Your paper plate is about to fold from the weight of glazed carrots, stuffing, turkey and gravy, and cranberry sauce, so you quickly sit down across from those relatives you only see about once every 365 days. You make eye contact . . . and your brain goes to mush—just like those mashed potatoes piled high in front of you.
You know you should talk about something deeper than who just got the boot on Survivor, or who sang what on The Voice, but you’re about as empty as that basket of your aunt’s award-winning croissant rolls.
That’s when you either:
Stare at your plate while shoveling pumpkin pie into your mouth to the tune of strained silence, or
Whip out your iPhone and ask a few meaningful (but not too awkward!) questions I cooked up for ya.
Your pick. (Just prepare to answer these questions yourself! It’s not terribly fair to ask others a question you’re not willing to answer as well.)
What’s one of the most meaningful ways someone has thanked you? (Ever, or this past year—you pick.)
What’s one of the most creative ways you’ve thanked someone else?
What difficulty from this past year are you most thankful for, and how did the lessons you learned through it change something about your life?
Who’s one of the most consistently thankful people you know? Tell me about them.
What’s one of the most meaningful gifts you’ve received? (Ever, or this past year—you pick.) How did you respond?
What’s one thing you’ve found yourself saying thanks for over and over and over and over? Like, you just can’t hold your thankfulness in—it insists on oozing out!
What’s something you struggle to thank God for?
Tell me about a time you pretended to be thankful but really weren’t.
What’s one thing that you think keeps you from expressing gratitude more often?
Is there anyone you’ve been meaning to thank, but haven’t gotten around to it yet? Who? (Can you do it today?)
Let me know how it goes! Did you learn anything new about your relatives? Have any meaningful conversations? I hope so!
This post is adapted from a very personal prayer I wrote in my journal some time back. I think you’ll be able to relate! Just by way of a disclaimer: this post is not written for guys. It’s important that men speak into other men’s lives about being faithful to the women in their lives in their glances (and mostly their second glances!), their thoughts, and their actions.
How I need You, Abba.
I don’t normally think about things like this, but I don’t have toned thighs, and suddenly I’m aware that he would probably like that.
I think it all started when I asked him how he’s most often tempted and what he does about it. He told me he wasn’t too keen on sharing details, but he said the standard things you hear guys struggle with are true, beginning with idolizing outer beauty.
That was hard to hear. He’s not immune to the struggles of men. And with that admission entered a flood of insecurities. (Wait, they were already there, weren’t they?)
Here’s another guy who won’t find me beautiful enough.
I’m not enough.
But then . . .
No woman is enough to capture the gaze of one man for every second of her short stay on earth. Because no man, apart from Jesus Christ, is 100% faithful. And no man is immune to all beauty but mine.
I think the root issue is actually mine: wanting a created man to validate me and tell me I’m “enough,” when only Christ is enough . . . for me and for him.
Yes, I want to “cultivate my garden” for my future hubby to enjoy, but I don’t want to chain him to a leash and insist he never leave my garden without a blindfold and a seeing eye dog.
So I wonder . . . Will You be enough for me, God, when I am not enough for my man? Because if not, doesn’t that prove that I am not living as if Your love, approval, and delight is enough for me?
And didn’t You love me—freely, lavishly—when I was captivated by others’ beauty? Didn’t You love me without insisting that I keep my eyes on You or else Your love would be withdrawn?
Only You can do this, God, ’cause You know me. I’m the woman who naturally keeps track of every glance and suspects ill motive behind each one. But You don’t keep track of my sins. You’ve removed them as far as the east is from the west.
Thank You for exposing the idolatry in my heart. I think the root issue is actually mine: wanting a created man to validate me and tell me I’m “enough,” when only Christ is enough . . . for me and for him.
How about you? Do you expect your future boyfriend/husband to never ever so much as even look at another woman? How do you think you’ll react if and when he does notice another beautiful woman?
I pray we’ll be women secure enough in God’s love that instead of seeking to “imprison” our men and keep them from noticing any other beautiful woman, that instead we help do battle with our men through love, prayer, and confidence in Christ.
Last week I shared some mail I just couldn’t keep to myself. You were so encouraged that this week I want to share more advice with you from married women. So . . . I asked a group of married women of all ages the following question:
What do you wish you’d done before getting married (either to prepare for marriage or just to take advantage of your singleness)?
You may be wondering, Why should I care what a bunch of married women think? Well, did you know God’s plan is that we learn the ins and outs of marriage from women who are “older and wiser?” Titus 2:3–5 says,
“Older women are to . . . teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands . . . that the word of God may not be reviled.”
Part of that training takes place before you’re even in a relationship! With that in mind, here’s what several married women wish they’d done before getting married:
“I wish I had spent more time growing as a Christian instead of assuming that I would ‘follow’ my husband spiritually. I would have spent more time being myself instead of being simply available.” —Myranda
“I wish I hadn’t devoured literally every Christian romance novel and countless romance movies. The men portrayed in these stories seem to be near perfect and have caused disappointment in marriage stemming from dangerous, unrealistic expectations. It contributed to me looking to a man to satisfy my every longing when the only One who can do that is the sinless, perfect Jesus Christ.” —Kimberly
“I got married at age twenty, and I can think of a dozen or more things that have crossed my mind over the years (manage finances, finish school, travel, etc.) that if I had done before marriage would have made so many things easier. But when it gets right down to it, we have had a blast growing up together. The best marriages aren’t necessarily easy; they are committed. I am thankful for one thing I did do before marriage: moving away from home. I think that gave me a crash course in dependency upon the Lord for everything, which laid the perfect foundation for marriage.” —Julie
“I wish I would’ve taken time after high school to find out who I really was aside from being under my parents’ authority before I got married.” —Hannah
“I wish I would have enjoyed my single days more instead of concentrating on finding love. I also would have wanted to be more prepared for the reality of marriage; the work, the responsibility, the pain that is there among the joy. Forever is a much bigger commitment after all the celebrations have calmed down from the engagement and wedding and it is just the two of you left . . . you and sixty years. Single girls, MAKE SURE you marry someone you like, not just love. It has been said many times, but you really do need to marry your best friend! Let God lead you to each other.” —Heidi
“I wish I had really thought about how I’d find purpose and joy in the responsibilities of being a wife and mom apart from my other interests, which had of course monopolized my single life. ” —Laura
“I wish I would have lived as a godly woman when I was single instead of thinking, I’ll be like that when I’m married. I went through a very challenging first year of marriage until God graciously showed me I can’t keep saying ‘tomorrow,’ I need to obey today! Also, I wish I would have learned how to be an organized person, how to cook meals and grocery shop, and how to live within a budget. It would have made the transition to marriage easier had I already been experienced at taking care of myself (versus trying to figure out how to take care of two people).” —Emily
“I wish I’d learned more about how the marriage covenant is a picture of Jesus’s relationship with His bride, the church. It also would have helped to be involved more in service in the church, especially where no one could see me and there was no immediate recognition. It would have helped diminish my ego as a single woman!” —Aileen
“I wish I would have traveled more, gotten involved with more ministries overseas, even spent time living overseas!” —Kara
“I wish I had learned much earlier about submission in marriage. I never really grasped that until the last several years. I marvel at the difference it has made, learning to let my husband truly be the head of the family, even when I don’t agree with every move he makes. By over-powering my husband in the early years, I caused so many issues I didn’t even realize.” —Sheila
“I wish I had lightened up and had more fun.” —Jeannie
“I wish I would have spent more time with a mature mentor couple for the purpose of laying out our expectations for marriage. We’ve grown, and after sixteen years, are still becoming one. Learning to communicate clearly about the outcomes we are expecting before we begin a project has been huge. It’s so hard to backtrack. Clarity upfront helps work out some differences before they become huge mountains to tackle.” —Jennifer
Which piece of advice resonates with you most, not-yet-married-girl? What one thing can you begin to work on today as you anticipate marriage someday?
I got some mail this week that I can’t keep to myself. Read on to hear what one young mom has to say as she looks back on her own singleness from the other side of marriage and motherhood. Then, would you post a comment below thanking God for one tangible gift of singleness today?
Can’t wait to read what you share,
PS: As a little extra credit, is there a young, sleep-deprived mom you could offer to help today?
I am writing this to you while it is still dark out because it is my only time of the day when the house is quiet and I have time to myself.
A few minutes ago I was reading in Exodus about how Moses found himself serving in Midian as a shepherd after having lived in Egypt in Pharaoh’s household. The devotional I was reading pointed out that these years of serving as a shepherd in the desert were also years of God preparing Moses to shepherd his people Israel through the desert for forty years.
I see so clearly now how sweet and precious those years of singleness were.
I found myself wondering if though Moses may have despised being a shepherd at the time, in retrospect as he struggled to lead the Israelites if he often looked back on those shepherding years as “golden” and “restful” compared to the struggles he faced with the Israelites.
I found myself thinking of my own life as well and wondering what I would classify as my “golden years,” my years of “rest and preparation.” I think I can honestly say they would be my single years.
Please don’t misunderstand. I absolutely LOVE being married to my husband and raising my precious children. I would not trade this time in my life for anything. And yet, I see so clearly now how sweet and precious those years of singleness were.
Today I don’t know that I will use my Keurig to brew a single cup of coffee. Today I will probably pull out the old coffee pot and brew a full pot. I have been up most of the night with a toddler who has a croupy cough and was struggling to breathe in the middle of the night.
By the time I finally got him to sleep my baby woke up and refused to go back down. Ten minutes before my alarm was to go off at five in the morning, I rolled into bed beside my husband and asked him to do whatever it took to get our baby to sleep so I could just sleep for ten more minutes before I had to get up for the day.
These are days that are hard, and I find myself looking back on those single years realizing I did not savor those moments as much as I should have: uninterrupted sleep, awakening truly refreshed and eager to serve the Lord, enjoying an uninterrupted cup of hot coffee while reading God’s Word without distraction. There was nothing wrong with longing for a husband and family of my own, and my God so generously blessed me with them. However, I was foolish not to fully embrace my singleness at that time and treasure it for the sweet gift from God that it was.
Savor this. You will not always be alone in a quiet house. One day you WILL miss this.
Sometimes in the middle of the night when the moon is out and I am rocking my baby while everyone else sleeps, I can see a shadow of myself on the nursery wall holding and rocking my sweet Ellie. In those moments it is as if I hear God speaking deep in my heart and saying to me, “Savor this. You will not always be rocking babies in the middle of the night, and one day you WILL miss this.” Oh, how I wish I would have heard His voice saying those similar words to me as a single person. “Savor this. You will not always be alone in a quiet house. One day you WILL miss this.”
Like I said, please do not misunderstand how much I love my husband and children and our little life together. It is so sweet and so precious! But like singleness, it has its moments where it can be rough. However, that does not mean that it should not be cherished as God’s perfect gift for me in this moment, just as I should have cherished more God’s gift of singleness to me as His perfect will for my life at that time.
This was heavy on my heart to share with you this morning, Paula, and I pray you can use it to encourage the hearts of other single people who may need to be reminded of how perfect and precious God’s will is for our lives.
We don’t want to miss out on enjoying His perfect gift for each of us today, because today will not last. Tomorrow is coming, filled with new gifts of its own for us to enjoy. But we can never get back today.