The “At Least You Have” Trap

We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.

Two recent articles – one on singleness and one on gratitude – got me thinking. The positive effects of gratitude practices, such as writing down a daily list of things for which we are thankful, are incredibly powerful and well-documented (example here).

However, there’s a kind-of catch – what we’re grateful for can’t be copied or compared to anyone’s list. It has to be our own genuine gratitude – things we are simply grateful to enjoy (big, small or tiny things or people all count!).

So how do these two articles connect? Well, I often imagine that when I’m in a great relationship with a mostly-perfect person and everything is beautiful in our Instagram life, then I’ll be able to be truly grateful. Thinking about what I can be grateful for right now is a harder task because I need to train my gratitude muscles.

Or the flip side: I often assume that XYZ person should be grateful because at least she has someone to do life with. At least she has a house to call her own. At least someone bought her nice stuff for her kitchen. At least she gets to have sex and children. At least she doesn’t have to answer questions about what went “wrong” that she’s still single. I’ve also heard this kind of language about men and women in dating. At least men can take action and ask women out. At least men don’t hear a biological clock ticking quite so loudly. And sometimes my own gratitude has taken this same problematic path: well, at least I’m not married to that person, which contains a hidden story about my own supposed wisdom in choosing a partner.

At least he or she or they…fill in the blank.

I was talking to my (younger, married) brother about this and he mentioned that “at least” statements are often clues to our heart’s idolatry. He might have gotten the idea from some guy named Tim Keller, but it’s still applicable. Bottom line – any time we set up an “At Least You Have” or and “At Least I Have” statement, we need to stop and think. Are we setting up something or someone (besides the one true God) who we think we can worship for our security and happiness?

I love how the Psalmists give concrete examples of trusting God. The psalmists aren’t setting their trust or gratitude in the frames of “at least.” There aren’t verses of…Well, I hope I win this battle, but at least I have a secret cave in case I need to hide later. Or those wicked rulers are so annoying but at least I have a week’s stash of vodka. Or everything is upside down in my world but at least I’ve got my 401(k) intact. There are so many things we find that substitute and prevent us from putting our full trust in God.

The Psalmists are clear…

Psalms 62: 1-2, 5-6 “I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken. Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken.”

Psalms 27:13-14 “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”

Psalms 34:1-3 “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad.  Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.”

Do you find yourself using “at least” statements? Take some time this Monday and ask God if there are any idols getting in the way of you completely trusting Him and having genuine gratitude. At most, we can trust His word!

In His Grace,

Amy

Posted in Author: Amy | 1 Comment

A Wall and Gatekeepers

We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.

Book a flight on any commercial airline and you will experience the scrutiny of the security checkpoints. I had an unopened water bottle in my carry on bag which led to a full pat-down and scan of the dirt on my boots for explosive residue. The screening and checking of bags and body searches might add extra time to our travel and be inconvenient, but it is all done in the name of protection and safety.

In the Bible, the security officers are called gatekeepers. The gatekeepers were posted as guards at the entrances to cities for protection, or as 2 Chronicles 23:19 states,

He also stationed gatekeepers at the gates of the Lord’s temple so that no one who was in any way unclean might enter.

Keeping trouble outside of the city or temple was the primary responsibility of the gatekeepers. In order for there to be gatekeepers, however, there needs to be a wall and gates for them to protect.

There are many correlations that can be drawn from the fortifying of Old Testament cities described in Chronicles and Nehemiah that can relate to how we protect ourselves from the evil and corruption that wants to enter our hearts and minds. Setting boundaries in our lives is analogous to building a wall around a city. What are the biblical boundaries you have built to protect your heart and mind from evil?

1. Build the Wall

Do you have boundaries around what you allow to fill your mind? Entertainment is often an easy, and sometimes warranted, target for its negative influences on our thoughts. I try to make a conscious effort to stay away from watching movies that will fill my mind with lust, sexual imagery, or spark a myriad of thought trails that lead me away from the charge in Philippians 4:8. Songs are another big one for getting my mind focused on the right stuff, so I’ve set boundaries around what I listen to, it doesn’t mean the songs outside of my wall are bad, they just don’t point my mind in the direction I want to head. It’s important to know your areas of weakness and protect those areas with walls (boundaries).

2. Establish Gatekeepers

Open communication with God through prayer that allows Him to guide you to areas where gates need to be closed and guarded is the first step. Once you know where you need to post guards, try opening yourself up to accountability. Allow others to ask poignant questions and to keep yourself responsible for your actions. Even doing little things that don’t seem like significant or strong points for attack can help to keep the borders strong and the gates working. These may seem pointless, but they are reminders that my life should not be lived in the shadows and I need gatekeepers, my nephews remember the code to my phone (and I haven’t changed it), several people have access to my Facebook account, and my online movie viewing history is open for others to see. These aren’t major issues for me, but the knowledge that areas of my life are open to others is important. I find living alone can foster a mindset that keeps others and accountability at a safe distance, it takes work to allow others in and able to ask questions. What are other ways you have gatekeepers?

3. Prepare for the Attack

By nature there is something about establishing boundaries and building a wall of protection that invites an attack, the wall should serve as a message to steer clear, but it seems to be more like a magnet for attack at times. Setting a boundary of purity and keeping sex for marriage is counter-cultural. Songs, movies, television shows, magazines, conversations with colleagues, and the list could go on are often promoting sex and not encouraging a life of abstinence before marriage. Because of the boundary that I’ve set for purity and keeping sex for marriage, I just don’t need all of those reminders that I’m single with desires that will go unfulfilled until I marry. So I turn things off, change the station, look the other way, and do whatever I can to keep my mind from opening the gate. But what do you do when you’re blindsided by an unexpected attack in an area where you’ve established a gatekeeper and fortified the wall?

The story goes something like your widowed neighbor sells her house to a family and you end up learning just how thin those block walls are separating your homes, especially in the bedroom. How do you suggest to your new neighbors, whom you’ve only met a few times, that they need a more secure headboard or perhaps they lose their squeaky bed all together? It’s so bad that even while in the dining room on a lower level the knocking was more than I could handle. Seriously people, I can’t make this stuff up, it’s like the lobbing of a bomb over the city walls. I’ve tried banging on the wall to no avail, turning on music really loud, putting in earbuds, and I’m not sure what’s left besides selling the house. I refuse to allow this to invade my mind and be a rude and explosive reminder of my singleness and boundaries set. Setting a boundary does not mean all unwanted “stuff” will stay outside, the gates must be guarded, and creativity used for those times when surprise attacks try to tear down the wall.

It’s only by God’s strength that we can hold fast and defend the wall!

I Corinthians 16:13

  Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.

Defender of the faith!

Michelle

Posted in Author: Michelle | 3 Comments

Olive Juice

We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.

Have you ever mouthed the words “olive juice” to someone? The lip movement is the same as if you were saying “I love you!” I didn’t realize, but this is actually in the Urban Dictionary, the word is out! If you haven’t heard this before, you may stop reading now and try it out on someone (be careful who you choose) or watch yourself in a mirror.

I have come to use these two words, “olive juice,” to describe certain relationships. The kind where the actions and/or words of one party seem to be communicating more-than-friendship (I love you), but he/she doesn’t really mean or want anything more than an awkwardly defined friendship. Have you experienced this kind of relationship?

When does a male/female relationship cross the line to something more than friendship? What if the olive juice mouther is unaware of what his/her actions and words are communicating? Or what if he/she is aware, but likes the flirting game? Does the receiver call the olive juice mouther out and hold him/her accountable? Or should the receiver continue wondering and allow their heart strings to be yanked back and forth like a yo-yo until all is revealed?

The rules for how relationships move from friendship to dating have changed throughout the years. Today, there seems to be more time spent in the friendship zone than in years past, which lets more room for those “olive juice” moments to occur. I get it, relationships are risky business! Developing a friendship with someone is important, and the time in the friendship zone can give you valuable insight about the heart of a person before the butterfly feelings ramp up and cloud vision. Where it gets tricky and messy is when one party starts jumping across the friendship line without expressing their intentions or feelings.

I can only speak from the female perspective, but I desire for a man to be intentional and communicate his feelings without a veil of confusion and inconsistencies in actions and words. I know it can be scary to move a relationship from friendship to dating, it will change things, and there is always the possibility that she won’t return the feelings, but I think honesty and taking the risk are character building traits of godly men. As women, we play a role in this process too and here are a few thoughts for navigating these relationship waters.

  1. Keep our friendships with men God-honoring!

Until there is a verbalized and official transition to a dating relationship, this man is our brother in Christ (not that he stops being a brother when dating, but the allowances change). So as we relate to him as a brother, we don’t get physical or toy with emotions if we have no intent of this developing into more than a friendship. If we do develop feelings during the friendship, it’s okay to open the door and allow our interest to be known through the use of God-given femininely wiles or open conversation.

  1. We owe it to our brothers and sisters to protect hearts!

 This “Olive Juice” stuff plays with the emotions and heart of another person. It’s really the opposite of true love, because it’s more concerned with the “I” in the relationship than the feelings of another person. Even in a friendship, there should be an element of sacrifice and concern for the other person. A good friendship should want to be honest and respectful of the other person’s heart. This means that we (girls) have a responsibility to make sure guys know when they are consistently sending mixed messages. It’s okay to ask what he means by such-and-such comment or text message or action.

I find that texting has opened a door to the ease of sending mixed messages. A little emoticon here or there, a flirty comment, or extended texting communication is at the touch of a finger without the added vulnerability and accountability of face-to-face conversation. If the bulk of our communication with a man is done by texting, this could be a problem. Phone calls are better than text-only conversations for keeping things real and accountable, but nothing replaces face-to-face honesty for seeing true intentions.

  1. Until he’s our husband, he could still one day be someone else’s husband.

Relationships are hard enough without having to deal with scars of the past. Not every dating relationship will lead to marriage, so it’s important to remember we take the good, bad, and ugly with us from one relationship to another. Song of Solomon warns throughout “Do not arouse or awaken love until it pleases.” I prefer not to be a scar someone carries with them, but an encouragement to be all God intends for his life. We also owe it to other women to not ruin guys for our own kicks, and most of all we have a responsibility to God to treat each other with respect.

Olive juice is used in dirty martinis; it’s the ingredient that makes them dirty. This may be stretching the analogy, but “olive juice” words and actions in relationships make them murky. Explore friendships with men, by all means, but let’s work to keep them free from ambiguity and misleading murkiness.

Ephesians 4:2-3 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

Song of Solomon 2:7 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the doves of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.

We’re all in this together!

Michelle

 

Posted in Author: Michelle | 4 Comments

Post from a Reader: Plan to be Surprised

In January, we began to periodically feature posts submitted by readers of the FastPray blog. It’s encouraging to know there is a whole community of Jesus followers fasting and praying on Mondays.

We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.

Plan to be Surprised. This was the theme of the 2007 movie Dan in Real Life. The movie documents how the main character Dan, played by Steve Carell, deals with the twists and turns of life interrupting his plans. In one of his most serious roles to date, Carell nails the overly anxious and protective parent who is closed off to new possibilities for himself. But the movie concludes with a short monologue about life and expectations and Carell tells the audience “Instead of asking our young people, ‘What are your plans? What do you plan to do with your life?’, maybe we should tell them this: ‘Plan to be surprised.’”

In thinking about my own life, especially in the area of dating and unintentional singleness, I wish I would have learned this much sooner. The past ten years have been filled with anxiety, trying to fit the square peg into the round hole and then being frustrated with God that it’s not working. All in all, I struggled (let’s be honest, this should be present tense too) with expectations. When I went away to a small Christian college, I expected God to introduce me to a nice Christian man who would marry me a year after graduating. When that didn’t happen, I was confused and angry with God and at a logistical loss of what to do with my life. Why? Because I had a plan in mind that went totally awry. I wasn’t flexible and open to His plan. I wasn’t planning for surprise.

Granted, there are some expectations in the dating realm that we should hold onto, basic values such as shared faith, mutual respect, and compatibility. But outside of the core areas, are we too inflexible and clinging to our expectations? Are we leaving enough room for God to move and work, and surprise us along the way? Sure your first choice in the romance department may look like a 5’ 6” blond hair soccer player. But what if God has in mind a 6’ 3” dark haired nerd? Why do we pressure ourselves to be married by a certain age? What if a longer time of waiting deepened our reliance on God, making us stronger women of faith?

One of the consistent prayers on the Fast Pray blog that I love is for women to have soft hearts toward God and that we would be pliable toward His plans. As shown throughout Scripture, people have made many life plans that God has interjected and changed. But time and again, God’s plans are better and wiser for us than anything we could have devised. Scripture confirms this by saying: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8.28). I wonder what plans and dreams Mary had in mind for her marriage and family before the angel Gabriel delivered a message that changed her life and gave hope to ours.

Life may not look like we dreamed it. Our plans may fall by the wayside. But we have not been abandoned. We know His plans are good, though scary and different they may be. Let us approach His throne with soft hearts and open hands. Let us plan to be surprised.

~Lindsey

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Blessed is She Who Has Believed

We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.

 

During the Advent season, I was reading Luke’s account again of the virgin birth. I always love to stop and think about the fact that Elizabeth would have been considered too old and Mary would have been considered too young. And that either pregnancy would have been a scandal of its own variety, but somehow the narrative of God’s incarnation has both of them carrying children at the same time. What a beautiful and bizarre first meeting they must have had after the angel visited Mary. As I was reading it this time, I saw a new line that caught my eye. This is what Elizabeth says to Mary, right before the Magnificat:

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!

And I just stopped. What a line of praise and trust and faith. Two women, surprised to find themselves first-time expectant mothers, staring incredulously at God’s faithfulness in awe. Elizabeth lifting up Mary’s faith as a blessing. And all this while the only adult man in the story has been recently struck mute for his unbelief (sorry, Zechariah). Isn’t this a bit of a crazy story, when you stop to think about it? Considering the cultural norms and gender roles of the day, the unexpected pregnancy for both women, and the Spirit-led responsiveness of one child in utero…wow. God writes so many unexpected stories…and stories whose encouragement transcends time:

God sees women who have been quietly believing and trusting His promises to be fulfilled.

Mary and Elizabeth weren’t doing things that looked amazing, special or “paradigm-shifting” to anyone around them. They were living faithful lives – one as a married woman who had perhaps grown used to the name of barren, and one as a young, single woman found to be pregnant before marriage. And yet God plucks these women out of their lives and sets them in the very beginning of the story of the Incarnation. And I would like to think that years of quiet belief enabled both of them to be ready to respond when God called. A woman who, like Mary, could then embrace the unforeseen shape of God’s call on her life: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

In order to believe, I need to keep on remembering his promises to me.

I always think of a sermon I heard on Hebrews 12:2 (…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…) which emphasized that the verb for “looking to” at the beginning of verse has the sense of continually turning, or to keep on looking. So true. We forget so quickly. I can’t vaguely think about “Oh, God is faithful and He said some stuff about that.” I have to turn the eyes of my heart toward His word and look deeply at His promises. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is no easy feat for me…I quickly switch back into my selfish, self-reliance mode and I’d stay there, were it not for God’s faithfulness in pulling my heart back to Him.

We can encourage the faith of others.

One of my favorite things about this passage was a note from a commentary:

Those that have experienced the performance of God’s promises themselves should encourage others to hope that he will be as good as his word to them also: ‘I will tell you what God has done for my soul.’

As women who are praying together to see impossible things become possible, I sometimes forget that this is some of our calling. A call to be women who identify and encourage faith in others. To say “I see faith growing in you!” To celebrate God’s faithfulness with other women in whatever particular shape it shows up. And also to say “God is faithful” and tell our own stories. Even the stories with question marks, with grief, with unfinished endings, with many years of waiting…because, in the end, we are women who have seen the Lord be faithful in what circumstances we find ourselves. And we are trusting on His promises for the unforeseen road we’re walking. In the end, as the angel told Mary, we’re trusting the God who sees and acts in the realm of the impossible:

“And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.

Praying with you and for you,

Amy

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Guest Post: Motherhood Misunderstood

We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.

I became a mom, as the world defines motherhood, almost 15 years ago to the day. My oldest was born May 14, 2001, and the boys that followed him (yes, they are all boys) are now 9, 11, and 13. Throughout the past 15 years, I’ve had my share of “teachable moments” as a mom as I have navigated the waters, very choppy waters at times, of raising four boys. I’ve not only learned a thing or two about raising children, but I’ve actually learned quite a bit about motherhood, and what I have discovered goes far beyond the neat and tidy definition of the word. My perspective of mothering has broadened to a panorama that includes women of all ages, walks of life, and marital statuses.

The suffix “hood” signifies a group sharing a specified condition or state. So, the term “motherhood” implies a group sharing the condition or state of being a mother. Let me tell you right now, while birthing a child may gain you entry into this group, true motherhood is characterized by far more than gestating, laboring, and delivering. The very essence of the word peels back the outer layer of being a biological mother, and exposes a deeper, more adequate meaning of helping a younger generation grow up and mature in more than stature, but in wisdom and ways that will impact generations to come.

Yes, true motherhood stretches beyond the stretch marks and is borne out of more than a womb. Its offspring develop and grow by compassionate hearts and a willingness to devote the time necessary to make a difference. Motherhood is a sisterhood of women passionate to see the next generation flourish.

I was recently given the opportunity to spend some time with 27 teenage girls. We were able to have in-depth discussions about purity, relationships, and what God’s Word says about them. Now remember, I am the mom of four boys, so offering “motherly” words of encouragement to these young ladies was a bit abnormal for this boy mom; however, I cannot tell you how blessed I was to be a part of that immensely important conversation. Since then, the dialogue has continued with a few, relationships are forming, and plans are being made for more opportunities to foster maturity and growth in this area of their lives.

Having that opportunity with those teenage girls reminded me of so many other spaces the Lord has created for me to “mother” outside the traditional meaning of the word. These spaces span a couple of decades from my young adult years until now. They include leading Bible studies and small groups with middle schoolers, high schoolers, college girls, and young moms. While “mother” may not have been the title of the role I stepped into for that season, I was definitely able to “mother” while leading these young ladies.

So, what qualifies us for entry into this elite club called “motherhood?” In my opinion, it’s really rather simple. The only thing you need to be a card carrying member is a willing heart of compassion that is available to walk through the doors of opportunity the Lord opens to impact the lives on the other side that are waiting to be loved — lives that already have a biological mother, but for whatever reason, God has placed you strategically in their lives to make a difference. For that space and time, God needs your wisdom and willingness to plant seeds of faith in their impressionable hearts and water those seeds with the words of life and truth you’ll speak to them from a mother’s heart.

When we are a part of this society of women, we must not be threatened by each other. As a mom of four boys, I welcome the help I get from other members of the society. There is a dear sweet older lady who has spoken into my boys’ lives throughout the year on various occasions, primarily across her dining room table at a weekly teatime that she has hosted for nearly 25 years. My boys are always welcome in her home, and she imparts her mothering wisdom into their lives every chance she gets.

My boys are also blessed to have two grandmothers and four aunts that also have influenced their lives tremendously. In fact, several examples flood my mind of their times with Aunt Michelle, who happens to be single. She has never let her singleness define her or discredit her ability to “mother” her nieces and nephews. She has been so purposeful throughout the years to encourage them by “getting into their world,” doing things they love, and intentionally decorating those spaces of opportunity with fond memories and formative moments that speak life into them and aid in their maturity. My boys have enjoyed weekend adventures full of theme parks, a Broadway show, a private plane ride over NYC, bike rides, and fireworks on the beach. She takes each of them away for their 11th birthday on an adventure of epic proportions, but the mothering moments last far beyond the fun.

When you read these words, who comes to your mind? Is it a niece or nephew? A student? A single mom? Who might you consider walking alongside? Who needs the love and guidance you have to offer? Motherhood is far more than birthing children. It’s raising up a generation. It’s a sisterhood, a society. Stretch marks don’t define us and experiences refine us. All who are willing are welcomed, and together are triumphant in the task. Raising a generation takes multiple skill sets, personalities, and passions. So, own your place in this family of mothers, and do what God created you to do. Motherhood doesn’t have to be misunderstood when we are all figuring it out together.

~Tabitha

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Post From a Reader: Blessing & Singleness

In January, we began to periodically feature posts submitted by readers of the FastPray blog. It’s encouraging to know there is a whole community of Jesus followers fasting and praying on Mondays.

We fast and pray asking for the Lord to bring healing in our times: for men to be bold and to walk in to relationships with women, for women to be soft and willing to be molded by God’s gracious plan in their lives, and for God to give the good gift of marriage to those who desire it.

“I’ve got it-spinning!”

“Yes! I can just picture myself sitting at a spinning wheel, turning wool into yarn ready for me to knit. Lulled to sleep by the sound of the turning wheel.”

Mum and I laughed at that most unlikely picture.

“Making bread! That’s it! The repetitive motion of kneading will help you relax so you can sleep.”

“Great idea. At 10pm every night I get out the dough, give it a few bashes and sleep like a baby!”

Again, we laughed as we lay by the pool at the end of a warm 39 degree (Celsius) day, brainstorming solutions to help me sleep. We are known for being poor sleepers in our family and I’m carrying on the tradition. So mum and I were thinking of relaxing hobbies that would help me have ‘screen-off’ time for an hour or so before bed. The bricks were warm beneath our towels in the early evening and the blue sky was gradually turning indigo. It was the 23rd of December and we enjoyed the moment of fun together.

On Christmas Eve, I went back to my parents’ place to give them their gifts. I’d made a basket of Christmas baking and I didn’t want to take it to my Aunt’s house for Christmas lunch the next day (too hot!). Having encountered some financial difficulties this year, I’d tried to make as many of my Christmas gifts as possible (these had been greatly appreciated by all those too busy to have time for baking that I, being a teacher on summer holidays, had plenty of time to do.)

But it was the card and what I said, that made mum well up in tears. I explained how happy it made me to have parents who were my friends. That the previous day of laughing and chatting by the pool was something I really valued. To go and see action movies with my dad (because I’m the only girl in my circle of friends who seems to like them!) was something I always looked forward to. And that a positive side to being single is that I’ve been able to develop a much closer relationship with them. It all comes down to time. I’ve had time (and the need, to be honest!) to be with them much more than if I’d been married with children. And so we’ve become great friends.

This is not the specific case for everyone, but often there are blessings that we experience because of our singleness and it’s important to recognise and celebrate these. One friend has been able to develop particular ministries in her church that she has devoted a lot of time to; time she probably wouldn’t have had as a wife and mother. Another friend has built a career that required a significant prioritisation of time and has been able to witness for Christ in the corporate world. Other friends have supported family through difficult times and as the single family member, others have been able to rely on them. In doing so, they’ve developed close friendships with family members that are often rare today.

So what about you? How has God enabled you to experience a blessing through your singleness? How have you been able to carry God’s blessing to others?

Sometimes it is easy to see the ‘silver lining’ while other times we seem to only see the cloud. But if we are in that clouded time, an important tool to help keep our heads above water (sorry-mixed metaphors!) is the practice of thanksgiving. My dad, who has lived with bipolar disorder since I was 21, keeps a diary and one thing he always makes note of is that for which he can be thankful. So in those moments of depression, he looks back and sees a record of God’s goodness that may not be so obvious in a ‘down’ period. I’ve learned a lot from him about making a deliberate choice to be thankful whenever I can and to record my thankfulness as the truth to hold onto when I may experience a ‘cloudy’ season. And in whatever season, we can always give thanks to our Father for sending Jesus through whom we have grace and love abounding.

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge” 1 Cor 1:4-5

Father God we thank you, not as an afterthought or grudgingly, but with an overwhelming sense that in you we are loved so deeply and bought so dearly. Thank you for reaching out and saving us and bestowing on us the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven, making us your sons and daughters. You have also blessed us with many blessings today and we thank you for those. Help us keep these in mind when we are struggling with the pain of singleness and may we never lose sight of how precious we are to you. Thank you for delighting in us. Help us delight in our relationship with you.

~Chelsea

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