Single parents are amazing! Super-heroes who are balancing life, filling the gap, making ends meet, and putting their needs aside all for the heart-bursting love of their kids! They’re strong, resilient, flexible, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound… oh, wait. But seriously, parenting solo is uniquely fulfilling while lonely and challenging all at once. Whether you chose it or not, single-parenting can often feel like an uphill climb that some days feels insurmountable, leaving you exhausted and gasping for air through the tears of aching disappointment. Many of us don’t even realize that while we are parenting single we fall into a sort of ‘survival mode’- doing whatever it takes just to get through the day, the week, the month, the billing cycle, the school year etc. During my years as a single mom, God taught me so many truths that not only helped me ‘survive’ those challenging days but thrive in them! Whether or not you’re a single parent, I pray the words that follow will be an encouragement to you when you walk through your next season of struggle.
To offer you some context, here’s my story, in a nutshell. I was young. Isn’t this how so many of our stories begin? Maybe yours does too. I was dating my ‘high school’ boyfriend for several years when I became pregnant, unexpectedly. We had discussed marriage before this happened… so we did what so many do in this situation, we fast-tracked it from single and carefree to ‘married with a baby’ in a matter of months. Life went from 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds! Literally a blur. Now with heaping bills and responsibilities and stresses that we did not take the time to prepare for, our short marriage ended 2 years after it began. He left.
Now what? How do I work full time, pay all the bills, care for my little boy while trying to fill the father-void in his day to day life and manage my own broken self-worth? I was terrified. Unsure of what the future held, feeling discarded and worthless- this was the climate of my heart when Jesus found me. Praise God for His perfect timing! I started attending church and learning so much about what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus. I began to feel a new sense of hope and peace as I immersed myself in this new way- in every way I could. It was during the next several years, through new disciplines I was learning, that God taught me so much about Himself and about who He says I am.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
When I look back on it now, all these years later, the following 4 practices are what got me through my season of single parenting in a way that honored and pleased God, helped me become a better mom and shaped me into the woman I am today -not perfect by any means, but no longer discarded, worthless and frightened of my future. These are not steps, nor a checklist but new habits the Holy Spirit helped me put into practice and the lessons that God revealed to me as a result.
Read God’s word. Pray God’s will.
In the beginning stages of my faith, I was unsure how or what to pray for. I was kind of afraid to get it wrong- to make any more mistakes! I was sorting through a lot of emotions and facing the need to own my part in the death of my marriage. It was sobering to admit that I really had no idea what was best for me and for my son. I soon realized that asking God for His best is what’s best for us. Each night, I would sit on my bed and read my Bible. The Psalms of David were especially attractive to my heart, I could identify with them. I found them real and raw. Here was this guy- as the Bible qualifies him, “a man after God’s own heart” who was on the run and afraid for his life in one entry and confessing his deep sinfulness in another, while through it all reminding and reassuring himself (and me) that God was and is a good, sovereign, forgiving, loving, and mighty sustainer. Each day I was discovering that these living words were breathing peace and life and wisdom into my spirit; showing me the trustworthiness of God and leading me to seek His will over my own. That’s the key- right there… HIS will over our own. In the years that followed, as the Lord restored to me above and beyond all I could have asked or imagined, He really showed me that He knows best, is best and gives the best gifts- if I would only seek Him for it all. I still pray this way. It is an active way to remind myself that I need to AND want to submit my will to His, daily. The lesson- A healthy prayer life can be as simple as this: His Kingdom come. His will be done. In you, in me.
A Reason in the Season.
Like most seasons in life- this too has a beginning and an end. This took me a while to grasp. I was so focused on getting through each day that I nearly missed the opportunity to enjoy this unique season! True, the not knowing when it might end can sometimes be all we see in a season of waiting and difficulty but I want to challenge you not to look to the end of your singleness as the goal but rather what God is going to show you and how He wants to grow you while you’re in it! The truth is single people have more free time, more flexibility, more opportunity to deepen friendships and serve God in ways that may be harder for a married person to do. I remember feeling God nudging me to join a LIFE Group. At first, I dug in my heels. Eventually, I opened up to the idea but was then unable to figure out just how I could add this regular, mid-week commitment into my very inconsistent and demanding retail work schedule. I decided, “maybe I should just obey God and trust Him to figure out the details”. So I did… and He did. Being part of that first group taught me so much- the experience was truly invaluable. My fellow group members loved me and my son, they prayed for us and helped us in practical ways, held me accountable and gave me good, godly examples of what married life could be. I built lifelong friendships in that group. It was during this season that I learned the importance of serving God and others. The lesson- God wants to use this season of your life to equip you for the next. Step into the opportunities that He opens up to you. Ask God how you can make the most of this season. Then trust Him as He shows you.
Let It Go.
Are you sentimental? That can be such a sweet and endearing quality- but if you’re like me, sentimental to a fault, it can hinder you from moving on and get in the way of your spiritual growth. I distinctly remember God prompting me to clean out some things from my environment. We don’t often acknowledge it but things that hold memories can often hold us- stuck in the same old ‘woe is me’ cycle of poor decisions, unhelpful thought patterns, and unhealthy habits. Things that belonged to my ex still hung around and when I looked at them, memories and feelings would come flooding in. Things like pictures, mementos, favorite movies or books were keeping me in an emotional rut. Clearing it all out was a great relief. During this time God was also prompting me to get rid of some things from my past that I was holding on to in disobedience. In my teen years, I dabbled in the occult. Not enough to leave me with far-reaching emotional struggles but enough that it was something I looked back on and realized I had never truly repented of. Besides a few books on witchcraft, I kept tarot cards wrapped in a black silk scarf and stored in a wooden box with pretty flower carvings on it. They stayed tucked away in a drawer and I hadn’t touched them in years but a part of me did not want to give them up. In my quiet time with God, He helped me see the connection between my asking Him to clean out my heart and Him asking me to clean out my home. If I wanted to have a blameless spirit before Him there were some things that I was going to have to let go of; cleanse myself and my home of. I agreed with God, tossed them immediately and never looked back. The lesson- In your home and in your heart, chances are you’re clinging to lesser. God wants to replace it with greater. Be willing to confess to God the things that you are holding on to… maybe they are simply objects but you also know that His best for you includes letting go of things like unforgiveness, ungodly relationships, unrealistic expectations, hopes for the way you think your life ought to be. Only when you truly release these lesser things will your hands and heart be open to receive God’s far greater things.
Write It Down.
Ok, so this might seem obvious or maybe unnecessary depending on your opinion of journaling, but hear me out. I read recently that ‘the Christian life thrives on both memory and hope. Remember how God has shown mercy in the past and look forward (with hope) to how our compassionate, faithful, promise-keeping God will answer your prayers in the future.” The thing about humans is we are fickle and we have a very short memory. These traits can conspire against us to make us ungrateful and short-sighted. It’s a good discipline to journal, to take a look back and recount the blessings of God in our lives; the answers to prayer (even those answers we don’t like at the time have a way of coming back to our memory and confirming to us that the Lord does indeed always know best!). On our wedding day, I gave my husband several pages of my journal as a gift. They were specific entries- some before we met, some through our courtship and one from the night before our wedding. In those entries were my heart’s deepest desires, the things I was feeling and the prayers I prayed about the kind of husband I wanted God to choose for me. I also recorded several instances after we met of the specific ways that God was showing me that Kyle was the one for me, the one I had asked Him for. It was such an amazing feeling to be able to share this with my husband and it would never have been possible if I didn’t take the time to write it all down. I have many written accounts of my struggles, hopes, dreams, and prayers answered. I know that one day it will be something that my children will read, maybe when I am gone from this earth. It brings me great joy to know that the ways in which God has worked in every season of my life to bring about His best for our family will deepen their faith and their gratitude toward Him. May they praise Him for it all. The lesson- God is writing a wondrous story. He is always at work, whether you feel it or not. He is not finished. While looking forward to what’s next in this great story of His, be inspired that you get to play a part in it. Be ever encouraged by the past victories, great and small. Don’t forget a single word of it. Write it down so you can share it and declare it! He will use it to bless and encourage others.
Surely as individual as we all are, God is not going to address each of our broken places in the same exact way. While this is my experience, yours will be uniquely what you need- crafted by the heart of the God who loves you and delivered by the hands of the Savior who proved it. Submit to Him. He is worthy of your trust and your heart.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:13-14