Dear Single Mom

I’ll never forget the day I opened up the door to a lady handing me a large yellow envelope.

My throat went dry. “Is this what I think it is?” I asked quietly.

She nodded her head as she studied my face, and tears filled her eyes before she turned and silently walked away.

The day I looked over those complicated divorce papers was the D-Day of my life.

So I’m here to tell you, single mom, that you’re not alone and I get it. For me, you don’t have to appear brave when you need to cry. It’s honestly okay to be a wreck for awhile.

I get the nausea that won’t allow you to eat.

I get eating whatever goes down, when it goes down, even if it’s not nutritious.

I get the sudden survival mode that kicks in for your babes as you start working hard to provide for them.

I get the mom guilt that makes you try to over-compensate for a father’s absence by filling in all the gaps– and I get the resulting exhaustion that makes you love bedtime more than any other time of day.

I get how painful it is when you run to the grocery store the night before Thanksgiving and see the girl who replaced you, also out purchasing groceries, for the man you used to cook Thanksgiving dinner for.

I get the struggle of forgiveness and the confusion of what that even looks like when you feel all the tension rise one more time in the face of such oddities.

I get the pain of holidays, where you give up the parties you used to throw—then decide to throw them anyway because you’re finally seeing that life can go on and you can still do the things you love, and your friends love you just as much as before.

I get the angst of your soul as you lift your face to the sky and ask God why. “Why, when I tried so hard to be a good wife, did it not work?”

I get the anger when you see other wives mistreating their husbands and the men still stay. How you’d like to remind them of the good they have, and how that goodness should be rewarded and respected.

I get it when it all seems so unfair.

I get it when you’re suddenly a single person, and other women look at you as a threat rather than a gift– and you’d like to walk around with a T-shirt that says, “I’d die a thousand deaths before I’d hurt any woman the way I’ve been hurt.”

I get it when it’s hard to receive help, and how slowly you learn the absolute necessity of it, how grateful you become for the brothers in law and family who help you unendingly when you need it—-and don’t stop when you tell them you don’t need it because they know better than you do.

But here’s the thing:

I also get it when you start smiling again because Jesus comes closer than any human being could ever come.

I get it when your hard work pays off and you’re able to support yourself and your children without child support.

I get the satisfied tiredness that comes at the end of a work week when you do payroll, and still have enough for your bills even when rent is high and groceries are out of this world.

I get the deep appreciation for your friends who get the fact that you don’t have time to spare even when you’d love to have them over—because just getting to sit on your couch with coffee feels like vacation.

I get the gratefulness mingled with frustration when you spend too much money on Dr. visits, trying to get well again after burning out from years of emotional trauma.

I get the joy of hiking hours into the wilds so you can be in touch with something bigger than yourself.

I get the deep friendships that form when others join your steep adventures and everyone talks non-stop about all of life while the legs burn upward before eyes rest on majestic views that defy every pain you’ve ever felt.

I get the gratefulness of those moments when pain melts into oblivion, even just for a few minutes as something better takes over your mind.

I get the deep appreciation for those friends who send their husbands over to fix your broken sinks and change the tire on your son’s bike. Woman to woman, it’s their way of saying, “I got your back” and they’ll never know how much it means to us.

I get the joy over small things, because joy is a gift and you feel it coming, coming, coming as it used to be—though now, it is richer, fuller, and better because it is not dependent on another human being.

I get it that you’re grateful for your sorrow because it led you to your joy.

I get it that you felt broken much longer than you wanted, yet realized that your heart broken open absorbed light more than before.

I get the peace that comes from no dependence on relationship for your happiness, and the profound realization that you’re going to be more than okay, not because of a human being but because “The Son of Man has risen with healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2) and He met you in your tears so He could wipe them away.

I get the wonder that He never left, never became impatient, and always looked at you with love.

I get the realization that you’re His favorite—but so is everyone else around you, and they should all be treated as such, created in the image of God for the glory of God. The realization of your own value collides beautifully with the realization of everyone’s value, and you want the whole world to circle with love, endlessly.

And I truly get it that now, though you love everyone, you no longer trust everyone. You’ve learned to know when you know when someone’s character is solid and they’ve earned trust without trying—because they didn’t need to prove what already was.

You are now the girl reading with new insight this verse: “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

You live carefully, but courageously. Fear may threaten you, but love will overtake you.

Dear single mom, I get it that the Love of Jesus is now your anchor beyond what you ever knew before, and how, no matter what the future holds, you are set on HIM because you’ve found His love better than any other kind of love.

You are no longer the girl longing for the perfect life; you are now the girl held with perfect love in a very imperfect world.

“But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings.”

Malachi 4:2

Regaining Emotional Clarity—Don’t Live by Your Emotions, Part 8

Every once in awhile my eyes roll to my head when I’m listening to teen girls gab about boys.

Yes, the boy thing. And how do you tell them that this boy most likely isn’t the future husband when all the emotions say otherwise?

During those moments I see clearly what God must see so clearly about us—that much of our lives are based off immediate emotional reactions rather than deliberate Godly responses.

Girl sees cute boy and bam—all the natural emotional responses start rolling.

It takes self control to wait, decide what you want with life and relationships, and work on character rather than premature dating. A wise parent will do her best to encourage the latter even when emotional responses from a child would cause her to buckle.

But teen love and dating is not the only thing that can be ruined by natural emotional responses. What about us? As fully grown adults, how do we live?

“The irony of the term “self control” is that it is not about our act of taking control, but rather about our surrendering control to God.” ~Jennifer Ussleman, Choosing to Choose Better

https://www.amazon.com/Choosing-Choose-Better-Changes-Everything/dp/1637324553/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_2?crid=25M269BN3ZHP7&keywords=choosing

I don’t think there’s really any way we can force our emotions in line with the will of God. Usually, emotions over-power better knowledge. But surrendering ourselves to the Lord makes us new creatures, which means there’s an inner response more powerful than a natural reaction.

As a friend once said, “When God does something, it’s like there’s an aroma of the Holy Spirit that is just different than something outside of His will.”

We can’t always show our children the difference until they experience it personally, but we can, as parents, do our best to guide them toward wisdom.

This is our responsibility.

This is our duty.

This is our job.

(My babies plus one more from Slovokia. We love you, Tampka!)

But back to ourselves. Living above our emotions affects how we discern the will of God (not the easy way, but the right way), how we eat, speak, and run our businesses. It affects what atmosphere people sense when they’re around us, how much life they glean from our presence in the room.

What atmosphere do you bring to the table?

And what about this—living above emotions even affects how we eat. We’re suddenly able to choose for health rather than weigh our bodies down with excess junk.

Eat to get your emotions comforted and you’ll end up emotionally uncomfortable when you step on the scale or go clothes shopping. Making the better choice in spite of emotions ends up setting your emotions free.

Eating for life instead of emotions is a good picture of what happens in all of life when we choose higher than feelings. Suddenly, we start feeling better.

Get this—when you no longer allow your feelings to run your life, you suddenly start feeling better and living a better life.

(Nutritious and deliscious–curry chicken salad, brown bread, and all things fresh.)

Our emotions are here to guide us, not rule us. They are one factor, not the greatest factor. They are useful tools, not the end of wisdom. This means that if your emotions are leading you astray, you reign them in and follow wisdom instead.

Your feelings can even be swayed by religion. Amish people are taught that owning a car is worldly. Because their feelings have been conditioned by culture and decades of religion, they will truly feel guilty when they purchase a car.

(My world as a child.)

A muslim woman will feel guilty for exposing her face. And I, as an Amish girl, remember hiding behind the refrigerator when a man from church knocked on the door. My feelings told me that for him to see my hair would be shameful.

Even religion has to humbly exchange itself for relationship, and bow itself to the pure, holy, written Word of God that will change or bow to no one and for no one. It is not God’s job to fit our interpretation of His will; it is our job to surrender to His perfect Word and will, even when it collides with what we’ve always been taught.

Ironic, isn’t it? At the cross, we kneel low so our souls can rise high. All of us, inside and out, need to bow at the cross and subject ourselves to a Greater Word.

Whatever we feel in the process will eventually be exchanged for greater grace than we’d ever know, were we to bow to anything less than the Word of God.

Choosing rightly may never change your circumstances, but it will absolutely change your heart. And that, my friends, is a greater miracle we can only know when we’ve experienced the beautiful, loving presence of Jesus Christ. Emotions can lead us astray, but He will always lead us upward, onward, and into freedom.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV)

Seven Steps to Real Friendship

I thought perhaps I’d feel lonely in a city by myself, but the opposite was true as I faced a window and unashamedly inhaled a large burger while watching hundreds of people pass by.

Asheville is a city of the arts and it shows on the people walking downtown on a Friday night. “Love” is all you need seems to be written on faces as they puff out clouds of nicotine and show their purple hair.

Others are tourist-like families, here to enjoy mountains for a short while before heading back to stuffy offices and brick church buildings. Still others are local people, enjoying their flavorful city while hosting those of us who wish to live here, but cannot.

The back door to my air bnb is wide open and I’m sharing a small, earthy looking bathroom with dear knows who. A cock roach creeps down stucco-like walls and disappears behind a cotton curtain hung to hide the plumbing. I open the door while I brush my teeth so I can escape quickly should it scramble at me from beneath the curtain.

But back to people watching!

Everyone was out to connect. Dinner together, walking together, listening to live music together—the whole town was buzzing and I realized all over again how much humans need connection.

We are body and spirit, with the greater part of us being spirit. We get lonely because we focus on bodily needs while we neglect the greater needs of soul and spirit.

Did you know loneliness is one of the worst things for our health? We were born to be connected, soul to soul, spirit to spirit. And most importantly, creation was made to connect to the Creator.

Yet, people look at bodily image to decide whether or not to connect their soul to another. Popular, pretty girls want to be friends with other popular pretty girls, forgetting that no one can decide what features they possess, yet everyone can decide what heart they carry. When girls choose their friends on appearance and popularity, they often by-pass the most golden people who could show them the real meaning of love and friendship.

It’s time for humanity to remember the importance of the soul. Look deep within and choose your people based on the kind of people they are in their soul.

Let’s look at a few ways we can connect with others. How do we make friends?

1. Ask about other people’s lives.

We all know the Sallys and Janes who talk non-stop about themselves until you want to groan and plug your ear with a corn cob. Or peanuts. Or anything to stop the incessant self-focused chatter.

When you’re with other people, purposefully ponder what questions are fitting to ask about their lives and interests. Rare is the person who delights in others so well that he asks question after question to get another person to open up and enjoy a conversation.

When others talk about something, rather than switch the conversation back on yourself with your own story, ask another question about what they just said. You’ll be surprised at the difference in feedback and engagement as others feel heard and wanted.

2. Learn to know who your people are.

Not everyone is cut out to be your friend. You are not everyone’s cup of tea. This is okay, because you’ll be another person’s favorite drink. And when you find that instant connection kind of friend, hang onto it and develop it purposefully. Learn what your friend loves—and do the thing.

One of mine sent me a coffee mug with a goat on it because she found out I love goats. It warms my heart every time I fill it with coffee. Periodically she sends me goat videos. It’s odd how something so small makes me feel connected to her and loved by her.

If you’re not connecting with someone, relax and accept it. Don’t force friendships. Go with the flow and love everyone with a laid back ease void of stress. Just love people and smile at them.

3. “A (woman) who has friends must show herself friendly.

Somewhere along the way, extroverts have been made out to be “more spiritual” than introverts. Nothing could be further from the truth. Showing yourself friendly doesn’t have to mean you love crowds and can’t wait to host families for lunch after church. Being friendly could mean you hate crowds and prefer one to one conversation because there, you can connect deeply. It might mean you don’t enjoy hosting but you do it anyway, sometimes, because there’s a need for old fashioned hospitality. You may not be bubbly but you will definitely be loving. You may not barbeque and serve exotic drinks but you’ll invite others onto your couch and gather them around your table in your own way of loving them.

And if you can’t have people over, you can take a meal to someone. A warm casserole speaks a thousand words!

4. Celebrate others.

Women who celebrate other women are real queens. We know them when we find them. They are secure in Christ, busy doing what they’re called to do, and satisfied with the love of Jesus. There is no need to compare or want another’s life when we’re in the life we know we’re called to live.

Only when you truly celebrate another woman’s joys do you have the right to enter her sorrow.

Let’s sit on that for a minute.

A woman who is uncomfortable with your success can easily come rushing to “comfort” you when grief strikes. She is more comfortable with your loss than your gain. Please sisters, let’s be bigger than that. Be a woman who provides community and belonging to all because everyone senses your deep desire to see them thrive.

Celebrating others is FUN!

4. Don’t be offended if some people are too busy to strike up the friendship you’d love to share with them.

I was a preacher’s daughter and my whole life geared to hosting, reaching out, and making sure others felt loved by our family. We were so busy loving on others that we sometimes neglected each other. So I never expect to be close friends with pastors or leaders even though I’m drawn to them. The conversation is different when you hang out with motivated leaders—but the pull you feel toward them may be your invitation to join them in what they do rather than add more ministry to what they do. The former will give life to both of you while the latter could drain them and disappoint you.

Rather than demand friendship or feel left out if you’re not invited over, realize that a family cannot possibly have everyone in the church over. Look for other ways to find your people. Join a small group, volunteer for worship or women’s ministry or Sunday School—involve yourself in your own gifts rather than wait to be invited or included. We are all responsible to cultivate and utilize our gifts!

5. Don’t expect to make your friends on a Sunday morning.

Church is not the only place for deep friendships to happen. Good friends need space outside of church to hang out and do life together. (My best friends are those I see outside of church.)

Be the kind of person another feels safe with, watch for the people who will naturally connect with you, and invite those who need friends whether or not you connect well with them. As much as possible, host people in your home and around your table. Let them see you real and raw, in your own space. Find more joy in reaching out to lonely people than you do in being included by others.

Christians are in their best element when they are connecting with Christ and the world around them. This might even look like heading downtown to the most poverty stricken areas with a team of people, just to love and be there for others. The world is so full of people wanting connection that there is less reason than ever for anyone to live in loneliness.

6. Be Yourself.

Be comfortable in your own skin. Be the same person with your model friend as you are with your back-woodsy, goat loving farm friend. Remember that every human soul longs for connection. Your model friend isn’t looking for class as much as she’s looking for connection. Be warm to all and you’ll find warmth from a vast variety of people, non of whom need you to change who you are.

7. Always Improve Yourself.

Be inspiring to hang out with. There’s something invigorating about being with others who are passionate about their callings, love their hobbies, and are content with what they have. Improving ourselves doesn’t have to mean possessing material things; growth is a heart posture where we see what is lacking and work toward becoming better people, where we take a good look at our gifts and callings, then purpose to function in those to the best of our ability.

Be light and life—and in your own way, just LOVE PEOPLE.

Three Steps in Finding the Will of God

I remember when I had a decision to make of staying on the west coast or moving my four children to the east, closer to family and away from the greatest tragedy of our lives.

I stalled for months. When it comes to big decisions, how does one know?

I know I’m not the only one who has difficulty feeling confident with major decision making. But especially as an Amish girl, taught to serve, obey, and submit my will to men, I really wasn’t prepared to face the world when I grew older.

Decision making threw me into a panic. But I’ve learned some things since then that I’d love to share with you because they’ve brought me such peace.

1. You can’t always wait to make a decision until all your fears or questions are gone.

Sometimes God leads you to move into something in spite of questions or fears. As with the case for moving my children from Washington state to North Carolina, all I knew was that something needed to change and we needed help. So, I put my faith in Jesus and decided to put in a legal request and trust that God’s will would manifest in the court’s decision.

The day our lawyers fought like cats and dogs over mine and the children’s future was stressful enough to put me into bed for a few hours. The court session ended with no answers except that the judge would keep looking into the situation and get back to us. I waited for days, then suddenly picked up the phone to my attorney’s voice, “Sara, you can move.”

One sentence changed everything.

I still didn’t feel confident but trusted that God knew all things. In the next three weeks I packed up our 3400 square foot home, sold most of our belongings, cleaned out the large shop building, purchased plane tickets, and made the arrangements online to move into a rental we had never seen, in an area where we knew only one other family.

As my therapist always said, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

See this—my confidence had to shift from my own fallible self to a good Father God who knew all things and watched over us night and day.

Two years later I see what God saw all along. I’m sitting here smiling, realizing how He was putting pieces together for a better life, long before I knew. He led us to the right church, people, places, and things.

Always remember that courage is not the absence of fear; courage is moving forward in spite of fear. So if there’s a decision to make today, lean into it and make the best one you know how to make. Trust God to fill in any gaps you don’t see, just as you do for your own children.

Move carefully, but always make sure that you’re not giving in to paralysis from analysis.

We can paralyze ourselves from moving into God’s will for us because we’re so afraid of being out of His will. There’s a much better way to live—a way of confidence even while questions remain. Sometimes it takes moving forward to make the cowardly fear slink back into the shadows while the peace of God becomes stronger and stronger.

Immobility can cause even greater havoc in our circumstances or our hearts. Yet, we stay immobile out of fear because we’re so afraid of doing the wrong thing. Interesting, is it not? Satan loves to get us huddled in fear and sorrow when we could be moving in light and joy. Seeing the goodness and grace of God sets us free from immobilizing fear.

2. If the decision to make involves right or wrong, and you’re not sure what is right, look at scripture first.

Feelings are fallible, our minds can trick us, and people can lead us wrongly. But God’s written Word brings light from heaven that will never change or leave.

I was listening to a podcast in my car one day, sent to me by someone who wanted me to believe something was right, when suddenly a car in front of me swerved left with these words on the bumper, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

In that moment I realized that I couldn’t base my personal convictions off any preacher or person’s interpretation of scripture, but on scripture itself. I ended up realizing how “off” the speaker was and how I could not embrace what he taught. And as time went by I found increasing peace in what scripture plainly taught because I put God’s word above all human opinions of His word.

God may use dreams, a sense of personal peace, other people, pastors and speakers to help us determine His will. But His will is never opposing scripture. If someone differs from scripture or your own feelings differ from scripture, always fall back on the Word of God and require your feelings to subject themselves to God.

Don’t listen to people who say, “God would never require that of you.” The truth is, God does sometimes lead us down difficult paths. His way is narrow and He does ask hard things of His children sometimes. But He’s there to carry us along and we find His peace better than any easier way of our own.

In this way, you build a foundation that will never be shaken. Feelings change, people’s opinions vary—but the Word of God stands forever.

Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

And the rains fell and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24&25)

I love and appreciate the fact that I am no slave to my own opinion or feelings. God’s will always sets me free to live a full and abundant life when my own emotions would take me down or lead me into things not lining up to the best life He has for me.

God is always freedom. Saying yes to His will can only bring you upward and onward.

3. Never stay stuck in a place of fear.

Immobility and isolation is one of Satan’s greatest tactics. But when God is at work, things move, change, and bring us into community with others.

I want us to know that putting God in a box is degrading the magnitude of Christ. When Christians hold to standards not found in the Word of God, they do not allow God to move as He’s able.

With Christ, there is wisdom but there are no boxes. If two young Christians decide to join a Christian dating app, rather than freak out, pray for them. When a seemingly positive answer comes along, help them process. Do away with the “Thou shalt nots” (unless it’s in the Bible), and replace them with a constant anticipation of watching God do something for the good of those He loves.

The shift in thinking is life giving to all those around you but immediate and swift judgment and standards on things Christ doesn’t even bother mentioning is oppressive to everyone around you.

Many, many Christians exercise control out of fear. The “will of God” becomes an excuse to push people away, create boxes, draw lines, and limit a magnificent Christ Who loves to work wonders in many different ways.

Mobilize yourself into love and keep an open mind to watching God at work in ways you didn’t expect or think of as “normal”.

And remember to back everything up to the Word of God. His no is not deprivation, but always an invitation to a better yes!

When you see all God says yes to, you can easily surrender when He says no. But if you’re immobile out of fear, you will be missing out on the goodness of God and in that way, fall more easily into wrong posture of heart or even sin.

Creating our own boxes keeps us in a box where we don’t see God move and are incapable of living His true will. There, we fall prey to unbelief, fear, depression, and judgment. All the while, God is moving in circles of LIGHT, LIFE, and LOVE where He invites us to join Him as we step out of fear and into His heart.

Stay when He tells you to stay, but remember that, even as you stay, He will move you into good. God is always on the move.

When your circumstances don’t change, remember that God is moving to change your heart. And a heart changed by a moving, loving, intimate Father God is the greatest move of all.

Stay in Grace, release control, have courage in spite of fear, and lean heavily into Jesus where all is grace.

Until next time,

Sara

Clique Christian Quotes: How is Jesus Enough?

I’m the first to say that I don’t like most clique Christian quotes thrown at hurting people in an effort to “help” them.

“Jesus is enough” to someone who’s lonely.

“You’ll see him again one day” to some one who’s grieving a death or miscarriage.

“Be content” to a mother who desperately needs a bigger house.

Or, the famous “Repent of your lack of joy” when tears keep flowing for “too long”.

But what is too long, and why is healing so often delayed?

I’d love to take a look inside the world of sorrow, where joy is a window carved into dark walls, feeling far out of reach to someone whose world has gone up in flames hot enough for smoke to keep billowing into the atmosphere for months and years, affecting the very air they breathe on a daily basis.

I’d love to talk with the person who wakes in despair no matter the amount of Bible verses you tell yourself to believe.

And I’d love to address the sudden frustration you may experience when others speak into your situation with no experience and a few pat quotes to “get you moving along to healing”.

You might feel guilty that you’re not acquainted with the reality imposed on you by those verses. To top it off, you may feel angry by another assuming you needed to hear words that seem so far out of reach. OR, you may feel only despair because you don’t know how to experience what they’re talking about.

I’m here to tell you that those words are not out of reach, and your right as a child of God is to experience them in the deepest recesses of your soul.

Hope, life, healing, and actual joy—how does that sound?!

I’d like to share a few things on how to get there, if that’s okay. Because I absolutely know how you’re feeling right now, and I’d love to breathe hope into you as others did into me.

1. The Christian church often denies humanity in its efforts to attain spirituality.

How about this, instead?

Rather than being in denial of our humanity, we invite Jesus into our humanity.

We weren’t created to deny the truth of our loneliness; we were made to invite Jesus into our loneliness.

We weren’t asked to stuff grief into some inner box while we paste on a “holy” smile at church; we were invited to watch Jesus weep with us, and find comfort in mutual tears. Remember how He wept with Mary and Martha, standing by the tomb before calling Lazarus from the dead?

And in our quest for contentment, we weren’t told to deny that we have needs; rather, Jesus invites us to ASK Him for what we need.

Rather than push our needs away, we are invited to bring Jesus into those needs.

2. Forcing needs to the back burner deprives us of bringing Jesus to the forefront of our lives.

I don’t have much more to say except that the shift in thinking is vital to healing.

Spiritualizing or denying needs makes us more needy because we lock Jesus out when we deny how much we need Him IN.

Acknowledging our grief, loneliness, pain makes us fully aware that we need Jesus to be with us.

This brings us to one of those clique quotes: “God will never give you more than you can handle.”

I beg to disagree! My life was far too much for me to handle. I recognized that as joy threatened to disappear entirely. I begged and asked, cried and prayed—and God came with His beautiful, beautiful presence inside of me.

There are no words for the beautiful presence of Jesus. When you experience Him, there is no one Who could take His presence. Then, when you’re tempted with something, you’ll turn away because your greatest fear is no longer deprivation, it is living without the presence of God.

God replaces deprivation with invitation.

For several years, I asked God for joy. Day spun onto weary day as I did the next thing, trying to find the presence of God to be enough. And as I recognized that I was not enough, I was forced to lean so hard on Jesus, my weight on Him proving that He wouldn’t crash along with everything else in my life. That fact alone drew me to His heart more, more, and more until I was blown away by His good, good presence within me.

The other day I did a short video on finding joy in plan B. I wished I could have explained the hope I felt after living with debilitating grief.

Because when I speak about HEALING, I am speaking about GRIEF.

Grief invites Grace.

Loneliness invites company.

Pain invites Healing.

Let me ask you this: Why can people like Joni Erickson Tada find abundant life?

Because she learned to reckon with a paralyzed body and face her grief over it. Something devastating led her to look to Some One for deliverance.

He did it for me; He did it for her; and He will do it for YOU.

Regaining Emotional Clarity; Finding God in Plan B (Part 7)

Single working moms all know the feeling of dread as they walk out the door for work when all they want to do is enjoy spring break with their children.

You’ll hop onto social media after work has completely sapped your energy and see photos of other moms taking their kids to the zoo, mountains, or beach. It can’t help but sting just a little.

But I’m here to let you know that you’re not alone, and speak to you what God spoke to me–that I cannot always fill in the gaps, that I was not created to have that ability, and I needed to trust God to do what I could not do.

Struggling to fill in what only another can do can bring us to endless anxiety and stress. So to single moms—God never intended for you to be the perfect dad, to be able to do everything with the children that he could do, to give your children everything they would have with a faithful father.

God simply wants you to find Him in plan B, just as you are.

What does that look like?

1. Keep looking for ways to integrate good into the lives of your children, even if it might look different than it did in plan A.

This might look like having your little boy read chapters in the Bible while you head to work and big sister watches him. Maybe he can call or text you to tell you what he’s learned. (Gabb watches or phones are perfect, safe options for this type of thing!)

Satan wants us to throw in the towel and give up rather than look for alternatives. You can spit back at him a little by remaining undaunted and undeterred when it comes to bringing God’s word to your children. Rather than feeling the need to make sure your life looks a certain way, keeping making JESUS look a certain way to your children. And when you can, pull them onto the couch at night for some Bible reading and prayer. I truly believe that mothers are responsible to bring Jesus to their children in whatever way they are able!

2. Whenever possible, help your children push forward.

This might look like telling your teen that she can do it. The smile on my daughter’s face when she finished day one of orientation for a job that had her so freaked out she almost gave up, made it so worth it. I was so proud of her for driving through a storm hours away to join a team older than herself, learn software that was confusing and complicated to her, and push through in spite of her fear. Her words at the end of the day, “Mom, you helped me succeed. You didn’t let me fail.”

Fatherless children often face greater amounts of anxiety and fear as they grow up to be independent. Be there for them, support them, show them you believe in them. If need be, push them toward what they want to give up on. And if you have a resistant child, love him/her and keep speaking truth. Pray in faith and give your anxiety to God. Expect a war for your child, but know you are on the winning side as you align yourself with God’s character.

3. Reiterate this often: You are not a victim, I am not a victim, WE ARE NOT VICTIMS; WE ARE CONQUERORS.

Mothers, you can weep before your children without wavering in the fact that you are a conqueror. Be honest and real; let them see your true feelings from time to time. But then, get back up and do the next right thing. Sometimes, that’s all you can do. The day might be long and difficult, everyone might be exhausted and grumpy—but let them watch you push forward.

And the next morning, take the remote and turn on worship music as they get up. The sun will rise, a new day with new mercies.

4. Grow in grace with God and with people.

Shed your garbage. Say yes to God! When you feel the Spirit nudging you about gossip, over eating, impatience, self pity—you name it—we all know what things we need to shed. Saying yes to God clears your soul, and the rewards are far greater than the cost.

Recently I’ve sensed the presence of Jesus in me so powerfully it almost felt as if my heart was physically expanded. Goodness and grace flowed into my soul, and I realized as never before how faithful God is to single mothers. Our circumstances may not change, but putting Him first changes our hearts.

Out of our own powerful experiences with the God of heaven, we then have wisdom and authority to speak of Him to our children in tangible ways. What satan meant for evil is turned into good, and again, we spit back at hell just a little.

5. Don’t be afraid.

Hard experiences don’t have to make us hard. Accept what is so you can keep your heart soft for what will be. A soft heart is mold-able, pliable, and grace filled. Difficult things can lead us so close to the Divine because we are forced to run, run, run into His arms. There, we find that was the best place to be all along.

I want to say this to you again—don’t be afraid. Single moms have war to wage but in the process, they gain heaven.

On this side of eternity, I’m here for you–and you are not alone.

Mothering with Purpose-All About the Book Release

As before, throwing a book launch party this month had me terrified. I can write and speak, but marketing is another story.

(Yeah. There it is. You’ll probably never find me in multi-level marketing because the thought of trying to sell stuff sends me into a panic. I’d rather hug someone than try to convince them to buy something.)

But God was asking me to push through, trust Him, and do the thing. So I did, and He came through with all the right friends for all the help I needed. Amazing how we’re all good at different things and how wonderful it is to just be ourselves and do what we’re good at with rest and grace over it.

So here’s just a little spin on the new book:

Being a third born child in a family of ten children had me well acquainted with taking care of babies, and I entered the mothering world eagerly. There was little adjustment to having my own babies because I had helped my mother take care of my younger siblings for as long as I could remember.

I was going to do just what she did: home school, always be a stay at home mom, and be my daughters’ best friends even in their teen years.

I drove an old mini van so I could afford to be a stay at home mother. I home schooled, and did the whole bake-your-own-everything kind of lifestyle. And I loved my children like none other.

Then, my world fell apart. The years of doing everything “right” had to be replaced for a trust in the only One who is always right.

After years of turmoil, my husband had packed his bags, driven away, then pursued a romantic relationship with a sixteen year old girl only a year older than our daughter. There are no words for the turmoil this placed on my children, nor for the after math of devastation on all our lives.

I went to work and the children went to public school. They reeled, I struggled—but we survived, and we learned, and we knew that, though life can be altered by another, it can never be destroyed by another.

In the past three years I’ve told my children many times over, “No one can ruin your life except you. You have the strength to get back up and live a beautiful life.”

I had to hold them while they cried, face their deep hurt and anger when it erupted, and drive many hours to counseling sessions.

After a few years of struggle, I made a move from the west coast to the east, landing in the dead of night in a major airport with myself and the children to start life over in an area where we knew one other family, settled into a house we had never seen, and started searching google for maps to the closest schools and grocery stores. Covid- 19 hit right afterward, and the rest is history.

Along with my children, I struggled to survive until I was set free from the grief that would have destroyed me.

There, I learned all about Grace.

There, I learned that Jesus wants to be trusted more than we trust certain methods.

There, my eyes opened wide to the fact that God was moving in all kinds of places and people—and that the answers are not the same for every mother.

Home school was no longer an idol.

I bought food rather than made it.

And Jesus became altogether lovely in the face of tragedy.

Regardless of your circumstance, I invite you to gaze with me into the face of Jesus Christ, Who alone can bring life into your car while you drive the children to school, or wait with them for the bus, or teach them at your kitchen table.

Jesus wants to be everything for us mothers.

Parts of this book were written while I was in one world, and parts of it written while I was in another. Jesus Christ met me in both. He steadied me in both. He taught me that grief and gratitude are friends, interlaced, working together with one purpose—to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and overcomes the affects of it, as well.

And He comes to each of you, inviting you to overwhelming peace in a life not your own. The Son of Man will always rise over everything that goes down.

It remains then, that your greatest need as a mother is not a perfect method, but a deep understanding of a Perfect Master.

As Eric Gilmore so beautifully says, “Jesus Christ is greater than His gifts, more wonderful than His wonders, and more precious than His promises.”

Find the book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Mothering-Purpose-Devotional-Encouragement-Mission/dp/1680997122/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?crid=1MNWZ1JCLOG5S&keywords=mothering+with+purpose+sara+daigle&qid=1649183889&sprefix=mothering+with+purpose%2Caps%2C230&sr=8-1

All is grace.

Love Always,

Sara

Why Spouses Should be Treated Better than Strangers

It’s weird how we can sit in cafes or walk streets, expecting everyone to be kind, even though most are complete strangers to each other.

We all just kinda know how humans are supposed to treat each other.

Most of us wouldn’t be too impressed with someone yelling at a customer or someone receiving a favor without saying thank you or showing appreciation of some sort.

We’d probably wrinkle up our noses and be happy we can walk on. Some people are just yuck and make us glad we don’t have to be around them.

And if someone continuously criticized a friend, that friend would probably either confront the problem, or quit hanging out as much.

Negative actions usually cause negative responses.

But, this simple principal seems to be forgotten by many spouses. So I’m writing from my heart here, and just asking this:

1. Do you ignore your spouse—yet get hurt when you’re not pursued?

2. Do you avoid conflict—yet remain bothered that your spouse doesn’t know how you really feel about something?

3. Do you continually give negative or correctional responses when your spouse shares an idea or simply vents his/her feelings—yet get hurt when they close off and don’t want to talk?

4. Do you avoid helping out—yet carry a grudge when your spouse doesn’t help as much as you want him/ her to help out?

5. Do you ignore them when they speak—yet feel hurt when they don’t look at you when they speak, but choose to focus on another person in the room?

6. Do you make your dislike of them known—yet become hurt when they don’t pursue you in the bedroom?

7. Do you treat them as little more than a room mate—yet complain when they don’t date you well on special events?

I’d like to call attention to the fact that people often treat strangers better than their own spouses. Strangers who may be a million times worse than your spouse, strangers with whom you have no connection—hear this carefully—are getting better treatment from some of you than your spouses are getting.

That very stranger would keep distance if you treated him/her as you treat your spouse. Withdrawing to avoid more pain is a natural response of the human heart.

There’s a story of a man who greatly disliked his wife and went to get counsel. His therapist told him that he could divorce her after three months IF he tried the following recommendation first.

He was to go home and treat her as if he genuinely LIKED her.

We can picture what this meant. Smiles, kind words, acts of service, hanging out, and all the things we do with our best friends.

His therapist waited in vain for the man call, then finally called him. He was ecstatic. “I treated her as if I liked her, and everything changed”

You better believe there was no divorce for that couple! Simple, basic human kindness and dignity re-ignited their love when it would have otherwise been snuffed right out and the courts would have seen one more broken couple filing divorce papers while their children’s eyes take on a whole other look than the care-free, joyful ones they previously had.

So I’m here to say to every unhappy spouse who is married to a faithful, albeit imperfect, person: Just take a big, bold dare to love them, and show it. This can be the bravest thing you do. And sometimes, this dare to actively show love does more than many hours in a counselor’s office.

(To those who’ve tried this and nothing changed, please know that loving is something we do because we’re connected to God more than because we’re connected to our spouse. Sometimes, loving well doesn’t change a drastic need in a spouse. In those cases, we simply do what God asks us to do, then leave the rest. We are not responsible to change another; we are responsible to love well, then trust God with the results.)

Remember this–we love because God loved us first. Loving well is something every person does who sees the value God places on each human being.

Loving well is not optional when we see the great love God gives us personally. Loving well is part of our own dignity, character, and value. In Christ, it is who we are. Someone else’s character cannot rob us of God’s character and grace within us.

Treat your spouse as well or better than you treat your best friends, and watch what happens! If you know what it takes to stay a friend to someone, please know it takes the same kind of thing to create a happy marriage where both of you find the companionship you crave.

For the cause of LOVE,

Sara

Why Deborah’s Initiative is as Important as Sarah’s Submission

(Co-Authored by a man with a heart for Christ centered leadership)

I’m not sure I’d want to sit under a tree named after myself, judging the tribes of Israel.

I most certainly would not want to join an army—and if the battle was won, I probably wouldn’t sing a song describing myself as the mother of Israel.

The thought is almost funny.

Yet, scripture is written for our edification and instruction. The story of Deborah tells us a lot.

  • She was a WIFE.
  • She heard from GOD.
  • She was a PROPHETESS.
  • She sat under a palm tree named after herself, “The Palm of Deborah”.
  • She summoned a man to her station and delivered a WORD FROM THE LORD.
  • She gave detailed descriptions of what Barak needed to do during this war.
  • Somehow, she had gained the utmost respect of Barak, who was a leader and commander, most likely a type A man with great abilities of his own.
  • After victory, she gave glory to God, and included herself in that story.
  • In a patriarchal culture, she reminded a strong man that the battle would be won by a woman.
  • God Himself chose to use two women to execute victory in a battle fought by men.
  • Deborah wasn’t trying to DO EVERYTHING a man could do; she was fully BEING EVERYTHING she was called to be as a woman. (please note the difference here).
  • When Barak asked her to go with him into battle, she agreed to go.
  • Barak was not too proud to ask—and she did not disqualify herself from a place of great importance in this story because she was a woman.
  • Both man and woman did exactly what God wanted them to do by working together to perform what He asked.

Then there is the awe-inspiring, Proverbs 31 Woman! A woman can expect to hear the words “You’re such a Proverbs 31 woman”, —when she arises early to pack her husband’s lunch, do his laundry, or prep his dinner. But there is more that we need to be teaching our daughters.

I want to take a deeper look at this distinguished woman from the book of Proverbs. The Proverbs 31 woman also:

  • Had a husband who trusted her decisions.
  • She made intelligent business moves that put their estate at an advantage.
  • She didn’t just shop locally, but sought out the best purchases from around the country. This meant being well informed and knowledgeable.
  • She had maids to free up more of her own time.
  • She purchased real estate.
  • She took care of her body and strengthened it.
  • She knew that her business was profitable.
  • She helped the poor.
  • Her clothing was fine linen and purple.
  • She created, sold, and distributed her products to merchants.
  • She was marked with strength and dignity.
  • She opened her mouth with wisdom (which meant she had wisdom others heard and received).
  • She spoke with kindness.
  • She looked after her household WELL (and that also meant knowing her limits by hiring maids).
  • Her husband, who was an established, productive leader, PRAISED her.

Notice, she excelled personally, at home, at business, in her community, in the market place AND she was PRAISED by her husband.

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

While we see far reaching extremes from oppressive patriarchal “Christian” cultures for women, all the way to brash, feministic, non-christian culture, it is clear from the examples of Deborah and the Proverbs 31 woman that both of these extremes are a far cry from the good, loving heart of our Heavenly Father.

I’d like us to take a quick look at Sarah, who is mentioned in 1 Peter 3. Sarah is described as a woman who obeyed her husband and called him lord. Unfortunately, this passage is often taken so out of context that it has produced a cult-like, oppressive environment for women, where, in all honesty, if she operated like a true Proverbs 31 woman, she’d be labeled as “too much”, “too strong” or even “rebellious”. Scripture never contradicts scripture, but actually compliments scripture. If it appears to contradict, we must simply look further or deeper at what God is saying as a whole, which can involve context and further study.

I have seen women who are struggling in painful marriages, yet afraid of “dishonoring” their husbands by getting help and exposing the real truth of his actions and words behind closed doors, The husbands expect their wives to quietly “find a solution” that protects their reputation, which usually looks like the (already submissive) wife being “more submissive”.

In many of these marriages, the problems are quickly blamed on something a wife does or doesn’t do while the man refuses to own his need simply because he’s “the leader”.

There are times where the topic of lust and purity is a matter of how a woman dresses more than that of the man’s own heart.

Some of these men are content leading in minor material areas of life (or being the admired leader/authority figure) of their homes while leaving the most important (relational or spiritual) areas to their wives.

It’s become more of an emphasis on Position and Authority than being the reasonable, responsible and respectable leader by God’s standards. The aftermath of this “authority” focus is devastating on women.

For example, there are women still weeping over sexual abuse after many years because they’re told to forgive more than told that God is angry with what has happened. (forgiveness can only happen when you know God is just and will bring justice). In some of these cases, a perpetrator is still allowed to live freely among the women he violated. (Even a minor can be removed from the girls he wronged).

At times, if women become “too upset” because they are NOT BEING HEARD, they’ll be labeled as being “bitter” or “rebellious” and told to submit. The men of the church will decide what should and shouldn’t be done—which sometimes, means the perpetrator is allowed to stay. I realize this would be unthinkable to many good and Godly men, but this is the reality for many women in some religious communities.

To add Insult to Injury these same women are strongly admonished to: Serve their families, especially their husbands; Be eager for sex; Continue admiring of their husbands; Stay silent on what matters most—unless the husband agrees. At most, she can very gently and “submissively” broach the subject but cannot make strong statements on things even as great as what to do with a perpetrator.

The Result?? Christian men, many of your women are weeping. Some of them are becoming emotionally distraught by the lack of true friendship and loving relationship.

It’s time for God-Inspired Leadership. What does it look like?

God-Inspired Leadership:

  1. Listens – the cry of every woman, (person really) is “to be heard” – Do you value her voice?
  2. Leads by example – Purity of heart, sacrificially, does the hard things, NOT just the fun things.
  3. Lets her function in her gifts, too – She has God-given influence – can you “allow” her, or even better, HELP her accomplish her goals, pursue her gifts and talents?
  4. Lavishes her with goodness – Give to her & help her, provide for her, be generous to her.
  5. Lessens her Load – Help her with the kids, share in household responsibilities, hire a maid…
  6. Loves Loudly – Leave no doubt in her mind of your love her, let her hear it often, and see it always …Love hard!

This is what Godly Leadership in our homes should look like! A man is a covering, not a lid. We cover what we love and want to protect, we cover what we value, we cover what we don’t want any damage to come to.

Recently I asked one of my happily married friends if she would defer to her husband if a major decision needed to be made and they did not agree. She immediately said “Oh, yes!”

I asked her because I noticed that they were mutually happy in their relationship.

I asked her because I noticed her countenance was joyful.

I asked her because I noticed she lived without pressure, and her atmosphere spoke of peace rather than stress.

Let me assure you that I’m still in love with 1 Peter 3, where Sarah is spoken of as an exemplary woman, one we would do well to follow.

But, the leadership we often see in Christian churches is destructive for men as well, because it is producing women they don’t want to produce. Unknowingly, men are digging their own graves to a happy, fulfilling relationship—all in the name of “Biblical” teaching. Women usually won’t be happy and fun unless they are treated well, with differing roles but with equal value.

Satan laughs while women weep. He’s successfully taken a beautiful, God-given plan for the family and turned it into a damaging, patriarchal system of selfishness and hierarchy.

Godly leadership will make a good woman COME ALIVE.

Before I close out, I want to thank every man who’s shown us what it looks like to love a woman well. I sincerely hope some of you speak up in the church, for the church, for your sisters who are suffering in ways you have no idea and would come to arms if you only knew.

My faith in men stands strong because of you. And my faith in God’s plan remains unshaken as I continue to pursue a culture of honor. Perfection is never expected on either end. But mutual effort, open and kind communication, love reciprocated, and mutual honor for each other.

As one Godly man said, “It looks a lot like team work!”

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.

……….Let each of you love his wife as himself.” Ephesians 5:25-29, &33a, ESV

Eight Ways to Help Grieving People

It was seven years ago, but doesn’t seem so long ago that I got the call from my sister asking if I had heard about our brother.

I knew instinctively that he had died, and it was my first experience with numbing grief. I’d never before gone basically immobile where all I could do was cry. And in the days that followed, my usually active self could barely move to serve those around me who were also grieving.

I learned a lot in those days.

We flew to Honduras to try to find his body in the beautiful lake he had disappeared into, and on the third day, as professional divers, friends, and family called it quits one more time, his body suddenly floated up to the surface right beside the boat.

The sight of my brother’s body on news headlines, being drug out of the water, was almost too much for me. We buried him on a dark mountainside in Honduras, our questions unanswered. All we knew was that he was a good swimmer, yet went under quickly.

No struggle, no resurfacing. And because we were in another country, the autopsy we desperately wanted didn’t happen.

Our questions remain unanswered. Now, when others are wrecked with grief we try to remember all we learned in those days, try to reach out to others in ways that will help them rather than hurt them even more.

Lake of my brother’s moments into heaven.

A few weeks ago one of my dearest friends lost her husband. The grief was great, even for me, and I felt I needed to be there. But I remembered—did she need me now, or later? Sure enough, she told me she had lots of people at the moment and would need me in a few weeks more than now. Loving my friend best meant waiting rather than rushing into crisis.

When my cousin Susanna Kauffman died a few weeks ago, I wanted others NOT to do or say some things that had happened to us. I wanted to spare the family from questions asked at the wrong times, from news links broad casted across social media before they could even process what was happening, and from well meaning people hurting rather than helping them.

None of us always know what to do or say to someone in crisis. Do we speak or stay silent? Do we go or stay?

But as I walked personal grief and watched family members process in their own ways, I learned some things on what to do or not do. And I’d love to develop a community of well-taught believers who walk grief with others in a healing way.

1. Be okay with unanswered questions.

A funeral, memorial service, or even the days prior and after are not the days to ask a crisis family all the questions on your mind. Don’t ask numerous questions of how they died, why they died, exactly what happened, etc. Reality is not always sinking in for the family and there is plenty of time for questions to be answered in the future.

2. Be okay with just showing up.

I just walked into a room to see one of my best friends weeping, bill in her hand for $38,000 (Her husband had just lost his job along with the accompanying insurance, and his life flight alone was this much). She was playing worship music as she wept, telling me that it’s all paid for. Not by the Go Fund Me page where almost that exact amount was given, but by another source. I wrapped her up and wept with her.

Showing up can be in person or with your pocket book. Many people show up with words, yet those in crisis often need tangible presence or help more than verbal help.

You don’t have to know what to say. Most of the time you don’t need to say anything. Just show up. Just be there. Just do the thing without much ado, and make sure they are covered.

3. Don’t overwhelm weary minds with your own crisis stories.

That is not the best way to “be relatable” at a funeral. I remember standing before a long line of well-wishers, listening to someone else tell us of their own death story. We were too exhausted to stand there, much less listen to stories of another crisis. If you come to a memorial, keep your words calm, sympathetic, and short. Presence is better than speech.

4. Don’t crowd into their home after the funeral.

The family will be exhausted. They won’t need to sit for hours, answering questions and processing for or with you at that time. DO visit them in the following weeks and months as reality settles in.

5. Notice what they need, emotionally or physically.

People in crisis often find it hard to eat and even harder to cook. Take them baskets of ready made food and leave it sitting on the counter with flowers. You can come and go in a few minutes, leaving a note or a hug.

If you see a sink full of dishes, perhaps wash them quickly if the time seems right. Keep your eyes peeled for what might mean most to them.

People process differently. My friend needs quality time and someone to just sit on her couch and process with her. One of her daughters is the same, and joins us there. Her other daughter needs to move and talk, stay busy, and keep up with school work. Reality may hit her a few months down the road.

There is no right or wrong way to process grief. Don’t try to force your own way of healing onto someone else, but rather take note of each person’s make-up and go out of your way to accommodate their way of grieving. If someone needs to talk or do something, go with that flow and take them out for an activity. If they need to sit and cry, make sure your presence is there—really there.

6. Remember to mention the passed loved one in the coming months and years.

People often don’t mention someone who passed away because they don’t want to stir unnecessary grief. But the family is mourning whether or not their loved one is mentioned. A smile with a story of what you loved about the person will soothe their hearts a little. This opens the door for them to talk, process, and share about their loved one if they want to. They will probably pull out photos to share, and will love any detail you have of a pleasant memory.

It is very difficult to live a new reality. When others never mention a loved one, it can feel like you’re in your world alone.

7. Make sure all their physical needs are met.

If you see a need somewhere, just fill it. No need to ask a ton of questions. The less they have to think about and take care of, the better. They may not have the energy to thank you then, but you will be remembered as someone who truly helped. Stay tuned in for a long time, remember that months later can be more difficult than the immediate shock. Pray, stop by, and help financially or in any other way you notice they need help.

8. Don’t quote Bible verses to try to “get them out of grief”.

Be okay with grief. Cry with them. Never quote a verse about joy or say things like “Your loved one is better off with Jesus” or “You’ll see him again some day” or “Things will get better.”

Jesus stood weeping with Martha and Mary before he called Lazarus from the tomb. Even in His Godhead, where He stood ready to do the miraculous, He first made time for mourning. He didn’t have to, but He chose to.

Remember that many deaths are traumatic. Not only is a family grieving loss, often they are also trying not to remember how someone died. Pray healing over their minds—and as one friend put it to me a few weeks ago, pray that they would process what God wants them to process, and leave the rest to Him. There is grief, and there is excessive, destructive grief. Pray that they would grieve with Jesus so despair would not get in.

Let’s choose to love in ways people need us to love them. This is all about them, not about us. In this way, the God of HOPE will come into our atmospheres and change the way we sit with others in their grief.

Love to all,

Sara

“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2, ESV