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

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.

Connection During Covid

I always wonder which latte to try when I walk into this sweet little place here in the south, because truth be told, I no longer laugh at coffee snobs.

I’ve kinda sorta joined them, instead. Just a little.

Today, it’s a Creme Brulee’ with my friend from back west. Seeing her is laughter, love, and goodness all wrapped up in one human package. She sings her heart out and cries over the goodness of God, makes fun of my food, prays with me, and shares wine over heart to heart talks.

For crying aloud, why did I leave so many good people to rebuild community in a brand new place?

Many of us move for various reasons, but the important thing is that we all recognize our need for community and are available to be community as well.

Check out @julieannariemusic on Instagram!

The addict on the street corner likely started using out of a soul lack for connection, first with God, then with others.

The depressed friend you have needs connection more than she needs someone to quote one more verse on joy. Connection with God, then with others.

The teen who is constantly on his phone isn’t wanting to be lethargic or lazy–he’s wanting connection, too, and doesn’t realize that his phone will drive him to loneliness and keep him from the kind of human interaction he needs most of all.

Even God has relationship. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are in constant, uninterrupted communion with each other. Even Jesus had twelve disciples with Him during His time on earth. He calls us to love each other, cover each other, and be here for each other.

Today is a new day with old problems we’ve long wished away. Covid-19 convinces people to isolate, shut down gatherings, and stay alone, more afraid of possible germs than of suicide rates that are increasing, homes that are breaking, and children who are showing up in increasing numbers with bruises covering their bodies.

Along with concern on how to handle this virus, we need to raise just as much concern on how to handle the loneliness a lockdown brings. I don’t want to hear of one more suicide, ten more addictions, or another divorce.

As Jerry Flowers says, “Don’t be so afraid of the fire that you die from the smoke.”

Friends, people are dying in increasing numbers, and not just from Covid.

I call on all of us to raise awareness on the affects of loneliness (which is one of the most unhealthy things a human can experience), and to be a cause, a channel for connection.

Who can you connect today? Who will you love today, and how will you do it practically?

Rather than saying, “Call me if you need anything”, let’s just show up at a doorstep with flowers or food. Let’s send a gift or write a note. Let’s take a friend out to coffee.

Let’s even ask God to lead us to complete strangers who may need something only God knows about. Because what if YOU could be the one to keep someone from contemplating a dark death?

If suicide rates are going up, love should be rising even higher.

If child abuse is sky rocketing (and it is), so should the amount of adults who are there for neighborhood children, children at school, and children from broken homes who want to medicate pain with more pain.

Let all of them encounter LOVE, instead.