dreamer and a doer. Being the first in his family to not only graduate high school, he also went on to put himself through Civil Engineering school at O.S.U. with a wife and child. I watched him dream and do with my mom, and how they rose and fell when they tried them out. He would set his mind on something and worked away at it. Some of that, I hope, transpired to me. Per his example and Proverbs 31 woman, take what is important to you, are your passions and interests, and pursue them. For example, going to college without loans was a priority for me, so this March, after five years of study and hard work, I'll finish my undergrad from P.S.U., debt free. Using that education and experiences abroad, I've been a private foreign language teacher during the last two and a half years. Even being at Solid Rock and all the amazing opportunities here have challenged me and touched my love to serve. There are a handful of various things that I enjoy and dream of, but the point is that I try to explore and invest in them.
Waiting isn't stationary, as we might believe. Have you ever heard, "you'll meet the man while you are doing what you are passionate about"? I have heard it too. Regardless of his arrival though, life is waiting to show us all its hidden treasures and the woman we can become, along the way, as we serve and fall in love with our Creator. Follow God's pulse in your heart. Proverbs 31 woman was a passionate woman, an adventurer who tested her limits and explored her talents. God designed and created talents, gifts and interests in you to discover, enjoy and learn to know Him through. We are made to be life givers, but it takes being full of life first. Pursue Jesus. Challenge your interests. Develop your skills. Invest in your character. Edify others before yourself. Discover a great and true love.
Our journeys will look different from one another. We are all traveling towards one Man, though. His heart is the one I want to capture. “Along the way” He may have someone for me to travel with. In the meantime, every day I will wake up to surrender to Jesus and to choose Him. Each day I do this is a day He will use to cultivate things in my Hope Chest. When I loose myself and am distracted away from Him, He meets me, sometimes beneath that same moon, where Jesus reminds me of how He’s been my ever present, faithful Father, constant Companion and the Lover of my whole being. In the winter of my life, I will be able to look back and see the fullness of true love from my life as a single woman.
The truest Love you will ever know already resides with you.
Misty Edwards sings “Arms Wide Open” that really resonates with this story. I hope you enjoy.