You know how kids are aged by months instead of years? “Oh, Sally’s 9-months-old now.” “Jack is 76-months-old. Can you believe it?” It’s true. We do that with our first couple children. It makes me laugh every time.
It was Samara’s 18-month [un]birthday, and it was a really big deal to me. I really wanted to get up 30 minutes earlier than I’d normally wake up for work (read: 5:00am), and make her chocolate chip pancakes so she could enjoy them at daycare. I was working 65-75 hours a week in the oil and gas industry, raking in the overtime pay because I was allowed to. This meant I spent six days out of most weeks in my cubicle as a single-income-household and single-everything-else parent. Somehow in my mind, her day had been spoiled before her eyes had even opened because I failed to make pancakes that she didn’t even have the vocabulary to ask for.
That morning, as I turned into the neighborhood to drop her off with the incredible woman who took care of Samara in this season, the words from Deuteronomy (chapter 11) came to mind. "Impress my Word on the hearts of your children. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." Where was the time going? I didn’t feel like I was teaching her anything about life at all, other than work, eat and sleep (sometimes). I wasn’t even living. I felt like a rusty robot. I couldn’t let myself think about it for too long lest I become truly incapacitated and utterly depressed.
I remember asking with a wet, ugly-cry face, for the first time on her un-birthday, "How am I supposed to do this the right way by myself? Impress your Word on her heart? My heart is wrung out. Teach her? I barely have time to impress a hug on her while she's awake! It’s sometimes 8-9pm when we’re getting home, and I’m just wanting to stare at her while we both fight to keep our eyes opened. Jesus, where are you in this story?" In that moment, my eyes and heart were released from the haze of anger into the exploration of wanting to learn to be her mama His way. I was bold enough to ask,"The Bible says you’re the Father to the fatherless. I need to see that. I need her to know you. I need You to be her Daddy.”
What the Lord had to work out in me in the months after that breakdown was this: He had entrusted me with a child that He wanted. And He wanted me before she was born. I was responsible for simply teaching her this love in a way that is true. He didn’t just throw her into life with me, and say, “Man, I really hope Liesel does this right.” He loves us both more than that. He knows better than anyone that we can’t do anything right without receiving the gifts that Jesus died to give us. And he basically conveyed the message to me, “Feeding her and celebrating my Word is more important that celebratory pancakes.”
What changed my life is this. You cannot give to your child what you do not have in your possession. You cannot teach what you have not learned. You cannot lead where you are not going. Do you catch my drift? You cannot teach a love you have not accepted. But you can explore it together them with. I’m not saying that you have to have it all together to teach your kids the story and intentions the God that made us. I’m saying He wants to be known and invited into your home. Talk to Him with your kids (read: pray with your kids). Let them see how He takes care of you.
You are a woman parenting alone. Parenting is a verb. “Parent” and "single mom" are not your identity, although the lifestyle is real. You have a unique opportunity to allow Christ to be the Head of your home in a way that two-parent families don’t. This might seem like a stretch, but it isn't. I know that’s a bold statement, but I hope someone picks that up. You see, Jesus is not a supplement for what we do not have. ”His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 It's His divine power. Not our ability or what we've mastered or failed miserably at.
"God is attracted to weakness. He can't resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need him. Our weakness, in fact, makes room for his power." Jim Cymbala said this. I love it so much, because it's so true. In our weakness, He prepares us to know His strength. Not in a way that is showing off, but in a way that is merciful and carries us.
Sister, I've got to say it, because maybe you're waiting for the wrong thing. You can't wait for a man to come lead your family. Open your eyes. The Son of Man came to find you in the thick of your mess that’s hopefully not as hot as mine was, to lead you and your offspring directly to the Father of the fatherless. Whether your child’s father is in the picture or not, don’t just try to plug a man into the void in your life or theirs. Don’t you see? Rest, beloved. That responsibility is yours. Your responsibility (and absolute joy) is to seek the One who pursues you and your children better than any man ever will. He doesn’t turn His eye away from you for reasons you think. He’s waiting for you to notice him, and even still, He’s acting on your behalf. Parenting is still going to be exhausting, but He will renew your strength. It’s incredibly hard. It’s painful. It’s humbling. Most importantly, it’s eternally worth it to keep your eyes locked with the One who rescues you.
You need Jesus to show you Who he is before you can show them who he is. I don’t just mean like, “Yes, I know I’m a sinner. Jesus died for my sins. I’m so glad I don’t have to spend eternity in hell.” This is totally true. But to not venture beyond that and let him be your Savior from the hellacious days of hopelessness is almost saying that what Jesus did on the cross was big enough to save us in eternity, but not big enough to save us in these consuming, desperate, wild moments of despair. He didn’t just put on flesh so that when you die, you get walk on a yellow brick road on the way to a custom-built home on a cloud. No. Our Maker isn’t just a Man behind a curtain. Friend, he died to bring you and your children closer than we were allowed to be before to the Father. He is our Advocate. He’s the lifter of our heads. He takes our filthy, tattered rags and gives us His robes of righteousness. He takes the ruins and pain from our past in unseen places and restores every detail so it’s beautiful and healed. It’s a process. It's progress. Not perfection.
Let your kids see you healing. They are probably hurting, too. As you let the Lord heal you, tell them in an age-appropriate way who he is to you. Here are some things that I did when I didn’t really know what to do yet.
Sometimes we think that we have to sit down and have a full-blown Bible study time with our kids.What does the Word say? It says “Impress these words on their hearts. talk about them. Wear them and put them on.” Invite the story of Jesus in to your conversations with your kids and you’ll be amazed at how the dynamics in your home change.
We need to organize our time. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing thoughts on time management and what that looks like for a single mom. Stay tuned for this practical help in how you really can block out 5-15 minutes of your day to set your mind on Jesus first and let him take care of you before you go put your cape on and take care of the rest of the world.
We need community. You need the Body of Christ, meaning brothers and sisters in the faith that will love you and your family where and who you are. We pray that for you, as Overflow leadership when we think of you. That’s the whole point of this blog, really. But we don’t want you to think that the inter-web-net is a place that can substitute face-to-face friendship. No. It won’t work forever. You need people to know what you look like when you ugly-cry. You can laugh at that, but I’m so serious. Seek a group of people who are locking arms with you as you lead your family God’s way. You need friends to know your story and your family’s story and love it like it’s their own. If you’re in the Houston area, contact us, and we know a place that already loves you like crazy and we’re just waiting to get to know you.
Our children need our time. Put down your phone. Turn off the television. What I realized at one point, is that when I was with my daughter, my eyes were looking at my phone screen instead of looking at her sweet face or looking at whatever she was looking at and engaging her in conversation. I remember thinking, “If I’m going to my phone for refuge from my loneliness while I’m home. What will she end up going to for hers?” Play games together! Teach them puzzles, or Jenga, or Monopoly, or Clue, or hide and seek, or whatever you family's jam is to spend time together. Let them know that you're crazy about them and they're worthy of your quality time. Because they are.
The God of all Creation and the Master Artist has instilled special things into your children just has He has done in you. I believe that if you ask, He will show you these things and give you wisdom as to how to draw those things out where they are operating in alignment with his purpose for them. Imagine that. Dream for them. Pay attention, Mama. Picture your infant or your teenager or your twenty-something baby answering God’s call on their life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Trust that He wants this infinitely more than you do, and pray for guidance in how you can help them get there. Trust God with your children. I’ve said it before, but you’re not responsible for your child’s salvation. Jesus saves. You just lead to him.
I remember the first time she went into my closet and put on my shoes. She wasn’t even two, and it was starting. She walked out and you could tell be her face that she felt downright awesome. And she'd picked my favorite shoes! Our children will follow in our footsteps.
Write it on your door posts: Ladies, there are cheap chalk or dry erase boards available. Write the Word of God on your walls so you’ll see it. My handwriting is terrible, and I don’t care. I still make my family look at it, because we need to see it.
Do you do this? Will you reply in the comments with some fun things you do so you SEE the Word of God on the reg? (I can’t be the only who leaves myself sticky notes!)
Talk about stuff in the car. Turn down the radio, and turn up the conversation. What do you do with your children to impress God's Word on their hearts?
We want to hear from you! If there was ever a moment to say, "This is something I'm doing right" it's now. We love and need ideas from people who get it. If you're on the other end of the spectrum and say, "Here's my situation. What do you suggest?" We're a community here. We want to hash that out with you.
I’ve put some hyperlinks below for you to explore things on your own when you have second and things to do with your kids when you're together to really enjoy that time. This is where you chiming in by leaving a comment is incredibly helpful! We want to hear your favorites.
Oh, and if you see a (*), it's free. (Booyah!)
*YouVersion (This will actually read the Word to you and has a lot of reading plans that are fantastic. They have a kid's Bible Story app that's awesome and interactive.)
My Utmost for His Highest By Oswald Chambers
Jesus Calling By Sarah Young
Whispers of Hope By Beth Moore
* Bible App for Kids - Because sometimes you need a second to read a label in the grocery store!