Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

You Have Permission

  • Dena Johnson Martin
    Dena Johnson is a former single mom to three amazing kids: Blake, Cole, and Cassie and wife to her high school friend, Roy. She strives to follow Christ each day and to lead her children to do the same. She delights in taking the every day experiences of life and turning them into biblical lessons for her children. Dena's daily prayer is simple: Lord, my life is yours. Live through me. Love through me. Parent through me. Let me decrease that you might increase. Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find beauty through the brokenness of this life. Her heart's desire is to use her own pain to point others to the power of God who redeems every hurt, every pain. You can contact Dena at You can also find her blog at Dena Johnson Ministries.
  • 2016 Sep 07
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~~Being a parent is hard. Being a single parent is extremely hard.

Single Mom or single Dad. Never married. Divorced. Widowed. One child. Two children. Eight children. No matter the reason you are a single parent, the struggles are real. The struggles are often overwhelming. The struggles are often similar.

When you are divorced and have custody of the kids, you are mom and dad. You carry the entire burden of the household, the finances, the chauffeuring. You must be the fun parent and the disciplinarian. You are responsible for every doctor and dentist and orthodontist appointment. You are the cheerleader, faithfully supporting your children in all of their activities.

And, you have the added stress of attempting to co-parent with the other parent, the one who potentially broke your heart. The one who knows exactly how to push your buttons, to get you on the defensive. The one who possibly continues the verbal and emotional abuse of you and your kids. The one who continues to try to hurt you while failing to realize it hurts the kids. You must navigate your own grief over the loss of your dreams while helping your children navigate their own messy grief.

When you are widowed, you carry the entire burden, just like a divorced parent. However, you don’t get even the occasional weekend away from the kids while they are with the other parent. You don’t get the short break can become your sanity check, the time you can use for yourself. You are the only parent on this earth, no one else to even occasionally share the burden, no one else with the same level of concern for your kids. And you must navigate your own grief as you help your children navigate their grief.

In both situations, you face your own struggles, your own loneliness, your own longing to be loved again. You miss your friend, the one who knew all of your secrets and loved you anyway. You miss the companionship and the stability, the security. You long for what you once had…or at least thought you had.

I’ve walked the single parent path because of divorce. Now I walk the single parent path through death. It’s hard. It’s lonely. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting.

There are days like today where I just want to hide, not talk to anyone at work or home. I just want to curl up in my closet and pretend the world doesn’t exist. I want to send everyone away and listen to the peace and quiet, do what I want without having to take anyone anywhere, without having to cook for anyone or answer questions or help with homework or remind anyone to clean their rooms. I just want to run away!

Days like today, I remember every difficult moment of this journey. I’m also leaning I have permission.
I have permission to fall apart. Why is it we moms (especially single moms) think we have to be strong for everyone? Why is it we don’t want anyone to see our weakness? Why is it we choose to hide our pain and our tears instead of being real and vulnerable?

I am the world’s worst. I like to be the rock, the one everyone else looks to for support when their world falls apart. It is the most uncomfortable position to be the one in need. And yet, we are all human.

Right now, I’m ready to fall apart. I can no longer hide the pain from my kids, from those closest to me. The tears have been flowing without reserve, not by choice but because I can no longer hold them inside. And, honestly, it feels good to let them out.

When this moment of fear and grief passes, we will wipe away the tears and continue pushing forward. And my kids will know that being strong does not mean we never fall apart.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You have permission to be less than perfect. I value quality. I value responsibility. I value giving your best effort. And, if I’m honest, I often value perfection.

I am learning that sometimes less than perfect is good enough. The house isn’t up to my standards? That’s ok because at least we have clean clothes. The yard isn’t mowed again? It’s not exactly at the top of my list of priorities in my life that is jam-packed with activities from morning to night. My kids’ school projects aren’t Pinterest perfect? At least they are learning and doing on their own rather than having parents who step in and do it for them.

As much as I always wanted to be the perfect mom, I have learned to let perfection go. And I think my kids think I am the perfect mom…for them.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You have permission to not have it all together. Sometimes we are an absolute mess. In less than a month, I left two phones in the bathroom at work. My work phone was stolen; my personal phone was returned. It’s amazing that’s all I’ve lost with the chaos in my life!

How many times have I forgotten an activity? A parent teacher conference? How many times have I missed a doctor’s appointment or an awards assembly? How many times have I had a rough day at work and my kids were the recipients of my bad mood?

Sometimes—many times—I simply don’t have it all together. As a matter of fact, sometimes I can’t seem to get anything right! I burn the dinner. I forget a child. My calendar is deleted. I forget to pray with my kids before school or before bed. But I am learning that we get a fresh start each and every day, a new opportunity to see His mercies fresh as the sun rises above the horizon and we start over.

God knows I don’t have it all together, and yet He still loves me. He sweetly reminds me that in my humanity, He gets to show off His power.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You have permission to be nice to yourself. How many times have you bought new shoes for your kids and neglected to replace your own shoes that are falling apart? How many times have you purchased new clothes for the kids while you continue to wear your college wardrobe?

When’s the last time you did something nice for yourself? Treated yourself to a manicure or a pedicure? Saved up money and went for a massage? Had a girls’ night out without kids? When’s the last time you asked someone for help so you could have a quiet evening alone?

Scripture teaches us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves…meaning we must learn to love ourselves before we can love others. Perhaps it’s time you learn to love yourself, to do something nice for yourself. You will find that you become a much better parent when you take care of yourself.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I don’t know where you are in this journey, but I know our Savior thrives in our weakness. When we can admit we don’t have it all together, He can and will gladly step in and show His strength in us and through us. We can boast in our weakness because we get an opportunity to see His power.

Maybe, like me, you feel as if you are about to fall apart. Maybe, like me, you are at your breaking point, overwhelmed with the exhaustion and stress of trying to juggle everything. Maybe, like me, you can’t hold back the tears any longer.

Let’s give ourselves permission. Cry if you need to cry. Scream if you need to scream. Go for a run. Eat that last piece of cheesecake. Take a hot bubble bath. Ask someone to watch your kids. Admit you can’t do it all alone.

Go ahead. It’s ok. You have permission. And tomorrow, we will wake up, reminded that His mercies are new every morning, that His grace is sufficient, that He is strong when we are weak. Great is His faithfulness!

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