Loneliness--a curse or a gift?

I am sitting sequestered today in a living room of a time share in Breckenridge, Co. attempting to write 5 chapters of my new book about joy. I would rather be outside where it is beautiful or downtown in a coffee shop or perusing one of the darling gift stores or at the Christmas baking party of one of my friends--where my daughters are--but here I am, stuck in this little room, alone, again, working, again! And ironically, today, I am supposed to be writing about joy in the difficulties of life! I think the Lord has a sense of humor. Loneliness has been a constant companion for me for many years. It causes me to ache inside sometimes. It brings tears to my eyes and a longing for community.  I long for like-minded kindred spirits who also like me! I loved what C.S. Lewis said, "We read to know we are not alone." I love having close, intimate friends, who "get" me.Those who know all about me and know my quirks and petty sins, and still get me. I also love being with like-minded friends who are passionate about the Lord, about ministry, about the Word and about family--who have ideals like mine, but who also love to have fun and celebrate life--my close friend must be someone who understands grace and giving grace--who has learned it by going around the track of life and by being humbles. There are not, in my intimate life, many who fit this longing and who also initiate to me--not many initiate to me. I also long for friends who both know and love my older children as well as Joy--as they are all--my older and younger family- a part of my heart and life.

But alas, so much of my life, I feel so alone, invisible in my needs to the world of hundreds of people who buzz in and out of my life.  Part of it is because there is very little contact with family or emotional support. My children have not had the privilege of knowing the closeness of family and consequently, we are most often alone on holidays. Part of it is because I am also busy and because I hold ideals that are in a minority in this culture in this day at this time. But I thought if I have felt it so often and for so many years, you might, too, and I wanted you to know you are not unusual or alone--there are many of us like you!

I think there are many who feel this loneliness. In a world of isolationism-breakdown of families for every reason--moving all over the world and being separated physically, divorce, differing ideals, and just plain lack of commitment. there is an isolation in neighborhoods and no longer the simple community of people who hold your values and your faith. Add to that, isolation in church--where the paradigm is often a value for working moms (all of us work, don't we?)  not always a value for those who stay at home with their children.

Yet, it has been this very loneliness that has driven me to the Lord. He has heard me over and over again and He has used this to open my heart to others who have needs, he has used it to humble me in my point of need so that I have more compassion for those who are also separated from support systems. As  a matter of fact, most of what I write about has come from my struggles. This particular puzzle of my life, which I have a choice to live out in grace and faith or to live in the darkness of depression, has been for me the story of a God who loves me and shows me life and grace and light in the midst. It is choosing to seek Him and to hold on to his hand and to believe in His friendship that I have found strength and a way to keep going.

I got a letter from a friend last night who lives far away from me (most of my oldest and closest friends live far away) who told me she doesn't really have any friends left who identify with her. Just this morning, I talked with another friend, who has been involved in our ministry for years, who was telling me the same thing. I could tell you of almost 30 women, all who are leaders and helping speaking or writing or ministering to many, many women who feel the same way. As they say, it is lonely at the top. These precious women all feel that they give and give and give, but rarely receive much personal affirmation or validation. I have learned over the years that most people just assume these women don't need more encouragement or love--Perhaps it is like th 10 blind men who are healed but only one turns to thank Jesus. All of these women would seem like the type who would have lots of friends and lots of support systems, and yet they are lonely because so few initiate to them and then in their weariness they are tempted to think that their work or lives do not matter and that no one loves them. It is just what happened to Elijah and sometime I will have the time to write what I have been learning about him and through him.

I also know so many young moms who struggle with loneliness in their own homes with their little children. One idealistic young mom cried with me last week saying, "I just went upstairs for 3 minutes to put up laundry and when I came downstairs, my 3 year old had used a permanent marker to draw all over the naked body of my 18 month old and then drawn on my favorite blouse and the carpet. I thought to myself, "Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? Take care of these children? Stay home by myself and do this day in and day out? Am I not more talented than this? Will I never have a bigger life?

I giggled at her story, but personally knew her feelings. She is so cute and fun and intelligent--just has her ideals about family life and children in a circle of friends who don't understand her or support her.

But, I just wanted you to know today, that you are not alone.God indeed loves you so much and is so very proud of your bringing life and beauty into your homes. He knows your struggles. He sees you and your needs to be loved and appreciated and filled up. He wants you to know that he likes fun and pleasures. Just this morning, I read, in His presence is fullness of joy, and in His right hand, pleasures forevermore. Just think about that--pleasures evermore! Psalm 30:5

He wants us to have pleasure. He made laughter and joy and food and color and music and hand holding and cuddling babies and puppies because he wants us to enjoy life. Consider with me, if you will, who would like for you to feel lonely? God or Satan? Who would just love for you to believe that your efforts aren't appreciated and don't matter? Satan, of course, would love for you to believe the lies!

So, if I could, I would have you all into my little living room right now for tea and chocolate. But as it is, I am going to pray for you. You must be a conductor of your own symphony and make a plan to place some pleasure, times with people, outings away from the messy home and sequestering  of too many sinful children and moms in one small place--going to a park--for an ice cream--or anywhere will change your mood--just don't stay and stew where you are--

As for me, I am going to work like a crazy woman for 3 more hours and then go to a cafe this afternoon for a cup of soup and a little walk on the mountain. I am going to call at least two friends--far away--and tell them I love them. I know I will go downhill in my feelings if I don't make a plan.

I am going to plan some fun Christmas outings with me and my girls and my friends who are in town later today--because I know that if I cultivate friendships and memories, I will myself be blessed. It is just the truth that most people I know have to initiate to others and most often, their initiation will not be reciprocated, but if they wait until someone else initiates, they might be waiting forever and not get to have fun--so you plan fun and bless others who are lonely.

As I am writing and researching my book on joy, I am finding that one has to resolve to grab joy, every day, even in the midst of life--to see beauty, to choose to dance, to reach out because He reaches out and He is living through us, to also believe in heaven and hope in future fulfillment and to hold God's hand and receive His love by faith and to keep sowing seeds of love in others so that eventually the seeds will grow fruit.

We must tightly hold on to the ideal of community and fight for it, as it is in the community of loving believers where the reality of God is most felt. I have been so blessed with a couple of friends who love me and reach out to me because they made a commitment to me--not because I deserve it, but because they know I need it--even though my busy life of ministry alienates me from most local activities. But I believe this is what God has called me to--and I do not want to shrink back--but I just need to keep reaching for friends and close companions in the midst of it. And I so need these sweet friends who took the risk to intervene in my life and to bless me.

And now, I also see, that the greatest gift of all in the midst of my family's isolation and moving so much has been that we are the closest of friends.My children didn't have lots of people and so I didn't have much competition! We loved and had fun with each other out of necessity and the end result was that we are friends and love and enjoy each other each day by phone and email, not because we have to, but because we truly enjoy each other and are interested in each other's lives. My children have also experienced this loneliness--not many peers like them in today's world. Yet they are learning to lean into the life God has given to them and they are all best friends! Even after so many years of fussing and tussling--they ended up in love.

So, if you are feeling lonely today, please know I understand and God understands and you are not invisible to Him--it isn't even because you have done anything wrong or because of your personality--it is just a consequence of life in a very fallen, isolated world. So, determine not to let it get you down. Like yourself today, to make a plan, create beauty and call someone else who just might have needed to know that they were not alone in the world.

Now back to writing! Sally

PS Happy Birthday today, Joel. Twenty-two years ago, I was delighted to pop you out after an hour and fifteen minutes of labor in that Austrian hospital with Dad, Gwen, a doctor and nurse all peering into the event. You are a blessing to me.