The Longing


I wrote about it last year. The singleness of the season. The way it feels, for many of us singles, to live in November and December.

I’ve had pretty good form the last few holiday seasons, minus a few sadness glitches here and there. For the most part, I RSVP to parties, buy glitter pumps to wear with Christmas dresses, put my head down and muscle through the holidays, ready for January 3rd.

January 3rd seems to always be the day when we all go back to work, and when we all go back to work, being single is just another part of my life, it isn’t the thing that is noticed.

So I spent the holidays having fun, seeing friends, eating yummy treats, but trying to get to the end of the season quickly, so I don’t feel extra sad or lonely.

Because of that, I’ve never really celebrated Advent before.

If you look across the internet, and look at the products available, it has always felt like a family thing to me. Light the candles, teach the children. And so I put aside Advent, as a part of separating myself from feeling sadness for the life I don’t currently have.

My counselor challenged me this year — what if I took it slow, and actually felt every single day? What if there was something to be celebrated in the lonely and in the longing?

Isn’t that what Advent is actually all about? The celebration of the coming baby Jesus and the hope, expectation, and longing for His return?

Don’t miss the beauty of Advent because you fear the longing.

I get it. If you could see my journal, less than a week into the Advent season, you would believe me — I GET IT. But there’s something really beautiful too, about slowing down, spending a little time each evening reading, journaling, and praying by the lights of my Christmas tree.

I’m setting aside time to feel the longing — the longing for Jesus to make all things right, the longing for Jesus to answer my deepest prayers, the longing for Jesus to come back. I’m reading the SheReadsTruth Advent plan and The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. I’m choosing to feel this season. John Eldredge says that pain and pleasure originate in the same spot in our hearts, and the more I allow myself to feel the longing, the more my heart feels joy, too.

So I’m testing that theory this Advent season. I’m taking is slow, still buying glitter pumps for my Christmas dresses, but feeling and acknowledging and being honest about the places where I feel lonely.

Join me?

This year, no matter your longing or loss, your pain or your hurt, celebrate Advent. Feel the longing. Because the joy to follow, when the promise arrives, will be all the sweeter.

by Annie F. Downs

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  • Omily

    The greatest gift, I read it every year :)

    • anniefdowns

      I’m loving it!

  • Anna Smit

    What beautiful words. I’m so encouraged by them. Christmas is bittersweet for our family without my Mum and the memories of her diagnosis shortly before Christmas. I’m going to allow myself to feel the longing too: longing for suffering to end and hope to be fulfilled. May God bless you in your longing.

    • anniefdowns

      Thank you, friend. <3 Praying for this holiday for you. Truly.

    • Beth Williams

      Anna Smit,
      Prayers for you and your family! This time of year can be tough-especially when we lose someone. Six (6) years ago we lost my mother to dementia. This year my aging dad (90) is in assisted living on hospice. So tough! I pray God will bless you and help you through these tough days!
      Blessings :)

      • Anna Smit

        So hard, Beth. Mum walked her Dad through similar things and always said she really hoped she wouldn’t live through that herself and also put us kids through it all. She died at 59, so didn’t suffer as long as her parents, but the five months between diagnosis and her passing were still excruciating. It’s never easy…something so special about parents. Hugs and saying a prayer for you this Christmas, for refreshment, strength and deep joy.

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    I immediately think of my daughter, still single, with all her friends either engaged, married, or having children. I feel her pain…it cuts deep. I’m going to share with her your post and your take on Advent. Knowing that pain and pleasure both originate from the same spot in the heart, maybe makes it a tad easier for us to allow them to coexist this season. Thank you for sharing from your beautiful heart. May God bring you the desires of your heart…
    Bev xx

    • anniefdowns

      Thanks for sharing, Bev. Means a lot.

  • Donna

    I’m going to read SheReadsTruth Advent. I need a little spiritual touch right now. I’m husband less also. You’re so right about the longing and the hope being there at the same time. It’s difficult but precious to be nearer to Jesus .

    • anniefdowns

      It’s so so good. You’ll enjoy it, I hope!

  • Allison

    Thanks for sharing so honestly, Annie. I am right there with you in the longing and am also making myself “do Advent” for the first time. Praying we both find Him in the middle of the ache.

    • anniefdowns

      Thanks, Allison. Yes yes yes. Good word. <3

  • Lovelle

    This is so good! I have been overly busy this season- not because of singleness but because of avoidance. Your quote, “pain and pleasure originate in the same spot in our hearts” really hit home today. Thanks for that Annie!

    • anniefdowns

      Thanks, friend!! Hugs to you!!! :)

  • Emma

    I’m right there will you Annie. I did advent for the first time last year using Ann’s Greatest Gift and did exactly what you are doing; felt the longing, found the hope, discovered the joy, rested in the peace not just in the person of the season but in the singleness of it too. I confided to my best friend when being alone was just too much but I too put on my LRD (little red dress = my glitter pumps) and took each party, celebration and event one at a time. I was so enamoured with my daily readings and what I was learning that I was full to brimming with the love of the season. Suddenly being alone at Christmas was not what it had been previously precisely because I realised I wasn’t. Love to you.

    • anniefdowns

      Wow wow wow. Thank you for this! I love it.

  • Rebecca Jones

    That longing is a good thing if it is God wanting to spend time with you. I think married people feel it also, people in a crowd, the something missing. You can still be lonely, the holidays are hard for some, I try to catch up with everyone I can.

    • anniefdowns

      I think you’re right, Rebecca! Thank you for your thoughts. <3

  • Pam

    Walking along with you…minus the glittery pumps :) This year, I felt almost a compulsion to embrace Advent…to allow the sense of longing to push out the stress and the frantic of the everyday.

  • Linda Lint

    Five years widowed, I am also “one of those who are single”. I also have decided to “do” Advent this year. I believe it will be a sacred journey for me and I pray it will be so for all other “singles” who decide to slow down and experience this Season one day at a time. Blessings.

  • Jennifer Adams

    I’m doing the She Reads Truth advent too! This season is bittersweet. It’s my favorite and least favorite in one. I’m trying to be more aware this year. I don’t want to miss out waiting for “a different” next year! As always, so good!

  • Sybil @ Peace it all Together

    I was just journaling about longing this morning! While I’m not single, there have been things I have been longing for lately that have caused me to retreat, to go numb. God showed me this morning, through my advent study, not to focus on longing for changes in my circumstances, but instead to long for him in the midst of them. So, it’s timely that I read this post. God’s timing is amazing! Thanks, Annie!!

  • Annie Glass

    Annie, once again you write directly to my heart!! Enjoy this advent, from one single Annie to another!

  • Debby Hudson

    I’m so glad I read this Annie. I expect there was much loneliness felt in that stable of long ago. And the longing…and feeling it all. Not always easy at different times of our life but there so much to be learned from the longing. Thank you for sharing your insights to this season of waiting, anticipation and hope.

  • Beth Williams

    Such beautiful words by someone so young! It can be soo hard dealing with holidays without family! When I was single I would pray & get involved in activities to help alleviate any sadness of not having much family around. This year I’m going to celebrate a small Christmas with my dad and others at the nursing home on 12/18. Santa Claus will come and hand out gifts, plus they get their pictures with Santa. Some of those people don’t have anyone & it is so sad for them. Prayers for you and other singles this Christmas!!
    Blessings :)

  • Diana

    Just prior to opening this blog, I had just written out a prayer in my journal asking, really pleading, to the Lord regarding my deep longing for fellowship with other believers. I have an environmental illness which causes disabling pain, exhaustion and cognitive dysfunction if exposed to fragrances and many chemicals used in most buildings. I haven’t been able to join with other believers in corporate worship, prayer, the Lord’s supper, sermons, etc. for about nine years now. I was baptized in October in a church for which I rejoice. Yet, because the one time in that environment caused the typical harsh symptoms, I realize until the Lord heals me of this, I won’t be able to go regularly and be able to function. Annie, your encouragement to allow the longing to be a way to celebrate Advent has really got my heart hopeful! I am going to explore this idea further with the links you provided as well as with the church I am trying to “join” with in my unusual circumstances. I believe they have Advent related resources as well. I’m thanking the Lord for this blessing this morning. And I pray He will bless you and the others here as He touches each of our hearts with the hope that Christ will make all that is wrong today, right one day!

  • cindylaverty

    This touches my heart in so many ways. I spent the better part of my life lost in the “madness” and commercializing of Christmas and Advent was lost. Thanks to a whole lot of life changes and constant love of God…this year, I have changed everything to spend time in the wonder of Christmas and for the first time in a long time, I’ve let go of the need to be all things to all people and worry about the perfection of doing Christmas right. It feels good to come home to Christmas. Thank you for this.

  • Jamie S. Harper

    This is beautiful, Annie. We all have a longing of some sort. I really appreciate how you encourage us to lean into the longing. That’s the tension we all have til Christ returns.

  • Elizabeth

    So many beautiful words. Short, sweet and to the point. :)

  • Susan

    I get what you are saying. I love this emphasis on feeling the longing. I will check out the SheReadsTruth Advent plan.
    I am trying something new this year, too. I made a felt advent wreath and am using it as a prayer reminder. Each day I pray for someone, write their name on a holly leaf, and glue it to my wreath.

  • Martha

    Annie thank you. It takes such courage pressing into the lonely and the ache, so many of us balk at that or give up. I’m praying that He meets you and satisfies and gives you a really rich Advent season and ultimately a greater measure of Himself! I so love “lighting the candles, teaching the children,” but I really ache for the days sometimes when it was just me and Jesus, reading long in the lonely quiet of the tree lights. Really we have nothing to teach our children if we ourselves don’t have our own experience with Him first. Thanks for writing about something that is hard for so many during the holidays especially!
    Ps. I saw you at Emily Freeman’s barn event for Simply Tuesday and wanted to meet you but felt sort of like a lame fan girl. :)

  • JAC

    As a single women who is now well into middle age I am finding that my heart has hardened to being able to experience God’s love for me. Next Sunday I am teaching adult Sunday school on John 3:16, and I have come to learn that it is much easier for me to understand God’s love for th

  • JAC

    As a single women who is now well into middle age I am finding that my heart has hardened to being able to experience God’s love for me. Next Sunday I am teaching adult Sunday school on John 3:16, and I have come to learn that it is much easier for me to understand God’s love for the world rather than God’s personal love for me. My goal this Advent is to rediscover and live into that personal love while acknowledging His all-inclusive love for the world.

  • Nikki Bell

    Beautiful words! I agree the Holiday singleness is a thing to deal with all on its own. I don’t do a lot of decorating or anything because it’s just me at my house, so what’s the point. I love that you said to take it slow, to long for Him.

  • Susan Easterday

    Hello Annie, Thank you for a brief glimpse into your soul. :-) I checked out your blog, because you will be speaking at Snowball and my daughter will be attending. I was single until I was 34, and it can be very lonely, for sure. But, surrounding yourself with the story of Jesus–God’s way of becoming “us” is definitely the way to savor the season. I always enjoy books by Max Lucado, like “An Angel’s Story”–thoughtful, beautifully written, and full of hope!

  • Sarah Simmons

    Wow…I know I’m late to reading this, but I can’t say how much good this does for my soul. Annie, I feel like you wrote this straight out of my journal. The longing is so real, so bittersweet, but so important because it truly does bring me to Jesus in my desire for him to make everything right. Thank you so much for these words.