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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.

5 Things That Hurt & Help a Grieving Friend

By: Jennifer Maggio

            Before I was even born, my dad lost his 17-year old son to heart disease.  Less than three years later, he lost my mother in a tragic car accident, when I was only a few months old.  As you can imagine, the grief cut deep and its after-effects left for years of poor decision-making and looking for answers in all the wrong places.  Now, into my adult years, I have wondered many times how my dad’s life would have been different had he had a good Christian mentor to pour into him during that time of grieving.

            Few will escape life without our fair share of personal grief.  Grief is a funny thing. It sneaks up on you, sometimes even years later, as you learn to cope with the new “normal” of loss.  The way we are handled by friends and family during the weeks, months, and even years after a loss is critical to our healing and sometimes, even how we view our Heavenly Father.  If you have a friend or family member who is currently grieving, there are five things that can hurt a grieving friend:

  1. Your need to “fix” them. It is not our role to fix anyone.  We will not have the perfect words that will magically heal them overnight.  The grieving process takes time. It is during this time that we, as friends and supporters, must relinquish our need to somehow make it all better.  We cannot make their loss disappear. They must grieve in a way that is healthy and unique to them.
  2. Your need to speak.  I’m a talker.  And the truth is, there have been far too many incidents of me blabbering on and on, when the wisest thing was to be silent.  This is a time when silence is okay. It is okay to simply sit in a room with your grieving friend and let them be.  Maybe that time is filled with silent tears streaming down their face. Maybe it is filled with staring out a window, trying to make sense of the loss.  Silence is okay.  Sometimes, our words do more damage than good.
  3. Your criticism about their process.  Their grieving process is unique. Yes, there are commonalities among those who have experienced loss, but even in those grieving steps, there is uniqueness.  It is important that we don’t push them through their process to quickly or criticize how they are handling each step of the process. Normal grieving can includes denial, anger, and ultimately, healing.  Don’t be critical if they don’t say the right thing during this time.
  4. Your need to compare their process to others. Their process is their own.  It may look different than how you handled the loss of your mother.  It is important that you allow your friend to grieve without comparing their experience to yours or others.  Personality types and varying life experiences can drastically impact one’s ability to process grief and loss
  5. Your need to reference God’s will.  Listen, even the most devout of Christians can go through a mourning period that leaves them questioning God.  It doesn’t mean their faith is forever lost. It means they are processing the loss. Imagine if your son was killed in a motorcycle accident. Put yourself in their shoes.  Would it empower and encourage you during such a tragic loss, if someone referenced to you how it was God’s will for it to happen? Would such a statement cause you to draw close to the Lord?  A healthier alternative may be to give your friend a card with an encouraging Scripture regarding the Lord’s promise to be close to the brokenhearted. 

 

While there are some things that it is important to avoid when helping friends during a grieving process, there are also several things you can do.  These five things can help a grieving friend:

1. Listen.  Listen to them scream and cry and shout and wail. Listen to them ramble about childhood stories or memories they have of their loved ones. Listen even to the silence that may come. You do not have to have the perfect words. You simply need to be present and be willing to listen.

2. Be present. Don’t talk. Don’t fix. Don’t recite Scripture.  Just be.  Be present in the moment with your friend. Grieve with them. Let them know they aren’t walking this journey alone.  There is power in simply being present for a hurting loved one. 

3. Serve. Service can vary widely based on needs. Some examples of service can include: grocery shopping, babysitting, handling kids homework or carpool responsibilities, assisting with funeral arrangements, cleaning, organizing, lawn care, and meal prep.  Be conscious of their need for these services beyond the first few days following the loss. It is widely known that after the funeral transpires, the real grieving begins.

4. Long-term care. Set a reminder on your calendar to reach out.  A text or phone call is helpful, as are cards and letter.  Beyond those simple gestures, things like prepping meals that can be placed in the freezer and easily heated later or paying for lawn care for an extended period of time, may be small ways that can impact big results.  Let them know you haven’t forgotten their loss and you are in it for the long haul. 

5. Pray.  You don’t even have to let them know you are praying. Simply do it. Add them to your regular time for the Lord. Pray for them the exact same way you would want someone to pray for you if you had experienced the same loss. Pray with intention, purpose, and passion. Commit to praying for specific needs for your loved one, as he/she navigates this new season without their loved one.

The Lord can and will use you mightily during this time. You can be used as a vessel that brings hope and healing to your loved ones who are already Believers and be a light to those who don’t yet know the Lord.  Be reminded that you are the very reason this Scripture can be true in someone’s life:

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
    he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18  (NLT)

 

 

What To Do When Your Child’s Friend is Struggling by Jennifer Maggio

 

I was 14 years old, when a dear friend’s father left her mother.  She was devastated.  The fighting had gone on for months. It had been tense at home, but she never imagined her parents would actually split.  We stayed up and cried together many nights in those first weeks and months.  We mourned the loss of the family that would never live in the same home again. We mourned what once was and what could now never be. I listened as she shared her pain and fears of what would eventually happen and how life would never be the same. Her pain became my pain.  I just wanted to help her heal, and mostly, I just felt helpless.

My mother died when I was only 18 months old, so I knew the trauma of living without both parents all too well.  I knew the financial challenges that would likely lie ahead for her family, the parties or church events where it would hurt that both parents were not present, and the endless questions that would one day come from well-meaning friends asking where the “other” parent was. Through the years, God placed beautiful, loving, adults in my life that helped me successfully navigate the hurt of losing a parent, the trauma of living with an alcoholic, and more.  Those adults included relatives and family friends, teachers and coaches, and parents of some of my best friends.  Their parents became my parents in so many ways. Even now, as I think of all of my friends’ parents and how they acted as “mom” in my life through critical parts of my story, I am moved to tears. 

Nothing is worse than when, as adults, we see a child is struggling, especially if you are a parent. If an adult has some type of hurt, trauma, disappointment, or a devastating circumstance, of course, it’s bad, and we sympathize. (Hopefully, we move forward to lend a helping hand or a listening ear, too). But let’s face it. There’s just something special about a child – the beauty of what they could be, their innocence and sweet faces – that fills us with immense heartache when they are hurting.  So what do you do when your child has a hurting friend? How much is too much? How little is not enough? 

Just like when my friend was hurting oh so many years ago and the special parents of friends that were there for me through my own trauma, there are some real do’s and don’ts that will assist you in navigating this season with your child’s friends who may be experiencing the struggle of an absentee parent, death, poverty, a health issue, or more.

  1. Be there for your child first. As your child is there for his/her friend, you be there for your child. As you well know, it is an important life skill to learn to be a good friend to others, to learn to encourage others, and to sympathize when our friends are struggling. This circumstance is a perfect opportunity for your child to gain skills that will last a lifetime.  Open dialogue with your child about how they are feeling and what questions they may have, as well as ensure that if there is something serious or harmful happening, they know they can come to you. Be the support to your child, as he/she is the support to a friend.  This will allow you to gently guide them through appropriate responses, while also letting them know that the things that concern them, concern you.
  2. Be a listening ear.  Let your child know that you care.  Encourage conversation when the friend is over.  Ask questions to display concern, but also be hesitant to offer advice. There are multiple layers to a struggle, and depending on what the child is struggling with, there could be multiple sides to the story. As a trusted adult, your main focus should be on displaying love, care, and warmth to the child, and being a listening ear that can exhibit the love of Christ by simply being there.
  3. Don’t overstep your bounds.  While it is important that you are supportive and that your child and his/her friend know that you are there for them, it is also important that you honor and respect their parents’ (or guardians) position in their lives.  The struggles a child is facing could stem from challenges at home or circumstances that you do not fully understand or have comprehensive details on. It’s important that you recognize the authority figures in that child’s life (parents, grandparents, teachers, etc.) and respond with an attitude of honor and respect. Teach that child that it’s important to honor his/her authority.  (Caution: If the struggle the child is facing stems from suspected abuse, then it’s important that you notify appropriate parties and investigate.)
  4. Don’t try to fix it.  Life gets messy and problems get complicated, very quickly.  It isn’t our job to fix everyone and everything (although as moms we certainly think so, don’t we?)  I don’t know about you, but some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in life have been through struggle and disappointment.  The same will likely be true for your child’s friend.  There are some life lessons that often come best through experience, pain, and struggle.  Struggles help us build resilience and a full dependence on the Lord.  We learn the value of perseverance. We grow in many areas. Be careful not to attempt the fixing.  Point them to the One who can fix it all. (Now, that’s not to say that baking some warm chocolate chip cookies or serving a great meal won’t go a long way to help heal them!)
  5. Do point the child to Jesus.  The deepest sorrows only our Healer can mend.  The largest mountains, our Savior can move. The tears shed are bottled up and stored (see Ps. 56:8).  He cares more than we ever could.  Continue to point the child in the direction of his/her Savior. This is a prime time to move forward in either strengthening his/her walk with the Lord or introducing him/her to our Savior.  Certainly, we want to be age appropriate with such discussions, but Jesus instructed us to come to him when we are weary. (See Matthew 11:28-30).
  6. Pray with and for the friend.  Take the time to pray together as a team. Let the child know that their trust can be in the Lord and the He offers peace that the world does not understand.  The more frequently we pray with and for our children (and their friends), the more embedded this becomes into their lives and personal walks with their Heavenly Father as they become teens and young adults. Take the time to lift up the needs to the Lord and trust that He will direct the paths. Exhibit how to pray.  Show them that even the toughest of problems, for which you have no answers or solutions, can be taken to the Lord, and He can provide a peace that just flows like a river through the situation. 

While the pain of a child is heartbreaking, it can be a time of great growth for all involved – you, your child, and the friend. While we cannot always understand they why, we can trust the Lord that He is always good and all-knowing and all-powerful to heal and rectify the pain.

Jennifer Maggio is an author to 4 books, wife of Jeff, and mother of 3 children.  She is passionate about helping women find their full potential in Christ.  She is a national speaker and Chief Executive Officer of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. For more info, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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