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Jennifer Maggio Christian Blog and Commentary

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Jennifer Maggio

Jennifer Maggio is a mom to three, wife to Jeff, and founder of the national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is author to four books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in America by Dr. John Maxwell in 2017 and 2015 and has appeared in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Family Talk Radio with Dr. James Dobson, Joni and Friends, and many others. 

Raising Difficult Children

  • 2024Apr 10

Okay, full disclosure here. I struggled with the title of this article. Our children, young or older, are gifts from God. They are precious and called with a purpose. God has a plan for them, filled with purpose and hope. And we love them with every fiber of our being, so let’s just get all that out of the way first. Admitting that our children can be difficult does not mean they aren’t gifted by God or that we don’t love them immensely, it simply means that parenting them is …… well…. Difficult! That said, I wanted struggling mommas to be able to find the words on this page, as they sojourn through what may be some of the hardest days of their lives. I wanted them to know they came to the right place – that this sisterhood of mothers is locking arms with them in spirit and that we are all in this thing together. The parenting journey isn’t for the faint of heart, so let’s dive in, shall we? 

I think some famous author has called parenting difficult children “raising strong-willed children”. Perhaps that is a better term, but today, we are going to call them difficult. Let’s face it. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals. Yes, we have the word of God (and boy, has it been a lifesaver in my life as I’ve parented). Yes, we can read parenting books and thank God for the wisdom offered by those who have gone before us. Yes, we can watch YouTube videos and download podcasts. But our children – the very ones that God gifted us with – don’t have an instruction manual of do’s and don’ts that are specific to them, and some of us have had quite a time of it, haven’t we?! 

Two of my three children are now grown and have left the nest some years ago with the third not far behind. There have been easy seasons of my parenting years, when things seemed to come together and fall in place seamlessly, and then….there have been the hard seasons, when nothing seemed to come together and I felt like I was running on quicksand, barely able to come up for air. Here is what I learned along the journey: 

Lose the guilt. Just because your children have missed the mark, it doesn’t mean you are a terrible parent. For so long, I carried this immense guilt if my children failed a test or cheated or used profanity or stayed out too late or in some way broken the rules laid out before them. I somehow internalized that every behavior was a reflection of my parenting. It immobilized my children. It alienated them. It made me an angry parent. Our Heavenly Father is perfect and yet we, his children, make mistakes. It doesn’t mean he is any less a good father. It means we have a sin nature that we grapple with. Lose the guilt and offer the kiddos some grace. Nothing effective is accomplished through guilty parenting.

Laugh again. When is the last time you had fun with your children? Do you know what I have sadly found to be true? We get involved in tasks and duties and checklists and rules. We are so inundated with the demands of laundry and homework and carpool and soccer practice that we forget to have fun. We spend most of our time putting out the fires of those screaming the loudest, reprimanding and punishing and correcting and disciplining. We don’t take the time to dance in the rain, karaoke in the living room, and play board games. We have stopped laughing with our children. We become the big, bad, angry, monster always looking to correct them with furrowed brows. Learn to enjoy your children again. 

Don’t overindulge. Moms are tired. We balance a dozen balls in the air at any given time. Sometimes, due to guilt, exhaustion, lack of understanding, or any number of reasons, we enable and indulge. We get tired of the whining, the temper tantrums, the busted hole in the wall, or the defiance, and we simply give in. We become weak on the parenting journey and we relinquish boundaries that we should have held their foot to the fire on. Do not overindulge! It will reap dividends later. Ask God for the strength necessary to hold strong boundaries. Don’t buy the shoes if you can’t afford them. Don’t buy the toy. Don’t bend the rule that you deemed important in your home. If you have a gut check about that party, don’t let them go. Don’t allow the guilt of long hours at work or a past mistake or an ugly divorce or even your own insecurities cause you to overindulge your children. It only cripples them. 

Set the thermostat. Lose the emotion. Don’t be quick to anger. Don’t scream. I was recently holding a conversation with my adult son and     he said, “Mom, you always set a great temperature in the room.” He began to explain how I laughed and brought joy (at least sometimes, I do!) As the parent, we get to set the thermostat of our homes. Do we read the Word together? Do we pray? Do we have family meetings about hard things, not just surface-level conversation? 

Stay the course. Moms, I know it is hard. I know the days are long and sometimes thanks are few. I know that there seems to be little rest for weary souls, but don’t stop praying. Don’t stop believing. Don’t stop implanting wisdom and truth and wise counsel. The Lord will mount you on wings like eagles. He will restore, in due time, so stay the course. When they are adults, they will – I repeat, will – stand and called you blessed. Don’t     give up, even when you can’t see the fruit of your labor in this season. You are planting seeds.  

Lean in to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit sets captives free. He guides us. He leads and comforts. He is the X-Factor that changes everything. My kids used to “hate” my relationship with the Holy Spirit. He would reveal things to me through the power of discernment that would catch them every time. I would have a dream that I could not shake. I would have a “gut feeling” and just knew that something was up. I would drive over to a home where my children were staying the night to get them, when I couldn’t explain why. Learn more about the Holy Spirit and the gifts he     offers. It can be a life-changer in parenting and every other facet of life. 

Jennifer Maggio is a mom to three, wife to Jeff, and founder of the national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is author to four books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in America by Dr. John Maxwell in 2017 and 2015 and has appeared in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Family Talk Radio with Dr. James Dobson, Joni and Friends, and many others. 

The Dangers of Isolation

  • 2024Mar 27

The more hurt I was, the more I wanted to run. The more I replayed the past, the more I wanted to simply stay underneath the covers and not get up in the mornings. It seemed the harder life was, the more I wanted to isolate myself from others. And life got darker….and darker…. and darker.   

That's the danger of isolation. When we're going through hard times, it is easy for us to isolate ourselves. We don't want others around. We don't want to cry one more tear over the situation. We don't want to explain our emotions again and again. But the more we pull away, the darker the situation becomes. God created us for community. He created us so that others around us can encourage us when we are down. He uses people to speak life into us, when we are too tired, or broken, or emotionally weak, to even read His word.  

The problem is, when we are really hurting, it can be much easier to isolate than to reach out to others and really address the layers of emotions we're battling. But the easy route isn't always the best route.  In fact, the easy route is usually the temporary fix anyway.  

For those of you who may be reading this and saying, "I don't tell anyone what's going on, because they won't understand. Or people will judge me." Don't believe that! Those are lies the enemy of your soul would whisper into your ear that would keep you doubting and lonely and isolated. Will there be someone on occasion who will not understand or maybe even judge you? Yes. But we can't allow that one person to keep us from creating a community that enhances our lives. Many of my very best friends were met at church. And it didn't happen overnight. And it didn't happen with just one gathering.  

I can remember joining a Sunday School class and feeling very much like I didn't fit in. I didn't talk much, and I looked around and feared others were judging me.  But I did make the decision to go back again and again. Although it took many weeks and months before I felt comfortable, I started attending socials at some of the member's houses. I would call them occasional for prayer. I would reach out.  See, that's the key. I didn't sit back and wait until someone else reached out to me. They may not reach out because they think you don't want to be reached out to.  Sometimes, we will take them not reaching out as a sign that they don't like us or care or want us around.  When in reality, they do care, but they simply don't know what to say or maybe have insecurities of their own. I'm so thankful, oh so many years ago that I began to reach out to make friendships within that class. Some of those very people are my best friends now. They came at a time when I desperately needed an ear. And they've been with me ever since.  

God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. Ps. 68:6 

I don't have much in the way of physical family. Many of my family members died when I was very young, and several had died through the years. But God has placed my lonely heart in a spiritual family – the local church. And it changed my life. It kept me from isolating and becoming more depressed.  And although it didn't happen overnight, I slowly found the strength to move on past my past. You can do. Whenever you feel the desire to isolate, fight it! In fact, push harder to get out and do things with other people!  Take your kids to the park or mall, even when you don't feel like it, and bring a friend along too. Invite a friend over to dinner, even when you aren't in the best of moods. Get out and serve at a local homeless shelter or food bank and invite your Bible study group to come along.   

There are dozens of ways to keep yourself busy and involve others while doing so. Not only will it help keep you from slipping into a dangerous depression, but you may just make some new friends during what could've been the darkest days of your life.      

Jennifer Maggio is a mom to three, wife to Jeff, and founder of the national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is author to four books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in America by Dr. John Maxwell in 2017 and 2015 and has appeared in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Family Talk Radio with Dr. James Dobson, Joni and Friends, and many others. 

7 Ways a Single Mom Can Fight Discouragement

  • 2024Mar 13

Mommas, I know there are some of you out there – many of you – who are facing an immense amount of discouragement. The weight of it sits squarely on your chest, sometimes making it hard to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes, this single parenting journey can seem like an impossible task, wrought with difficulty, obstacles, hardships, and criticism. Just when you seem you are getting a little bit ahead, another mountain presents itself for climbing. You run hard, putting out many fires along the way. You are often juggling several balls in the air, and inevitably, drop one – leaving guilt, and too often, discouragement. I know how difficult it can be. I know because I have been there too, more times than I can count. I’ve often felt that I’ve done all I could and it simply wasn’t good enough.  I know the feelings of “Why try? I’m failing anyway.” I know well the feelings of inadequacy, comparison, and exhaustion. Mommas, there is freedom for you. You do not have to live in constant discouragement that it’s too hard or that you’re not doing enough or that you’ll never get it right.  

Here are a few things that have helped me along the way, when I’ve felt pressed from every angle with discouragement: 

Stop comparing yourself to others. Galatians 6:4 says, “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” Comparison is a trap we can so easily fall prey to. The more you look at what others’ have and what their circumstances are, the more you will feel discontentment and discouragement in your life. We look at others’ skills, talents, gifts, and accomplishments. We focus on their “today”, often not considering what their “yesterday” may have looked like. Your circumstances will never be the exact same as someone else’s. Comparison will only leave you feeling frustrated and empty. You will never feel content in the season you are in, if you are secretly coveting the season someone else is in. As soon as you stop comparing, you will be able to flourish with what God has given you.  And yes, He has given you much, blessed you plenty, and offered much hope! He is the God of more than enough. He will do exceedingly, abundantly more. Blessings are in plentiful supply, so we don’t have to covet someone else’s.  

Stop agreeing with the lies. I know, I know. It is far easier for us to believe some of the lies the enemy tells us or that the world tells us or that we tell ourselves than it is to believe the truth of what God says about us. The lies are many: It’s never going to get any better than it is in this moment. I’m not a good enough mom, daughter, employee, friend, etc. I’ll never have more than I have right now. No good man would ever want me. I’ll always struggle with this. The only way to battle lies is with the truth, and the truth is God’s word. The beautiful thing about the truth of God’s word is that it is not based on how you feel or even your circumstance. Your truth is based on who God says you are.  Take the time to write down every lie that you have believed about yourself from the enemy, negative self-talk, or words spoken over you. Then, find the Scripture that dispels the life. God calls you his beloved, chosen, daughter.

Stop speaking “death” over your situation. Your words matter. You cannot wallow in death and expect life to birth from it. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue can bring death or life…” Everything you speak must be in alignment with the word of God. This is very, very, very important. Some of us are planting words of death in our backyards. We water it, fertilize it. We nurse it to health. And then, we expect to grow life. Speak encouragement, hope, love. Stand firm on the word of God and decree and declare it over your life and that of your children, despite what you see and despite how you feel. Get good at speaking to your future and not your past. Get good and declaring the things of God over you and your children – even if it feels unnatural at first. Sadly, we’ve practiced speaking words of death over our lives for far too long and we’re often comfortable doing it. Get good at speaking life. Get the Bible out and read it aloud. Hear yourself declaring the goodness of God, the promises of God, and the stories of God’s faithfulness until it becomes habit. 

Remember that God is faithful. If you are facing discouragement right now, please know that God is faithful. Whether you face parenting & financial challenges or recovery from abuse and trauma, our God is faithful. The same God that has rescued you and answered your prayers in the past tough situations is available today. He is working on your behalf. His timing is perfect, and He is faithful in every season. In a moment, He can restore joy and hope in a way that only He could. Encourage yourself by meditating on the faithfulness of God in prior hard seasons. Allow your faith to rise. Encourage yourself with lists of His provision. Did He bring friends to you during a lonely season? Did He bring meals when you were hungry? Did He rain manna from Heaven when there was no money in the checking account? Did He restore your health? Did He set you free from the bondage of addiction, depression, or suicide? Did He bring you a great church family? Our God is faithful. It only takes moments of looking around to see His handywork all around. 

Praise despite your circumstances. Praise shifts the atmosphere. I know mommas. When you are discouraged, the last thing you want to do is go into a church and participate in praise and worship. You likely don’t want to have praise and worship in your home. It can seem futile, or like too great of an effort amid your struggles. How can I raise my hands when my heart is so heavy? How can I praise when the mountain seems so great? Remember, it is in your weakest moments that the enemy pushes you the most. The enemy delights in pushing you away from the church, away from the things of God, away from praising and reading the Word. In the spirit realm, praise begins to shift the atmosphere and discouragement cannot stand. It is imperative that you begin to open your mouths and praise God for His faithfulness in past seasons, and it is even more important to praise Him in advance for what He will do in this next season. Your praise matters. It allows you to fight discouragement well.

Seek God’s plan for your life. Sometimes, our discouragement is rooted in trying to do our own thing without regard to the plan the Lord has for us. We are going to “make it happen” one way or another. This is dangerous. Some of us know how dangerous it is, because we’ve tried to manipulate and control our way into the life we want, rather than following the Lord. When we attempt to control it, it means we can step into new seasons too soon. Perhaps it means we move too quickly or pursue a new relationship too soon or make a move on the new house without asking the Holy Spirit for guidance. When we pause and seek godly wise counsel and likewise seek the Lord in prayer for the Holy Spirit to guide, we move into seasons that have God’s hand of blessings upon them. When we do it ourselves, it can often feel like we’re toiling through quicksand. The more we lean into the plans He has for us, the more we walk in encouragement and hope and optimism. Make choices that honor His plan for your life.  

Shift the way you pray. If we get honest, most of us pray with a list of to-do’s for God. Lord, I need this. Lord if you could just help with that… And of course, this is important. Jesus modeled asking our Heavenly Father for our “daily bread” and “forgiveness” and “deliverance from evil”, so yes, we make requests. But our prayers must also glorify and honor. “You are worthy of all praise, Lord. Thank you for salvation, for freedom, for provision, for redemption. Thank you for my health and my church and friends. Thank you for protection and conviction and wisdom.” Our prayers need to be filled with gratitude and thanksgiving for all the blessings we have, the answered prayers we’ve received, and the gift of eternal life in Christ. I’m reminded of Philippians 4:6-7 that says, “ Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  This is our recipe for peace. Don’t worry. Pray about it. Tell the Lord your needs. Thank Him for all his provision.

Single mommas, you are daughters of the most high King. You are royalty, bought with a high price, joint heirs with Christ Jesus. You are bought and paid for by the blood of the Lamb. You are righteous by that blood. Your portion to walk in freedom and encouragement and wholeness and joy. Your portion is to walk in the love of Christ that covers a multitude of sins. If you are praying and seeking the Lord, you are a good mom.   

Jennifer Maggio is a mom to three, wife to Jeff, and founder of the national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is author to four books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in America by Dr. John Maxwell in 2017 and 2015 and has appeared in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Family Talk Radio with Dr. James Dobson, Joni and Friends, and many others.