SingleMomzRock takes on the Missouri Capitol!

On March 7, 2017 something happened that I never would have imagined for myself or for SingleMomzRock. I stepped foot in the Missouri State Capitol building and was among a group of single mom’s that was honored to testify on behalf of the “CLIFF” bill that is trying to get passed in our House of Representatives.

On the drive from Springfield to Jefferson City, we mostly talked about what we were expecting for the afternoon hearing with none of us ever having been a part of something like this. We were nervous, excited and a bit intimidated. Would the Representatives we were talking to be kind to us? Would they be asking us questions? What were we supposed to say exactly when it was our turn to talk?

We all knew about the term “Cliff Effect.” For those that do not, it means when a small hike in wages leads to a loss of government assistance and you end up making less than if you would have not taken the wage increase. We talked about this a lot and who had experienced this. Each story is different but every one of these women did NOT want to live off of assistance when they had to. They wanted to work, and get paid for the work they were doing. They wanted to take the raises they were given. But they also knew what that would mean for them if they did. Sometimes to the degree of losing everything they had.

I know some of you won’t understand what this means. I wish more people didn’t have to understand what it is. What it means to have to choose between working and paying for childcare. What it means to choose to better yourself even if that means you won’t be making ends meet for quite some time. Right now, the way the system works it does not make it pay to actually work harder. It actually incentives you if you don’t work.

Six of us were able to tell part of our stories and why we are in favor of the “CLIFF” bill. The Representatives listened to us. They asked questions even; good questions. They emphasized with us. They really saw us. And that’s all we really wanted. To be seen. To be heard. To be listened to.

The conversations on the way home that night were a little different than coming. We talked about how we each can make a difference. How empowering it felt to be a bigger part of change and how we were so glad we had each other to experience it all with.

Thank you to Rep. Crystal Quade for making this happen and for working with our moms. For seeing us. For hearing us. For listening to us.

JLR

The Story

Have you ever read a book you didn't like? You know, the book that started beautifully: a boy and girl fell in love. But, as the pages turned, life became ugly. Many times, you put down the book, determined to never pick it up again. It just didn't seem worth reading. Characters that you fell in love with, became ugly. The plot took unexpected twists and turns. You felt almost depressed as you read the chapters. What happened? How did the book start out so well and end so horribly?

For many of us, our lives were like this book. We entered a loving, caring relationship and we began a new, exciting chapter in our lives.  Children were born and a family began.  Somewhere along the way, though, life took some strange twists and turns. The light chapters became dark. The plot line flipped upside down and soon lawyers and judges were involved in our lives. At the end of it all, the only thing we were given was a piece of paper, filled with division of assets and visitation schedules. Our love story became a heap of ashes.

All of us have different stories. We've had different chapters, characters, and plots. Some of us saw the it coming and began to prepare. Some of us were caught completely off guard. But, our stories all led to the same thing: we became single moms. And entering that season usually isn't easy.

There's been many times I've wished for an instruction manual!

               Chapter One: What to Tell the Kids

               Chapter Two: How to Raise Children with The Man Who Hurt You

               Chapter Three: Going Back to Work After Being A Housewife

               Chapter Four: When There's More Bills Than Money

               Chapter Five: Where to Sit During Basketball Games and Band Concerts

I could keep going, but you get the idea! There's just so much we need to think about! Little lives are our responsibility. At times, we wish we could leap out of the pages of this horror story and jump back into the fairy tale chapters. But, we keep going. Keep pushing. Keep taking deep breaths and putting one foot in front of the other.

Then, the chapters start changing.

Like the day that you and the kids erupt in laughter over a lunchroom story!

The vacation you take with the kids by yourself!

The time you juggle multiple parent-teacher conferences, with all the teachers!

The promotion you got at a job you felt unqualified to do!

The time you talked to the ex and his new wife and you walked away, feeling fine!

               When you look to heaven and thank God that He never left you and your kids!

See, in all this unknown, a known Father sees every bit of it. None of it surprised Him. He isn't sitting in His Throne Room, shaking His head and calling us failures! Our Father is with us in every hard place. He's present in all the good times. He smiles because He not only knows what happened, but He knows that we are going to be great single moms! He knows the ending of the book.

The words that David spoke centuries ago become real in our modern-day situations,

"You saw me before I was born.

Every Day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed."

               Psalm 139:16, NLT

We may wake up in the morning, not sure how everything will work out. But, God already planned for our Single Motherhood! Wait! What? God already knew and He's blessing my single-parenting life? Yes! Jesus didn't promise a full, abundant life just to the people who stayed married and raised the kids together. He promised it to everyone that accepts Him. So, those pages you wish you could tear out and throw away? God has them recorded already! He's got every day of your life and the life of your children laid out.

Single Momma, wake up and take that deep breath. Face the day, and your children, with a smile on your face. Jam out to some happy music while stuck in rush-hour traffic. Throw the frozen peas into the ramen noodles, while joking with the kids, and serve that dinner in the best bowls you own. Make prayer time your favorite time, seeking the wisdom of our Heavenly Father. These chapters are all yours! Take those twists and turns and make it into the best roller coaster that's ever been ridden. Your story has already been written!

 

By Gwendolyn Irene

www.gwendolynirene.com

Daring Adventures of Single Parenthood, A Devotional. https://www.gwendolynirene.com/books/

The Practice of Active Rest

Are you tired Mama?  I know.  I’ve seen the look too many times, the frazzled, absent look, the far-off gaze of a million different thoughts and worries running behind your eyes like a never-ending To-Do list.  I know Mama.  I’ve been there.  So many times, I hear moms say “I’m just so tired.”  And I know they just want to collapse.  The tired is bone deep, it settles between the shoulders, it feels like a heavy blanket draped over you.  How can you possibly keep it together Mama?  How can you possibly manage it all?  Let me give you the freedom here to admit that you can’t.  You weren’t meant to.  You need rest.  Deep sigh.  Doesn’t that sound nice? 

Last month I was right there.  At the end of January I had had enough.  I felt like an overripe peach, any pressure and I bruised, weeping at any slight, easily frustrated, short temped, lack of sleep.  I was done “adulting.”  I was done parenting alone.  I was done worrying if I’d have money next week for rent.  I was done with family problems, work issues.  I wanted to pack up my bags and run.  Sitting awkwardly at a child’s table in the middle of the Read Aloud Children’s section of Barnes and Nobel looking vacant and glossy eyed, frazzled and dark circled, I had a mini mental temper tantrum with God.  With balled up fists and stomping feet I threw myself on the floor and protested, “I’m done.  No more.  I’m just so tired!”  Even as I said this, I knew I was being ridiculous and I’m so grateful for a God who invites me into a real relationship with him.  I imagine he can handle my fits of anger and frustration.  I imagine he, like me, can spot an overstimulated, under napped Mama just like I can tell when my daughter needs a nap and not another chocolate candy.  In my frustration, I demanded, “Your word says, ‘Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’ I came Lord, I’m all in.  I’m doing what you’ve called me to do, now where is my rest?”


What is rest anyway?

I clearly needed some understanding about what rest really meant.  What is rest?  Why do I not feel rested?  What am I doing wrong?  I needed to understand what this word meant.  I needed to get a clear understanding of what I was so longing for.  I have vegged out, I’ve Netflix binged like the best of them.  I have girls-nighted, beach walked, window shopped, date-nighted.  All of that but I still feel overwhelmed.  I’ve napped and woken up and felt just as unrested.  The rest that I am after, the rest I need as a woman, a mother, a friend and a ministry leader is the real rest.  The rest that goes with you in every situation.  The not for a moment, but the all-the-time-every-waking-moment rest.   Exodus 33:14 says, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.”  BINGO.  That’s what I’m in search of.  Now where is that and how do I get some? 

Rest is necessary.  It keeps us going, it keeps us level headed and grounded and ready to respond to the world, our friends and family and to problems positively.  We were never mean to work so hard, we were originally designed to work enough and to be in rest and fellowship.  That was our original design.  Somewhere along the line our culture has esteemed being busy.  How many times have you responded to the question of how you are as, “We’re good, busy.”  And somehow busy is the qualifier of good.  The world “hustle,” is so popular.  You’ve seen the shirts, the ceramic mugs, the cute wall art, “#hustle.”  When did hustle come to mean meaningful?  It’s the opposite really.  The enemy wants to keep you right there.  Busy.  Busy equals exhausted.  Exhausted equals defeated.  Are you spiritually, physically, emotionally depleted?  Then you are right where you are least effective.  I bet you’re tempted to check out on social media streams instead of real socializing.  I bet you’re staying up at night thinking of all the many undone things you just don’t have time to do. I bet you need a hug.  A nap.  A bit of freedom and fresh air.  Maybe you’ve put on weight, like I have.  Stress eating that good 10 extra pounds, pass the carbs, quick foods and massively caffeinated drinks please!  I need something to keeping me going.

So, this month I drew a line in the sand and I accepted God’s challenge to rest.  Despite what my gut told me, because rest is counter-intuitive when facing difficulties, I made a deliberate choice to REST.  Let me tell you, God really showed up.  I had one of the most productive months, and have felt so incredibly better, more engaged and restored.  Here are a few truths God revealed to me about rest. 

Truth 1:  Rest Requires Action

I suppose I had an idea that rest just would happen supernaturally.  Somehow, I had gotten it in my head that the harder I worked to do the right things God would just give me the rest needed. I realize this was foolish thinking, but it was an untruth that I really clung to.  I thought if I get to a certain place in my life, or if my kids were a bit older, or if I had x amount of money, I could then take it a little easier.  But that isn’t the truth.  To rest right now Mama, you don’t need more, you need boundaries. 

Find a time in your schedule for you and protect it with your life.  For me I figured out in my schedule that I could drop my kids off at school and fit in 30 min for a walk each morning.  I changed my schedule to only accept meetings at 9 am.  I started wearing my yoga pants to sleep so I was ready to go in the morning.  I’ll be honest the first few days I made excuses. I even parked on the street and then drove off making up some sort of excuse about having to go to the bank early.  I felt guilty for carving that time out for a walk?  Shouldn’t I be #hustling?  But eventually I made it out there and I can’t tell you how that has changed my days.  Grace will take you places hustling can’t and by spending time walking, connecting with God and getting on page with him, in the fresh air I found I’m more productive, creative and refreshed.  And, admittedly the first few walks my mind raced, but I put those things out of my mind and changed my thought pattern.  I’ve had more seed ideas for helping women with children, then I ever have.  It’s been like having a power meeting with God every morning.

Active Rest Challenge: Find some time, get with God and guard it with your life.

Truth 2:  Learn to Say No

Busyness is a choice.  I don’t care how you want to justify it.  Not everyone needs you all the time.  That’s just plain egotistical thinking.  Learn to say no and say it without guilt.  Here is the thing, I constantly felt I needed to be there for everyone, that I had to bend backwards for others and make peace constantly even if it was at my own expense, happiness or energy.  Once I started saying “No” I felt I could control my calendar my calendar no longer controls me.  I was fitting people in 7 pm meetings and speaking engagements.  Come on now! I have a family!  I don’t have a partner at home to pick up where I leave off.  I saw myself like a battery cell, I only have so much power in a day.  If you see yourself as a finite being, you will be more selective in what and who you devote your energy too.  Way too many single moms are trying to do the role of two parents.  You must stop, you can’t be both, you weren’t meant to.  Your kids will understand, they’ll still love you if they’re not in every sporting, extracurricular, music class, club etc.  Over committing only results in exhaustion or letting people down when you can’t keep your promises because you aren’t as available as you thought you were.

And while you’re at it, say no to social media.  Set some restrictions for yourself. Social media is proving more and more to be the cause of comparison, discontentment, depression, disconnection, isolation and envy.  None of that justifies your need to check in.  Your family and your home is just there waiting for you on the other side of that screen.  Put it down, stop clicking “yes” to every event invite. 


Active Rest Challenge: Say no to one thing that is extra that is weighing you down, and at the very least turn your phone off in the evening for one week.  Push through the awkwardness and withdrawal of the phone and I promise you will see a difference.

Truth 3:  Confess When You’re Stuck and Lean into Your Community

God has surrounded you with people who have so many strengths where you are your weakest.  I was having trouble with financial issues, the worry was weighing me down.  It was keeping me up late at night, I was trying way too hard to do it all on my own.  When I finally confessed my need, I had two friends step in and help.  They asked what I needed and encouraged me that they would do what they could to support me.  Suddenly I wasn’t alone anymore, I immediately felt relief and I immediately could sleep at night.  The word encourages us to bare each other burdens (Galatians 6:2).  We aren’t designed to do this life alone and we need others.  If you’re part of a community group, this is where you are invited to speak into your life.  We allow others to do ministry with us in our small groups and where we reflect the body of Christ.

Active Rest Challenge: Find a small group and start being honest with those things that keep you up at night and you’ll find a place for you to share your passion and strengths with others as well. 

So, Mama’s take the challenge and sit down and be honest with yourself with what you need to implement the practice of “Active Rest.”  Active rest allows you to be invited into life and not charging ahead getting stuck in the need to do.   It goes beyond self-care, it is soul care and you Mama need it.    

By Brandi Dailey

Thrive Single Moms

www.thrivesinglemoms.org