Before You Put up Your Dukes

Pink Lady Boxer

So, I have a confession to make about this blog post.

It’s part Deux. As in a do-over. A restart.

Because the first version was . . . well, raw. The very thought of having to fight back during this time of my life can get me heated. Because single motherhood has been everything I feared. And then five times worse. I’ve had my dukes up from day one. Even when all I wanted to do was put them over my face and cry.

I’ve had to fight—mentally, emotionally, and physically—to get to a healthy point in this process. I’ve had to give up and fully turn over everything to God when all I wanted was to regain control. It’s literally been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It’s topped losing my job. It’s topped being lied to by the one person I trusted the most. It’s topped being disowned by half my family.

And when I think about further difficulty coming my way, all I want to do is take someone out. Whoever that may be. My instinct is to lash out, and get even, and consider revenge.

But, God calls us to himself instead.

In the midst of our difficulties, God gives us the power to bear the pain of unjust suffering. And while we may feel like the next step we should take is retaliation, we shouldn’t. That’s living by the world’s standards. Not God’s. And there is no better way to glorify the God we love than to give up, and ask him to fight for us instead.

The single mom’s most likely opponent is often her ex. If that’s you, and you’re ready for battle, I hope you’ll lean in close to listen here:

Not fighting may be one of the most difficult things you have to do. But, as much as it’s in your ability to do so, you should turn the other cheek unless you or your children are in imminent danger.

This can look like a lot of unpleasant things:

Ignoring the bad things being said about you.

Letting the under-the-breath comments go.

Ignoring the hurtful reaction when you ask for something that is well within your right to ask for.

Letting the too-late-to-make-a-difference kindnesses pass over you, rather than remind you of all the times they couldn’t offer them before.

Ignoring the hurtful ways extended family now treats you.

Just typing those out makes me want to slap someone. Seriously. It’s innate. It’s human. But, it’s not what we’re called to do as believers. This is when we have to call on something bigger than us—stronger than us—to step in and take over before we make a mess.

Because in the long run, the mess we are making is not in our own lives, but in our children’s. Most likely, we will move on to other relationships and maybe even a new marriage. We’ll get to start over fresh in that regard. But our children’s lives are being spelled out before them—right in front of them—though they have no say or control.

If we create a hostile environment—they will be the ones to suffer into adulthood.

If we disparage the other parent—they will be the ones to look within themselves and find something wrong.

If we let our anger rule our day-to-day lives—they will be the ones to lose their childhood.

So, don’t be so quick to draw that line in the sand—even though it feels like exactly what you should do. Doing so only further separates a family that is already broken.

Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (NIV)

Ask God to put up his dukes instead. In the end, it’s his battle to fight. And, he has the ultimate vantage point.

And sweet friend, if you’ve already put up your dukes and promised to take someone down for making what is already hard, even harder. It’s ok.

Start over. Reset. Write a part deux.

 

Want to connect with other single moms of faith? Stop by The Christian Single Mom on Facebook!

 

This post is a part of Suzie Eller’s Live Free Thursday blog hop. Stop by her blog for other stories about putting up your dukes!

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When You Can’t Take One More Thing

 

Tipping point

It’s like the tipping point on a jug of milk. That delicate balance between being able to keep it under control and pour a glass to enjoy, and the point where it’s too heavy and falls forward spilling every last drop.

Maybe you’ve been there.

You’re coming through the other side of a rough time and you’re beginning to get a grip on life again. Maybe you’ve been able to pay your bills for the first time in a long time, or you’ve improved physically, or your children have excelled with something you’ve been trying to tackle together.

Maybe you’ve simply been able to be around others without breaking down.

If you’ve gone through loss, that my friend is no small feat.

Then, it happens.

Something gets off-kilter in your life—or at least seems to be—and you feel like all that ground you’ve gained has suddenly been ripped out from under you. Like a cruel magic trick, the rug has been pulled, and you’ve just landed flat on your back.

Mentally, you’re right back at your low point. I mean, THE low point. The one you thought might kill you. As if you haven’t made the first step in progress. And it’s more defeating this time around.

Emotionally, you’re numb. You can’t gather the mental tenacity to climb another obstacle.

Physically, you freeze. You can’t bear to watch what will happen. You can’t stand to face the situation or even reach out for help because you’re too exhausted to deal with life anymore. It shouldn’t be this hard, should it?

Until you realize . . . you’ve overreacted.

It happened to me this week: a minor issue with my cell phone and my bank at the same time. A pure coincidence that was easily resolved with a visit to both. No harm, no foul.

But when it happened, I immediately went to that place. You know, the one where my life is falling apart. And it was all I could do to even face resolving it. All. I. Could. Do.

I cried as I drove to the bank, assuming something horrible was about to enter my life that was going to be completely out of control—even though I’d done nothing wrong, and I was fully aware of that fact. It took me back to a place of fear, where things would happen to me just because I was me. Like my life was on rails. I could feel my heart racing as I stepped to the help desk. I was struck with fear.

I felt like a victim, and it sickened me.

Can you relate?

Sweet friend, if you’ve been there, or if you’re there now I need you to hear this:

You are not a victim, because you are not a casualty in your life. You and what has happened to you is not the end result—even though it may feel that way. You and what has happened to you is often the beginning—and sometimes the most important—point in your journey. And every step you’ve taken to get here has been crucial to your future success.

Because God uses each and every point along your journey for good. To teach you. To guide you. To help you grow into the person he is calling you to be. Because a time will come, when he calls you front and center. When he takes your hand and pulls you through the crowd—to lead. To show them that you’ve been where they’ve been, and that they’re going to make it too.

He’s leading you through this because he trusts you. He trusts that you will rise to the occasion. That you will use what seems bad in your life to encourage another person who needs to know that he never left you in it. That he carried you through it. And that he didn’t allow you to be victimized any longer. And that he wants to do the same for them.

And you need to trust as well. Trust that he is still with you in this. Even after the small victories. He’s not guided you to this point only to leave you there as if to say, “She’s got it now. I’m done here.” He’s with you until the end.

“‘. . . along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them,’ says the Lord.” Isaiah 42:16

So, have courage. Lean on him for strength. And put the past behind you trusting that God is ahead of you.

All you need to do is follow his lead and trust.

 

 

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Why You Deserve Better (2)

Why You Deserve BetterA few years ago, I read an article by another mom-blogger who talked about the day she stopped eating burnt toast. Though I can’t recall the writer’s name, I can recall with great clarity the feeling of “Oh yeah, I should stop doing that too!” that came over me as she detailed how she was tired of always giving herself the leftovers, the crumbs in life, the pieces of burnt toast.

But sometimes, it’s hard to believe we deserve better.

Sometimes we’re so focused on what everyone else needs, on what we are expected to do as a mom, on the people we would willingly lay our own lives down for, that we forget we matter too.

You matter too.

And while there is something to be said for sacrifice, and giving, and loving with grace, we are not called to ignore everything that happens to us—as if we don’t matter—and just pretend that we are ok with being treated like the bottom of someone’s shoe, for everyone else’s sake.

It takes me back to where I often go when struggling with how I’m feeling about myself and what I may or may not “deserve” in this life: I think of my kids. If one of them were in my situation, what would I want for them? To be shoved to the corner and their thoughts/feelings/needs ignored so that others could continue with the status quo? Or, to stand up and say—even if only in a strained whisper—this is not working. This is not ok. This is not how I should be treated.

Which also takes me to where I go next: I think of God and how I’m his kid. How he might look at my situation and think: Why is she trying so hard to be a martyr? Doesn’t she know I need her to take care of herself first—so that she can take care of everything else I’ve given her? Doesn’t she know her worth, and that I want only good for her? Good—not harm? Doesn’t she know that she isn’t responsible for the brokenness in others? She’s only responsible for healing and restoring herself to me?

Do you?

Do you know that though Jesus put God first in his life, he put himself second? That even though he served like no one else in history, he never once took on another person’s actions and thought—yes, I deserved that because I put myself in the position to receive it. He prayed for those that hurt him, but he also stood up for himself.

He rebuked injustice. He called people out of their sin. He freed us from ourselves, and didn’t then say, “But thou art responsible for every other bad thing that you allow to happen to you in life.”

Because sometimes we are treated unfairly. Sometimes horribly. Sometimes just carelessly.

But, we aren’t called to stay there for the simple fact that we found ourselves there. Of course, the enemy loves to tell us otherwise. Because keeping us in a place where we feel broken, and helpless, and hopeless fuels his great desire for us: to make us feel stuck. Incomplete. Alone.

Sweet friend, you are anything but. The simple fact that you’ve held yourself in a place that’s been hard for you speaks volumes to your heart for following what you believe God is calling you into. Just don’t make the mistake of believing that He’s calling you into another person’s mistakes. He’s not calling you to pay the price for another person’s actions. He gave us a Savior for that very purpose. Who reached into the lives of the broken and offered forgiveness and healing, and redemption. It’s not something we can do for them. And, quite frankly, it’s not what we’re called to do.

Because you matter too.

 

 

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Why You Deserve Better

Why You Deserve Better

A few years ago, I read an article by another mom-blogger who talked about the day she stopped eating burnt toast. Though I can’t recall the writer’s name, I can recall with great clarity the feeling of “Oh yeah, I should stop doing that too!” that came over me as she detailed how she was tired of always giving herself the leftovers, the crumbs in life, the pieces of burnt toast.

But sometimes, it’s hard to believe we deserve better.

Sometimes we’re so focused on what everyone else needs, on what we are expected to do as a mom, on the people we would willingly lay our own lives down for, that we forget we matter too.

You matter too.

And while there is something to be said for sacrifice, and giving, and loving with grace, we are not called to ignore everything that happens to us—as if we don’t matter—and just pretend that we are ok with being treated like the bottom of someone’s shoe, for everyone else’s sake.

It takes me back to where I often go when struggling with how I’m feeling about myself and what I may or may not “deserve” in this life: I think of my kids. If one of them were in my situation, what would I want for them? To be shoved to the corner and their thoughts/feelings/needs ignored so that others could continue with the status quo? Or, to stand up and say—even if only in a strained whisper—this is not working. This is not ok. This is not how I should be treated.

Which also takes me to where I go next: I think of God and how I’m his kid. How he might look at my situation and think: Why is she trying so hard to be a martyr? Doesn’t she know I need her to take care of herself first—so that she can take care of everything else I’ve given her? Doesn’t she know her worth, and that I want only good for her? Good—not harm? Doesn’t she know that she isn’t responsible for the brokenness in others? She’s only responsible for healing and restoring herself to me?

Do you?

Do you know that though Jesus put God first in his life, he put himself second? That even though he served like no one else in history, he never once took on another person’s actions and thought—yes, I deserved that because I put myself in the position to receive it. He prayed for those that hurt him, but he also stood up for himself.

He rebuked injustice. He called people out of their sin. He freed us from ourselves, and didn’t then say, “But thou art responsible for every other bad thing that you allow to happen to you in life.”

Because sometimes we are treated unfairly. Sometimes horribly. Sometimes just carelessly.

But, we aren’t called to stay there for the simple fact that we found ourselves there. Of course, the enemy loves to tell us otherwise. Because keeping us in a place where we feel broken, and helpless, and hopeless fuels his great desire for us: to make us feel stuck. Incomplete. Alone.

Sweet friend, you are anything but. The simple fact that you’ve held yourself in a place that’s been hard for you speaks volumes to your heart for following what you believe God is calling you into. Just don’t make the mistake of believing that He’s calling you into another person’s mistakes. He’s not calling you to pay the price for another person’s actions. He gave us a Savior for that very purpose. Who reached into the lives of the broken and offered forgiveness and healing, and redemption. It’s not something we can do for them. And, quite frankly, it’s not what we’re called to do.

Because you matter too.

 

 

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The Gift of Leaving it Behind with Grace

LEa

Most single moms have a personalized list of things they’d like to leave behind.

In fact, “Leave it behind” could be a single mom’s mantra. I’m telling you right now, if Taylor Swift hadn’t written the song Shake it Off, a single mom would have.

Hurt and struggling to heal. Misunderstood and feeling alone. Facing a “new normal” that includes sharing their children—when their children are the only thread they’re hanging onto. It’s very tempting to want to push it all behind us, swallow hard, and move forward. The world encourages it. Our friends encourage it. Even the legal system encourages it.

But pushing forward and “leaving it all behind” has its good side and bad side.

In many ways, it’s a good idea. There’s likely a lot of pain in the past that can only be healed by the sweet release that comes with time and distance.

But, as we’re letting go, we need to make sure that we don’t also leave the good behind—and pretend it was never there—for our children’s sake. Because their future is also shaped by their past. Their genetic makeup is made up of two parents. And a time will come in their lives when they will look back and wonder at the parts of each of their parents, and how a tiny bit of each is also a part of them.

If we’ve made those parts out to be horrible, or a mistake, or something unforgiveable—it wounds no one more than it wounds our children.

That’s why as we let the hurt go and leave it behind, we can’t slough off everything completely. We need to let go with grace. We need to examine where we’ve been. And search to find the good that might have also been at some point in our past. To remember the moments of joy. To recall the parts of our previous partner that were good, and maybe even admirable.

To help everyone involved to heal, so that leaving it behind doesn’t leave a scarlet thread tied to the past, called bitterness.

Because we will always be family. And as a family, we need to leave this breaking point behind us in a healthy way. So that everyone can move past it and not allow it to define our futures. In fact, one of the greatest gifts we can leave behind for our children—even though their original family is no longer intact–is a legacy of failure that was healed by forgiveness.

So they can see that forgiveness—true forgiveness—does exist, because they’ve witnessed  it firsthand. They’ve lived through it. And that when it’s coupled with grace, can leave everyone a future worth looking forward to.

 

Want to hear more stories of women who were able to “leave it behind”? Join me and lots of other bloggers on Proverbs 31 Ministries, Suzie Eller on her Live Free Thursday link up.

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Why You Should Lose that Loving Feeling

Light  heart on rustic wooden background

Being alone can be one the most difficult things we face as single parents. For those who were previously married, the shock of being alone is often made worse by the unforeseen aftershocks of loneliness that sneak upon us and pounce when we least expect it. And while those of us with children in our daily mix may never actually be alone in the true sense of the word, the longing for the next relationship in our lives can be so strong, it can consume us at times.

I’ve battled this a lot over my time as a single parent. It rises up at my most vulnerable moments—especially when I’m struggling to maintain a positive relationship with my ex. Facing that failed relationship is often all it takes to make me want to go out and prove that a positive one is just as probable.

Most times, it feels like a weakness. A major flaw. This desperate need to be connected with someone else. It makes me feel like there’s an emptiness in my life now. Something that I need to work to fill.

But, putting ourselves into the next relationship can be the worst decision we make if we’re doing so to “fill” an area of our life that seems lacking.

We have to stay acutely aware during this season of single parenting that when we feel empty, and long to be filled, the enemy will step in to offer all sorts of things. Things that may not be good for us—or for our children.

And so as I often take this need to God, I’m reminded each time that if a new relationship is to be a part of my life, I want Him to lead through that. I don’t want to flitter into something that looks good on the outside if it’s not God’s will for my life.

The truth is that the most filling relationship we can have is with Him. The one who has loved us through this difficult season—and all the seasons before. And instead of viewing our emptiness with shame and allowing a deep longing to grow there, we need to turn to Him. To view it as an opportunity to be filled.

Because He longs to do that for us. To fill us so completely with the Holy Spirit, that we are in sync with His plan for our lives. That we can see what comes into our path and understand that though it may be tempting, it is not for us. So we can be healed from the inside-out so that when our time for relationship comes, we approach it from a position of strength because our time with Him has made us stronger.

When we allow that emptiness to focus on the next relationship on the horizon instead, we begin to overlook.

Overlook the red flags.

Overlook the comments of close friends and family.

Overlook the buzzer going off inside when questionable things arise.

And focus instead on the person we’ve just met. The one we have no history with. The one that we’re willing to believe anything about because it’s new and exciting, and there’s possibility . . .

Until we have a healthy—and steady—relationship with God in which we are leaning on Him, and asking Him to guide our steps, we need to push back that loving feeling for the simple fact that we’re not ready. Don’t let this be the one area of your life in which you ignore the nudging of the Holy Spirit. Because unless you put your next relationship in the proper perspective, you give it the power to destroy you. And as a single parent, you’re bringing your children along as well.

Instead, let those nudges be a driving force as you allow your Father to guide you gently through this new season. Ask Him to fill that longing.

Then open your heart to His possibilities.

 

Want to connect with other single moms of faith? Stop by The Christian Single Mom on Facebook!

Join me and other bloggers from around the world on Suzie Eller’s Live Free Thursday Link Up. Read more about being FILLED this week!

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Dear Single Parent: It’s Not About You

Today I’m joining Proverbs 31 speaker, Suzie Eller, at her blog hop on Live Free Thursday.

Single Parent: It's Not About You

When I became a single parent, advice from outsiders seem to flow like water.

“It’s your chance to start over.”

“Don’t worry. Children are resilient. They’ll be fine.”

“You won’t be single long.”

“Use this time to have some fun.”

And while all of the comments were meant for good, and at the root, the people saying them were trying to be helpful, I began to notice a trend:

It was all about me.

It sent me back to a time thirty years before, when my own parent’s marriage fell apart and I was a child. At the age of 13, I soon realized that my opinion no longer mattered. That I would be told where to go, who to go with, where to live, and how to spend my holidays for the rest of my childhood. Quite honestly, it lasted longer than that.

I don’t remember anyone asking how I felt about it—without already having an answer they expected me to say.

No one seemed to care that I was in pain over the loss of my family. Instead, all of the adults were moving on, starting over, and having fun. All under the assumption, I’m sure, that my brothers and I were “resilient”. We’d be just fine.

Except that we weren’t.

And, it wasn’t the break-up of the family that crushed us. Because if the truth be told, I begged my mother to leave my father. It was a bad situation that none of us deserved to be in. It was what happened afterwards that changed me.

The loss of my voice.

The insignificance of my feelings.

The nonchalant attitude that all of the adults seemed to take around us. Nodding at each other as we continued to do well in school, and activities, and seemingly everything—as if to say, “See there, they are resilient. They haven’t missed it at all.”

They were wrong.

So. Very. Wrong.

So, as a newly single parent, I know one thing to be truer than anything else in my life:

It’s not about me.

This family that has fallen apart was not a family of one. This is not my time to throw caution to the wind and traipse through every dating opportunity as if I have something to prove. There are innocents involved.

And their voice matters to me.

Your children’s voices should matter to you too. Because your real role in this season of your life is to not only find healing, but to help your children find healing as well. To focus on them. To listen to them. To stop assuming things about them that are only true for yourself.

To see them as the unique individuals they are, with voices that yearn to rise up and be heard, so they know that their pain matters too. That their pain isn’t something to push gently to the side, but to be brought to the table, and talked about, and cried over.

It’s about them.

These incredible blessings that God has placed right in our very paths. That during overwhelming times can feel burdensome—because our own pain is so much. But, when we allow them a voice, we soon find that we are not alone in our pain. That there are others who feel it too. Just as deeply. And who long for healing just as we do.

When we allow our children a voice we might hear things we don’t want to hear. We might find pain in the words that come. It’s the very reason that so many of us would prefer not to ask them. But, we need to do it anyway. So they can see that despite what has happened, they are still the most important people in our lives. That they are still loved. That their pain matters. And that we want to help them heal.

Just as they were witnesses to their family falling apart, they’re still watching. To see if they matter. To see if their new version of family is still important to us. To see if we love them.

To see if it’s all about us, or them.

 

 

Stop by Suzie Eller’s blog today to read more Live Free Thursday posts!

Want to connect with other single moms of faith? Stop by The Christian Single Mom on Facebook.

 

 

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Why Closed Doors are Gifts – Guest Post by Lori Hatcher

Today’s post is from a gifted author and sweet friend, Lori Hatcher. Her newest devotional “Hungry for God . . . Starving for Time: Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women” is the perfect answer for single moms who are longing to connect with God, but short on time alone or quiet time in general. These devotionals not only speak truth and encouragement, but New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Kevin Leman, calls them “Real-life inspiration and candid wit. Powerful, five-minute devotions that will change your life.”

I’m so happy to introduce Lori to you today:

lori

Ever have a door slammed in your face?

Not just gently closed, but all-out slammed?

In no uncertain terms, it said, “You’re not welcome here. You don’t belong. We don’t want you.”

It hurts. Especially if that was the door you really, really wanted to walk through.
Perhaps you’ve prayed for months (or years) for a child, a husband, a promotion, an invitation. You picture your life with the object of your prayers and it looks GOOD. Fulfilling. Right.

But the doors. One after another. Like an Avon lady desperate to make her quota, you knock on one, then the next, each time hoping THIS is the one. The month. The man. The opportunity.

Sometimes one cracks open, and your heart lifts in hope. Sometimes a welcoming face or encouraging sign peeks out, and you begin to dream. Sometimes you actually extend a foot over the threshold, only to have your toes crushed by painful resistance.

As disappointing and discouraging as closed doors can be, deep down inside, like the silver lining in the cloud, there is great comfort in them.

Closed doors are gifts.

They are evidence that a loving God is ordering the circumstances of our lives for our good.

Here are five thoughts to bring perspective when you encounter a closed door:
 
1. God has a plan for your life and it is good. “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11)

2. No good plan of God’s can be derailed. Job said, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

3. God can use what appears to be bad for good. Joseph is a classic example. Despite being kidnapped, envied by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused, stripped of his job (and his robe), thrown in jail, and forgotten by a “friend,” God used Joseph to save his family and an entire nation. “You intended to harm me,” Joseph acknowledged, ”but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done,” (Genesis 50:20).

4. There are no mistakes in the Kingdom. And though Romans 8:28 reminds us that “all things work together for good to those that love God and are called according to his purpose,” it’s important to read the companion verse to understand the full picture: ” For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (29). Much of what happens in our lives is less about God accomplishing something WITH us and more about accomplishing something IN us.

Oswald Chambers, in his classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest, says this:

“The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us–‘I reckon on you for extreme service, with no complaining on your part and no explanation on Mine.’ God wants to use us as He used His own Son.”

5.  When God says “yes,” it’s because he loves us. When he says “no,” it’s because he loves us. This quote from O’Hallesby says it all. Because God loves us, he will open those doors we are to walk through and close those we should not.

Our job is to knock, pray, and trust.

What doors are you knocking on today? Which have remained closed?

Will you join me in saying to God, “I trust you, no matter what”?

 

 

This devotion is an excerpt from Lori Hatcher’s new book, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. Like a spiritual power bar, Hungry for God is the nutrition women need to get through the day.

Lori knows what it’s like to be busy. And what it’s like to struggle to make time for God. Her passion is helping women connect with God in the craziness of everyday life. A Yankee transplant living in Columbia, South Carolina, Lori uses her speaking and writing ministry to equip and empower women. She’d love to connect with you on her blog (www.LoriHatcher.com), on Facebook – Hungry For God, and Twitter @lorihatcher2.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA ITEMS:

 

link to HFG on Amazon:

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HFG on Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/mkave7u

 

 

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Adventures in Single Parent Holidays: Week 4: Hope

hopeThe days after Christmas can be some of the toughest for single parents. While a month of festive preparation can serve as a beautiful distraction, the realization that the holiday has passed can be a let-down of sorts. Of the realization that life is going to get back to normal. Because many of us aren’t entirely thrilled with our current normal. It’s not the one we wanted. Or prayed for. Or ever in our wildest dreams, hoped for.

But, I want to challenge you in this next week ahead. Because a New Year is upon us. A year that can fill you with dread, or a year that can fill you—and those around you—with hope.

For some of us, hope seems unattainable. I mean, of course we want to rest in that happy place where we can see good things up ahead. But, it seems fleeting. Like something we can’t seem to hang onto. If you feel that way, consider this:

Maybe it’s not hope you’re trying to hang onto at all.

Is your hope melancholy? Are you hanging onto the hopes you had in the past and lamenting the reasons they never happened?

Is your hope something you’re trying to force? Are you trying to cram what you think you want in life into a box you’re calling hope?

Is your hope too shy? Are you too scared to look forward for fear of changes that it might bring?

While we may all hope in these ways at times, hope is none of these things.

In fact, hope is one of the most powerful things in the world for a believer. Because our hope is not in us. It has nothing to do with us. Our hope is in a life-changer. A builder. A dreamer. An eternal optimist because he’s already seen the end and knows—knows—that what we are going through will lead us to something beyond what we would have asked for ourselves.

And though the struggle can be difficult, we are called to stay in it. To bear down with him, and do the hard work of healing and repair so that what comes out on the other side is exactly what he planned us to be.

Something more beautiful that we could have ever

hoped to be in this life.

Because we were willing to be changed. To put our former “hopes” aside, and instead give in to his hope for us.

Hope is more like trust. Like believing with all your heart that what lies ahead is better than what lies behind you. Not because we are especially good at managing our own lives, but because we’re terrible at it, and yet what lies ahead will still be great. Because it’s not us who runs this show called life.

God alone is in control.

And his plan for us is always better than anything we could plan for ourselves. Even when it doesn’t seem that way. Even when we think we’ve totally ruined it all. We’re looking at a small piece of the picture of our lives. We can’t see how all of these ripped pieces will one day fit back together like a beautiful old picture that’s been cracked with age, and wisdom, and a life well-lived.

And though the cracks will still be there, everyone who sees it will think it beautiful. Not only that, but they will be drawn to it in a way that they can’t explain and the closer they come, they’ll realize that the simple piece is even more beautiful than it would have been if it had never been torn.

Don’t you have a few pieces that are already beginning to form a picture? One that is somehow better—and more beautiful—than the shape it held before?

There’s nothing more beautiful to God than the broken. He’s not the God of the perfect—though he himself is perfect. He’s the God of the broken. Of the lovely mistakes that bring us to his feet. Of the hearts that ache, because the ache draws us nearer to him. Of the hearts that hope—even when hope seems fleeting.

Because he wants to show us that our hope is not wasted. That what we wait for, and pray for, and wait for some more—is what he wants to give us all along. A life of peace, and love, and joy. To be filled with hope that though our circumstances may seem torn, we trust in him that they are simply being shifted in order for his light to shine through us more effectively.

Not only in our lives, but in the lives of those around us.

To fill them with hope.

 

 

Want to connect with other single moms of faith? Stop by The Christian Single Mom on facebook!

 

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Adventures in Single Parent Holidays: Week 3: Joy

Christmas lights over dark blue backgroundWhen you are going through the end of a marriage, happiness seems a strange and beautiful thing. We watch others—as if in slow motion—as they continue on through the mundaneness of their lives and note the happy moments they may not even realize they are in. We remember how we took those for granted, and we wonder if we’ll ever have those moments again.

In our trolling of Facebook, we might happen upon a surprise marriage proposal, or a 30th wedding anniversary celebration and ache at the very sight of it all. Even if we don’t know the people involved, it can hurt. Because the separation and end of a marriage is a death of sorts. Of dreams we once held. Of believing that someone loved us deeply. Of looking forward to the next phase of life with another person whose known us intimately.

And it’s incredibly hard.

Even harder when we see our kids struggling through it too. In fact, it’s at that point that we most likely feel like a failure. That we’re selfish for choosing this path, even though we may know that God has led us here.

Why? Because as parents, we typically want one simple thing for our children: to be happy. And if we’re honest, we simply want the same for ourselves. And it may be that we’ve been in a position in recent years in which we walked away from the hope of ever being happy and instead chose to do our “duty” by staying in a broken marriage. Then, lamented the willing handing over of our happiness.

I’ve thought a lot about that. I’ve wondered if I’ll ever be happy again. I’ve wondered even more if my children will still be happy in their marriages someday. If, as we all look back on our lives, this will be the moment that broke our spirits. Or, the moment where we saw God move.

And in all that considering, and wondering, and thinking deeply, I’ve come to this conclusion:

Happiness doesn’t matter.

Because wishing for happiness for ourselves and our children is aiming too low. It’s like filling the spot God has held for something else in our lives with a substance that is lesser than. More importantly—I’m going to let you in on a little secret about God—he isn’t concerned with our happiness. That’s too small. Too fleeting.

He knows that his best isn’t happiness. Because what he has for us is so outrageous. So undaunted. So unbelievable, that it blows our minds to consider it.

Unwavering . . . joy.

And like most gifts from God, it’s never what we expect.

Joy can’t come from other people. It doesn’t fill us up when we’re given a compliment or complete a goal. It doesn’t make our heart leap when we see something we like, or feel accepted by others. It doesn’t have anything to do with who we are, where we are in life, or what we’re going through. Because it has nothing to do with our circumstances.

It makes no sense. At. All. Which, makes me understand why it fits so perfectly into my life right now.

Joy is like a found gift on our porch that we weren’t expecting to be there. Something that sneaks up on us and surprises us in our darkest moments. That despite what we’re going through, we still feel it deep inside.

Not only do we feel it, but it can be seen by others. Others who may comment how “happy” we look. Or, how much more relaxed we seem—even in our difficult time. And, we wonder at it too, and can’t believe it’s there.

But it’s there because we’ve chosen to give up. To surrender. To allow God to come into our broken hearts and transform them. To allow the creator of joy to give us what we can’t create for ourselves. And the closer we come to him, the more obedient we are to his leading and promptings, the more we experience his joy.

And that, sweet girls, is not only visible to everyone around us, but glorifies God. Which—the very thought of being a part of anything that glorifies God—fills us with more joy.

So, give in this season. Give up. Surrender.

Then, be prepared to have your hearts filled. Be on the lookout for those moments when you realize you are not only at peace with your life, but filled with unexplainable joy in the midst of a trial. That you are so filled with the spirit, that the overflowing of it inside you creates something much better than happiness:

Pure joy.

 

Want to connect with other single moms of faith? Stop by The Christian Single Mom on Facebook.

 

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