Do Your Child’s Manners Reflect Their Faith?

You’ve seen them.

The child at the playground that nearly knocks over someone as they rush to get to the slide first.

The child who takes the drink you’ve just offered without a word of thanks, but complains because it’s not their favorite.

The child who talks back to their mother in a way so disrespectfully, you consider the ramifications of you saying something about it.

Where have all the manners gone?

Growing up in the South, manners were drilled into me just as deeply as my school work. It was expected, and brought to my attention if I didn’t use them. Children who didn’t have manners were not looked well upon, and parents who didn’t teach them were considered reckless. They are such a part of who I am that I’m no longer me without them. But the longer I explore faith, the more I wonder if manners were born from Biblical teachings.

Although manners aren’t specifically discussed in the Bible, the concepts they include are Biblical. As Christians, we are called to rise above what the world does, and treat people in a way that stands out. Teaching our children basic manners is also teaching them a lot about the way Jesus treated others.

Manners teach the habit of respect. Whether you are opening a door for someone else, offering your seat to another, or simply thanking someone who is serving you, manners teaches you the habit of being respectful to others.

 “Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.” Titus 3:1-2

Manners teach us to serve others. Whether we are asking questions about another person, complimenting something we admire, or simply apologizing when we have hurt someone, manners teach us to keep the other persons needs in mind—ahead of our own.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

Manners teach consideration for others. Everything from our smart phones to TV-shows-on-demand encourages an instant gratification mindset. Teaching our children to say please for the things they would like shows consideration for those who would provide it, and puts them in a position of thoughtfulness instead of a demanding mindset.

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:10

Manners teach thankfulness. In a society where entitlement rules, people who are thankful are rare. Teaching your children to say thank you shows appreciation and gratitude, and makes a habit of realizing that what they are receiving is not owed to them.

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Choosing to teach your children manners—regardless of what others are teaching their children—is a great way to instill faith values as well. Start making basic manners a part of the expected behavior of your children, and it will become a habit that will serve them well in life. As they begin to explore their faith on their own, they will soon discover that the manners you taught them only compliment what Jesus is teaching them as well.

And stop by Moms Together today to join in the conversation about manners, our children, and how it reflects our faith. I’d love to see you there!

 

 

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Single Parents – There is Life Beyond Your Loss :: from Single Matters Magazine

Single-Parents_-Life-Beyond-Loss

Photo courtesy of Thomas sauzedde via Flickr

The year after my marriage fell apart was hands down the worst of my life. Most days were a blur as I stumbled through them trying to contain my emotions and take care of my children.

It was the pinnacle to a life full of loss that seemed unbelievable, and undeserved, and just … unfair. It left me shaken, literally, as I noticed that I could no longer hold my drawing tools steady for my job as a textile designer. I felt like a shell of the person I’d once been, and wondered if I even knew that girl anymore.

I took a year off from life — as much as I could. I still lived through it, but cut out anything “extra” from my days, knowing that this girl had some serious healing to do. Not only from her marriage, but from the loss of her family growing up, being disowned, a devastating job loss, and apparently every dream she’d ever held dear.

I clung to God’s hand as if it was the sole thing that could pull me through. And it was. Day by day, He seemed to gently nudge me from my bed, push me along my tasks, and catch me when I crumbled into a pile of tears. He was so close — so close — that I felt the covering over me. He was protecting His daughter when she could no longer stand up for herself, could no longer fight, could no longer move forward.

As the months went by, the burdens eased. I began to poke my head above the bedsheets and wonder if there might be life outside the four walls I’d been hiding within.

At some point, you will do the same.

Read more at Single Matters Magazine . . . 

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Are You Using God as a Band-Aid on Your Heart? :: from Single Matters Magazine

Are-You-Using-God-As-A-Band-Aid

Photo courtesy of theunquietlibrarian via Flickr

There once was a little girl who thought she knew everything. Her mother asked her time and time (and time) again, to stop sitting on her brother’s skateboard to ride it down the steep driveway, but the girl knew better.

One day, she decided to blindfold herself and ride the skateboard down the driveway—because doing it with open eyes just wasn’t challenging enough. You can imagine her surprise when she flew down the concrete drive and smacked face-first into the metal bumper of her mother’s old Buick. You might also imagine the loud “crack” the girl heard as she was sure she broke her nose. She wouldn’t admit to her mother what she’d done to cause severe bruising on her face, or tell her that she was pretty sure she reset the bones herself.

No, this girl knew better. Instead, she allowed her mother to put a Band-Aid over her nose, when in reality, she likely needed to get an X-ray, stitches, and pain medicine.

Fast forward 34 years.

After my marriage ended, I spent more than a year working on healing my heart. I focused on it. Decided not to date (as everyone suggested I do) and concentrated instead on getting myself into a healthy emotional state so I could move on. If the truth be told, I was kind of prideful about how far I’d come in that time. I was so sure that my heart was healed and I was ready to move on emotionally, mentally, and financially that I began dating and was really enjoying the process.

Remember that blindfolded little girl hurling herself toward the back bumper of a car? I wonder now if I looked much like that in God’s eyes.

Read more at Single Matters Magazine . . . 

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When a Father Won’t Love His Child

Daddy's Girl

Most people I know have no idea how I grew up.

That I was a little girl intent on earning her father’s love. That I spent hours wishing things were different. That I studied other little girls–the good ones–to try to figure out what they did that made their daddies love them.

And that I failed miserably at that task—even to the point of being disowned.

It seems shocking to most, that a father could do that.

That a young woman could bear that.

And even more so, that she didn’t then let it define the rest of her life.

I don’t know any other way than the path God gave me. But, I can tell you that as a child, it was painful to watch my other friends with their fathers and wonder why mine couldn’t just love me too.

As a young woman, I cried at weddings–not because of the couple–because there were daddies that were sad to leave their daughters.

And, I spent the vast majority of my life looking at myself in the mirror, and searching my heart to try to figure out what it was that made it so easy for him to hate me.

I’ll never know the answer to the questions I have about him.

But, my heart is no longer crushed over my father’s lost love.

Because along the difficult path—about 30 years in—after bad choices in men, my career, my friends, how I treated my family, and even how I viewed my finances—

I met someone.

Introduced to him by two women from work, I was mesmerized by this man they spoke so highly of. This man who thought like no other. This man who came to set women like me free.

They knew Jesus intimately, and I wanted the same.

As I began to grow in my faith, and understand that I had a heavenly Father who loved me regardless of how my earthly father felt about me, I have to say it sent shockwaves through me. I’d never understood God in that way. In fact, the God I’d heard about was a whole lot like my father: he doled out love when I was good, and ripped it away when I wasn’t.

Today, I’m beyond honored to be a part of Suzie Eller’s Live Free series as a featured story. Her newest book, The Mended Heart, is full of amazing stories of women who have looked beyond their pain toward the One who can offer them not only healing, but a restored life. I hope you’ll stop by to find more of my story, as well as other women who have walked difficult paths and come out on the other side:

Healed. Loved deeply. Cherished. Joyful.

And Living Free for the first time in their lives.

Healing can happen, sweet friends. And the love you think you’ll never find, is within your reach.

 

suzie live freeThe Mended Heart

 

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The Jesus I Hope You See in Me

The Jesus I Hope You See in Me

 

For a large part of my life, I tried to find Jesus in me.

I assumed he was there, because well, some of my family members were Christians and I’d heard about the Jesus who lived in your heart. But, I didn’t know him. Or honestly, understand why I even should. I couldn’t see the point.

I tried for years to understand. On my own. And even asked for help along the way. But, it never seemed to stick. If the truth be told, I was hardhearted, and angry at the hand I’d been dealt.

And lonely. So lonely.

But the day came when I saw Jesus in someone for the first time in my life. Through two women at work. Who lived their faith so openly, no one could deny the reality of him in their lives. I could not stop watching them.

I just had to have what they had.

He’s such a part of me now that I wonder if people who knew me before, and know me still, can see the difference. Or, if a quiet girl really showed enough of herself for them to know the struggles I was up against.

I know you’re facing struggles too—because single motherhood is incredibly hard.

Maybe the worst struggles you’ve ever faced. And it feels hopeless at times. And defeating.

And lonely. So lonely.

But, there is hope. And, I pray that you see it in me.

In fact, this is the Jesus I hope you see in me:

The One who takes a broken and battered girl—and heals her so that she can love again.

 

The One who carries me physically, mentally, and emotionally—when I can’t even bear to walk.

 

The One who knows every single fault. Every single mistake. Every single grudge—and loves me anyway.

 

The One who sees me taking wrong turns down every path—and offers his hand to lead me back.

 

The One who fills the many, many wounds of my heart—and calls them beautiful.

 

The One who knows that I don’t feel I deserve anything—but gives me everything anyway.

 

The One who sees me for exactly who I am—and chooses not only to stay, but to cherish the moments we spend together.

He wants to be the same in your life.

If only you’ll open your eyes to see the Jesus that longs to be in you. Maybe he’s right in front of you, through the others who have been where you are.

 

 

Stop by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Suzie Eller’s, blog this Live Free Thursday to discover more stories about the Jesus others hope you see in them. <3

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When You Want to Be Positive, But . . .

When You Want to Be Positive, But . . .

 

 

It starts something like this:

  • You walk into church on Sunday and notice the woman from your last Bible study is looking at you weird.
  • Throughout the service, you can’t get her off of your mind. Why would she look at you like that? It had to be what you said about the evils of tofu. She looks Vegan.
  • You can’t concentrate at all. In fact, you’ve just noticed that she is sitting three rows ahead to your right and you’re pretty sure she’s looking at you out of the corner of her eye.
  • She’s judging you. Yes.
  • Like she’s never had a cookie. You think about pulling a pack of cookies from your purse and eating it right then just to irritate her.
  • How dare her. Who does that in church? I mean, looking at people??
  • You miss the entire sermon as you watch her, seething.
  • But when they call for prayer, you decide to do the right thing: You pray she gets that chip off her shoulder.
  • As the service ends, you watch as she gathers her things and walks toward the door. She is smiling at everyone she passes. Then, she purposefully gets in front of you. And walks. Ridiculously. Slow.
  • It’s all a plot to make you angry. But, you’re not going to fall for it.
  • At the exit, she notices you behind her, holds the door for you and smiles.
  • She’s like a mastermind, that one.
  • You just give her the eye—the same dirty eye she gave you earlier—and walk on without comment.
  • You’re not going to let her ruin your day.

Ahem.

Not that I think like that.

Ok, yeah. I do sometimes.

The truth is that negative thinking is . . . well . . . sticky, isn’t it?

We start with a tiny thought that crosses our mind. Then other thoughts seem to stick to it as it rolls through our head, much like a snowball effect. By the time we’ve really rolled it over and over, it has turned into a huge ordeal that will probably never happen, and we’ve allowed the negative thought to take over us—and likely ruined our mindset for the rest of the day.

And I’ll admit, over the last 18 months into my new gig as a single mother, it’s been trending in my life. I’ve gone from looking for the silver lining, to waiting for the sky to fall.  I find myself on the negative side of the fence way more often than I’d like to admit. If truth be told, I’ve put in a pool and spend hours sitting over there ruminating.

It can happen to the best of us. Especially after a long season of difficulty. We begin to expect the worst, because—hey—that’s all we’ve seen in quite a while. So much so, that we forget that the good often comes the same way. As the small things that annoy us build up in other areas of our lives, we can no longer see the good for the tall tales of bad we keep spinning.

But, I’m moving on from that negativity now. Not only because I know it’s toxic for me, but because it’s even more toxic for my children.

I don’t want my kids taking on this sticky habit of negativity.

Because there is great power in the way we allow ourselves to think. Taking a negative angle on life is easy, because it’s how the world lives. It’s all around us. Hey–everyone is doing it. But, we are called to live differently.

Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

We have to fight to see the good in this world.

Even more so, is the fight to be the good in this world.

But, that’s where God leads us.

Philippians 4:8 says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about thinks that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Because, at the end of the day, we hold a lot of power in our children’s lives. The power to hurt, or heal. The power to build up, or tear down. The power to choose the positive, or the negative.

And I’m positive we hold the same power in our own.

 

 

Stop by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Suzie Eller’s, blog this Live Free Thursday to discover more stories about when our “but” gets in the way. <3

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The List Maker

The List Maker

 

I’m a list maker.

For those of you that don’t understand list makers, we live in an imaginary world where writing things down and checking them off a list makes us feel in control. If I was the type to laugh maniacally while touching the tips of my fingers together, this would be the time to do that.

Ahem.

I realize that my lists are useless. I mean, I’ve had one since I was fourteen. Sadly, that’s a thirty year old list. And it’s never been completely done.

Not once.

But it doesn’t stop me from making more. In fact, I’ve often wished I could have a giant stamp made that had nothing on it but a long row of lines with little check-boxes to the right of each line. I may have even priced such a thing on the internet.

I can’t remember.

In the last eighteen months, I’ve ramped up my list making. As a single mom, my life has never felt more out of my control. Everything I have built toward has changed. Dreams I held closely, gone. Plans for my future, gone. Hopes for my children, gone. It’s been what could seriously be termed “The Year of Great Loss,” if I were a dramatic girl.

But I’m not.

Instead, it’s probably more appropriately termed “The Year of Great Trust.” And not because I mastered that skill.  Seriously. I could laugh even harder at this point.

But because this year has forced me to do the one thing that has most terrified me in my life: trusting God completely. Believe me when I say that I went into it kicking and screaming, kicked and screamed mid-way, and continue to kick and scream at times.

If only that counted as exercise.

Why the struggle? Because trusting God completely goes against every natural urge in my body. Likely, in yours too. So, choosing to trust Him anyway can only be attributed to the fact that he has placed me in the position of having to do just that—so that I can grow in him like no other time in my life.

It’s as if he’s looked down at all those lists, all those tiny pieces of paper that continue to fall through the cracks, and gathered them up to say: Stop worrying, sweet girl. I’m in control.

Seriously, let me be in control.

And though it may quite possibly be the hardest concept in the Bible to understand, I’m beginning to see what Paul means when he talks about suffering and growth in Christ. Because when we put our hope and faith in ourselves—and maybe our lists—we never fully reach beyond our own capabilities. We keep fooling ourselves into thinking that we will get it under control. We will get it under control. We will get it under control.

Until thirty years later we wake up to realize that it’s never been more out of our control.

But, by looking to him to take control during our suffering, we give him the opportunity to show us what he can do in our lives. Who he can be in our lives. The place he will fill in our lives.

And girls, that is actually a very good place to be. A place not many reach. And a place for which I’m thankful.

 

 

Stop by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Suzie Eller’s, blog this Live Free Thursday to discover more stories about when life is out of our control. <3

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Lord, Change Me

Lord, Change Me

 

I’m not perfect.

There are some in my life that would laugh at that statement. The ones who know me best. The ones who’ve witnessed my shortcomings, and failures, and pure disasters firsthand. The ones who’ve had a front row seat to poor behavior, or a mouthy comeback, or even a smug look at someone else’s misfortune.

Sometimes I’m a bad example.

And the more time I spend as a single mother on my own, the closer I get to knowing myself deeply, the more I realize how flawed I am as a person. As a mother. As a woman.

And it causes me to cry out at times. To beg God to change me.

Lord, change me.

Into the person I believe he’s calling me to be. More like the women he loved in the Bible because of their faithfulness despite disaster. Into the woman who longs nothing more than to do his will in my life.

Because I’m not that woman a lot of the time.

In fact, I’m so far from her—so weak in nature at times–that I can hardly stand to be me.

Sometimes I’d rather be anyone but me.

And it’s in those moments of brokenness—those moments that seem to last days, or even weeks at times—that I hear him asking me to repeat myself once more.

So . . . Lord, change me.

My heart. Make me understand that who I am and what I do have nothing to do with whether or not you love me.

That your love is not something to be put out on a table as if there for the taking, and then yanked away when I don’t measure up. That unlike the rest of us, you don’t offer your heart and then change your mind when we don’t meet your needs.

That you love us.

The end.

And that no matter what we do, or achieve, or accomplish—you won’t love us more.

And that no matter how often we fail, or let you down, or disobey—you won’t love us less.

You’ll just love us.

The end.

So radically, that our minds need to change to understand.

Help me to understand a love like that. Then, help me to accept that it’s really mine.

Lord, change me.

 

 

 

Stop by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Suzie Eller’s, blog this Live Free Thursday to discover more stories about change. <3

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When the Next Step is just too Hard

Embarrassede fmale hiding her feet

Being a mom is hard. Sometimes we glide through it with ease, while other times it becomes a struggle. A mental battle of the wills to push through.

Through the years mothering my children, I’ve began to notice something about myself: when the going gets tough—and I mean really, really, tough—there’s a chance you won’t find me.

I’ll be hiding from you and everyone else that might serve as an opinion in my life.

Yes, I’ll still be taking the best care of my children. Yes, I’ll still be seen around town doing errands. But, beyond that—I’ll be in “that place”. The one that no one knows about. The one that feels safe and ready to accept me.

Don’t we all have “that place” in our lives? Maybe it’s your home and you go inside and make excuses as to why you don’t really need to come out. Or maybe it’s your car and you drive on and on until your gas light screams that you are getting to a final destination whether you like it or not. Or maybe you have a place in nature that calms you and reminds you for just a moment that you are more than a mom.

For me, it’s a chair in my home.

A safe place where I feel secure. I depend on it waiting on me. And when life is overwhelming, and confusing, and just doesn’t make sense at all, you’ll likely find me there.

It’s also where I tend to get stuck.

Because sometimes retreating into our safety is a nice break. A place to recharge so we can hit the world again.

But other times we go there with no plan to come out. We don’t talk to anyone. We take care of the bare minimum responsibilities. We don’t participate in life beyond the immediate.

Because the fear of hurting or being hurt more is scarier than the fear of being alone. And so we consciously choose to be alone.

The next step seems too painful to take. We can see it, just inches ahead, and know that it’s going to be the thing that has the power to pull us back under. And after fighting to get out of our recent pit, we cling to our safe place now. Shuddering at the thought of edging anywhere close to the next step again.

But, sweet friend, you weren’t called to hide from difficulties in this life, or as a mother. If the little bundles of energy filling up your laundry baskets and eating all of your hidden cookies aren’t enough of a reminder, let this be:

“Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.” Proverbs 3:25-26

That thing in your life you think is falling apart is still under the will of God.

That situation you think is hopeless is still under the control of God.

That person you feel is out to get you is still under the authority of God.

Your God.

The God who fights for you.

The God who will never leave you or forsake you.

The God who encourages you to take heart, and have courage, and try again. Because he can’t heal what refuses to move. And there’s nothing more he wants in life than a healthy daughter pushing toward the life he’s called her to.

Are you ready?

 

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Do You Have Enough Faith to be Brave?

Walking girl on the beachThe single mom life is hard. Harder than I ever knew, or imagined it would be. Many days I feel like I’m standing in the ocean, being knocked over again and again by the waves that keep coming—and keep coming—and I’m not strong enough to push through them.

Can you relate?

It’s exhausting. Even more so because you’re likely doing it all alone. And sometimes you wonder if that next wave is going to be the one that finally pulls you under. For good.

You push through each day, doing all you can for your children. And as evening rolls in, you tuck your heart, and your feelings, and the dreams you once held into your back pocket believing that they are safer out of the way for now. That you and your tender heart are better with them hidden out of sight. Because even the slightest glimpse is too much at times. A reminder that your road has been too hard. Too painful. Too unfair.

Until one day . . . you decide you need more.

Because with some distance between you and the starting point on this single motherhood path, you’ve done the hard work of healing a little. You’ve grown a little. And you let yourself begin to dream again—just a little.

And by faith, you decide to be brave. Knowing that many have gone before you the same way.

Like Esther who stood up to save a nation . . . by faith.
Like Hagar who trusted God after being banished . . . by faith.
Like Ruth who trusted that her life would be redeemed . . . by faith.

Because bravery isn’t about us or what we can convince ourselves to do. Bravery comes through faith. Knowing that there is One who is there with us in our daily battle. Holding us up against the waves. Not letting them knock us over. Then gently pushing us toward the shore to begin again.

Maybe it’s your turn to be brave by faith, and start again.

To stop listening to the booming voice in your head that tells you life is hard and you should just deal with the blows you’ve been given.

And listen instead to the voice that teaches that life can be beautiful, and blessed, and redeemed.

If your healing has led you to a place of wanting more, then stand up and point yourself toward that shore, sweet friend. You can do it.

He’s right behind you.

 

 

Stop by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Suzie Eller’s, blog this Live Free Thursday to discover more stories about being brave. <3

LIVEFREETHURSDAY

 

 

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