I'm on a USTA tennis league and have been for the past 2.5 years. There are many aspects of playing that I enjoy, but the one that has been a particular blessing lately is the opportunity to work on my thinking.
You wouldn't think that I would be nervous on the tennis court, being a speaker who's comfortable with any size crowd. But when I first started the league, my anxiety was crippling. The second I thought about losing the point or double faulting, that's exactly what happened.
I've been reading a variety of books on the mental game of tennis, but this one really convinced me that no matter how far behind I am, I can still win. The author gives many examples of pros who just gave up and lost matches that were theirs for the taking and other examples of players who seemed to come back and win against impossible odds. The key to winning? Believing that you can.
A couple of weeks ago, my partner and I handily won the first set of a match, then fell apart in the second, and finally lost the tie break. Yesterday, we seemed to be repeating that disappointing pattern. We won the first set without much trouble, then soon found ourselves down 5-2! If you know anything about tennis, you know that the other team just needed one more game to win the set.
I could see the discouragement and frustration in my partner and I could feel it developing in me. Then I told her, "We're going to pull a David Freese and win this set." She smiled. When either of us made an error from that point forward, I made a point of saying, "That's okay. We can still win." Many times we were in a David Freese, World Series kind of way by being one point away from losing the set (though not the match). I felt the pressure, but refused to give in. Neither did my partner. We came back to win the set and match 7-5.
The truth of Allen Fox's words became very clear to me on the tennis court, but they've become clear to me in life, too. Maybe you're against impossible odds like:
- You're getting older and you still haven't met "the one."
- You've filled out dozens of job applications and you're still unemployed
- You have a hundred pounds or more to lose
- You've been trying to conceive for months to no avail
- Your house is such a mess that it seems it would take a team months to clean it out
- You've been unhappily married for years and nothing you've tried has worked
- You have an addiction you just can't beat
- You're tens of thousands of dollars in debt
- Your loved one is elderly and still hasn't received Christ
While it's true that the right attitude doesn't guarantee victory, I believe it's also true that no matter how far behind you are, you can still win. I could give you examples of people I know personally who've experienced an unexpected victory in these situations. The key? Believe that you can.
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
After sharing one way of deciding what to do with our time, I wanted to share a second way that works for me. JOY stands for Jesus, Others, and Yourself.
As Jesus is the One Who has given us all of our time, we ought to give Him the first fruits of it. For me, this means regularly having devotions the first part of the day. Spending time with the Lord became very easy for me when I chose to spend the time in a way I enjoy. I like variety, but right now, I read several devotionals, then a chapter of the Bible or two, and end with prayer.
Putting Jesus first doesn't just mean giving Him our time; it also means asking Him what He would have us do with our time. I have come to enjoy my alone time with God so much that I can get a little cranky when my husband crashes the party! But I know that Jesus' desire is that I devote my time to my husband as well because the O in JOY is for
We know from Jesus' example that we are to put others before ourselves. If I have done what I know the Lord would have me do, then I can ask myself what my husband would have me do. I can even ask him directly! Fortunately, my husband and I are on the same page about what needs to be done for the most part. Some days, however, I must admit that he would rather have me do laundry when I'd rather be reading. You single ladies, take note!
After doing things that would please my husband, I can decide if my children are in need or would be particularly blessed by something I could do. Some mornings, breakfast is all the blessing I can muster! But on other days, I may decide that I've put off doing a craft or just playing with them long enough. I have a large family, but I need to consider the needs of other family members, friends, and co-workers as well. Any commitments I have made to others should come before my to-do's.
Finally, we can think about ourselves. You might be wondering how on earth we can be all things to everyone who needs us and still have time to do anything for ourselves! Some days that's a real challenge for me. But here is the blessing.
First, spending time with the Lord and giving to others is the best thing I can do for me. My energy and mood are renewed. Second, God can guide us in what to do for others and when. He doesn't expect us to run around serving everyone. Sometimes the best way to serve others is to allow them to depend on God or learn to meet their own needs. He gives us the discernment we need when we need it. Third, some seemingly selfish activities are actually serving the Lord and others, too. For example, my husband loves it when I exercise and the kids love having an energetic, less-stressed mom as a result.
How can we use TODAY, TOMORROW, and TOWARD together with JOY for deciding what to do on any given day? Here's how your to-do list might look:
- What would Jesus have me do today?
- What do my husband, kids, friends, co-workers/boss need me to do for them today?
- What do I need to do for me today?
- What would Jesus have me do today to prepare for tomorrow, next week, or next month?
- What would my husband, kids, friends, co-workers have me do to prepare for tomorrow, next week, or next month?
- Who do I need to do for myself today in advance of tomorrow, next week, or next month?
- What goals or dreams would Jesus have me work toward today?
- What goals or dreams would the people I love and work with want me to help them work toward today?
- What goals or dreams do I want to work toward today?
Some days, you may spend all day on #1, but you won't be sorry like you would be if you just web surfed the day away. Give the JOY method a try!
When writing and speaking, I always seek to be sensitive to the needs of single women and married women without children. As hard as I try, though, many women feel I simply can’t relate because I’m married with children. In some respects, that’s true. I can’t know what it’s like unless I’ve lived that life all my days.
But I have been single and I do know what it’s like to be singled out–to feel like I’m not part of one of the clubs. Almost all of us have had this kind of experience! My heart is for all women. But because I’m NOT all women, I wanted to tell you about my Super Single Sister-in-Law, Nancy Wilson. She is a mature Wonder Woman who says she is married to Jesus. She is a global ambassador for Campus Crusade for Christ, a speaker, and the author of Chosen With a Mission, The King and I, and In Pursuit of the Ideal.
Nancy could tell you what it’s like to be a life-long single. She might tell you of the times she really wrestled with it, wondering if her life was as valuable as other women who had different callings as wives and mothers. But I suspect Nancy would spend most of her time telling you about how the Super Power has met her needs as her husband and has used her calling for His glory.
Nancy helped plan my 40th disco birthday party this summer and had a ball in the hula hoop contest. My life wouldn’t be the same without her. She often babysits my large rowdy brood so I can get away for a much-needed date with my husband. I don’t have grandparents who are able to care for my kids and many mothers I know are in a similar position. As singles, we are free to serve the Super Power and save a harried mother from the craziness at home. We are also free to go on many more exciting missions. Nancy has been all over the world and has experienced the joy of seeing many come to know the Super Power. She is mother to many spiritual children who lovingly refer to her as "mom."
So You’re Not Wonder Woman? speaks to singles and women without children, encouraging them to look to women like Gladys Aylward as an example. Please pass the book along to your single friends and loved ones. Most women will spend a substantial part of their lives single and without young children at home. That season of our lives is not a time to take off our suits! It’s a time to FLY…and to hula hoop!