Jennifer Maggio is considered a leading authority on single parents and womens issues. She is an award-winning author and speaker who draws from her own experiences through abuse, homelessness, and teen pregnancy to inspire audiences everywhere. She is founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and writes for dozens of publications. She has been featured with hundreds of media outlets, including The 700 Club, Daystar Television, Moody Radio, Focus on the Family, and many more. For more information, visit thelifeofasinglemom.com.
The more hurt I was, the more I wanted to run. The more I replayed the past, the more I wanted to simply stay underneath the covers and not get up in the mornings. It seemed the harder life was, the more I wanted to isolate myself from others. And life got darker….and darker…. and darker.
That’s the danger with isolation. When we’re going through hard times, it is easy for us to isolate. We don’t want others around. We don’t want to cry one more tear over the situation. We don’t want to explain our emotions again and again. But the more we pull away, the darker the situation becomes. God created us for community. He created us, so that others around us can encourage us when we are down. He uses people to speak life into us, when we are too tired, or broken, or emotionally weak, to even read His word.
The problem is, when we are really hurting, it can be much easier to isolate, than to reach out to others and really address the layers of emotions we’re battling. But the easy route isn’t always the best route. In fact, the easy route is usually the temporary fix anyway.
For those of you who may be reading this and saying, “I don’t tell anyone what’s going on, because they won’t understand. Or people will judge me.” Don’t believe that! Those are lies the enemy of your soul would whisper into your ear that would keep you doubting and lonely and isolated. Will there be someone on occasion who will not understand or maybe even judge you? Yes. But we can’t allow that one person to keep us from creating community that enhances our lives. Many of my very best friends were met at church. And it didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t happen with just one gathering.
I can remember joining a Sunday School class and feeling, very much, like I didn’t fit in. I didn’t talk much and I looked around and feared others were judging me. But I did make the decision to go back again and again. Although it took many weeks and months before I felt comfortable, I started attending socials at some of the members houses. I would call them occasional for prayer. I would reach out. See, that’s the key. I didn’t sit back and wait until someone else reached out to me. They may not reach out, because they think you don’t want to be reached out to. Sometimes, we will take them not reaching out as a sign that they don’t like us or care or want us around. When in reality, they do care, but they simply don’t know what to say or maybe have an insecurity of their own. I’m so thankful, oh so many years ago, that I began to reach out to make friendships within that class. Some of those very people are my best friends now. They came at a time when I desperately needed an ear. And they’ve been with me ever since.
God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. Ps. 68:6
I don’t have much in the way of physical family. Many of my family members died when I was very young, and several had died through the years. But God has placed my lonely heart in a spiritual family – the local church. And it changed my life. It kept me from isolating and becoming more depressed. And although it didn’t happen overnight, I slowly found the strength to move on past my past. You can do. Whenever you feel the desire to isolate, fight it! In fact, push harder to get out and do things with other people:
Take your kids to the park or mall, even when you don’t feel like it, and bring a friend along too.
Invite a friend over to dinner, even when you aren’t in the best of moods.
Get out and serve at a local homeless shelter or food bank and invite your Bible study group to come alone.
There are dozens of ways to keep yourself busy and involve others while doing so. Not only will it help keep you from slipping into a dangerous depression, but you may just make some new friends during what could’ve been the darkest days of your life.
Jennifer Maggio is a national author and speaker, mom to three, wife to Jeff, and CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is passionate about helping hurting women and single mothers live a life free in Christ. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.
There is something exciting about the new year, isn't there? The possibilities. The potential. The old is gone and new is here. It's the reason that so many focus on fresh goals each January. We love the idea of having a fresh start. Let 2017 be a fresh focus for you, an opportunity to re-evaluate your goals, dreams, hopes, and day-to-day tasks. In order for us to refocus, we must first be aware of what we may be focusing on that distracts us.
There are three areas that far too many of us get distracted by and they take way too much of our time and energy:
Comparison --- Unfortunately, we are often so busy worried about what somebody else has, does, sees, or gets, that we can’t stay in our own lane and be truly grateful for the work God is doing in our own lives. Comparison steals our joy. It robs us of our gratitude. How can we be thankful for what God’s done in our life, when we’re so busy looking over to the left or right at what He's doing for someone else? Comparison causes division. Be thankful someone else is getting blessed, that their influence or opportunities are increasing! God is unlimited in resources, plans, or supplies. We can be thankful for our brothers and sisters in Christ and also be hopeful of our own futures. Comparison often distracts us from what God wants to do with us. God can’t bless us, because we won’t be faithful with this little thing. Maybe Sally has been faithful with her little and that is why she's being blessed. Choose to focus on what God has given us, not someone else.
Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct. Gal. 6:4-5
I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. Phil. 4:11-12
Comparison does nothing but leave us miserable.
Social Media --- Technology is a wonderful thing, but only when used appropriately. And frankly, I don't even know if we know what appropriate usage is anymore! We’re often more concerned with followers than true friends or likes or re-shares or whatever else social media tells us is valuable. We’re walking zombies, scrolling through cell phones, wondering what somebody else is doing, while often lacking in true relationship and intimacy with others. We’re more concerned with status updates that sanctification. We’re more concerned with the perfect selfie than we are about serving others. We’re more worried about what everyone else is doing and who they are doing it with than understanding that we’re supposed to busy about our Father’s business.
We don’t value the art of conversation, the joy of sun shining on our face on a beautiful spring day, or the freedom of holding hands with our children, minus the iPhone or Android. Often, we can’t put down technology for fear we will miss something. Meanwhile, we miss life. Let us make this year different. Let us truly embrace the moment, enjoy the season, hear the birds, and smell the flowers. Let's take time be with one another, rather than reading about one another.
Status --- We’re busy pursuing platforms, prestige, climbing the corporate ladder, our marital status, or someone giving us a handclap. We're busy pursuing financial success or if someone will hand us a microphone and that becomes our focus.
When a thing, becomes the thing, it’s the wrong thing.
Jesus came that we may have an abundant, wide-open, expansive, spacious life or freedom in Him.
So What is life? What are we supposed to focused on this year?
Living is about being sold out for Christ. It’s about a pure heart. It’s about serving that homeless man a warm meal. It is looking a friend in the eye, as she shares her heart and soul with you. It is holding the hand of a loved one. Living is about laughing, when your children laugh. It’s about grace and joy and forgiveness and tears. It is feeling and doing. It is resting. It is being fully present in every moment. It is knowing the depth of the love of a Heavenly Father that created you for his enjoyment. And the best way to honor that Father is by fully living, each day, in the glory of his honor and name. Let's allow 2017 to be about that type of focus and living.
Jennifer Maggio is a national author and speaker, mom of three, wife of Jeff, and CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is passionate about helping single mothers and hurting women find hope in Christ. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.
Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. I love hot cocoa, Christmas decorations, Christmas music, snuggling under a blanket watching Christmas movies, egg nog, parties, and all the traditions that Christmas brings. I love seeing family and friends that I haven’t seen in a while. I love the reminder of childhood memories with aunts and cousins baking pies in the kitchen.
But, let’s be honest. Christmas can be one of the most difficult times of year for many, and especially for single parents.
My first Christmas as a single mom is one of my saddest memories. My infant son and I spent the day alone. I was a brand new mom and I struggled to find my way. Could I even be a good mom? I often wondered. I stared at my baby most of the day, as I laid in bed and cried. The phone didn’t ring. No one knocked at my door. I couldn’t bear to cook a Christmas meal for just the two of us. And depression doesn’t even seem to be an adequate word to describe how sad I was that day. I almost yearned to go to work to interact with another adult.
I would love to say that was my only Christmas alone or Thanksgiving or Easter or Valentines. I spent many holidays as a single mom. And frankly, many of them were sad. I want to encourage all you single moms out there not to make the same mistake I did. Those holidays were often spent with me dwelling on the things I didn’t have. I was convinced everyone had a better life than me and I was angry. I wondered why my children had to suffer through not having two parents in their home. I was sad that I had little money to provide Christmas toys. I decidedly huddled under my covers and prayed the days away.
Here are the things I wish I would’ve done all those years ago:
1. Choose to focus on what God has given you. Maybe things didn’t turn out like you planned. Whose life ever does? God has blessed you beyond measure. Start with the cross. If God never did anything else for us, wouldn’t that be enough? Be He doesn’t stop there. He gives us our beautiful, amazing children, our jobs, residence, friends, health, family, church family, and a single mom sisterhood through The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. God is good, faithful, and provisional. Praise Him this season!
2. Choose to rejoice in the real reason for the season. Focus on Christ’s birth. Read the Christmas story to your kids, no matter their ages. Create traditions with them, such as baking cookies, make ornaments for a nursing home, serving at a soup kitchen. Decide to focus on the real meaning for the season through service to others and family traditions. It makes the holidays a far more special time.
3. Choose to focus on the freedom Christ has given you. May I be totally honest with you? Christ paid for my freedom oh so many years ago, but I refused to walk in it. You see, it was my choice to be bitter, unforgiving, and angry. It was my choice to play the victim and wonder why I had endured so much. It was only when I stopped speaking terrible things over my life and when I chose to move beyond my past that I embraced Christ’s freedom for my life. I chose life. I chose freedom. That’s when I truly learned to celebrate each holiday season and each day for that matter. My perspective in life shifted. Joy was then mine. It can be yours this day.
Jennifer Maggio is the happily married mother of three who has a passion for the single parent family. The founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and Overwhelmed: The Single Moms Magazine, Maggio spends many of her days praying for and counseling with single mothers nationwide. For more information, visit http://www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.