Monday, March 31, 2014

My Single Voice

I hesitate to broach this topic.  I roll my eyes when people are vocal about being single.  Yet here I am, talking about it.  If I didn't feel this was important to my progression and inner peace, I wouldn't do it.  But something compels me forward, so I will continue.
Today was fast Sunday in my ward.  As I approached Heavenly Father in prayer, I told Him I was going to fast about being single.  I honestly did not know what I wanted Him to help me with concerning this topic. Praying to find a husband did not seem appropriate or productive; yet, I knew I was struggling and needed heavenly aid. I also knew He would show me whatever it was I needed to know, even though I did not know the right questions to ask.  While at church, I had an overwhelming desire to share the millions of feelings, fears, and hopes I have concerning this topic.  I got out a notebook and made a diagram that I will attempt to flesh out in this essay.  My hope is that my words can validate the feelings of others and help them feel less alone in this unique (yet not so unique) scenario of being a “mid-single.”  In so doing, I hope to personally garner hope and encouragement.  This topic is not an easy one for me.
Who I am
I am Kathryn Elizabeth Houston. I am thirty years old. I am not married, nor do I have children.  I am an educator. I am a musician.  I am a hopeless romantic.  Above my front door hangs a sign that says, “Real love stories never have endings.”  I talk too much when I’m nervous, especially around boys I like. I hate talking on the phone.  But I am expressive, which is often an asset. I want to do what’s right; yet, I feel guilty about everything I’m doing wrong 90% of the time.  I am desperately self-conscious; yet, I am aware of all I have to offer.  I am a daughter of a loving God and, consequently, I have divine potential.  My number one desire in life is to be a wife and mother and to raise my children to know they, too, are children of a loving Heavenly Father. 
Lately, I have been working my way through my single years kicking and screaming.  I have resisted accepting who I am and what I have.  I burst with questions, seeking an explanation for my present circumstances and hoping for a definitive answer regarding my future.  I have come to recognize this behavior as a hindrance to my peace.  We are promised in the scriptures that if we approach the Lord in humility with our personal weaknesses, He will help us win our greatest internal battles (Ether 12:27). The time has come for me to tackle this head on, and with a heart finally humbled, that is what I intend to do.   
What I feel
Being single when the majority of my friends (LDS or otherwise) are married brings with it feelings that perhaps seem illogical to those viewing the situation from an outside perspective.  I hope to identify some of these emotions in words, which is no easy task. 
As a mid-single woman, I feel like I need to prove my worth.  When I meet a man, I perceive myself as automatically in competition with droves of single women.  In order to stand out, I have to be thin, beautiful, clever, spiritual, talented, witty, not too forward, but not too boring, flirtatious, but not desperate, etc.  It becomes exhausting and is, quite frankly, impossible.  My mission reunion is this weekend.  I am nervous to go for one reason alone.  The grand majority of missionaries are married with children.  I have to show everyone that though I am not married, I am not weird or socially awkward.  I worry I have failed in the game of life because they all moved to the next step and I am seemingly in limbo.  This, of course, isn’t true, but I don’t have anything physical (like a husband or child) to prove I have grown and progressed since I returned home seven years ago.
I feel lonely.  As I have gotten older and my siblings have all left home, I realize more keenly that everyone in my family has someone.  My parents and siblings have their spouses. My little sister has a thriving social life as a freshman at BYU. I remember those days fondly.  But I am well into my career now and independent. I have less close friends around me and less desire to go to dances and activities.  What I want is someone with whom I may share my successes, failures, and funny stories when I get home from work each day.  Of course I can call my family members, but they have other people they need to prioritize.  The way I see it, a husband and wife should put the Lord first, and then one another. I long for someone who desires to put me second to the Lord and I will do the same.  I feel like I have gotten to know Katie Houston very well the past few years, as I have relied more and more on myself and the Lord to get through daily challenges. 
I ache for children, especially lately.  As I hold my nephew, I mourn for what I am missing and what I fear I will never have.  The older I get, the faster time flies, which is terrifying to me.   One of the most difficult things for me as a single woman is to embrace an unknown future. 
This is from a Mary Engelbreit tear-off calendar and hangs on my office window.  There will be more peppered throughout this essay, all of which are displayed where I can look at them every day!
Lastly, I feel few people understand these feelings.  That seems like a childish complaint.  It is not intended to be.  I don't think being a single LDS woman at thirty is a horrific trial.  There are so many things that are much more painful. But I do think some of the emotions accompanying single life past thirty are difficult to understand for those who have not experienced them.  That is one of the reasons I wanted to write this in a public forum.  Perhaps we can offer support to one another.
What I think
Allow me to preface this section with the personal acknowledgement that these thoughts are not necessarily rational, nor do they come from Heavenly Father.  They are recurring, however, and impede my progress.  I have a strong suspicion there are many who can relate, and for that reason, I will be candid. 
I tend to invent reasons why I would be single when so many others have their own families. One of my most common conclusions is that the Lord must not think I am ready.  This is a destructive line of thought because I assume all married people must have figured out whatever I didn't and I feel inferior.  Sometimes, I target personal behaviors as explanation for not being married.  I think my situation would be different if only I weren’t so loud, if only I talked less, if only I weren’t so self-conscious, etc.  Again, this is a dangerous way of thinking because none of us are perfect.  Whether we are single, dating, married, divorced, or widowed, we all have weaknesses.  Deciding my weaknesses are keeping me from an eternal relationship puts me below my fellow men.  Are we not ALL beggars? Do we not all rely on the same God for mercy? (Mosiah 4:19)  The faithful are all promised eternal blessings of marriage and family.  The only "catch" is that the timetable for the receipt of these blessings will be determined by someone much wiser than we are. 
Sometimes, my thoughts take on a different form.  For example, there are so many LDS women in my position.  I have visited two mid-singles wards with 6 relief societies and 3 elder’s quorums.  It appears there are not enough men for all of us to achieve our goal of temple marriage.  I think to myself, “Why should I expect to be one who gets married when there are so many ultra-faithful women who want it just as badly as I do?”  I feel I should accept my single status and take myself out of the running so someone else can have the opportunity.  As difficult as it is to be single, I know I will survive.  I feel richly blessed to have a stable job and a loving family.  Who am I to ask for more?
Another persistent thought is that no one wants or needs to hear about this trial anymore.  It has been the same sob story for years.  I’m single. Boo hoo. Now get over it.  There are much harder things in life.  I am sick of complaining about it.  In my quiet moments of discouragement, I don’t want to discuss it with anyone because I know it’s not something anyone can change for me.  I don’t want to burden my family yet again with the same tale of woe. Unfortunately, this increases feelings of isolation and loneliness. 
Another thought that troubles me is that other people must be wondering what I did wrong. Goodness knows I have been guilty of brainstorming reasons why so and so is not married; therefore, I can only assume others wonder the same about me.  In my heart, I feel like I have tried my hardest.  Could I have done things differently? Sure. But would that make me happily married today? I doubt it.  
Perhaps the most discouraging thought I have is that I am the person young girls don’t want to be.  When I was in the Young Women program as a teenager, I thought being single past 24 was a fate worse than death.  I felt pained on behalf of single women who were the age I am now (or younger!).  I never wanted to be in their situation.  Now, as a counselor in the stake Young Women presidency, I wonder what I can offer these young girls.  How can I help them not have the same attitude I had? How can I instill in them hope while simultaneously accepting that my life did not turn out the way I thought it would? 
What I know
I know that Satan does not want me to be happy. He wants me to loathe myself and feel inadequate.  The Lord, on the other hand, wants me to have infinite and complete happiness.
I know the Lord knows what I need much better than I do.  He can see the big picture. He knows what’s around every corner.  He knows in what capacities I am most needed.  He also knows the desires of my heart.  He knows I want to be a mother.  He is guiding me every day towards that goal, even though I have no idea how long it will take me to get there. He will fulfill His promise to me of having an eternal family of my own if I remain faithful and serve Him to the best of my ability.

Even though sometimes I struggle not to feel this way, being single is not a punishment.  If anything, the fact that I am as yet unmarried is a witness of the Lord’s love for me.  He has saved me from myself on more than one occasion because of his eternal perspective.   
My family loves me exactly how I am.  They love me because of who I am.  Loving me is not impossible.  Sometimes I need to remind myself of that when it feels like being loved is an unattainable goal.  
I gave a leadership training two weeks ago at a ward conference as part of my calling in the stake. I expressed to the ward leaders my fears of not knowing how to help the young women as a mid-single sister.  I told them the answer I received from the Lord was that my marital status does not affect my ability to have the Spirit with me always.  If I keep my covenants and partake of the Sacrament every week, I can be filled with the Spirit. I can have the light of Christ in my life.  I can try to be like Him.  When we study the life of the Savior in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, we focus on the way He interacted with people and how he showed His love for us, not on his dating life or His marital status.  Of course, I do not mean to diminish the importance of eternal marriage. It is part of the Lord's divine plan for us, and I will will be striving for it every day.  But my life can still have an abundance of purpose as a single woman.

What I’m striving for
I am striving to remember that the Lord hasn't forgotten me, and He never will.  
One of my main goals is to love myself.  I want to always seek improvement, but I want to feel at peace with who I am.  I have nothing to be ashamed of.  I no longer want to define my worth as a woman by whether or not I am a mother or a wife.  I still firmly believe there is no greater calling on earth than that of a mother; however, not being one does not diminish my individual worth.  Just as we are asked to serve in different capacities in our church callings, so it is in life.  I am not a mother, but I am a teacher.  This life calling has helped me discover my divine worth. 
I am striving not to view every time I meet a man as an audition for future wife.  I don't need to prove my worth.  If I live worthy of the light of Christ, others will see that.  And living in His light is the very best thing I can do.  I am not going to be the right match for every guy I am interested in, no matter how perfectly I conduct myself when we meet. When the moment is right, a great guy and I will recognize in each other someone we want to know better. 
Being patient is one of my biggest challenges.   If a boy I am interested in doesn't call me one day after we meet, I decide I must have done something to blow it.  I want to be more patient and understand that relationships don't develop over night.

Above everything, I want to strive to be like my Savior, Jesus Christ, the light of the world.  When we follow Him, we will walk in happiness, peace, and light (John 8:12).  No matter what discouragement we face, loving and living as He did is the key to our happiness.  I have learned through my own experience and that of others that there is no substitution for living a faith centered life.  
"I'll raise my voice in praise and joy, in grand amens my tongue employ. I believe in Christ!"

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March Moments

Mattress Fundraiser
Our goal is to raise $35,000 to replace the following items:

Ugly chairs, broken stands
Hideous, ancient shell and cumbersome, outdated risers.

Friends like Caytlin and Kelsey came out to support us! Loved the chance to hold Sydney :-).
And ALLIE and CHRIS actually ended up buying a mattress! Wahoo!!

Kids went outside and held signs, some dressed like mattresses.
 We ended up selling 58 mattresses and got $675 in donations. On our own, we raised about $10,000. Our principal was able to come up with the rest of the money we needed to buy our new equipment next year!  We are sooooo grateful.

 Many's Birthday Weekend

We kicked it off with a little shopping...
...followed by our fav restaurant Magelby's (though not the same without Tessa!)...
...followed by visiting Scottums...
...followed by Magelby's fresh the next morning!
I was sad not to get the French toast, but this is a pretty darn good gluten free alternative.

When Many was out getting a tire fixed, my friend Andrew and I went to Zurcher's and decorated the condo as a surprise!

We went to the Art City Trolley for dinner, and it was delightful!

We were joined by more of Many's friends!

We headed back to the condo for cake, ice-cream sundaes, and games.
Spot it! (Not my forte).


Many's boyfriend decorated the cake himself with Kit-Kats and M&M's!

And then I took selfies with the birthday girl's crown. Shameless.

I want this picture in my blog journal forever.
I love spending time with this little curly-headed cutie. She is getting two little brothers very soon!
Mastering Guitar Hero
And here is the band teacher, pregnant with twins, kicking my trash at guitar hero!
Me and my cousin
We went to the Habit for my cousin's birthday.  So good to catch up.  I'm so lucky to have such a good friend for a cousin! We're the same age and have always been close.