Loneliness is a hard thing, a depressing thing, and something that we all struggle with from time to time. There seem to be certain lonely seasons in our lives, times when life seems overwhelming, when we feel misunderstood, when we sink lower into our own thoughts, feelings, and sadness. Loneliness can be crippling to the heart and the soul.
But someone much wiser than I told me something this morning: Loneliness is also very much about choice.
And she was right. While it’s true that I can’t control others and how they view me, while it’s true that I can’t magically force others to invite me or include me, I can do something about my loneliness.
What can I do about loneliness?
Well, here are some ideas:
Pray about it
If we pray about our kids, our money, our stress – why not pray for a friend? God says in Philippians 4:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Wouldn’t a friend be included in that everything? Don’t you think the God that knows you, loves you, and molds you also sees and cares for your lonely heart? Tell him your burden and ask for a friend.
Be open to finding the unexpected
Sometimes, when we pray, we have a very specific list of criteria:
Lord, please grant me a friend. I’d like her to be a great cook and invite me over for dinner. I’d like her kids to be the same age as my kids. And I would love for her to be in the same neighborhood as me and the same church. Oh, and that she likes coffee.
It’s not wrong to want those things in a friend – or to find them. But sometimes, God answers our prayers in ways we don’t at first see:
In the mom who’s ten years older than I am, who is sleeping through the night, who remembers those days of newborns and milk and poop, and yet, has sanity because she is past that exhausting stage. She blesses me with her humor and her experience. She teaches me how to be a better mom.
In the single college aged friend who doesn’t yet have kids. Who reminds me of how blessed I am to have found a Christian man to build my life with. Whose passionate, spiritual nature reminds me of how I need to grow and stretch and read and challenge myself. Who inspires me to be a better Christian.
In the older woman, whose kids are out of the house. She is my “mom away from mom.” She is steady, not hormonal, and so real. She doesn’t pretend like she did it all perfectly and talking with her makes me want to grow mature, like she did. It makes growing older look like something precious, beautiful, and Godly.
God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we expect. But He does always give us what we need.
Put yourself out there
The funny thing about feeling sad or lonely or left out – is that a lot of other people also feel that way. All it takes is one person reaching out to make someone else sparkle and brighten.
A text to invite another mom on a playdate.
A Facebook message to ask someone over for coffee.
A blanket invite to your ladies’ Bible study class to come over and watch a movie at your house. (Popcorn’s cheap, right?)
Yes, it’s hard to be the one to reach out, but if everyone has that thought, no one would ever do anything! Perhaps you will be the highlight of someone else’s lonely day. Never underestimate how the Lord can use you.
So today, if you’re lonely, know that you aren’t alone. And I challenge you to do something about it. Do it with me. We might just find that God has something beautiful in store, if we will only act.
Today, I pruned our rose bushes. This is not my favorite job, even at the best of times. It certainly is not my favorite while being eight months pregnant. Pruning is hard work–prickly, back ache-y, and tough.
Pruning is Necessary
And yet, any gardener worth his salt will tell you that you need to prune your rose bushes. Something happens, even though it seems backwards. That cutting and snipping–with those awful, sharp scissors–it seems merciful that plants don’t have feeling! It would be horrible to feel each clip and snip, to watch your former glory fall off, dead and useless to the cold, wintry ground.
But it does something wonderful for the rose bush. You see, not only does the rosebush grow back, it grows back fuller, richer, more beautifully. The rose bush needed to have its branches pruned, no matter how painful (for the bush or for the cutter) in order for the rose to be at its best and most beautiful.
A Parallel in Our Own Lives
Isn’t that how we are with God? John 15:2 says:
Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
God knows exactly what we are capable of. And although pruning is certainly a better alternative to being thrown away, we know it to be painful in our own lives. When God’s deft, loving, and wise fingers prune me, it hurts. It hurts when sin must be ripped out of the dark corners of my life. It hurts when old, selfish habits must be relearned and bettered. When I must change my heart and my actions, it hurts. Because change is hard and often painful.
Pruning Sin from My Life Makes Me More Like Jesus
But I can also take hope. Just as I pruned my rosebushes, not with malice but with an eye to the future, with an understanding that it was for the bush’s best interests, certainly the Master Gardener, the Creator, the Almighty, will prune me with such thoughts. It may sting a little in the meantime, but in the end, I can be even more beautiful than a rose. I can be a reflection of Christ himself.
A few weeks ago, a post of mine about “The Secret to a Successful Quiet Bag” was reposted. It really sparked my thinking.
I have been immensely blessed in my life with several older moms who have shared their wisdom, experience, and humor with me. They have done so with grace, with understanding, and with much love. They help keep me grounded and they help keep me going, even when it seems I will be swallowed by dishes, dirty laundry, and discipline!
I asked several of them the practical “how-to” of putting together a quiet bag for little ones. The following is a compilation of their wisdom and one or two ideas of mine:
The Quiet Bag
- Do only put quiet items in there. (The noise-making trucks and dolls that cry are mesmerizing to kids, but are like your cell phone ringing–they only ever make noise during the quietest point of worship!)
- Do switch it out monthly. (Everyone gets bored with the same stuff.)
- Do store it in a place where your child can’t play with it during the week. (That way, by Sunday, those items are “new” and therefore more exciting.)
- Do try to wait to open it till the sermon (or perhaps the Lord’s Supper. When my little guy was younger, I would have a special book and fun jewelry for him to look at during the Lord’s Supper and then would open his special quiet bag during the sermon). Don’t waste your bag of tricks until you really need it!
- If your child has a snack mid-morning, do include a snack in your quiet bag! Just make sure that it is easy to clean up. There WILL be spills. Often on yourself.
- Try to include things that are church- or God-oriented if you can. (This doesn’t always work, but if you have some Bible board books, it is great to get your little one thinking about Godly things and associating God with worship time!)
- Do have everything prepared BEFORE Sunday morning. That saves your sanity as well as your time. Somehow, Sunday mornings don’t seem to have as much time in them as other days of the week!
- Don’t feel bad if your kid doesn’t like what you put in there! He/she is a person too, with their own likes and dislikes. Just switch out the items for something they enjoy more.
Items you could include in your quiet bag
- Coloring book and crayons
- Stickers and notepad
- Fake wallet (It may be unwise to hand them your actual driver’s license and debit card!)
- Soft toys/stuffed animals
- Lacing cards
- Items that button, zip, or snap (an old wallet, old Bible cover, etc.)
What would you add? God bless you and your littles as you train them to know and worship God!
You’re in the middle of worship. The entire church has their heads bowed in fervent, quiet prayer when suddenly your kid erupts like a verbal volcano and discovers that your previously vetted out and carefully chosen toy can be:
- whacked noisily against the pew in front of you,
- launched like a Cuban missile onto the other side of the auditorium,or
- just in general be likened to an explosion of sound and excitement.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt that mixture of panic, frustration, and embarrassment. These things never seem to happen in the middle of a great, noisy, swelling song, only during Communion or a prayer! So what’s the secret to making your quiet bag a success? I’m here with the answers. Maybe…
Pack in grace for yourself. Grace for your kid. Grace knowing that no matter how hard you try or how well you prepare, you can’t always be perfect or utterly quiet or completely still. And that’s OK.
I’m not saying to let your kid run loose on Sunday morning while throwing him goldfish in the middle of the sermon. But I am saying that it’s OK if neither you or your kid are perfect. Give yourself the grace that you would extend to other moms. And find peace in the fact that God sees your efforts and will reward them.
I know. This is like a dirty word with Christians. The problem with praying for patience is that you get it, right?
But you’ll need it. You need lots and lots and lots of patience to quiet your kids, to miss yet another chunk of the worship service, to smile instead of strangle.
Patience is knowing that you’re doing this for the end game. Nobody in their right mind says, “Boy, that mother of two toddlers and a baby is coming to church and just filling her spiritual cup to overflowing.”
What she’s doing is showing her kids that even when it’s hard for her, even when it’s not ideal for her, even when she may only get five minutes out of the worship service–it is still the most important thing to do. There is nothing more important than going to worship the Creator of the Universe. To give Him the praise and adoration He deserves. And to teach our kids to do the very same.
A Sense of Humor
This is, perhaps, the key to surviving not just a worship service, but motherhood in general! Laughing at the crazy, the ludicrous, and the full moon coming out in your kid (and perhaps you!) is the best way to relieve your stress.
It’s OK to find it funny when your son has a poopsplosion in the middle of opening prayer. And It’s OK to giggle when he happily shares his now-slimy cheerios with the little widow you chose to sit next to this morning. Finding joy in these moments is perfectly OK!
Without joy, you’ll turn into a little ball of stress–and that’s no fun for anyone.
So this Sunday, good luck! And good mothering!
Be encouraged by these posts as well!
It starts with:
What? You teach kids in Bible class? Bless your sweet heart! You really drew the short straw.
These people are well meaning, good-intentioned people. They are people who love me.
But they don’t get me–or why I teach.
Bless my heart? I drew the short straw?
When I get to watch little eyes light up as I pull cotton balls and blue felt out of a box and pass it around? You see, God made the sky and the clouds.
When I get to hear the audible gasp as the Tower of Babel (built on a smaller scale with blocks and not bricks) falls with a crash? You see, God’s power is bigger than men’s.
When I see the wonder and awe on a little face as I turn a bowl of water red with a few food coloring drops? You see, God can do anything, including turning the Nile into blood.
Bless my heart? I drew the short straw?
The Blessings of Teaching
When I hear the cry of “Mrs. Tracy! Mrs. Tracy!” when I step inside the church building and feel little hands flung around my waist in excitement? You see, there’s no exuberance or excitement quite like that of a little child.
When I am tugged by the energetic little hand of a student to come meet her people? You see, I am someone she wants to introduce to her mom or her grandpa.
When I feel a quiet hand slip into mine and I’m met with the quiet, content smile of a gentle soul, untouched by worldliness? You see, there’s a reason God told us to become like little children.
Bless my heart? I drew the short straw?
I get the most important, most weighty privilege in the universe–that of teaching minds and molding hearts to know and be like Jesus. Children still want to learn; they are not yet jaded by the world and its ways. They believe, they listen, they laugh–freely and beautifully.
Bless my heart? I drew the short straw?
I’m sorry, friend. I wasn’t unlucky. I don’t deserve that sympathy. Because I get to teach children’s Bible class. And I like it.
[B]ut Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”