ARTICLES BY COLLEEN CHAO

Category: Waiting

Category: Waiting

person holding baby s hand
Motherhood

When motherhood comes late

[When I wrote this over three years ago, I knew of only one other “older mom” of younger kids. I was in uncharted waters. Since then, I’ve met many more women in this same boat. If you’re feeling at all “late” or “laughable,” I hope this will encourage you….] September 2013 From four years old on, I dreamed of nothing less than growing up to marry and have kids. But the fact is, I got started late—at least according to my preconceived ideas and biological clock. And due to some ongoing health issues, I’m not able to bear more children. But God gave me a son. After years of wondering whether I’d ever get to be a mom, I experienced the glory and pain of pregnancy, and then in one miraculous moment, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy whose name means, Appointed by God. Exalted by God. It was as if someone handed me the sun, moon, and stars when they lifted Jeremy from my womb and into my arms. I was forever changed. To be sure, though, it’s different starting a family at age 35. Friends my age have multiple kids much older than my two-year-old. I’m knee-deep in diapers, ABC’s, and 5:00-AM wake-up calls, while they’re navigating karate lessons, homework, and the early teen years. I’ll admit, sometimes I even feel a little dumb. I walk into a mom’s group as a 37-year-old with one toddler, and the 28-year-old next to me has twin babies strapped to her chest, a 3-year-old tugging at her pants, and a 5-year-old dancing circles around her. When moms exchange stories and advice, I keep silent. What could I possibly contribute to the experts’ conversation? I’m light years behind, and I know it. Even simple math can intimidate me: when Jeremy is 15 years old, I’ll be 50. When he’s 25, I’ll be 60. That’s weird. Or maybe it’s just weird because I’m looking around me to define normal. It’s weird because I spent over two decades of my life dreaming of an entirely different reality. And it’s weird because I’m shortsighted and I forget to “set my mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” I’ve been entrusted with the care and nurture of an eternal soul, so my work as a mother must be eternally minded. God wanted me to be Jeremy’s mother, and He wants the story He’s written in my life to be part of Jeremy’s spiritual heritage. My long wait for marriage and motherhood is integral to His good plan for my son. In the end, my motherhood won’t be evaluated by my age, number of children, or how I compared to others. It will be evaluated by my faith in God, by what I did with what He gave me. That looks so different for each of us, doesn’t it? The more I’ve rubbed shoulders with a diversity of women, the more I’ve come to realize that regardless of age, stage, or number of children, most moms feel like I do: a bit of a misfit, trusting God through unique challenges, and sometimes feeling isolated by the nonstop needs of parenting. It’s in our human nature to think that no one else could ever understand our particular set of circumstances or the unseen pressures we navigate each day. But what makes us unique can also bind us together. I can learn from the mom twelve years my junior. I need the input of my wise single friends. I seek practical advice from the older woman who raised an only child. I listen intently to the dear friend who mothers a special needs child—and to the one who grieves her ongoing infertility. And at the end of the day, it’s just me and my husband on our knees before God, seeking His heart for our little man, asking for the wisdom He promises to give us. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Centuries ago, God took a husband and wife whose bodies “were as good as dead” and gave them a son. It was an impossible, laughable set of circumstances—so much so that the old husband and wife named their newborn “Isaac,” which means he laughs. When that miracle son had a son himself, and that son gave birth to more sons, and they in turn became “many and mighty,” God said to them: Listen to me…. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him. For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. I wasn’t old like Sarah when I gave birth to my son, but I still have pangs of grief over what could have been (those three or four older kids I would have had by now). Yet I feel the weight of God’s glory in this altered reality. Motherhood isn’t an arrival—it’s another way I get to worship God. The God who knows best. The God who gathers me up in His arms and gently whispers, “I am never late. I am never wrong.” Scriptures referenced: Colossians 3:2; Genesis 21; Romans 4:16-25; Exodus 1:1-8; Isaiah 51:1-3 Photo credit: Karen Race McCutcheon Photography. Lorelei Conover Photography.

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woman sitting on edge of rock formation
Singleness

Navigating the undefined relationship

It’s the agony and the ecstasy, isn’t it? An amazing godly man shows interest in you, and you want to know if this is “the one.” Like, now. Fear looms on the horizon and the emotional stakes are high. You want to do the right thing, you long to honor the Lord, but what does that look like in this undefined relationship? How do you risk the chance at love while guarding your heart from unnecessary anguish? I spent long years wrestling with this question, and it has been the subject of countless conversations with other single friends. We girls long for clarity, guarantees, and a fail-proof method for falling in love with the right guy at the right time. But the hard truth is—there are none. After many years of singleness, I realized I’d been given only one Guarantee in life, and his name is Jesus. The rest is not promised to me. While I was in the thick of this struggle as a single woman, I wrote a list of principles that helped me navigate these emotionally-charged, confusing, fearful places. 9 PRINCIPLES FOR NAVIGATING THE UNDEFINED RELATIONSHIP Pursue sincere love. “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” 1 Peter 1:22 Pray, pray, pray. Then pray some more! (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Pick someone else’s brain. Seek wisdom and input from wise, godly people in your life. Surround yourself with truth-tellers who love you and want what’s best for you. (Proverbs 15:22) Practice patience. Wait on God, not on a man. We will do this for the rest of our lives, as wives and mothers too, each day giving us another opportunity to set our hope on the Lord and wait for His timing and purposes in our lives. (Isaiah 64:4) Promise nothing outside of a relationship. Don’t give all of your precious time, energy, emotions, physical affections, and daydreams to a man who isn’t interested in you enough to pursue a relationship with you. If he’s not committing, you shouldn’t either. (Proverbs 4:23) Purpose that Christ will be your first love, whether you are single, dating, engaged, or married. No man can or ever will be God. Let man be man and God be God! (Isaiah 40:6-8,18) Provide a safe place. From your inward motivations to your clothes and body language, ask the Lord to make you a woman who is beautifully safe for a man to know and be around. Are you prodding him on sexually, or are you encouraging him in the Lord? (Ephesians 5:3) Preach truth to yourself. Don’t listen to your emotions; command them! Stay in the Word and do what it says. (Jeremiah 17:9; 1 John 3:20; James 1:22-25) Praise the Lord continually. He gives and He takes away. He is always good, and He knows what He’s doing. And He’s wise enough to not always give us what we think we’ll die without. (Romans 11:33-36) THE ULTIMATE GOAL Brick walls don’t risk relationships; people with hopes and feelings do. We all experience some form of brokenness and heartache on our way to the altar, but God’s wisdom can guard us from foolish and rash decisions. Moreover, a heart that is filled to the brim with Christ and His love, is a heart that will win the battle against idolatry and will find His beauty in the brokenness when it comes. On this side of marriage, I look back on some of my undefined relationships with guys, and I shake my head. Even with all my good intentions, prayers of surrender, and the principles above, I had to wade through the waters of confusion and heartache to realize just how desperately I needed Jesus in this area of my life. And somewhere along the way, I finally started living like marriage was not my ultimate goal. Christ was. In the end, when Eddie and I said “I do,” we realized that God had pulled off the impossible—and He alone would get the glory. Dear one waiting long on the Lord, singleness can sometimes feel like a series of steep, precarious steps along a precipice, can’t it? May God give you light and grace for one step at a time, and may you lean hard into Him as you tread these high places. God the Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s, He makes me tread on my high places.  Habakkuk 3:19

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Singleness

Sex and the Single Girl

Imagine keeping a lion in a small cat-carrier . . . for years. Day after day, night after night, he roars, he eats (a lot). His energy is endless . . . and yet you keep him caged. As a single girl in my thirties who was committed, by God’s grace, to saving sex for marriage, I often felt very much like that caged lion. Sometimes my physical drives were so strong, I despaired—the long, intense fight for purity in a sexually-saturated culture seemed impossible. And while there was constant dialogue about men’s sexual struggles and temptations, there was this eerie silence when it came to women. Was I part man, or was this normal for women? However, the more I opened up and shared my struggles with other single women, the more I realized I was indeed normal and in very good company. So why wasn’t anyone talking about it? Or maybe the greater question is why do we even want to fight for sexual purity when our desires seem so natural and good—and often feel too powerful to control? Christ Is Better If I can testify to anything, it’s that I found Christ to be greater than my sexual desires. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with an agnostic coworker who was, once again, giving me grief about not sleeping around. (Mind you, I had never offered that information at my workplace, but I guess everyone had figured it out based on my lifestyle.) It ended by me saying, “Eric, Jesus is better than sex.” And by the way he looked back at me, I could tell he desperately wanted to know that was true. I think we all want to know that’s true. If sex is the highest good in life, the greatest pleasure we can experience, we’re in trouble. Yes, sex is amazing! On this side of marriage, I can testify that God created a really good and pleasurable thing. But it doesn’t begin to compare to the infinite pleasures we have in God. God created sex, then told us to enjoy it only within the context of marriage between a man and a woman; so if He has us wait an excruciatingly long time for it, He is (mercifully) teaching us to meet our very deepest desires in Him alone. That’s easy to say; it’s incredibly hard to live. In fact, it’s impossible to live. Sometimes my fight against temptation brought me to the end of myself and reminded me that “you are my Lord; I have no good apart from you” (Ps. 16:2). I could not boast in my own strength; I was so keenly aware that God Himself was sustaining me, and apart from Him I would quickly lose the battle. Listening to His Promises During those long years of singleness, this is where the rubber met the road: Would I listen to my passions, or would I listen to His promises? I remember pounding my pillow, crying out in anguish, even yelling when the flesh seemed too strong to fight for one more day. But it was in those desperate moments that I found God to be exactly who He claims to be. It was in the trenches of the fleshly fight that I learned to take my Commander at His word. And His Word says that He makes known to me the path of life, in His presence there is fullness of joy, and at His right hand there are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). So how can a single woman walk in His fullness of life and joy in the midst of sexual frustration? Here are a few of the ways that helped me: Memorize and meditate on Scripture. I can’t overstate this enough. God’s Word has strengthened, sustained, convicted, encouraged, and changed me. Unless we’re constantly in the truth, we’ll easily fall for lies. Be accountable. Keep talking! Be open and honest with godly, safe, and wise women in your life. When sin is brought into the light, it loses its power and stops condemning you. (And you may be surprised at how many women around you can identify with your struggle!) Exercise and eat well. Run or do Pilates or take a dance class. Feed your body good stuff. Sitting in front of chick flicks and eating chocolate cake is not going to help the cause. Serve others. Channel your frustrated energies into caring for the people around you. Send an encouraging text to someone who’s hurting today. Host a meal at your place. Deliver coffee to a mom who’s at home with several kids. Don’t compare. Don’t keep looking at what your married friends have. Their challenges and sufferings are different. God knows how to make all of us need Him desperately in very different ways. Don’t borrow tomorrow’s troubles. God has given plenty of grace for today. “I’m going to be single for the rest of my life!” Don’t go there. Take stock of your cultural diet. Evaluate and re-evaluate your movie-watching, music-listening, clothes-wearing habits. Are you feeding or starving the lust of your flesh? Set helpful boundaries with men—for your sake and theirs. Hanging out alone with a man never helped me; it usually stirred up desires unnecessarily. Keep a thankful heart. I can’t tell you what a powerful tool this is. Thank God for everything you can think of, big and small-it’s like instant heart surgery! Remember the goodness and kindness of God. Resisting sexual temptation for any prolonged period of time can wage war on our belief about God. Is He mean, unfair, detached? Why all this anguish to obey Him? But according to 1 Peter 4:12, we shouldn’t be surprised at the fiery trials we face in this life. The best news in the world is not that we are spared pain but that we are infinitely loved and forgiven (so our pain has purpose). In His kindness, God came to be with us in the form of Jesus, to free

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Category: Waiting