Friday, July 14, 2006

Single Parenting and Rest

Busy MomWhere does a single mom go to get rest and quiet her soul?

I can't think of a single person who would choose to be a single parent. I don't think anybody asks for it. But, sadly enough, single parenting is becoming more and more the norm in the present day. Some parents are single due to the death of a spouse but, the majority are due to the distructive forces of divorce.

There are so many complications and struggles that I've had to face as a divorced, single mother. The biggest struggles come with finances and child rearing. God has blessed me by providing for me to stay home with my kids more than most. But this isn't always easy. In fact, at times it seems almost impossible.

Trying to find the balance between how much time to devote at work, and how much to devote to being with the kids can seem hopeless without God's intervention. The world (and many Christians sadly) says that I need to work full-time and get benefits so that I can provide my kids with a good life.

This is true. But, just what is a good life? Is it being available for their after school activities without being too exhausted to cheer them on? Is it having time to sit and converse, listen, and share our struggles? Or, is it making sure they have nice clothes, ipods, cell phones, and we musn't leave out the expensive youth trips and sports camps! It's so hard not to get caught up in materialism and the world's idea of success. That seems like the good life when in reality, things become idols. Stuff becomes bondage. And the corporate ladder can be the biggest thief of time and energy spent.
Matthew 6:19-21
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
All loving parents want the best for their children and they should. It's figuring out what is best that's hard. Guilt is one of the biggest battles I have as a single mom. If I work full-time, I feel guilty because I don't have the energy or availability to participate in my kid's lives. I'm responsible for the income, the cooking, cleaning, shopping, errand running, and bill paying. At the same time I'm the chauffeur, cheerleader, physician, psychologist, teacher, and more. I have a tendency to sacrifice personal rest and pleasure in order to maintain "stability". Then, when I do take time out for me, I battle guilt. If I don't work full-time I feel guilt because of the things we have to do without. So, where is the healthy balance?

In order to find a healthy balance, I have to know my priorities. Where is my heart? Is it on God first? Or is it raising my kids? It's funny how people will try to constantly remind me that my first priority should be my children. Thank you! Yes, my children are my first priority, second only to God. I know that the most important thing I can do for my kids is to know and do the will of God. I need to be an example to them of how God wants us to live and sometimes that can be the most difficult part of single parenting.

The first and greatest commandment is found in Mark 12:30, " the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength". That should be easy right? Not for me! Loving God means letting Him have my entire life and being! Loving God is total devotion. Aside from my many moments of selfishness, pride, and other downfalls...all too often I worry and this isn't a display of my devotion. It shows a lack of faith and trust.
Matthew 6:25
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
I worry incessantly about the kids having school supplies, plenty to eat, entertainment, and more. All my worrying brings about nothing more than stress, irritability, exhaustion, frustration, and depression. It hinders my relationship with God and my children. It doesn't solve a thing.
Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Matthew 6: 33
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Action is what moves me from here to there (glory to glory as Beth Moore would put it). So, what should my plan of action be? All too frequently, it's to try to figure out what to do on my own instead of reaching out to God.
Psalm 46:1
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
I just love how God's word is alive and active in my life! I love how scripture compliments and fits every concern, every situation. I love how it breathes life into my spirit and nourishment to my soul. It gives me peace and rest when I feel like there is no hope of ever finding such. So, why do I save prayer and Bible study as my last resort? Why do I get angry because He doesn't answer me? I pray and want Him to speak to me immediately without any effort of seeking answers in His Word. He speaks to me everything I need to know or hear through the Bible. I don't hear because I don't listen! I don't find because I don't seek.
Matthew 7:7
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Being a parent is the most important calling I'll ever have. I'm responsible for molding an entire generation and those to follow. That's a pretty big responsibility to mess up! That alone can be loud enough to disquiet the most gentle spirit. Yet,I constantly try to do it on my own without Him. Apart from Him I can do nothing. I need to trust in Him with all my heart and lean "not" to my own understanding. I can't bring quiet to my spirit because I don't seek the Peace that transcends all understanding.
John 15:5
I am the vine, you are the branches; if a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Proverbs 3:4-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.
I get so confused. I feel so pressured. I take the weight of all of this upon my own shoulders instead of laying my burdens at His feet and leaving them there! Every single day I struggle to just cast my burdens on the One who loves me perfectly, the only One who can give me rest.
1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Psalm 55:22
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
Matthew 11: 28-29
Then Jesus Said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls."
As perfect as His Word is. As wonderful as He is. I often diminish my Lord to a mere genie of sorts. "My wish is your command!" Oh brother!

I call myself a single parent, but it doesn't have to be that way. I don't have to do it alone. God is the perfect husband, father, brother, even a mom when the time is right. He is everything I need. He knocks on my heart's door but I don't hear him through all the "noise" that I let my life bring. He wants me to be still. He wants me to let Him quiet my spirit. Then and only then can I hear from Him. He is my only hope and my only help in times of trouble. I only have to ask, and seek to find what I need to do everything. I truly can do all things when I realize that I can do nothing alone. Because it is only with Him that I can do everything.
Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I have all that I need to do everything that I need to do. Christ is truly everything I need. He equips me with everything I need for doing His will (see Hebrews 13:21). I give Him all the glory because I can do nothing on my own. I don't have to and I shouldn't want to! I've seen what I do on my own and I know that nothing good is possible apart from Him. But, everything is possible with Him.

Single parenting is a mountain twice the size of the one couples have to climb. But, God moves mountains without a flinch! Trust Him and see.

I pray that He will....
equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Hebrews 13:21).
Finding quiet for my soul as a single mom is something I have to let Him do.

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