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

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You aren’t Called to be Mom AND Dad

“I don’t know how you do it all,” she smiled at me in an attempt to encourage. “I could never handle all of that. You know, being both the mom and dad to my kids.”

I stared at her a moment too long, creating an uncomfortable silence between us. A flash of panic flickered through my mind: was I supposed to be both the mom and dad?

Of course, I’d heard the concept before. Often from single moms who were working themselves to the bone with little or no help from anyone else. I’d seen them at ball fields throwing baseballs, at scout meetings pitching tents, and at dance recitals carrying flowers to the stage.

But, before that, I witnessed it firsthand as a child. I watched as my own mother struggled to make up for the hole that was left by my father. Listened as she told me that he still cared about me—even when it was clear he’d moved on. At my wedding—the day he officially disowned me—I felt numb as she spoke encouraging words about how much I meant to everyone else. How it was his loss, not mine.

By the time I became a single mom, I’d had a lifetime of watching others rush to fill the father gap in their children’s lives—and I was sick to death of it all.

I decided from the beginning that I would do whatever I could to encourage a positive relationship with my ex. Even if it meant throwing myself under the proverbial bus every day for my kid’s sake. I wanted them to have a good relationship with their dad. I wanted them to continue to see how much he loved them as often as I could. I wanted them to avoid the empty hole I held onto for so many years in my heart.

And, in my short time as a single mom, as I’ve been witness and comforter to a variety of other single moms, I’ve come to realize one thing:

We are not called to fill the gaps in our children’s lives.

Luckily, for many of us, we don’t have to. Our children’s fathers fall in step with the new situation and do everything they can to be there, to comfort, and to provide a positive experience for everyone. But for others, they fall to the wayside. Slowly pulling away, slowly fading in the time they spend, slowly creating a rift between themselves and the rest of the family.

If you find yourself in the latter situation, I want you to hear me now:

God has a plan for this.

We weren’t called to be both the mother and the father to our kids. We were made their mothers. The very day our children came to being. Mothers. With enough responsibilities in that one word to build a lifetime around. Mothers. Who are gifted at loving, and caring for, and raising our children with the influence that only a mother can give.

We were never meant to be their fathers.

Seriously. Stop trying to do both. Just be you.

Because the fact of the matter is that they already have a father. And whether that relationship is a positive one or a negative one, it is in their lives as little or as much as it is supposed to be. Because God saw this life you and your children would lead before it ever came to be. He knew your children’s hearts, and wants, and needs. And he can use all of it for their good.

Every single bit.

He tells us so, in his own words. “I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18

We should encourage the very best relationship with our kids and their fathers—it’s our duty as their mothers. We shouldn’t try to replace, or hinder, or especially excuse this role because it is pivotal in how they will one day grow in their relationship with Father God. But, if our children’s father chooses not to be involved, God himself will step in and fill the gap. God himself will teach your child. God himself will discipline your child. God himself will guide your child.

How do I know this?

He did it for me.

If needed, he’ll do it for your children as well.

 

 

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

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When All You Have is Mercy

When All You Have is Mercy

I grew up around boys. A LOT of boys. For most of my early childhood, I was in a neighborhood with about 20 of them . . . and then me. I learned how to build forts and dig traps around the perimeter to keep the boys out of my hideaways. I learned how to catch salamanders and tadpoles without falling into a creek. And, I learned how to beg for mercy to stop Indian burns from leaving a mark (if you’ve never experienced one, think: a relentless twisting and rubbing of the skin on your arm until you believe it might actually catch fire.)

I learned early on that one of the few ways to get out of an uncomfortable match-up was to call for mercy. Ok, shout for mercy. It was the single thing that made them retreat. The single thing that meant you gave up. The single thing that got you off the hook.

In my relatively short time being a single mom, I’ve come in contact with a lot of other moms on this same path. Each story is unique, each struggle different, and each one heartbreaking in the fact that no mother ever wants her family to fall apart—not one.

And in all of my encounters with these women, as they reach out to tell their story, they all have the same need: someone to hear that story and offer something it seems they haven’t seen much of recently: mercy.

Mercy as they cry and pour their heart out to someone who is safe.

Mercy when I tell them that there is still good in their lives, there is still good in them.

Mercy instead of judgment.

Sometimes, mercy is all you need.

My heart breaks for each of them, even as I do all I can to point them toward healing that deep wound within. My heart breaks in understanding, because I have a matching wound. And though mine is beginning to form a scar as God heals it, it’s still tender to the touch at times.

Sometimes, mercy is all you have to offer.

Because God has shown me the same mercy during this most difficult time in my life, it’s filled me with an overabundance of mercy toward others. I’m merciful because I’ve experienced the sweet relief that comes from someone whose looked at my life and offered mercy when I certainly didn’t feel I deserved it. In such a compassionate and loving way, that they stood out from what everyone else in my life was saying.

From family members who have forgiven hurts in order to be there for me during my time of need.

From friends who haven’t asked questions about what happened in an attempt to gain a morsel for later conversation, but because they deeply cared and wanted me to know it.

From church leaders who watched me approach them in shame, and encouraged me to lift my head—and my hands—toward heaven.

Isn’t that where God wants all of us in our walk? To live and give mercy?

Isn’t that what we all need? More mercy in our lives?

Whether we shout for it or can barely manage a whisper.

 

 

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

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Posted in Faith, Motherhood, Single Parenting | 8 Comments