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Jennifer Maggio Christian Blog and Commentary

Jennifer Maggio

 

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.

Like many of you, I read Lysa Terkeurst’s blog last week regarding the recent loss of her 25-year marriage. Through tears, I read the devastation and pain in Lysa’s words, as she had tried hard to salvage the marriage, suffered through the pain of infidelity, and walked the hard walk of addiction with her husband. I knew what courage it had taken to share that story with the world and how hard that letter must’ve been to write. I wanted to hold her hand, hug her, and let her know she wasn’t alone. I wanted to write some earth-moving comment on her social media page that would speak to right where she was and take the pain from her. There was no such comment. Words alone cannot possibly rectify the situation. Words alone cannot bring healing to the broken places of her story. Her journey will likely be a long and hard one. But the truth is her journey, behind closed doors, has already been a long and hard one.  Lysa is walking a road that millions of women in this country are walking.

Having been in single mom’s ministry for more than a decade, unfortunately, I can tell you that Lysa’s story is not unique. Our ministry fields hundreds of letters, emails, and social media posts from women whose lives have been turned upside down by the devastation of divorce – women who are drowning in sorrow and shame and financial disparity and disappointment and grief, women who never expected to be where they are, women who were abandoned by a spouse they loved, women who walked the walk of infidelity.  This isn’t new news, sadly.  We know that the evil one is roaming this earth seeking relationships that he can kill, searching for dreams that he may steal, and destroying thousands of lives along the way.

For those who have been called to full-time, vocational ministry, the truth of the enemy’s plot for our lives is that much stronger. He is infuriated every time we take a step to minister to the needs of others and to bring the hope of Jesus to hurting people. He is angered when an altar is filled with women who have now found the love that only our Savior can bring. My prayers are with Lysa and her family during this difficult time.

This news, however, has fueled my ministry passion even more, as I’ve seen how the Christian community responds to this tragedy.  I scrolled through hundreds of comments on Lysa’s social media page and read the stories of the women whose lives mirrored Lysa’s.  I read the pain in their words – many of whom are left to raise children alone. First, thank you for the prayers for Lysa and her family. Thank you for the encouraging comments that will hopefully offer some sense of peace during a difficult time. Thank you for committing to lift her up, not only this week, but for many weeks and months to come.  But what will you do for the millions of “Lysas” in the nation? How can you make a real impact?

Did you know that there are 15 million single mothers in the United States, raising approximately 25 million children? Did you know that they often fall prey to staggering statistics and a sense of exhaustion and overwhelm that only a single mother could know? Were you aware that an estimated 2 out of 3 single mothers aren’t going to church anywhere? But perhaps more sad than all of that is the fact that many churches, in fact most churches, do not have a formal single mom’s ministry and outreach program. Single motherhood is the modern-day widow and orphan. Single mothers are the mission field, both locally and abroad. So, what are we going to do about it?

What can we, the church—the collective body of Christ, do to minister to the needs of those, like Lysa, who are hurting in our communities?  How can we serve practically, offer hope, and give solace, as they parent their children alone? What impact can we have that could change the future of a child?

If you are reading this and you attend a church that does not have a single mom’s ministry that meets on a regular basis, start there. Begin the dialogue with a pastoral team member who can begin a program. Single mom’s outreaches begin the evangelism process. Single mom’s ministries begin the discipleship process. We must have both to change lives. I’m thankful for the many, many, many single moms whose lives are touched because churches across the nation see the need to minister to single mothers. I’m thankful for the current and former single moms…and the friends and family members of single moms….who are stepping up to begin this dialogue with their church leaders about how to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Let the church arise and minister to hurting women, right where they are. Let us pray and intercede for marriages that are on the rocks, that God could intervene and restore what has been lost. Let us truly reach beyond the walls of our comfort and put our faith into action.  

Jennifer Maggio is the CEO of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a global nonprofit headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana that has worked with more than 1,500 churches to establish, grow, or improve a single mom’s ministry and outreach plan. The organization's efforts reach more than 50,000 single mothers each year for the cause of Christ. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com

                What are the things you hold most valuable in your life? I would suspect that at the top of that list are your children. Moms are nurturers. We are boo-boo kissers, cuddlers, compassionate, wisdom-givers and makers-of-the-world-go-'round. We want to see our children thrive, grow, become successful at whatever vocation they choose and be productive citizens one day. And if all of this is true, why is it that so many of us struggle to establish strong and healthy boundaries in our home for our children? This is true for many parents, today. Perhaps it is because we are exhausted or maybe, because the world has produced more excuse-makers than responsble adults today, seemingly. Whatever the cause, we must take back our children!

                Parents often struggle with guilt, whether it's because we work too many hours or perceive that we aren't good enough parents or fall into the trap of comparison. We're guilty. The world has made sure of that. And because we are guilty, we overcompensate. We buy too many things and make too many excuses. We often fail to establish strong boundaries or have an unwillingness to adhere to the boundaries being set. 

                Our children never benefit from us being a lax parent. Establishing boundaries with our children means we love them enough to do so. It means we want to give them every opportunity to succeed and that includes obeying and adhering to rules we’ve established in our homes. It means they are safe. Believe it or not. Children actually like boundaries. (They may not always confess it, but they do!)

                No one can determine your boundaries that work for your home. We can help establish guideliness, but each home is different. The key is actually establishing boundaries that you and your family can adhere to. Here are some things to consider:                 

  1. What type of character do I want my children to develop as they age?
  2. What are the things that work best for my family?
  3. What weekend and weekday routine help me (and my children) function at our best?
  4. What are the non-negotiables of my home? What are the things that are negotiable?
  5. Do I have firm consequences established for breaking the rules?
  6. Are there times when I can administer grace, when a child breaks a rule?
  7. Do I have devoted family time, where no phone calls or social media is present, on a regular basis?
  8. Is family meal time a protected time for our family? Is that important to me?
  9. Do my children think I’m a pushover? Do I find it difficult to get my children to adhere to the rules?
  10. Have I been clear in my expectations for my home? 

Jennifer Maggio is a national author and speaker, mom to three, wife of Jeff, and CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is chauffeur, chief dishwasher, carpool queen, and duct tape aficionado. But more importantly, she is passionate about teaching women how to find complete freedom in Christ. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com

                Beaming with a grin from ear to ear, my aunt recently shared with me that she graduated into the Adult IV Sunday School class at her church. Her church only offers 4 Adult Sunday School classes in her age group, which means this is the last class she will ever be in before she spends eternity with her Savior.  For her, this was a rite of passage in many ways.  She had earned her position in her new class. She said that she had been in the same Sunday school class for more than 20 years and felt it was time to “graduate” on.  Admittedly, it was a bit hard to hear this news, as I am especially close to this aunt, but equally, it was endearing.  Nearing her eighties, I love that she is mature enough to recognize when one door is closing and a new chapter beginning.

                That same aunt has been a pillar in my faith walk for many years, as a confidante, friend, and teacher. She is, in my opinion, one of the most spiritually mature women I’ve ever met. She is humble and quick to forgive and feasts on the word of God, and I could go on and on. Years ago, if you would’ve asked me about maturity in the Lord, I would’ve immediately equated it to age. Theoretically, the older one is, the more spiritually mature they would be, particularly for those who have been active in a local church for many years.

                However, in my work in women’s ministry over the last decade, I have found that theory to not be as correct as I would’ve hoped. Sure, there are many who are mature in age that are equally mature in their walk with Christ, but there are also those who have been walking with the Lord for many years who are still as immature, in the spiritual sense, as they were the day they asked the Lord into their hearts.

                Here are some questions I encourage you to explore as you gauge your own walk with the Lord and how you may be able to continue to grow in that journey each day.

  1. Who are you investing in? As believers, we should be looking for those who are new to the faith to walk with. We should be teaching the young and pouring into those who haven’t journey yet, where we have already been. We are to be pouring into someone who could really use some encouragement, some clarity, or some wise counsel. Yes, pouring into your children is a huge part of your ministry that the Lord has given you. But I want to also encourage you to begin to look at those around you who may be in your church or on your job, who could really use that little extra time. It could save a life.  Hebrews 5:12 says, “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you  need someone to teach you again the basic things of God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.
  2. Have you laid down childish things? Childish things come in a variety of packages. But let me give you a few examples.  Consider your junior high or middle school years. We did some of the silliest things, didn’t we? When we heard a secret, what did we often do? Gossiped. When someone spoke unkind things about us, what did we do? Confronted. (I can feel my head swinging and my fingers snapping from side to side, with an I’m-gonna-tell-her-about-herself attitude!). When we were hurt or offended, what did we do? Obsessed. Spiritually mature women, forgive. We clarify. We stay in community. We let the past go and don’t feel the need to air out conflicts on social media or in the context of gossip guised as a “prayer request.”  We learn the power of staying silent, rather than responding to attacks. We see the beauty in our sisters in Christ and issue them grace, instead of jumping to conclusions or comparing. Consider 1 Corinthians 13:11. “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”
  3. Do you constantly need to be right? It seems that there are some who love to take on a cause or engage in a good fight. Even when your intentions are good, the result can be divisive and unfruitful. Now, for those who have known me for about 4 minutes, you will likely engage in a conversation with me about my passion for single moms & the church, so I love a good cause. I love the God-given passions who bestows on each of us to make a difference in this world for His glory. But more specifically, what I’m writing about, is the need that so many have to constantly be right. Are you always engaged in a war of words with someone? Are you absorbed in the need to “correct” those who differ in opinion from you? Do you find yourself constantly bickering with others or worked up about an issue? Causes are great. They have a purpose. But relationships are more important than our need to be right.
  4. Can you see your growth? Much of life is simply about living. It isn’t about the highs or the lows. It isn’t about the unbelievable accomplishments or the exciting events. It’s about the day-to-day. It’s about doing each day well, growing in the Lord, speaking kindly to those around us, impacting our children, investing into worthy causes, and smelling the roses – just living. Granted, it is sometimes hard to “see” spiritual growth, during those just living seasons. But seeing spiritual growth is more about looking back at where you’ve been and seeing how far you have come. Have there been times in your life when fear was a real struggle for you, but now you can see that it isn’t a strong hold? Are there past times when you lost your temper far too quickly and now find it much easier to hold your tongue? That’s growth! A deeper question to consider may be, are you going around the same mountain over and over? Are you still talking about the mean girl in high school that you still can’t stand, even though you’re both 40 now? Are you still replaying in your mind what she did or he said?

Everyone’s walk is different. Make no mistake. Our circumstances, our childhood, and life’s experiences can certainly affect our growth and how quickly or slowly that happens. Maybe a death or divorced or trauma have left us paralyzed for a season. That happens. It’s normal. Nothing is wrong with slow growth! Because it’s growth nonetheless.  However, let’s do our very best, each day, to grow just a little closer to the Lord and to each other.

Jennifer Maggio is a wife, mom of three, author, speaker, and founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is passionate about seeing women live the life God intended and giving them the tools to empower their walk with the Christ. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com

 

**article first appeared on iBelieve.com.

 

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