For Christians, the Advent season is marked by joyful anticipation, spiritual peace, and comforting traditions. Despite all the busyness that usually comes with this time of year, the spirit of Christmas fills our hearts, as we wait in hope for the Savior’s birth.
Many of us mark this season with special family traditions, like baking Christmas cookies, singing carols, and praying at the manger. I have warm childhood memories of decorating the tree as a family, driving through town to look at the Christmas lights, and leaving cookies for Santa. I always thought that someday I would pass on the same traditions to my own children.
My parents married when they were in their early twenties, and I expected to do the same. That was the path most people took in the small Kansas town where I grew up. Though I also aspired to go to college and excel at certain skills, becoming a loving wife and mother was always in my mind. I never once thought that having a family would deter me from my other ambitions. I just knew that I would have to work very hard to have everything I wanted.
As I pursued these goals, my Catholic faith was just another part of my life. I practiced it on a surface level, picking and choosing as I pleased. Then, during my sophomore year of college, I found a group of friends who had a deep love for God and who dedicated themselves to serving him. Through their influence, my life changed substantially. I went from serving myself and my goals to wanting to give myself to the Lord. I started learning more about my faith and got serious about becoming a disciple of Jesus.
Out of the Blue. One day, in an apologetics class at the Newman Center on my campus, the chaplain told us his vocation story. He explained that he had been going along on the usual college student’s path when God invited him to change course and become a priest. As I listened to him, it hit me. What if God is calling me to serve him in a way that’s different from what I’ve planned?
Immediately after that class, I went to the chapel to surrender myself to the Lord. Something was stirring deep within. It felt as if he were calling my name. I told God that I knew he was at work in me, and for the first time in my life, I asked him what he wanted. I told him that he had access to my heart and could do whatever he wanted with it. I was scared but simultaneously at peace.
A few days later, I received a phone call from my high-school sweetheart. We had dated for years and planned to marry. But that day, out of the blue, he told me that he wanted to break up. Without even being distraught about the end of my relationship, I thought, “This is it. God definitely wants to do something with me.” So much in me was changing as God called me closer to himself, and this unexpected development seemed like a part of it. But what was God’s plan for me now?
I needed guidance in answering that question, so I found a spiritual director to help me go deeper in my faith, knowledge, and prayer life. I began seriously discerning my vocation and considering new possibilities. I visited convents, spent time in prayer, and cultivated an open heart—only to discover, in the end, that God was not calling me to religious life.
Meanwhile, I continued on through college, following the Lord and nurturing my spiritual life. When I graduated with a degree in nursing, my desire to get married was still very much on my heart.
Up in the Air. Today I am a nurse, serving God’s people to the best of my abilities. I have a great family and friends to support me, and I am blessed in many ways. However, the one blessing that I always thought I would have is missing. I have watched many of my good friends get married, become priests, or enter other forms of religious life. But I have yet to be given a husband and children of my own.
I have dated. I have put myself out there. I have done everything a person should do in order to find a spouse. Still, God has not provided one for me—at least not yet. “You’re still young,” people tell me, and I know that’s true. And yet I am experiencing the challenges of being a single person waiting for God to provide.
One thing I can see is that God is using this time to give me compassion, especially for those who feel lonely, forgotten, and without a sense of purpose. These feelings can easily creep in for those of us who are single, divorced, widowed, or elderly. We are everywhere. We are your children, neighbors, parents, and the person sitting alone in the pew at Mass.
I try not to wallow in these feelings and to think instead of the many ways that single people can serve God. Even though I am not always aware of it, I know that God is at work in me and is working through me to help others. As a single person, I can more freely serve others in my work, parish, and community. I can go to daily Mass and spend more time in prayer than most married couples are able to do. As I do these things, I remind myself, “Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).
Waiting on God. And so I wait, hoping that God’s plan for me includes having a husband and family of my own someday. When that day comes, I know I will look back on this period as a time of profound personal growth. I want to remember it so that I can reach out to those who are still feeling alone or on hold. I want to tell them that no matter what hardships life brings, God gives each of us exactly what we need to spend eternity with him in heaven. We just have to listen to him.
Trusting in God has always been a challenge for me. I find strength in thinking of Mary and the challenges she faced in bringing Christ into the world. She must have felt confused at times—perhaps even frightened—as she tried to understand God’s plan for her. But at every step, she was able to say, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). During this season of Advent, I try to follow Mary’s example, trusting that God has a better plan for my life than the one I had for myself.
God tells us that he has “plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future full of hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). I know this is true. And so, though it is difficult at times—especially during the holiday season—I wait and hold onto his promises.
Kristal G. is a mental health nurse in Kansas.