You don’t have a husband?!

In the culture that I work in girls get married as young as 13 (sometimes younger) and this is considered normal. That being said, I get a lot of strange looks when I tell people that I’m not married. I’ve had conversations that have started with, “Do you have kids?” When I reply, “No, I’m not married” people don’t quite know what to say. Often they ask me why I’m not married. But is there ever an easy answer for that question? Especially for someone who would like to be married one day? Keep in mind that this conversation is also happening in their native language, not mine. I don’t have the language to explain why at 23 (practically an old maid) I’m still single. Besides, even if I did have the language to explain that no one that I have felt compatible with has asked me out, I don’t really want to get into that conversation. So here’s how I simplify it. I say, “I am a little (young) girl. The men who have asked me on dates are a little bit bad* and I don’t love (like) them.” Then they usually ask if I would be willing to marry someone from their culture. I say, “Maybe. What is important is that he is a good man. Right now I am happy to be alone because I have not found the right man.” People are usually satisfied with these answers even if they are still a bit skeptical.

Thankfully, I haven’t had some of the bad experiences that some of the other single women have had working with this people group.   In a different city, a single woman was refused service at a restaurant because she did not have a man with her. One of my friends here in Nairobi does not remember meeting her now-husband for the first time because she was proposed to four times that day. You should also remember that the single women working with this people group have to be particularly tough and independent to be able to do their jobs. It’s a really scary job at times. It takes huge amounts of bravery and trust in God to work with the people we do. Most of us are from cultures that celebrate or at least tolerate strong women. It feels like a little bit of a trap that the same character qualities that allow me to survive here and serve this people group are the ones that aren’t really allowed for women.

It’s an interesting process to give up many of my rights and expectations of how I should be treated as an American woman. There are many moments each week that everything in me cries out, “I SHOULD NOT BE TREATED THIS WAY!” In those moments I have to check my sense of entitlement and remember that I feel this way largely because of cultural differences. It’s a path of learning humility and how to be dependent on other people in healthy ways. It’s learning to submit to a culture that isn’t my own and that I’m often really frustrated by.   It’s also acknowledging when people do sin against me so that I can take that to God and forgive them.

With joy and struggle,

Hannah

 

*I have been asked out by some really wonderful guys. I just say this to simplify things, and because since moving here I have been on some laughably bad dates.

Dear single friend

Dear single friend,

I really thought I would be married by now.  Growing up I thought that I would go to college, meet a great guy, get married, and then move to Africa.  Simple plan right?  My parents and my dad’s parents both got married the same week that they graduated from college.  I thought that was just how the world worked.  You go to college and then get married.

My second semester junior year of college was when I realized that I would not be getting married right after college.  This realization hit me really hard.  To many people I might not seem like the girl who grew up daydreaming about being married, but I am.  Once on the way back from a conference I was talking to some of the younger girls in my campus ministry about the hard time I was having with a boy not asking me out and she was shocked that I also struggled with boy issues.  But the truth is, if you had told me in high school that not only would I not find my husband during college but that I also wouldn’t even have a boyfriend, I would have been crushed.

I never planned on moving to Africa on my own.  Even though most days I’m happy and content being single and living in this season of life, I still really long for a lifelong friend and teammate- someone who has to move to all these crazy places with me.  I’m saying all this so that you will better understand where I am coming from when I say what I am going to say next.  I’m saying this so hopefully you will feel the weight of my words and know that I am not saying them lightly.  I know the pain of unwanted singleness. Some days I think being single is great, but others I really don’t care for it.  I think sometimes singles ignore the things that I’m about to say because married people say them or because we think that the other person has an easy time with being single.  I want you to know as I’m writing I’m coming from a place of deeply desiring to be married.  I want you to know I often feel like having a husband would make my life in Kenya so much easier.  But I also want you to know that more than I want to be married, I want to live in this season that God has for me.  It is a hard season but a good one and…

Jesus is enough.  I don’t mean this in a trite way.  I mean this in an “I’ve tested this and it really is true” way.  He’s enough in a real life, meet your everyday needs way.  He is enough when you realize that the boy you’ve liked for almost two years is never going to ask you out, and you cry about it four times in one day.  He is enough when you are alone on a hot, dusty street corner in Africa (in the scary part of town) when you are waiting for your language teacher to show up and there are men harassing you.  In the moments when you really wish you had someone physically there to protect you, he is enough.   He is enough in the little things and enough in the big things.  He is enough when you can’t find a job and you are wondering if you’ll live with your parents forever.  He is enough when you are scared, when you are lonely, when everything (and I mean everything) in life feels difficult.  Jesus is there for you in ways no person, not even a spouse, can be.

Only Jesus can fulfill the deepest longings of your heart.  Don’t view your gift of singleness as the dreaded ugly bunny costume from A Christmas Story.  Your singleness is a good gift given by a loving Father.  Use this time well.  This season may feel long and burdensome, but whether you get married or not your time on earth is short.  Be honest with God about what you want.  If you want to get married tell God.  Pray for a spouse, but don’t waste your time pouting.  Pour your life out on behalf of others.  Actively choose to thank God for where He has you in this season.  Even when it’s hard, even when it isn’t what you want, thank God for where he has you now.

Looking back on my time in college, I am so thankful that I didn’t date.  I got to build so many wonderful friendships and invest my time in far more people precisely because I wasn’t investing time in a romantic relationship.  Not being tied to anyone romantically also made the decision to move to Kenya much easier.  I’m so thankful for singleness in this season of my life because it allows me to really depend on God for provision and protection.  I am glad that I moved to Africa on my own because I have learned so much more about what it means to lean on God and not on others.  Being single also gives me a lot of time to make new friends and to study language and culture.  Singleness truly can be a wonderful gift if we allow it to be.  I know that if I get married at 25 or 55 or not at all that Jesus is enough for each day, and that I don’t have to worry about tomorrow.  I know that he will continue to provide me with companionship and fill my life with abounding joy.  God knows what he’s doing.  He knows what he’s shaping you to be.  Trust him with all of your heart’s desires.

-Hannah

The Magic of Sisterhood

My sister Emily’s visit to Nairobi, the fact that I recently read The Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood, and Valentine’s Day (Galentine’s Day) have made me think more about the role of deep, enduring female friendships in the lives of women.  The past several years I have spent Valentine’s with my close girl friends a consequence of many of us not having boyfriends but also choosing not to pout about it.  Not having the women I consider to be sisters in close proximity has been one of the most difficult parts about living in Nairobi.  In my sorority we talk about having a “Mystic Bond” that draws us all closer together.  And to me, sisterhood really is magical.

I was only 18months old when I first became a sister and (like many things in life) I take being a good sister seriously.  I take it seriously because female friendship, when done well, is powerful.  There is a fierceness in the love and loyalty that sisters have for one another.  I don’t just mean biological sisters though.  I have two lovely sisters that share my parents, but I have many more sisters that don’t.  I have been accumulating these sisters over time.  They ran high school cross country with me, were in my Bible studies in college, in my sorority, and I trust that God is providing sisters for me in this season too.

A sister is someone who fights for you and with you.  She believes in you even when you don’t believe in yourself.

A sister is someone who knows all your secrets but doesn’t run away.  She knows the ugliness of your heart at times.  You have told her how you really feel about things and trusted her not to think you are a terrible person.  She loves you without conditions and as a result you learn that you are lovable and how to love others well.

A sister is someone who is always on your side, even when you’re wrong.  She also isn’t afraid to (gently) point out when you’re being an idiot.

A sister is someone who understands you, and when she doesn’t she listens until she does.

A sister is there when your world falls apart, when the boy doesn’t like you back, when you don’t get the job, when your family is in shambles.

A sister is there when you succeed.  She cheers as you tell her that you landed your dream job.  She stands beside you at your wedding and cries happy tears the whole day because she is sharing in your joy.

A sister always has compliments ready for when you’re feeling down.  You can be honest enough with her that you can say when you need her to affirm you.

I’m so thankful for the women that I am proud to call my sisters.  They helped me learn to be more confident in who God made me to be.  They are intimately familiar with my faults and have often been on the receiving end of them.  Yet they still choose to love me.  Through them I have experienced God’s unfailing love.  They have helped me battle depression, anxiety, and lies that I have believed about myself.  They have fought for me and with me.  They have been so incredibly loyal and supportive through so many beautiful and difficult times.  They understand that it’s totally normal for me to be laughing and crying at the same time because I feel ALL the feelings.  My sisters are wonderful and beautiful in the most full meaning of the word, and I wouldn’t be the same without them.  To my sisters: Thanks for being you.

xoxo,

HD

 

P.S. You are totally out of that boy’s league, and if he doesn’t realize how lucky he would be to be with you he’s an idiot.

Also, whatever you’re wearing, you look great in it.