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Jennifer Maggio Christian Blog and Commentary

Jennifer Maggio

Crosswalk.com blogspot for Jennifer Maggio and The Life of a Single Mom

10 Sure Signs of a Strong Marriage

By: Jennifer Maggio

            I sat with Becky as she shared with me the feelings of utter shock, horror, devastation, and heaviness she felt that Thursday morning.  She was shaking and tears steadily streamed down her face.  Her husband had just announced that he wanted a divorced after twenty years of marriage.  They had raised three children together. They had built a house – a home – together for over two decades.  Becky hadn’t worked outside the home since they married.  What would she do now for income? For companionship? It was a shock, to say the least.

            The next several weeks began a dialogue between she and her husband about what had been missing for some years.  It resulted in much pain, as the questions always were, Why didn’t we talk about this before? Why did it get to this point?  I wish I could tell you that Becky’s story is a rare one and that she was the only woman I knew with such hurt.  Unfortunately, that is not the case. Nearly 50% of today’s marriages will end in divorce or separation and researchers estimate that nearly 41% of all first marriages will end in divorce (2016 of the U.S. Divorce & Marriage Rates by Year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here).

            My husband has been such a joy in my life and our marriage has truly been a partnership over the last decade.  There are some things that we’ve learned through the years to dissect the health of your marriage.

  1. Communication. No topic should be off topic.  As life partners, the necessity of keeping an open line of communication is critical. As was with the case with my friend, Becky, as she and her husband began the divorce process, there were many topics that had been untouched for years. The inability to communicate openly, candidly, and honestly within in a marriage could be the death of the marriage.  Do you feel that there are topics that are best left alone in the marriage? Have you carried a past hurt from years ago about something your spouse said or did that you did communicate clearly on? Is there a need (emotionally, physically, etc.) that you have within the marriage that you have not communicated to your spouse? These are questions to consider as you evaluate your marriage.
  2. Conflict.  Conflict does not denote an unhealthy marriage. We are all different. We have challenges and different perspectives and old hurts, occasionally. These things make conflict pretty much inevitable. The key to a strong marriage is your ability to work through conflict. The necessity to have a game plan now (in the absence of conflict) is important to how you move forward.  Matthew 5:9 says “Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.”  This does not mean that there will never be conflict. It means that we are blessed as we work towards keeping the peace.  As with point number 1, failing to communicate doesn’t mean that conflict isn’t there. It means you are unwilling to address it. The problem with that is, it festers.  Take the time to talk about the challenges and be willing to work through them.
  3. Financial Transparency.  As you’ve likely heard, money is one of the biggies when it comes to marital bliss or discourse. People always find it funny that my husband and I rarely buy each other gift’s for birthdays, Valentine’s, anniversary, and the like.  Early on in our marriage, we just decided that it wasn’t that important to us.  We usually will get a card for each other or a letter and there has been the occasional surprise, but for us, the financial goals we had established were more important than a trinket on the day of the event.  That said, this was a choice for us.  Many couples don’t have financial conversations. Usually, there is a primary financial handler who pays the bills and handles much of the finances.  That is certainly fine. However, it is necessary to be on the same page about who is spending what where, what financial goals you have as a couple, and what are considered reasonable and unreasonable expenses and extras. 
  4. Trust.  There is such peace that comes with trust. Years ago, I was in a relationship with a man I did not trust. He had broken my trust early on in the relationship and sadly, continued to make poor decisions for some years thereafter.  I can’t tell you, even today, why I took it for so long, but it was miserable, to say the least. Some of you today have gone through a particularly devastating part of your marriage that has caused broken trust.  The good news is, there is hope.  With two parties who are “all in” for their marriage, God can heal, restore, and redeem the broken places, including broken trust. Unlike that previous relationship, I don’t the need to constantly double-check my husband’s whereabouts, social media, or other details of his life. We have full transparency and I know he is honest, so I don’t have to operate in insecurity.  Trust is critical to the relationship. If you don’t have it, communicate about it, and begin the process of working towards what each of you have concerns about.
  5. Growth. We are never finished. A productive and healthy life means one full of growth in our spiritual journey with the Lord, our physical fitness, our financial stewardship, our parenting techniques, and….our marriages.  We grow in closeness. Healthy marriages are filled with individuals who are growing. There should be much grace during the growth process, as sometimes it can be challenging.  Commit to growing. What are the areas that you know are a struggle for you? Do you struggle with insecurity? Are you quick to anger? Do you talk calmly or tend to scream?
  6. Willingness.  A healthy marriage means two people who are willing to grow, willing to learn, willing to try, and willing to risk.  You cannot move the ball down the field if one person is unwilling to communicate, change, and persevere through the hard times. Healthy marriages are full of folks who are willing to do the hard work necessary to have one of the most fulfilling relationships on the planet. Healthy marriages don’t fall into our laps from outer space. They are birthed through willing hearts.
  7. Passion. The early years are often met with giggles and flirting and lots of sex. Through the children and health problems and maybe weight gain and complacency, many lose their zeal and passion for their spouse.  Togetherness, in a physical sense, is a critical component of a healthy marriage. Passion, of course, isn’t only exhibited through sex, rather through the pursuit. Do you write love notes? Do you send sweet texts? Do you hold hands or cuddle during television time? Do you laugh at his jokes? Do you hurry home and put on fresh makeup, because you can’t wait to see him at the end of a day? I’m certainly not suggesting that these things are a daily occurrence, as life does sometimes get in the way. But intention with date nights and kissing and doing the things that once were great fun can be just what your marriage needs to get back on track.
  8. Prayer. Do you pray for your spouse daily? Do you lift him up throughout the day as he struggles through that tough meeting or big project? Do you hold hands and pray together about the big (and small) issues of life? Do you commit to praying with the family on a regular basis? Prayer is the backbone of the marriage. It is the glue that binds you, when feelings are hurt and hearts are mending and anger is fuming. Prayer binds hearts, like nothing else can.
  9. Effort. Okay, so I admit it. I put much more effort into the early years of our marriage than I did after some years passed. And…it showed.  I wore the nightgown with the holes in it. I did fix my hair or maybe put on makeup or even sometimes ask my husband how his day was.  It began to convict me that I was putting very little effort into my marriage.  I took it for granted.  I hid behind how tired I was. But the truth is, I put effort into other things, like children’s projects and ministry plans and work and friend relationships. We have time for what we make time for. Don’t take your spouse for granted. What would life look like if he wasn’t there? Have there been times when you have not put much effort into the marriage.
  10. Fun. Have fun. Be spontaneous. Have a dance party in the living room. Sing karaoke on a weeknight. Laugh. Big time. Go hiking. Ride bikes. Exercise together. Try a new activity. Develop hobbies that you can do together.  This journey is supposed to be a fun one. Don’t make your marriage all work and no play.

 

Jennifer Maggio is author of four books, mother of three, and wife to Jeff. She is a national speaker and founder of the international nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is an abuse survivor who is passionate about women finding a life of complete freedom in Christ. For more info, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.

 

 

 

 

10 Signs You Are Enabling Your Adult Child’s Bad Behavior (And How to Stop)

By: Jennifer Maggio

 

            The moment I gave birth to my 9 pound, brown-eyed, overly-chubby, bouncing baby boy, I was in love.  Like most moms, the joy of holding his soft hands in my arms and snuggling his sweet face into mine far outweighed the fears and worries that I knew would be part of our journey.  As a then single mom, I knew that the mountain we’d climb over the next twenty years or so would probably be harder than I could even imagine, but nonetheless, he was all mine and I couldn’t have loved him more.  I don’t know if was my youth (I was only 18), my single motherhood, my lack of a mother in my own life, or my parenting ignorance, or a perhaps a combination of all the above, but over the course of the next many years, I created a habit of enabling my son that took many years to break. 

 

            Like other enablers, I didn’t intend for that to be the case. I only wanted what was best for him.  But I think my guilt over the lack of his biological father in his life, or maybe just sheer exhaustion, created this ability to me to enable him.  Because of my own journey, I can now see with radar lenses the parent who is enabling their child’s bad behavior and how even the smallest of children can be enabled or encouraged, but rarely both. 

 

            The following are 10 signs you may be enabling your adult child.  Consider each.

 

  1. You accept responsibility for his failures.  We all fall short of God’s glory and thereby, we all will make mistakes, including our children. However, an enabling parent will internalize every mistake a child makes as somehow “our fault”.  We weren’t good enough as a parent.  We beat ourselves up that we constantly failed.  Now, that’s not to say that we haven’t made some parenting mistakes. Of course, we have.  But every failure our adult children have is not directly tied to them. 
  2. You are an endless supply of money for your adult child.  When I was 18, I became a mother.  I moved out. And I was never permitted to live in my family home again.  I bought a $500 car that broke down weekly, seemingly.  My dad’s only financial support was buying me a used mattress.  There would be some that would say that that was simply awful and how dare my dad treat me in such a way.  However, I have a different perspective.  My years of scraping pennies and knowing there wasn’t an endless supply of money at the ends of my dad’s wallet taught me much about managing money. It taught me stewardship and responsibility.  So, why do we think that we must be the solution for our adult children’s money problems?  I have seen parents exhaust savings accounts, forego retirement, and skip vacations to keep their adult children afloat.  What’s worse is that it often never ends!
  3. You are easily manipulated.  Do you believe everything your adult child tells you, although he/she hasn’t been honest in the past?  Did he/she “lose her wallet again?” Did he get fired, again, from that rude, unyielding boss because he’s so unfair? Sometimes the enablement of our adult children is worsened by our naiveté or ease of manipulation.  Be savvy. Be wise.  Be prayerful about when your adult child isn’t being honest with you.
  4. You frequently make excuses for his/her behavior. Is Johnny always late to functions? Does Madison always snap at guests and visitors?  Does he/she fail to sympathize with others’ pain or challenges?  No, it is not always because your adult child had a bad life.  Yes, they may have faced passed hardships, such as an absentee parent, trauma, death, abuse, or loss, but such occurrences aren’t a license to forever treat people poorly, or have you to constantly make excuses for their behavior. 
  5. You complete tasks your adult child should complete.  Wow, this list is endless.  Some items could include laundry, dishes, cleaning, taxes, school/college projects, or scheduling doctor’s appointments, hair appointments, and the like.  While none of these tasks, in and of themselves are life-altering, the trend of constantly taking care of tasks that your adult child should be handling is one that will leave you exhausted and he/she ill-prepared for the real world.
  6. You are exhausted.  Okay, so exhaustion can be spearheaded by countless reasons, included physical ailments, lack of sleep, stress, etc.  But the type of exhaustion I’m speaking of is in specific regards to your adult children. Is your task list much longer than it should be because you are handling much of their affairs? Are you emotionally worn out, because you spend time fretting and worrying about your adult child’s decisions and potential future consequences?  The constant to and fro of enabling an adult child wears on us emotionally, spiritually, and physically. If you hear your adult child’s name or see their number surface on your phone, do you immediately feel a sense of dread or overwhelm? If so, it is a good indicator that you are enabling your adult child.
  7. You are controlling his life.  I remember standing in the parking lot of my son’s high school chatting with another mother about our sons’ impending graduation.  The other mother made a comment, “I guess I’m going to have to go to college with XXX.  These extra assignments are killing me!”  I smiled and may have even laughed, but as I drove away, I was saddened for her.  I had once been there – completing projects and attempting to control every facet of my son’s decision-making.  It isn’t worth it.  We do our children no favors when we attempt to control their lives, their decision-making, their future selection of spouse, or their friends.  You won’t be around forever to control the outcome of every situation for your adult child.
  8. You allow your adult child to control your life.  This is just the opposite of the previous point.  Do you struggle with the freedom to enjoy your life, because you are so busy worried about your adult child? Do you forego vacations, because you worry that your adult child may need you while you are gone? Do you spend much of your time worrying about what your adult child is doing or who they are doing it with? The lack of healthy boundaries in an adult-child relationship that integrate control and manipulation are key indicators that enablement is transpiring.
  9. You have failed to prepare your adult child for the future.  You will one day pass away, as will we all.  Have you prepared your adult child to make decisions alone? Manage money well?  Parent his own children effectively one day?  Be the man of the home, leading in a Godly and way (or alternatively prepared your daughter for independence?
  10. You have failed to let go.  I am reminded of Proverbs 22:6’s instruction to train up a child in the way they should go.  The operative word here is Go. Go. Go.  It is our duty as parents to let them go. Give them the freedom and great opportunity of serving the Lord their God.  Allow them to discover life and all its riches and joys.  Allow them to fail and grow into better human beings, because of those failures.

 

So, what do you do when you read this list and the response is, “Yep, that’s me. Check. Check. Check.”?   The short story? There’s hope.  Confession time:  I’m a recovering enabler.  I spent far too much time on my child’s school projects. I was too interested in the sporting events and the winning at all costs.  I controlled doctor’s appointments and friend choices.  And guess what? I became flat-out, utterly, exhausted.  I had no time for my ministry, my husband, or me.  I had to learn to let it go.  As with many difficult decisions, it wasn’t easy, but it was well worth it.  I have been parenting since I was 18 years old. I went straight from childhood to parenthood. I had never actually enjoyed my life, as an adult, apart from being a mother.  Yes, of course, you are always mom (or dad), but you are not always parenting.  Parenting ends with a season.  You can love your adult child, offer Godly counsel, when asked, and enjoy their company, but you can let go of the active parenting season, once they reach adulthood.

 

And guess what happened once I did?  It didn’t kill my adult child or me!  Our relationship strengthened, because life was no longer all about him.  I enjoyed the new-found freedom to go on vacation, pick up new hobbies, or not answer phone calls, when I wasn’t in the mood to talk.  Does he know I love him? Yep.  Is he better equipped to handle the rest or his life, once I finally let go?  Yep.  Did he always like the boundaries I implemented? No.  Does he still love me? You better believe it!

 

So, go moms. Be free. Enjoy your life as an empty nester. You’ve earned it.

 

 

Jennifer Maggio is author of four books, mother of three, and wife to Jeff. She is a national speaker and founder of the international nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is an abuse survivor who is passionate about women finding a life of complete freedom in Christ. For more info, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.

               

 

 

 

Okay, you finally have it – your purpose in life, that thing God has called you to do on this earth! You are beyond excited. You cannot wait to start this new single moms’ ministry, outreach, group, or Sunday School class at your church for single moms. You cannot wait to bring the masses to the Lord through your efforts. You schedule your meeting with the necessary “higher-ups” of the church, be it the pastor, assistant pastor, women’s ministry team, or volunteer coordinator. Now, what should you present in the meeting?

First, we highly recommend reading The Church and the Single Mom book. Many churches do not have single moms’ ministries because they don’t know there is a need.  When setting up a meeting with your pastoral team, be sure you are prepared national statistics on single parenthood, Biblical references to God’s love for these precious families, and letters from single mothers on why they don’t go to church. It’s important that pastors understand that nationally 2 out of 3 single mothers don’t attend church, so while there may not be single moms currently in the church, they are certainly in the community and single moms’ ministry is a great way to reach them.  Take the time to share you store and what has made you so passionate about the journey of ministering to single mothers.  Once you’ve shared your story, the statistics, and Biblical references on why you believe this is the heart of God, then share the How. The Church and the Single Mom book has an entire chapter on the logistics of starting a single mom’s ministry, suggestions on frequency of meetings, when & where to meet, and much more.  You having taken the time to be prepared is going to go a long way with the pastors.

What Happens If the Pastor Says Yes:  The next steps are in regards to the logistical plans that includes meeting day and time, location, frequency of meeting, volunteer team, childcare needs, meal preparations, teaching curriculum, and the overall structure of how the meetings will go. The Life of a Single Mom Ministries has removed all the guess-work from starting this meeting. We provide a Comprehensive Single Moms’ Ministry Kit that includes a teaching DVD from our founder, customizable CD for flyers & print materials, Best Practices, books for your volunteer team to read, a 200-page workbook of things to consider before you launch, and a handy carrying tote to keep your materials together. This is where we recommend starting. Arm yourself with the tools necessary to get the job done!  Additionally, this kit details all the tips our founder used a decade ago that grew her local single moms’ support group from 3 single mothers to several hundred single mothers, one of the largest single mom’s groups in the nation! Trust us, you want this kit!

Next, you’ll need to consider teaching materials (and we have a host of different Bible studies, too!), a launch date, fundraising, volunteer training, and whether or not you want to a large singe moms’ event for kick-off.

What Happens If the Pastor Says No:  You’ve cast your vision, shared your ideas, and waited for the shared excitement, cheers, and hand claps. And then….. it happens. Silence. Blank stares. A “let-us-think-about-it” response. What do you mean ‘let me think about it’?! I mean, God has spoken. You think to yourself, as you quietly leave the meeting frustrated, hurt,  and confused. As time passes (and silence persists), you may even get a little angry. How dare they not want to reach the poor, the single mom, the disabled, the grieving (whatever your people group may be)!

Our Founder, Jennifer Maggio, was once in your shoes.  Once she finally embraced the calling and had the courage to sit down with pastors, she was so disappointed to not see them quite as excited as she was. Weeks passed. Months passed. A year passed. Time made her all the more angry. Single moms are struggling, Lord. Why don’t they get it?, she often prayed. It was during this prayer time that the Lord spoke to her heart , “Because you get it!” It was in that moment that God reminded her that his timing was perfect and to be a graceful and patient “waiter”. Today, we are so happy to report that she did launch that single moms’ program and it is because of its success that The Life of a Single Mom Ministries exists!

No doubt about it. The wait is challenging, but here are a few tips to help you navigate gaining support gracefully and patiently.

– Your passion is God-given. Because you’ve walked through the journey of single parenthood or you have someone in your life that has, God has moved you with compassion to minister to others in similar situations. Doors will eventually open. Just watch and see how God moves mountains for those He loves. You don’t have to constantly talk about it, wrestle with the idea, or even fret that it will one day happen. Just trust that God loves single mothers and wants them ministered to, so He will open the door in His perfect timing. Part of how you handle that timing with being mature and respectful in the waiting will be critical to if and when you are the one that leads it.

 Pastors are busy. They are stretched in hundreds of directions with needs and demands and appointments. It is almost impossible for most pastors to keep up with the demands on their schedules. (And many passionately sojourn for Christ and get very little thanks and much criticism). His first thought, when you present the idea could very well be all the logistical challenges such as who will run itwhere will the finances come fromis this really needwill I have to oversee this? Give him time to marinate on your new idea. Give him time to pray and solicit God’s direction. Give him time to even process the request. (It’s probably the 30th meeting he had this week).

– Pray for your leaders. Don’t get angry, bitter, or frustrated. Pray and wait. Wait and pray. Don’t kill your witness by being an anxious, pushy “waiter”. You will feel much better about a “no” or “not now” response from your pastoral team, if you can pray with a pure heart for things they are facing in their personal lives, for God’s favor, and for their eyes to be opened. Ask them how you can serve them. What are things that are needing to be done in the church? Consider doing those. This will exhibit to the pastoral team that you are a willing servant who is also submitted and respectful to their authority.

– Educate your pastoral team on the statistics that affect your particular people group, but do so lovingly and respectfully. Many churches do not have single moms’ ministries because they don’t know there is a need.  When setting up a meeting with your pastoral team, be sure you are prepared. This is why we highly recommend reading The Church and the Single Mom book first. It is full of national statistics on single parenthood, Biblical references to God’s love for these precious families, and letters from single mothers on why they don’t go to church. It’s important that pastors understand that nationally 2 out of 3 single mothers don’t attend church, so while there may not be single moms currently in the church, they are certainly in the community and single moms’ ministry is a great way to reach them. 

– “Not now” does not mean “no.” Again, it sometimes takes time. Be patient. Recognize that there is much to be learned in the wait. Focus on what God wants to do in your heart and life to prepare you for this season. Are there areas you need to grow? Do you need to understand more of the Bible? Do you need to forgive someone who has hurt you? Do you  need to work on not getting offended so easily? Take this time to work on you.

– Consider that you may not be the right leader. This is the absolute hardest one to consider, because God has birthed a passion in you. But the truth is, sometimes the passion is just for the presentation of the idea and for you to help with single moms’ ministry, but not always for you to be the primary leader. Is God calling you to find the right leader? Is He calling you to be the assistant leader or a faithful volunteer to serve the primary leader? Maybe it simply isn’t your season to lead.  Do you love single moms’ enough to help get a single mom’s ministry going without leading?

 

 

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