Wednesday, September 23, 2015

She Chose Life

Her mother chose life. Maybe you saw her outside the abortion clinic the morning she almost didn't. Maybe you were the one who convinced her that she wasn't alone. That the baby she was carrying was a life. Had a heartbeat. Had a purpose. Was loved. Maybe you promised to always be available if she needed support. Maybe you even meant it.

She had her baby, but her life was hard and she was trapped. Her boyfriend was abusive. Into drugs. And she found herself addicted, as well....

At first, she was still able to care for her child, but over time, she sunk further and further into darkness. The child's teachers suspected something was wrong and finally, one of them filed a report. The state showed up and took the child. Put her in a foster home. Over the next several years, she lived in many different foster homes, never really knowing what she had done wrong and why she couldn't live with the only mother she had ever known. The mother who had chosen to give her life, but had somehow given up on her own.

When her mother died from a drug overdose, she realized she would never go back home. She felt as though she would never have a family. And with 20,000 children aging out of the foster system every year, chances are, she may not.

Where are you now? The one who promised to always be there. The one who advocated for her life. Are you coming to her rescue? Because she needs you. She needs you. She needs a family. She needs to know she is loved. You promised to be there..... Are you holding true to that promise?

To be pro-life is more than just holding signs and asking broken women to give birth. To be pro-life should mean that you advocate not just for birth, but that you support life. And that you are willing to provide a child with a life when others cannot.

God didn't say pure religion was holding signs and picketing abortion clinics. He said that "pure religion is this: caring after widows and orphans in their distress....." (James 1:27)

She chose life when it was easier not to. Are you willing now to provide a life when it's easier not to? To choose to hold true to your promise and act on what God accepts as pure religion? Half a million children in the foster care system right now are counting on you.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


I jokingly (or maybe not so jokingly) refer to my 11 year old as a trash hoarder.
She sifts through the recycling bin every time I throw something away, looking for “treasures”.
It’s trash. Which is why I’ve thrown it away.
But she collects piles of boxes of all shapes and sizes, toilet paper and paper towel rolls, cans, bottles, and probably a host of other items she strategically hides from me so I won’t know she’s taken them.
And when given an opportunity to go to the store to spend her allowance money, she buys things like duct tape. And wire. And yarn.
I’ve been a single mom for over 15 years now, guys. And I’ve worked my tail off to get to where I am today. And I continue to work my tail off because I have goals to reach that are even beyond where I am today. And when I reach those goals, I’ll set more goals. Because I think it’s important to never stop challenging yourself. But that’s for another post.
For now, I just need to frame my mindset for you guys.
Once upon a time, boxes comprised much of my furniture. Boxes became end tables, dining tables, storage for my clothing… you get the idea. The little bit of furniture I did have was mostly bought at thrift stores or garage sales, or was handed down from family members.
I remember the first pieces of new furniture I did buy. It was a small table and chair set for my tiny apartment’s eat-in kitchen. It was one of those build-it-yourself things that I got at K-Mart on a clearance end cap for $35.00. It was a really big deal.
And over the years, I continued to work my way up, to the point where I am now nearly completely out of debt (except for that pesky student loan I’m still hacking away at). I can afford somewhat nicer things. And I’ve learned the art of saving and financial responsibility.
But you have to be careful when you set goals and work for those goals and eventually reach those goals, that you don’t let the goals become bigger than they should be. The end result is never supposed to just be about more stuff or nicer stuff or prettier stuff. The end result isn’t even as important as the process that takes you there. The process is about hard work, and growing, and learning, and making mistakes and learning again. It’s about developing character and maturity.
So I have to catch myself and bite my tongue and try hard not to cringe when my daughter’s beautifully decorated, color coordinated room is (in my mind) littered with boxes and toilet paper rolls and duct tape. Because this trash that she collects – she does turn it into treasures. They may not be the prettiest treasures at first glance, but, again, it’s the process that’s important, right??
She’s using her creativity, developing a plan, and working hard to see it through. She’s growing, and learning, and making mistakes and learning again.
And when I walk into her room and see that out of those boxes she’s built a three-level “castle” for the cat and a “garage” for her little brother’s cars, the boxes become so much more valuable than they were when I threw them away several days earlier.
And they might distract from the curtains I love so much or the color coordinated décor I worked so hard to get just right… and for a moment I might cringe at the clutter…
Because a room full of boxes used to represent to me hopelessness and failure and desperation. And a beautifully well-decorated, color coordinated room became the representation of success and happiness and purpose.
But it isn’t about the boxes, after all.
It’s about the process. The processes for each of us. And the value we choose to place on the boxes.
And these boxes…. These boxes hold in them so much more value than the curtains or the wall art or the bedding or the rugs. These boxes hold the creativity and the visions and the dreams and the goals of a little girl, who’s not quite so little anymore, and they reflect in their current state, not hopelessness and despair, but hope and promise and joy.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Enter to Win a Free Devotional!

11/4/2014 UPDATE:  Last week my brand new Twitter account was suspended for several days shortly after setting it up - I'm still not sure why - but I lost a handful of all 10 or 12 of my original followers (at least my popularity didn't skyrocket immediately because I could have lost a lot more!) and those of you who may have attempted to enter this drawing via Twitter might have had trouble. Anyway, my Twitter is up and running again, and in order to be sure everyone has a fair to chance to enter, I am going to leave the drawing open now until this Friday, November 7, 2014. I will announce the winner on that date at 12:00 p.m. Central!


Do you know a single mom who needs a little encouragement? Maybe that single mom is you...

I'll be giving away a free copy of my favorite devotional - The Single Mom's Devotional by Carol Floch - on November 3rd (one week from today!) To enter, see below. And if my facebook page reaches 500 likes by November 3rd, I'll be giving away not just one, but TWO copies of The Single Mom's Devotional!

You can enter up to three times to win!

For one entry:
1. Comment below telling me why you would like a copy of this devotional. (And be sure to provide me with a way to contact you if you win!)

For a second entry:
1. Like me on facebook - click the link at the top of this page!
2. Share my giveaway post via facebook and comment on my facebook post to let me know you've shared it!

For a third entry:
1. Follow me on Twitter @SingleMomHope
2. Share this blog post with hashtag #CSMgiveaway

I will announce the winner on Monday, November 3, 2014, at 12:00 p.m. Central!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why We Need Friends

The life of a single mom can at times be incredibly busy and chaotic. We want friends, but we don't have time. We want to engage in the friendships we have, but we don't have the emotional energy. But we really just can't afford not to.

God didn't put us here to walk this life alone. He designed us for relationships. And not just married relationships. He created us to do life with other people. He never intended for us to isolate ourselves from the world around us. In fact, doing so can deprive us of the very life God has created us for.

Here are five very important reasons why we - especially as single moms - need solid Christian friends.

1. Support and Encouragement

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

We all experience trials in our lives. Being a single mom, it can be easy to get wrapped up in our trials and convince ourselves that we're all alone because, on top of the trial itself, we also struggle with feelings of isolation. A trusted friend will remind us that we are not alone and will offer valuable perspective to our situations. And sometimes, she'll just be there to comfort us as we cry.

2. Challenge and Accountability

Proverbs 13:20

This is huge. We all have ways in which we can grow. Whether we're struggling to get finances under control, striving to live a healthier lifestyle, or simply trying to be more biblical in our parenting, having a good friend to hold us accountable can make all the difference in the world. Oftentimes, to ourselves, we'll justify and rationalize steps in the wrong direction even when we know better... but a good friend will challenge our irrational rationalizations and help to motivate us to make better choices. She will provide wisdom and Godly advice, and will be honest even when honesty is difficult.

3. Celebrating Blessings

Ruth 2:18-21

Who wants to have a party all alone?? Ok, so maybe there are times when I do... but for the most part, when something really great happens in my life, I want to share it with someone! But a blessing can quickly feel more like a tragedy if we have no one to celebrate with. We need friends who can be genuinely happy for us and who can share in our excitement. And these same friends will also remind us of our blessings when life gets overwhelming and we start to lose focus and feel discouraged.

4. Prayer and Spiritual Strength

Matthew 18:19-20

Whether they're praying with us, by our side, or whether they're praying for us from a distance, the spiritual strength of a praying friend is irreplaceable. They become witnesses to us of Christ's love and commitment, and they help to strengthen our faith when we find it wavering. When we're tasked with the responsibility of being a spiritual leader for our family without the support or leadership of a "teammate", feelings of fear and inadequacy can easily creep in. Not only that, but life happens and everyone gets discouraged from time to time. We need the spiritual encouragement and prayer cover of strong Christian friends as an added layer of protection over us and our children.

5. Get Us Out of Our Comfort Zones

Matthew 4:18-22

I am not naturally inclined to attend big parties. I'm not drawn to socializing with strangers. But some of my greatest memories are of times when a friend has dragged me... ahem ... encouraged me to participate in something I wouldn't normally participate in. Some of my closest friends today are actually women who were once strangers with whom I (grudgingly) worked up the energy to engage in conversation.

Search through scripture and you can find countless examples of how Jesus used relationships to do each and every one of these things. There are simply too many to list. It's important for all Christians to invest in relationships with other believers, but it's especially necessary for the single mom who has no spouse to fill these roles in her life and yet is in the position of needing these roles filled more desperately than many.

I am blessed with an amazing group of friends, and I truly don't know what I would do without them. I thank God for them every day. I know without a doubt that I would not be where I am today if not for the love, support, encouragement, challenges, blessings, and adventures that their presence brings to my life.

Friday, October 10, 2014

In the Desert

Does God ever lead you to a desert? Where you feel like you're completely alone, you have very little left, and you don't see a way out anytime soon?

Sometimes it's an emotional desert. Sometimes it's a financial desert. Sometimes it's a relational desert.

Recently, I felt like I was in the middle of an all-of-the-above desert.

I texted a close friend for prayer because, quite honestly, I just didn't feel like praying myself. My friend is very encouraging. She knows me well. And I can be quite immature in times like these...

     Me: I could sure use some prayers... I'm having a very discouraging time right now...
     My Friend: God already had me praying for you... Please know that He is with you, He sees you and He chooses you and He believes in you! Hugs <3
     Me: He can choose someone else now. I'm tired.
Yeah, that totally happened. Real mature, right??
Fortunately, God continues to pursue me even in my immaturity and stubbornness. He revealed to me that, although my circumstances were partially due to the actions (or inactions) of others, they wouldn't have been as devastating if I'd been in the right place to begin with. I knew where that right place was, I had simply chosen not to be there.
But He also showed me that, in His grace, He was protecting me where I was. My circumstances could have been much, much worse. He allowed me to experience just enough pain and discomfort to draw me back to Him, but He didn't allow me to be destroyed.
And as I journey out of this desert, which is a different battle altogether, I've been able to thank Him for allowing me to experience the struggle. Being in the desert has given me a greater appreciation for what I have because I am reminded of what it feels like when it's lost.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dating and the Single Mom: What's in His Heart?

If my facebook page has seemed a little quieter than usual over the past several weeks, I admit, I’ve been limiting my time online. I realized just how much time I was spending on facebook in particular, and decided I needed to be more intentional about how I was using my time. I’d rather read my kids an extra bedtime story than spend those ten “free” minutes online. And during my daytime downtime or after my kids go to bed, I decided that it would be much more valuable to spend my time in a book instead of online. I even deleted the facebook app from my phone because I found myself tempted to check my page every time I received an alert, even if I was in the middle of doing something with my kids.

I’m planning a total social media detox sometime in the relatively near future. I’m not sure how long it will last – maybe a couple of weeks, maybe a little longer – but I’ll be totally unplugged for a period of time. I’ll be sure and let you know before that happens, and I’ll probably appoint someone to watch over my page during that time, because, as is expected in this online world, I do occasionally have to intercept random spam that comes through.

Anyway, this post really should have gone live before now, but I kind of let it slip through the cracks. I’ll try to set the next few to auto-post.

What’s in is His Heart?

This is the second in a series entitled Dating and the Single Mom. If you missed the first one, you can read it here: Dating and the Single Mom: Preference or Sin.

It can be a challenge to discern what’s really in a person’s heart – especially when we’re just getting to know him or her, and everyone’s putting on their best face. I suppose another title for this post could have been Don’t Overlook the Small Stuff, because sometimes we have to take note of those often overlooked moments – you know, the ones that just make you cock your head a little to the side like a slightly confused beagle, squint your eyes a bit, sit back and go “Huh. That was odd.”

Example. Once I was on a date. 

No really, I was. 

It was a casual sort of date – we were out for pizza with our kids (we each had one at the time). When the pizza was delivered to our table, my date immediately reached for two slices for himself, and one for his kid. It took me a little by surprise that he wouldn’t offer it to me first, but I shrugged it off, thinking I was just being silly. I mean, he was a really nice guy, and the fact that I got my pizza 7 seconds later than he did, honestly didn’t matter to me that much. I don’t remember anything remarkable from our conversation during dinner that night as we worked our way through the pizza. 

And then there were two slices left. And he grabbed both of them.

That was our last date.

A friend later told me it was stupid to end things with such a nice guy over a couple slices of pizza. But it was more than a couple slices of pizza. It was an unconscious reflection of what was in his heart – self-centeredness. In those brief moments when he let down his guard, when he wasn’t consciously putting his best foot forward, he demonstrated his heart to me without even realizing it.

Our hearts shape our attitudes and our behavior. We can override our hearts for a time by choosing to behave in ways we know make us look like a better version of ourselves. Or like a different person altogether. But in those moments when we shift into auto-pilot, so to speak, our hearts take over again.

A person can only maintain a false façade for so long. Even a slightly tweaked façade. Before long, the heart is revealed, and if you don’t take notice of the small indicators that the heart beneath the surface is quite different than what’s being portrayed, you risk walking deeper into a relationship than God may have intended you to go.

But please don’t misunderstand me in this. I’m not telling you to nit-pick every small annoyance in an attempt to fix every little thing you think is wrong with the other person. If that’s what you do, that’s a heart problem on your end. It’s not your job to change the other person. (Also, if you’re struggling over this, take another look at my first post in this series. Not everything that might annoy you is a sin issue and worth making a big deal out of.)

I never said I argued with my pizza date over his selfishness. Because I didn’t. In fact, I never even brought it up with him. I simply chose to break off the relationship. I recognized that it was a relationship that God did not intend for me because he was not ready to be a husband. Whether or not that ever changed for him was going to be between him and God, but it wasn’t my job to get in the middle and try to fix him. Or nag him until both our lives became a miserable mess of drama and sin.

It’s my job to seek God’s direction for MY life. And that wasn’t it.

And I didn’t owe him or anyone else any explanation. I simply had to know where God wanted me to go, and respond faithfully. 

Selfishness revealed itself over pizza, but over time, selfishness likely would have revealed itself over bigger issues, as well. It's never the surface issue that's the problem - it's the heart behind the surface issue. If someone is selfish with pizza, he or she will be selfish with time, selfish with finances, and selfish with physical and emotional desires. 

Be sensitive enough to God's Spirit to recognize when it's more than just pizza.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Dating and the Single Mom: Preference or Sin?

More times than I can count, I’ve been asked by single moms about dating. Whether they should date. Who they should date. How they go about finding a date. Why they can’t seem to find the right person to date.

These are tough questions to answer because the answer is never going to be the same for everyone.

This article – which, due to the depth of its content, has turned into a series of articles – will address several areas to consider concerning dating and the single mom.

Initially, I was going to begin by taking a look at how to tell if you’re ready to date. But after praying, and writing, and praying some more, I decided to begin by giving you an opportunity to take a look at what you’re looking for in a potential spouse, and compare it to what God would want you to look for. Because regardless of whether or not you’re ready to date right now, God can still reveal to you the type of person he may be preparing you for at some point in the future. And through comparing what you may desire to what God may desire for you, I truly believe that God can reveal to your heart when His timing is right for you.

Preference or Sin?

We’ve all heard the advice: Make a list of everything you want in a spouse and don’t settle for anything less.

Back when I had a list, my list looked something like this:

  • Must be a Christian (though I was fairly lax in my definition of “Christian”)
  • Must be taller than I am and weigh more than I do
  • Must be a dog person
  • Must have a college degree and an established career with a salary higher than mine
  • Must be able to beat me in basketball and football
  • Must also know the rules of football – both college and pro
  • Must not be a Cincinnati Bengals or Baltimore Ravens fan (I eliminated the Cleveland Browns from this list because I still have yet to meet a real life fan)
  • Must love the outdoors but must never expect me to go camping unless it is in a luxury RV
  • Must not be afraid of me (because I’m not gonna lie, I probably scared some people)

Now, there’s nothing wrong with recognizing the values that are important to you, and looking for those values in a potential spouse. But when your list of non-negotiables looks something like your five-year-old’s Christmas letter to Santa Claus, or some unrealistic and somewhat intimidating compilation similar to mine, you may need to take a step back and reevaluate your priorities.

Even a reasonable list of positive, sensible attributes can cause you to stumble when those desires have been given too high a priority.

As you consider your list of attributes, for each quality listed, ask yourself: Is this a sin issue or is it merely a preference?

For example:

A man who places a higher value on his career and his social status than on his relationship with Christ and his relationships with his family, would be a sin issue.

A man who likes cats rather than dogs, would merely be a preference.

Sin issues are issues that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The goal of a relationship is not to change the other person’s heart. If that person’s life is dominated by one of these sin issues, this is not a person you should venture into a relationship with.

As far as preferences are concerned, you can certainly include these on your list, but they shouldn’t be deal breakers. Yes, you may prefer a dog person over a cat person, or a person who likes to travel rather than one who likes to stay home, but if your hearts are both in the right place and aren’t being dominated by sin and selfishness, you should always be willing to compromise with and for each other. Some of the greatest of life’s adventures can be experienced with a person you truly love when each of you is willing to risk moving outside your comfort zone and experiencing life from the other person’s point of view!

But what happens when the line between sin and preference becomes a little blurry? Or what if the preference is a really big deal?

After I had my second child, I said I never wanted any more children. In fact, I still maintain that at this point in my life, having more children is just not a priority or a very strong desire. I used to say that if a man desperately wanted children of his own (or more children of his own) that I simply could not date him because I could never marry him since I wasn’t willing to give him that.

And then a friend shared with me a conversation that she and her husband had had early in their dating relationship. She had expressed to him that she did not ever desire to have children. She probably expected that in sharing that with him, one of two things would happen: either he’d agree with her or he wouldn’t. If he agreed, their relationship could continue, and she’d be locked into a commitment to never have children. If he disagreed, however, either he would decide to end the relationship, or he would argue with her over the issue. But instead, this man – who eventually became her husband and the father of their two children – took her by surprise when he said to her, “If God wants us to have children, we will have children.”

And she realized she couldn’t argue. He knew her heart, and her heart was to be obedient to God. And he wasn’t afraid of her outspokenness because he knew that if God was going to call her to be a mother, she would be a mother, and He would put that desire in her heart and equip her along the way.

This is just one example of a preference that you might consider a pretty big deal. But if you both have your hearts set on seeking God, God will work out the details, and he’ll point your hearts toward His will.

My friend is now one of the most loving and devoted mothers I know.

And to have or not to have children is no longer a deal breaker on my list of what to look for in a spouse. Ironically, it’s equally important to me now that it’s not a deal breaker on his list, either. He may strongly desire to have children, and I may come to agreement, and God may never bless me with the ability to have any more. That has to be ok. The only acceptable foundation on which to build a marriage is God. Children do not make good substitutes in that equation.

So I would encourage you, if you have a list of qualities you desire in a future spouse, to evaluate the items on that list one by one. Ask God to reveal to you whether those qualities are true sin issues or whether they are merely preferences. You don’t have to throw out the preferences, but they should always come secondary to the sin issues. And before you allow mere preferences to become deal breakers, truly set your heart on God and ask Him to reveal His plan for you.

The only item from my original list which made the cut to my new list is the first one – except that I’ve changed it to be that he must love Christ first and foremost in his life and that he must be willing to seek God’s plan for his life, even if it means moving outside his comfort zone.

Because I’m a dog person, and he may experience some discomfort in his need for allergy shots. And when I beat him in basketball, that might be a little uncomfortable for him at first too...