When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Andrea

Andrea was my boss at Weber State. She is one of the kindest people I have ever met. She has a gentle heart and is extremely understanding. I am so grateful she said yes to writing a post for me. She definitely has a strength and wisdom that will touch your heart and that I hope to have one day.

Andrea Lauritzen was raised in a small country town in southeastern Idaho. She has lived on both coasts, and in numerous areas of Utah. She has been a Licensed Massage Therapist and Therapeutic Bodyworker since 1995. She holds a BS in English Literature with a Child Development minor, and a BS in Family Studies, both from Weber State University. She is currently a graduate student at USU in the Master of Social Work program. She married at the age of 26 and, after a brief marriage and several miscarriages, divorced one and a half years later. She has been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all her life. She has spent most of her life as single. She has attended young adult, mid-singles, and family wards. Her faith and reliance on the Gospel have kept her safe and strong during the darkest times of her life. She is over 50, and currently co-teaches a primary class. She has 21 nieces/nephews, and 12 great nieces/nephews (plus 2 on the way).  She is the “cool aunt” in her family and remembers, with a card, everyone’s birthdays. Andrea plans to start a private practice once she’s a Licensed Clinical Social Worker – focusing on children, trauma recovery and resiliency, and single-adult relationship enhancement. She is a published author, and presenter.

The SINGLE Purpose

Being single can be challenging, especially in a culture where families reign and marriage is the expected goal. How does one address this challenge and still maintain a testimony of the Gospel and continue to see themselves as valuable, loveable, worthy, wanted, and so forth?

For me, this struggle lasted many years. Add to that a brief abusive marriage and divorce. Sadly, the stigma of singlehood, especially of being divorced, makes many within the church uncomfortable. A few home teachers even refused to visit because of my status. Nonetheless, I’ve appreciated a multitude of exceptional home teachers throughout my single experience. I often felt I did not fit in the Gospel because I had not met the “required” marital and family expectations. This is the ideal. Yet, God has never indicated that one is accepted or loved less who has not yet obtained the ideal.

As I grew older, I found it more difficult to find my place. I didn’t fit in the singles crowd, or the family group, or the young marrieds. Where did I fit? The truth is, I fit exactly where God wanted me to be. I fit everywhere because I am human; and as a human I can connect with others on a level beyond one’s status. We are all unique, with our own set of core beliefs, standards of living, values, ideals, goals, adversities, challenges, hopes, and tragedies. These are part of life. They come with the body. As we come and embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and live its teachings fully, God can use us for good wherever we are, and in whatever life stage we find ourselves.

God has a plan for each of us; and sometimes that plan includes being single for a time. When I began attending the mid-singles ward, I received a priesthood blessing. In this blessing, I was told that I had “been given this singleness for a purpose.” What?! I’d been given this? It has a purpose? For many years I did not understand this concept. Some years later, however, God gave me insight into what this purpose was. I had spent those years in jobs that allowed me to serve and guide others in various capacities. I’d gained further education, fulfilled church callings, made close and lasting friendships, worked on healing and improving myself, and had continued to live my life to the best of my ability.

One day, as I was talking with a co-worker, I had the strong impression that I had “chosen” the life I lived. Yes, before I came to earth I made a choice to give up having 3 or 4 kids of my own because I could help more of Heavenly Father’s children doing exactly what I was doing now.  I wouldn’t or couldn’t have done these things if I was married with children of my own. I finally understood the purpose of my singleness. God sees all things from beginning to end. His plan is about more than simply our earthly accomplishments, our own needs to “keep up with the Joneses” or do what everyone else is doing along the same timeline. God has a unique and perfect timeline for each of us that places us in the lives of those we can learn from, bless, associate with, teach, heal, comfort, and lift. We are all in this together. He wants all His children to return home to him. We can’t manage this life alone. We need one another in numerous ways, at difficult times, and in everything we do. So, sometimes that means we need to wait a little while longer than we’d like to for the blessings we desire. It’s not forever (even if at times if feels that way). It’s just a short delay; and in the process many others have the opportunity, through our service and sacrifice, to also receive those blessings. What has someone postponed, or given up for now, so that you can be blessed?

What blessings have you thrown away through your anger, resentment, doubt, hurt, or withdrawal from Gospel living and church participation because life has not gone as you expected? Whose life is not being blessed because you’re not where you’re supposed to be? Never give up the most precious blessings that come with the Gospel of Jesus Christ because of some perceived (or real) offense from another; or from God’s perceived lack of blessings in your lives. There is more to our life experience than that, so much more.

For me, the idea that I had chosen my course seemed to make all the difference in my attitude regarding my circumstances. There was nothing wrong with me. I wasn’t broken, unworthy, unwanted, damaged, or undesirable. I was being saved for a greater purpose, and for more marvelous blessings than I could imagine at that moment. WOW!! I was valuable?! God had a special plan for me as a single, middle-aged, divorced, and childless woman?! I had a grand purpose, and a marvelous life ahead of me.

Life was often still hard. I faced continuous challenges including physical and mental health issues, work stresses, financial struggles, and all the other mortal experiences we must go through as human beings in a fallen world. I still desired greatly, to the point of physical aches in my soul, to be a wife and a mother. Yet, I trusted in God and in His plan for me; and I remained steadfast in my testimony of God’s love for me, in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and in His Gospel. I remained worthy to partake of the blessings of the temple, which strengthened me against hard time. I learned not to beat myself up each time I made a mistake. God knew we’d make mistakes. He built that into the Plan of Salvation. That’s why He provided a Savior – to pay for our sins and sufferings (those we bring upon ourselves, and those brought upon us through the poor choices of others).  This, God continued to prepare me for a greater purpose which I could not even fathom at that time.

A couple of years after this epiphany, I decided it was time to let go of all the items in, what I had called for years, my hopeless shed. I’d been collecting items for a marriage and children for 30 years. That year I provided Christmas to roughly 22 children. These items weren’t serving any purpose packed in plastic containers. Some were even becoming obsolete. That year, I received a multitude of confirmations regarding how God sees the whole picture; and plans far in advance for His purposes to be manifest. I learned that God can turn all our sorrows into joy, if we let him. My hopeless shed because a joyful HopeFULL shed that witnessed to God’s love for ALL His children.

At this point in my life, as a 50+ year old single woman, I will never give birth to a child. There is a part of me that still aches for the loss of that opportunity and all that goes with it. However, I know that through following God’s plan, I can “mother” many children, bless many mothers, and touch many lives for good through God’s grace and insight. I am grateful for my life, for those things I’ve given up for now and for those blessings I’ve received instead.

There are still times when I am impatient in my wanting; and where I struggle to understand the meanings of certain situations. I’m human. I’m normal. I’m a work in progress, just as all of us are. Know that God has a marvelous plan for each of us. Our life, just as it is now, has a purpose. If you are not sure what your purpose is . . . ASK, and keep asking and watch the answers unfold into a beautiful tapestry of your life. God does not give us full-disclosure all at once. It likely would not make sense, or may be overwhelming. He gives us line upon line, as we are ready, and as the space is prepared for these things to occur. Be patient. God’s timing IS perfect; even if life seems unsure, chaotic, or hopeless at the moment. This too shall pass.

Don’t lose hope, at least not forever. Stay true to your covenants, as this is what will carry you through the doubts, fears, trials, heartaches, and challenges of life as you become all that God knows you have the potential to be. It’s a process; a long, and often painful journey toward Godhood. You can do it, yet, not alone. We all need God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and others along the way. Look back on your life – your singlehood – and make a list of all the blessings you’ve received that would not have come under different circumstances. These may include a friend, a skill, knowledge, testimony; opportunities in relationships, education or career; learning, service, insight, and so forth. These are the compensating blessings for your adversities and sacrifices. Now think carefully about the blessings you have provided to others during this time? I’m sure these are numerous. Make another list so you can recognize God’s hand in your life and in the lives of others.

Being single is a blessing. Those who are single provide a unique perspective on Gospel living. We offer help to the lonely, discouraged, overwhelmed, distraught, aged, and the young. We can serve in capacities and places where others may not be able to. We can strengthen people at work, at church, in our fellowships and friendships; and be an example to struggling youth. We can take on the role of “cool aunt or uncle,” supportive sibling, caregiver to ailing parents, and more simply because we are single. Our marital status does not define us. It is not who we are. It does not mean God has forgotten us, or that there is something inherently wrong with us. It is simply the place where we are at this time, to learn what we need to learn or do what we need to do, to prepare us to go home to God.

Nevertheless, if you have experienced trauma, suffer from physical or mental health issues, struggle with social challenges, or experience other areas of conflict that inhibit your ability to connect with others and live life fully . . . seek help! There are many resources available to heal your wounds. Feel safe in accessing these resources from church leaders and by seeking guidance from God and listening to the Holy Spirit. If you have made choices that have led you away from full-fellowship in the Gospel it is not too late to come back.  God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, stand waiting with open arms and loving and forgiving hearts. The Savior understands, maybe better than we do, why we have strayed or made certain choices. He has already paid for our sins, our heartaches, and our pains.  Come to Him and let Him heal you.

Sometimes healing happens quickly. Yet, more often, it is a process. Our bodies are mortal and there is a manner of healing physically and mentally that may need time, energy, and focused attention.  Hang in there. Healing is also done line upon line, and layer upon layer, until we are made whole through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This process can sometimes be painful and challenging, like the hurt that put it there.  Don’t despair! Work through the pain. It’s worth it when you get to the other side.  For there, it is easier to connect with God, and others. Sometimes our pain prevents us from clearly seeing the path we’re on, and the better plan God has prepared for us.

Don’t regret or waste your singleness. Discover what purpose it holds in your life, and in the lives of others. Keep asking. Keep taking steps into the darkness until you can see a glimmer of the glorious light ahead. Being single is not the end of the world. It’s just a step along the journey. Enjoy this step. Learn all you can from it. Serve with love, and live in gratitude. Gratitude, not simply being grateful, changes one’s perspective on life. We can see things from God’s perspective easier when we live in an attitude of gratitude. This time in our life, being single, has a meaningful purpose to God.  Whether you chose this, or it has been thrust upon you, God can bring joy and fulfillment out of the heartache of loneliness, waiting, and searching.

As I look back on my life, I can clearly see how each step along the way (especially the hard ones) have prepared me to fulfill my potential. I am currently in graduated school becoming a social worker. I recognize that all the challenging experiences of my life will serve me in having more understanding and compassion for a variety of individual circumstances. I can continue to bless for good the lives of more of God’s children. Being single was not a waste. It was not a product of my incapacity to find a husband. It was not because of some wrong I committed, or some damage that made me unwanted. It was the crucible I needed to forge to become the person God wanted me to be. It was the Gethsemane that provided me with empathy for others’ pain and suffering so I could more effectively succor them, as the Savior succors me. I am grateful for my singleness, for all I’ve learned and gained and suffered. I am grateful for those eternal friends who bless my life, which I would not have met any other way. I recognize now that the greatest gift of my adversity was me. God used my adversities to shape me, to lift and guide me, and to fashion me into the divine woman of God He knew I was. I am still a work in progress. I still struggle regularly. Yet I know to whom I can turn for strength, and where to put my trust, and who has the answers when I question. It is this relationship with my God, and my Savior, which keeps me safe and guides me through my darkest hours into their glorious light and hope and future.

If you feel far from deity, or from yourself, kneel and cry unto God for support. He is close, only waiting for us to seek Him out. He will not force Himself into our lives, as some people may. He wants to be invited . . . welcomed. Welcome Him in, and be “encircled eternally in the arms of His love” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 1:15).

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