First I want to say there is a difference between celibacy and abstaining from sexual relations. Celibacy is usually a lifestyle where people do not engage in sexual relations because of religious reasons and a certain calling on their life to abstain. Abstinence from sexual intercourse can also be for religious reasons, but it generally isn’t because a person feels called to abstain from sex throughout their lives: it usually is because they abstain until they meet and marry the person they feel God has chosen for them to share their lives with.  I want to share what I have learned about abstaining from sexual intercourse because I feel it may help others who struggle with choosing this as a lifestyle until they marry.

  1. God is ever-present with you and knows the difficulty of your choice and is there to comfort you. Sometimes we may feel that because Jesus Christ was God, that he can’t possibly understand what we are feeling. Jesus was all man and all God. It says in Hebrews that he knows our weaknesses and infirmities and understands them all. God created us and he created us with the desire to be with the opposite sex; he understands better than anyone what it feels like and what it means to a man and woman to be united, sexually.
  2. Abstaining from sexual relations until marriage guards and protects our emotions. I know this has been said numerous times, but there is an assurance that we have when our mind, soul, and bodies are in God’s hands and subjection. We have the knowledge that no matter how  relationships go, God is honoring my devotion to him and the entirety of my being is covered. There is a peace that comes from knowing that I’m  not dishonoring my body and God honors that. Hebrews says that “Marriage is honorable..” This means that it is good, whole, righteous, and that the sexual act within marriage is pure, not defiled or dirty.
  3. When you are filled with God’s spirit, a sexual relationship outside of God’s covenant  of marriage is grievous.  I learned this when I was in a sexual relationship and not married. I thought that because we loved each other, and we were faithful to each other that God would somehow overlook the fact that we weren’t married. God never overlooks, sidesteps, or walks around his word and the truth of his word. No matter how much God loves you; he doesn’t love you enough to make any exception for you and your situation. For him to do so, for God to go back on his word in any instance he would cease to be God. Also while in this relationship, I began to feel myself becoming distant from the things of God: this means that I couldn’t listen to someone preaching God’s word, I couldn’t read my Bible or pray. My conscience was being violated, because I was breaking one of God’s principles, and I was in a sinful situation that was causing me to be separated from God.
  4. Even though I tried to justify sexual relations outside of the marriage covenant, the Holy Spirit in me never gave me peace about it: also I didn’t know it at the time, but I was cutting myself off from the blessings of God: in this present life and the eternal ones.  It’s true that those who play house, never get the real house. When we settle for less than God’s plan, we cut ourselves off from the very thing it is that we want. Also, settling for someone who is unwilling to marry you, could be standing in the way of someone who would be willing and able to make a holy committment to you. Abstaining from sexual relations shouldn’t be something you do seeking a reward or a husband; it should be something you do because it is right. The man who I was with wasn’t just unwilling to marry me, he was using me to satisfy his own selfish and self-centered needs, whether he realized it or not. And this fact alone was enough for my heavenly father to want to protect me from such manipulation.
  5. I was sinning against my own body. In twenty-four years of marriage and living with a man who was consistently unfaithful to me, I never contracted any sexually transmitted disease (other than a yeast infection): however, in the span of two years, I contracted a virus  that placed me at risk of developing cancer. Also, in the two years I was sleeping with this man, I was always sick with some type of persistent cold or bronchitis. When I stopped sleeping with him, I still have colds, but the persistence of  sickness  isn’t there.
  6. Sexual immorality in the form of fornication continually opens the door for sexual obsession or even possession by sexual demonic spirits. What most people fail to realize is that sexual sin, is sexual sin. When we knowingly disobey God’s word and sometimes unknowingly, we open the door to a flood of demonic influence from whatever demonic powers that are out there. When we have the power to control our desires and inclinations and choose not to do it, we open ourselves up to things that we don’t have control over. Nothing is worse than feeling you don’t have control over your sexual desires; when something else comes that has power over you. This is where sexual deviation comes from in the form of child molestation, rape, bestiality, homosexuality, and the list goes on.
  7. When you don’t have your sexual desires and feelings under control, there is some element of emotional immaturity. I realized that I desperately wanted love and intimacy with a man, and I did so at the expense of my relationship and peace with God. After traveling through the maze of loss of self-esteem, loss of peace, and a general feeling that I’m doing something wrong, I began to so value the lost elements of my personality that I felt no temporary attention a man could give me was worth losing my self-respect: and my friend, that is personal growth and emotional maturity. I allowed myself to be manipulated as a child, to obtain something that I felt I couldn’t live without. Emotionally mature people are able to delay self-gratification for something much better that is long-term.  There are sixty year-old people who are still immature emotionally. Age has little to do with how mature someone is emotionally.
  8. Lastly, waiting for the commitment you want in marriage is taking the moral high-ground. People who compromise themselves sexually will eventually compromise themselves in other things also. Taking the moral high ground says to yourself, and to others, “I am worth the very best that is available.” It says that even if I have to live the rest of my life alone, it is better than being with someone who de-values me, or gives me less than what I want, need, and deserve.


My grandmother gave birth to twelve children, and of those twelve she lived to bury three of them. Two died as children, and my father passed away as an adult. Of the remaining nine, all left home, married and settled in various areas of the country. She survived my grandfather by fifty years, which wasn’t uncommon for women in the South over seventy-five years ago. The one child who remained was my mentally challenged uncle, Curtis Quince.

As a child I would go to “Mama Lula’s” house with my brother, Patrick; we would sashay into her front door, sit down and talk for a few minutes, then get up and run outside to play. I loved escaping to her house because it was a breath of fresh air from the noise of my seven brothers and sisters. I’m sure the quietness and refuge that I cherished, she had come to hate. There were days I would come by and see her sitting on the porch with a forlorn look on her face: it wasn’t only a look of loneliness and despair, the look said, “no one is going to rescue me from this.” Even as a child, I sensed “Mama Lula’s” relief when Patrick and I would show up, I sensed her thankfulness, and I was equally grateful for the sense of history and peacefulness she had given to me.

It is true that we can spend all our lives as employees, parents, and productive citizens, and one day wake up to realize we are in the house alone. I realized my “nest” was empty after I dropped my youngest daughter off at college. My ex-husband had left a year earlier to build a new nest with a younger, new wife and two other children. I didn’t have time to be bitter; the time that I possessed was spent trying to find a career in post-mid-life and trying to keep two daughters in college.

I joined several meetup.com sites, became an avid hiker, a prolific dancer, and began to explore the singing skills that had lain dormant for a long time. I found the self who had been buried beneath the needs of children and the expectations of a neglectful spouse. I returned to school and acquired a certificate as a drug counselor. I got a job working at something that required skill and thought. It was a great accomplishment. My days were filled. The nights and the weekends became the gaps. I suddenly realized the children had filled the nights and the weekends until now: they had filled the gaps for ten years plus. Overwhelmingly, I began to crave sharing the most insignificant events. A sunset, a cup of coffee, a walk in the park, a walk anywhere; these things became monumental events set against a backdrop of emptiness.

The gaps are here and I refuse to fill them with minutia. I refuse to fill the gaps with things that I’m not passionate about. I spoke with a woman  I met and is in a similar situation with the children and the spouse gone;I said, “It’s amazing how much space another person takes up in your life, and when they are no longer there how much space is left.” So I must fill the gaps with Joan. I must fill the gaps with whom I choose to be with and what I choose to give my time to. Time is the most precious commodity of an “empty nester”; use it wisely, make it work for you and you will see the valuable return of your investment.


The Meaning of Motherhood

If someone asked me what my greatest achievement in life has been, I would have to say it is being a mother. The highest calling in life is to have the privilege of giving someone life and having the opportunity to nurture that life into adulthood. A mother is a child’s first contact with the world, and if that contact is warm, trusting, and nurturing it can make the difference in whether the child reaches their full potential emotionally as well as physically.

I remember when I first realized that raising my children was a calling, and that I would need the grace of God to do it right. I was in church, and the pastor’s wife relayed to me how God had given her wisdom in how to train her children up in the Lord. I went home and looked up every scripture I could find on child training. I then began reading the scriptures to my oldest child at the time. I wanted the children to know that what I was doing had a Biblical base; that I wasn’t just making things up out of my head. The first scripture I recall teaching the children was from the book of Ephesians, “Children obey your parents in the Lord…” I would make a pointed effort to pray where the children could hear me, in addition to praying with them and teaching them to pray on their own.

Motherhood to me meant a responsibility  to help my children reach their God-given potential as well as instilling in them an understanding of who God is. No parent no matter how much they teach and train a child can give them faith; only Jesus Christ can do that. There were many nights I spent singing, reading, and brushing hair before bedtime. There were planet and star stickers that I pasted to the ceiling, and the children and I spent many nights staring at the ceiling trying to count the stars.

There were also the days and nights spent calming a frightened child, breast feeding a newborn, and soothing chicken pox with calamine lotion. The time that Jaynae developed chicken pox I slept with her on the couch in the living room for two weeks. In between all the sickness there were the prayers taped to the bedroom walls to help Ima remember to pray for healing each time she was sick, and help Uyime recite scriptures when she had headaches also. The years of getting physicals for school stand out in my mind, as well as the years of disputing with school officials of my right to refuse vaccinations for my children.

When you give birth to your child, you risk your life, after the child is born your heart is at risk forever. As a mother I was there for each tear they shed in my presence and some of them they shed without my presence. When their hearts broke, my did too, when they were overjoyed, I became ecstatic also. My mind reflects on every dance practice, each dance recital, all the music concerts,(as well as the music practice), and all the violin strings which broke. Oh yes I remember every violin I had to purchase also. By the time the years of teaching them to drive and going to buy prom dresses arrived, I felt that I’d already lived three lifetimes.

I questioned why I was still here after the death of Jaynae, I didn’t want to comprehend my living and her lying in a grave. I was grateful that she’d had a wonderful life. Yet I had difficulty finding the meaning of mundane things in life after her passing. She had taught me so much; even though I was the parent. Even now, when I look at her life, she is still teaching me; she is saying, “Mom keep singing, keep living, keep hoping, I may no longer be with you, but you still have mountains to conquer.”

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I once watched a television program about a woman approaching middle age. She said to a close friend, ” I feel the same inside as I did as a young girl, but when I look in the mirror I know that I’m not that young girl anymore.”  I thought, how can someone feel quite young even when they are growing older? I then surmised that who we truly are-which is what can’t be seen-never changes. It is only the outer covering that changes for a multitude of reasons. Other people only see what we appear as on the outside; yet even as our eyes age, those who really know us can see into our soul.

I was 32 years old and pregnant with my third child when I began to realize my own mortality. Up until then I had never thought of growing older and certainly never having to deal with the possibility of my own death.

How women often approach mid-life changes

For women who have relied exclusively on personal beauty to get them through life, or for those whose livelihood is connected with their physical appearance, approaching menopause may be viewed with apprehension.

Accepting mid-life changes means that we are growing older, and growing older means various things to different people. To some it may mean a change of roles in life: What do I do now that the children are grown and no longer need me the way they once needed me. To others it means a close examination of what they’ve accomplished in life: Have I fulfilled all those dreams which I harbored in my teens, twenties or thirties? To still others it may mean mourning the loss of youthful exuberance. Mid-life brings us to a threshold of setting priorities or possibly assessing our priorities.

Approaching menopause can create a myriad of emotions and just as many questions: Will I still be useful? Will there be a place for me as I grow older? Some women internalize in themselves the same judgments our society resonates about aging.

Aging women battle society’s judgment

Some cultures, such as Asian and Indian societies, embrace growing older as something to be honored and revered. For many cultures, however, mid-life is considered the beginning of deterioration and unattractiveness, especially for females, and some women cling to society’s judgment. We must remind ourselves that who we are does not change as we accumulate birthdays on the calendar.

Many of us face menopause and mid-life with trepidation because we are forced to evaluate our lives in terms of who we are, who we’ve been and who we expect to become. It is much easier to face the inevitable changes that come with mid-life if we have dealt effectively with changes throughout our whole lives.

It seems simplistic to focus only on the physical aspects growing older, such as weight gain and additional wrinkles: instead of trying to answer the questions that lie in the back of our minds about our value, our usefulness, and our place in society. While physical changes do present us with challenges, it is the way we view those changes that lays the foundation for how we will live out the rest of our lives.

Our physical bodies are changing. Estrogen levels are dropping and lean muscle mass is decreasing. Just as young girls are taught to accept the onset of menses and the change from child to young woman; adult women should be applauded for accepting the natural changes that will eventually come to us all.

Women juggle work, family, personal needs

Many women who are entering mid-life also have young children to care for: these are often the same women whose parents are approaching an age when they need constant care. This dilemma can present a range of emotions, from frustration to anger. Some women may ask, “When will I find time for myself?”

Even if our parents don’t live near us, many still feel an obligation to oversee their welfare. Looking at the way our parents age can also stir up emotions and questions such as, “Will I be able to care for myself as I grow older?” “Will the same ailments afflict me also?”

There is a certain contentment that comes with growing older: It is a knowledge of who we are and a wisdom that comes only with varied experiences. It is comforting to be aware of our strengths, our weaknesses, and to be fully confident of who we really are and what we want in life.

It is a positive thing to talk openly with others about how we feel about this stage of our lives. If necessary, grieve your losses; whether it is the loss of opportunity, loss of loved ones, or the  loss of the vitality of youth: but allow yourself to grieve. It also helps to look forward with eagerness to this next phase of your life. Menopause is not an end, but a truly great beginning to the next chapter of your life.