Structure often gets us over the rough spots. So having a set time for meals, homework and shores adds needed organization to our schedules. And if single parents need anything in their routine, it's regular Scripture reading.
For years, we've read the Bible after weekday dinners and kept track of our prayer requests in a notebook. Guests, including any of Jay's and Holly's friends who happen to be over for dinner, are invited to join us.
One evening Holly's friend, Jessica, and Jay's German friend, Till, were with us. As we finished our meat loaf, Jay read several of our favorite psalms.
I then explained that it was our custom to take turns praying, and that Till was welcome to join us.
He nervously replied, "But I've never prayed in English!"
"Then pray in German," I said. "You're talking to God, not to us. But you don't have to pray aloud if you don't want to. You do whatever makes you feel comfortable."
So Jay opened the prayer time, followed by Jessica and Holly. I was all set to close the prayers when Till hesitantly began to pray. In his first timid words, I caught the word "Deutsch" and knew he was telling the Lord that I'd said he should pray in German.
Gradually, his timidity slipped away, and he began earnestly to talk to God. Even though I couldn't understand the words, I understood the emotion - and felt the thankfulness that welled up within his prayer.
We would have missed a special blessing that evening if we had set aside our family routine because of guests.
We Must Be Realistic in Our Expectations of Others
Most of us learned a long time ago that we can't expect others to be all we need them to be. Here's what we've learned the hard way:
(1.) Don't Expect Others to Do Everything for You
I remember one young widow who demanded that the men of the church answer her every call for help. If her car tires needed air of if her house windows were dirty, she called on the churchmen to assist her. When they balked - after all, most of them didn't do windows for their own wives! - she complained to the pastor, saying the church was supposed to take care of its widows.
That's true, but only to a point. The instructions in James 1:27 direct the Church to provide for their shelter and food, but not for taking over work they can - and should - do for themselves.
(2.) Don't Expect Others to Take on Your Hurt
Even though it's been almost 12 years since her divorce, Jan still holds a grudge against a woman in her church who didn't respond in the way Jan had felt she should have.
In great detail, Jan describes the Wednesday night service when her husband handed her the car keys, said, "Who are we trying to kid?" and walked out.
In that moment, she knew their struggling marriage was over. Numb, she sat through the rest of the service, wanting to give him enough time to walk a few blocks home and to pack his suitcase.
After the service, the woman sitting behind her asked if everything was all right. With tears running down her cheeks, Jan blurted out that she was facing a divorce. "Then the woman patted my arm, said God would be with me, and went home to her husband!" Jan says.
Sure, it would have been wonderful if the woman had wrapped her in a hug and said, "Oh, Honey!" but she didn't.
If we're going to think, it's not fair, and be hurt every time someone fails to provide what we think we need, we're going to be hurting a lot. Other people have their own problems, too, and they can't take on ours any more that we can take on theirs.
Welcome the help when it comes, but don't demand it. By looking at our situation realistically, we can get through it with less trauma.
(3.) Don't Expect Others to Appreciate What You Do
Being a single mom is hard work. Naturally, we'd love to have a pat on the shoulder occasionally, but looking for that praise takes energy that is better used in tending to the duties at hand. Remember, the ancient Greeks didn't award the prize to the winner who crossed the finish line first, but to the one who finished first with his torch still burning!
Besides, other folks don't always realize how much we're doing, anyway. I learned that in 1968, when a relative and I drove to Kentucky to bring my grandparents, Papa and Mama Farley, and my Aunt Adah back to Michigan.
An eight-hour drive was ahead of us, so my grandmother had an enormous lunch perched next to her on the front seat. On top of the picnic hamper she balanced a bunch of bananas, then settled her cane comfortably against her thigh, ready to being the trip.
In the late 1960's, Interstate 75 wasn't complete yet, and numerous detours forced us to wind around the southern hills on dangerously curving stretches of asphalt. Topping one more hill, we discovered that a rock slide had covered the road.
The relative got out of the car after hastily putting the gear into park. Then, just as he climbed onto the rock pile to survey the situation, the car stalled and began to roll backward.
I was in the backseat wedged between Aunt Adah and Papa, but it was up to me to reach the brake. In that instant, I threw myself over the seat, knocking the lunch to the floor as I scrambled to stomp onto the brakes.
When I got the car stopped, it was already several feet beyond the asphalt. And beyond that was a 500-foot drop into the ravine below.
With the car safely braked again, I released my breath and then looked at Mama Farley. Surely she had some praise for the quick action on my part that had saved the four of us from severe injury - if not death.
But she merely glanced at me as she picked up the scattered lunch. Then she muttered, "You smashed the bananas."
(4.) Don't Expect Others to Be There for You Always
Even as I was trying to learn how to juggle all my new responsibilities alone, my dear friends Dick and Rose Keilhacker completed plans to move to California. On the Sunday evening before they left, we said good-bye in my kitchen.
I tried to be brave, but my tears were threatening as I hugged Rose. Then as I turned toward Dick, he gave me such a sorrowful look that I absolutely lost it. All I could do was sob against his shoulder.
My rare display of public emotion created an awkward moment for all of us, but I couldn't stop. Two of my dearest friends were leaving for the end of the world, and I was sure I'd never see them again.
When I finally got myself together, we were all embarrassed enough that I determined inwardly I'd never let such a scene occur again, no matter how much I cared about the ones who were leaving. Ironically, nine years later now, business often takes me to southern California, and I stay with Rose and Dick whenever I can. I didn't lose them forever, after all.
Even though I had felt at the time that my little raft had just been set adrift, it forced me to stop depending on my friends and start searching for my own strength - and that of the Lord. Over time, I found it, too.
Excerpted with permission from the book From One Single Mother to Another by Sandra Aldrich, Copyright 1991, Regal Books, Ventura, CA 93003.