I grew up without a mother. Well...let me rephrase that. I grew up without my mother. My dad married a total of six times and had plenty of girlfriends and mistresses in between and during his marriages, so there was never a shortage of mothers in my life. Yet, none of them were my mother. My mother was killed when I was only a year old. Consequently, I was left to be raised by a devastated, alcoholic father and a string of less-than-desirable mother figures. Through the years, I convinced myself that if my mom had been alive, my life would have been completely different. You see, no one else on earth loves you quite like your mom.

When I found myself pregnant unexpectedly at only seventeen, I was determined to be a great mom. I had no idea what they looked like (or what a good mom was for that matter), but my children would never have the hurt, lack, and disappointment that I had experienced. I can't remember ever having held a baby before giving birth to my first-born. Twenty-one hours of labor and a few parenting books doesn't quite prepare you for the challenges of parenthood!

The next several years brought struggled. I moved into an apartment, worked full-time during the day, and attended college at night full-time. I had a second child, and many nights, wondered how I would ever make it through these years. The exhaustion, disappointment of a failed relationship, and financial burden became too much to bear. At only four years old, I found myself slapping my sweet, innocent baby boy across his little face. It was in that moment that I realized everything that I had vowed my children would never experience, I had now duplicated in my home. My children weren't getting a great mom. They were getting an exhausted, overwhelmed, overworked mom who was struggling just to get up every morning and function. I made a decision, that day, to surrender myself fully to my King and stop running from Him.

I had fallen away from church attendance years earlier. I just didn't feel like I belonged anymore, especially having two children out of marriage. My sin was public. I did not see others who were like me, so I stopped going.Sure, I would attend on special occasions. I still proclaimed my Christianity, when asked, but bore no fruit - and my precious little ones suffered. But the moment I surrendered, God began a radical transformation in my life. It was not overnight. It was not easy. But he taught me to parent patiently, extend grace, and love myself for who he had created me to be.My love for him grew and my desire to be a great mom grew.

That was many years ago. My son will be 18 in a few weeks. I know that the abounding grace of my Heavenly Father has grown me into the mother I always wished I had. Understanding his love for me has helped me parent my children. My Christian growth has translated into my parenting growth. And I would like to extend to you some parenting advice.

"Seek the Kingdom of God, above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. " Matthew 6:33 NLT

Seek a relationship with your Heavenly Father. Seek fellowship from your fellow Christian brothers and sister. Seek wisdom. Understand that your relationship with your Savior comes first and everything else flows out of that.

(Portions of this article first appeared on iBelieve.com in February 2013).

Author/speaker, Jennifer Maggio, is one of the nation’s leading authorities on single parents and women’s issues. She is an award-winning author and founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She currently oversees one of the nation’s largest single moms support groups and has helped to launch more than 1500 others in churches around the globe. She is a regular on radio and television. For more information, visit http://www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.