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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. 

The Reason I Left My Career

  • 2024Feb 14

Like many teenagers, I entered my senior year of high school with a list of big plans to be accomplished after graduation, not the least of which was to run as fast as I could from my small town, leaving it in the dust. I would get my degree, land a big-time job in an even bigger city, probably New York, and I would change the world with my loud, very passionate, never wrong, voice. I would live in a Manhattan apartment and wear a business jacket and high heels to work every day, as I stormed hurriedly down a busy street with a briefcase in tow. Somehow, things didn’t quite work out like I planned.  

Although I graduated high school as valedictorian of my senior class with scholarships to attend colleges around the country, I was secretly pregnant, contemplating what my next moves would be as a young, single mother. That baby was born just a few months later, and after a brief stint of homelessness, I moved into government housing, procured some used furniture, and settled into a life I had assuredly not mapped out. I waitressed full-time during the day at a local pizza place and went to college at night, while juggling the demands of single parenthood, crying babies, and extreme emotional and physical exhaustion.  

Eventually, I landed a job in Corporate America in sales. I quickly learned my company products, working diligently with customers to find a program that would work for them, while attempting to maximize my commission earnings to put food on the table for my children. I began climbing the corporate ladder at a rapid pace, earning multiple awards and promotions along the way, while leaving food stamps and welfare as a distant memory. That job provided many learning opportunities in accounts payable & receivable, hiring & firing, goal setting and achievement, management, sales techniques, and the like. That job moved me from government housing into home ownership as a young single mom. That job is where I met my future husband. I thought surely, I had found my calling in life and that I would one day retire from that corporate job. God had other plans. 

Many years prior, as a young, single mom, who was barely treading water, financially, emotionally, and spiritually, the Lord had given me a vision that I would one day serve other single mothers. I didn’t know how or why, but I felt certain that God could somehow use the mess I found myself in. To be honest, I forgot about that vision for many years. I worked hard in corporate America and attempted to out-run the pain of my past, eventually marrying, and not thinking much about the single parenting years.  

I became pregnant with my third child in 2006 and my husband and I were elated. Admittedly, my prior two pregnancies were wrought with shame, as I birthed two children outside of marriage, often lacking the financial and emotional resources I needed to parent them well. I was riddled with shame and often hid in my apartment alone in those years. Now, many years later, this was my first time to enjoy my pregnancy, all the little things, as my husband held my hand at sonograms, and we labored together in that birthing room. It was a dream come true and a true redemption story from all I had mourned in a prior season. And the birth of that baby changed everything. I stayed home for several weeks post-partum and walked back onto the job I had once loved with tears in my eyes. I didn’t want to leave my newborn child. This was a new feeling for me. I had always been career-oriented and enjoyed the daily grind of goal achievement and long hours. But there was something about leaving that precious little one behind that tore my heart out daily. The job I once loved quickly became a place I hated. After many tears and much discussion with my husband, we made the very hard decision for me to leave. Financially, it made no sense, but I knew God was calling me to leave my job. I didn’t understand why, at the time. 

While some may have panicked about the financial ramifications of that decision, I was overjoyed. I was pushing my newborn around in a stroller in the neighborhood, rocking her to sleep for midday naps, enjoying her first smiles and crawls. All the things I had missed with my first two children, the Lord gave me with my last one. It was during this time of staying at home that I realized the reasons I had left my career. 

The Lord was restoring all that had been lost. All the years of single parenting alone with no one to celebrate my babies’ milestones were hard. Birthing my two oldest children alone was hard. Changing endless diapers alone was hard. Going to work two days after birthing my second child, because I couldn’t afford to not work, was hard. Working two, sometimes three jobs, to make ends meet was hard. The hardest? Well, that was the day I pulled up at my babysitter’s house and my first-born was walking across the yard to my car, when he hadn’t been walking that morning when I dropped him off. I had missed my baby’s first steps! That was hard. And yet, here I was, 13 years later, enjoying those small milestones. The Lord had truly restored my broken heart.  

However, there were other reasons I eventually left that corporate career. One was that my corporate job had become my idol. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it had unknowingly become my source. After all, it was the very job I had landed that allowed me to transition from food stamps into financial security. I had somehow misplaced my loyalty of God’s provision in my life with loyalty to the job that God provided to get me there. I was putting too much trust in my job and not enough in my Savior. My successes led to arrogance and pride and an unintentional thought that I had gotten myself to that level of success – not my God and others. I left that job because I needed it to leave me. It was shaping my character in a way that I wasn’t proud of. 

And finally, I left my career behind, because that career was meant merely for a season. God moves us into different seasons – all with purpose and intentionality. His ebb and flow are ones that only he could orchestrate. His thoughts are far above ours. His ways make little sense to our simple minds.  (See Is. 55:8-9). But as always, he knew what he was doing. My time in corporate America was well-spent. I learned the skills I needed to step into my actual calling – to serve single mothers. I had no way of knowing that many years prior when I huddled on a bathroom floor alone as a young single mom, God was teaching me much. I didn’t know that my eighty-hour work weeks in corporate America were teaching me discipline, or that my skills were being refined to one day launch a national nonprofit that would serve well over one million single moms.

My time in a prior career wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, it was just what I needed for that season. I needed the financial provision the Lord brought through that company. I needed the skills to recruit, hire, and retain good employees. I needed to learn how to manage others, set goals, and effectively budget large sums of money. I made wonderful friendships where we shared many laughs, as we pressed on towards the unachievable goals that corporate leadership set for us. We served many customers who needed our services. And all of it was good – for a season. However, when God moves us into a new season, when his guidance prompts a change of career, it is important that we step out in obedience to the new thing.  

Do you know what I’ve learned in all these years of walking with the Lord? He is always doing a new thing. He is always teaching us something new, revealing a new mystery, sharpening a spiritual gift, refining character, opening a new door of ministry, or budding a new relationship ripe with promise. We must hold every assignment with loose, open hands, ready to freely let it go and pass the baton to others, when God calls us into the new thing.  

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. 

Avoiding Life's Burnout

  • 2024Jan 24

 

I love this God-given opportunity He has placed in my life. I love being a mom of three very different children, two whom are adults now.  I love being a wife, a friend, and a coworker. I love working with churches, pastors, and anyone who has a heart to serve single mothers and their families. However, there have been too many times to count over the years, that I worked myself into complete exhaustion and burn-out. In that place of exhaustion, I found myself short-tempered, rude, bitter, angry and unwilling to share why.  

Whether we answer to wife, mom, student, employee, pastor, or a hundred other roles, the common theme among us is wondering if we are making a difference in our world and how can we keep pushing through?  I am convinced this is most true of women. Too many of us are burnt out, exhausted, and tired, but we fear if we do something about it or tell others, we will be perceived as weak, less than, or imperfect.  

I know exactly how you feel I have found myself being that girl.  I have been there so many times. Although, God was extending His hand of grace so abundantly blessing my ministry work, my marriage, my children, there is still that little voice inside me that asking, "Am I making a difference? Should I be doing this? How can I go take a break to recharge to go on when the needs of those around me are so great?" It was only when I was near drowning in exhaustion, I sought God through my desperation He revealed some revelations that I would like to share with you:  

Know your role. When we understand that our role in life is not to be everything to everyone, is when we fully understand that we do not have to fix the world, our kids or our coworkers. We are not in the business of fixing others. We are in the business of pointing people in the direction to the God who can. Our role in life is to continue to direct people to the Lord Jesus as their source of strength, courage, patience, and prayer answerer – we were never designed to be those things. 
 
Rest. In the early years of ministry, this was the hardest for me. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am driven, hard-working, and passionate. Single moms' ministry keeps me up at night. The desire to see my children succeed burns within me. Making sure my job performance is efficient is also important to me, there is so much work to be done in all these areas. More than that we must rest. We must take time to just sleep, sit on the sofa with nothing to do, and simply do nothing. It is vital to our effectiveness in relationships. 
 
  
Set boundaries. Whatever the boundaries you have put in place, it important that you stick to them. For example, between the hours of 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm, you have a sit-down meal with your family at the dinner table, do not accept phone calls during that time. If you have decided that one Saturday per month is set aside for date night with your spouse, protect that. When we set boundaries in our lives, it tells those we work with, our girlfriends, and our ministries that we value our rest enough to protect it. It is important that you find boundaries that work for you and your family and understand that for your own health, you need to stick to them.  
 
Stay spiritually healthy. You cannot give when you do not receive. Stay in God's word. Stay in prayer. Continue with regular church attendance. Pray without ceasing. All the things that have contributed to your Christian journey with the Lord are the things that will sustain you on throughout this journey as you become an encouragement to others. 
 
Accountability is healthy. Your life should be structured in such a way that you are accountable to others in your life such as your pastor, spouse, ministry leader, a mentor. Experience and wisdom have taught them to recognize and see things that we sometimes are unable to see when we are knee-deep in the midst of life. They offer perspective and instruction. They help keep us safe. 
 
Sabbaticals are important. Know when it is time for extended rest. It is not always possible to do so immediately, but for some, it may be intentionally taking a five to seven rest from social media, work, and ministry responsibilities. For me, I have always taken extended time off work during the summer, when my kids are home from school. Whatever extended rest looks like for you, do it when needed.  This allows you a time of refreshing, extended family time, and the ability to gain new perspective.  

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. 

Finding Hope in the Wilderness Season

  • 2024Jan 10

When I was a little girl, I lived in rural Mississippi, down a long dirt road that was named after my family, that offered no cable television, few visitors, and long hours playing in the yard. My sister and I also learned to love to play in the wooded area directly behind my house. We loved being in the wilderness and playing house and school and grocery store, and the like. We put an old chair out there and dug around in the trash dump for old pots and pans. Hanging out in the wilderness proved to be great, all-day fun, and it left me with such wonderful, childhood memories of imaginative play. 

But being in the wilderness isn’t always fun, is it? It can get dark. It can be lonely. One can get lost. The same can be true of wilderness seasons in our Christian journey, where there is much testing and wandering and feeling like we are completely alone. Wilderness seasons are actually not our enemies, although they can certainly sometimes feel like it. Wilderness seasons teach us, stretch us, and grow our faith. They show us who we are when we are squeezed and pressed from all sides. 

I’m reminded of Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:4-10. He was pressed from every side. Paul was exhausted and pressed, and the obstacles were everywhere. The hardships were plentiful. In fact, his entire ministry seemed to be riddled with constant hardship. I know many of you can relate. You have been pressed from every side. Your pressing may look different from Paul’s pressing, but you have been pressed, nonetheless. The hardships and trials and disappointments of your life have been many, and sometimes, it feels like you just can’t catch a break, before another one comes through. So what do you do when you feel pressed from every side. How do you find hope in the middle of a wilderness season, when more seems to be going wrong than right, and you feel completely alone? Here’s what you need know: 

There is power in Scripture. Read Luke 4:1-13.  What did Jesus do every time he was tested? He quoted Scripture. He let the enemy know that He knew his place, power, and position. There is power in knowing the written word of God. You must be in the Word regularly – studying, learning, growing, memorizing - to know what power you have. Hosea 4:6 says ‘my people perish for lack of knowledge.’ Many don’t even walk in all the power they have been given, because they aren’t well-versed in the Word. When you are in the middle of testing, in the wilderness, you can stand strong on what the Word of God says. Our God will not leave us. His hope is eternal. He holds us up with His victorious right hand. He supplies all our needs. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. His joy is our strength.

Learn to follow instructions. Learn to hear from the Lord. Follow His commands. Be obedient to his voice.  The Israelites were rescued from slavery through the leadership of Moses. He led a national revolt, because God spoke to him to do so. He gathered the people, and they literally ran for their lives as the Egyptians came chasing after them. They had been beaten, abused, malnourished, and mistreated.  Their enslavement was all they’d known. This was no easy feat to rescue the Israelites. Moses’ calling was surely a scary one. But Moses had learned what it was to follow the voice of God and to obey His commands faithfully – even when it was hard.   

Trust God, even when you don’t understand. Exodus 13:17-18 says that God did not lead the Israelites along the easiest route to the Promised Land, even though it was the shortest way. He said that if it got too tough and they were faced with a battle, they might just change their minds and give up! They might just turn around and go home! Think about that for a minute. What should’ve taken days took years.  Have you been asking God why you are experiencing a wilderness season right now? Why am I here? Why am I wandering? Am I being punished? I’m tired, Lord. Could it be that you’re being led in a roundabout way because God is teaching you something? Could it be that even in the middle of a very difficult season the Lord is teaching you a new thing that will be necessary in your next season? 

Rest. Rest in the middle of the wilderness. Rest in His presence. Get alone before the Lord, even when there are raging storms all around you, and truly enjoy Him. Delight in Him, knowing the same God that rescued you from prior wilderness seasons will surely show up again. Don’t complain and whine and scream and flail around like a small child throwing a temper tantrum. Ask the meatier questions of, “Lord, what are you teaching me here? Lord, how can I be of service to you, even in my pain?”  

Father, give me the endurance to wait well. Teach me how to rest in the middle of the storm. Teach me what it is to have complete trust in you and obedience to your Word and instruction. Help me to exemplify you in word and deed, that I may be a living testimony of your goodness, grace, and mercy. Help me to be thankful in seasons of much and little. Amen.  

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.