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Suddenly Single Mom
52 Messages of Hope, Grace, and Promise
By Jeanette Hanscome
Worthy Publishing GroupCopyright © 2016 Jeanette Hanscome
All rights reserved.
* * *
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Psalm 27:13 NASB
I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER than to check e-mail on vacation. My younger son, Nathan, and I were celebrating my mom's birthday with a family trip to Disneyland. Outside the Magic Kingdom, life had temporarily turned upside down. While everyone wound down from a fun-filled day, I scanned my in-box for anything important before checking in with my twenty-year-old, Christian, who'd stayed home.
My heart froze when I saw a message from my husband.
He had accepted a job in a town several hours from our home. He no longer wanted to be married.
I saw it coming, but his words still felt like a punch in the stomach. Two months earlier, after a year of attempting to confront some serious issues, I had agreed to a trial separation, but I remained committed to restoring our marriage. Apparently restoration wouldn't be happening.
As I reread his message, I sent my emotions into lock-down, determined not to ruin everyone else's fun. I would not hit my nine-year-old with this news during a Disneyland trip with his grandparents, aunt, and cousins.
I was on my way to being a divorced woman after twenty-two and a half years of marriage.
After two months of going it alone "for a while," I had become a single mom for good.
As a woman who has been legally blind since birth and can't drive, I was literally stranded. From that night on, I would be dependent on my church, friends, family, and God. I had no idea if my husband would continue to be part of his sons' lives or disappear. I didn't know if we would be able to keep our house or if I would have to trade freelance writing and editing for a full-time job. Would my friends support me or pull away? Would I end up on welfare? All I knew was life would never be the same.
There is something about being thrown onto God's mercy that awakens either a desire to give up or a refusal to let the unwanted twists lick us. As I reflect back on that heart-numbing night and all the pain that followed, I see it as a journey filled with God's closeness and grace. As I relive the shock of abandonment, I recognize the determination that bubbled up with the devastation. Somehow I knew that this would change me forever but not destroy me — that this time of indescribable loss would end with me seeing God's goodness.
"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (NASB). The words of Psalm 27:13 became my reason to not give in to hopelessness no matter how bleak my situation looked, and on that night in my hotel bedroom, it looked pretty bad. Even then, God's goodness shone. He'd allowed me to get the news while surrounded by family and being refreshed by a vacation before facing a long process that I never imagined being part of.
* * *
If you are reading this book, you have also experienced a moment that changed everything — a phone call, a discovery, a choice, a heartbreaking talk that hurtled you into the life you are in now. Maybe you're still reeling from the blow, wondering how you will survive. Maybe you made the difficult choice to end your marriage because you knew that was best for you and your children. Wherever you are, allow the words of Psalm 27:13 to fill you with hope and strength as you navigate your new life, grieve what is lost, and help your kids make sense of what they can't understand.
May you move through this day with the One who promises to be with you through the uncertainty, make your tears count for something, and allow you to see His goodness in the land of the living.
God, I know You are with me. Right now all I can see are crumbled pieces of what was once my life. I have no idea what lies ahead, except that Your Word promises that I will eventually see Your goodness. Let me see a tiny glimpse of it today as I learn to trust You in a deeper way. Amen.
TO TAKE INTO YOUR DAY
Read: Psalm 27
Consider: What gives you hope that you will see God's goodness, even in these difficult circumstances? How has He been good already?
Survival Tip: Buy a journal especially for tracking God's faithfulness to you.CHAPTER 2
So This Is My Life
* * *
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
ANNE GAVE ME A HUG before we headed to our favorite coffee shop. "I found you a ride to Craft Night."
Anne's kids-welcome Craft Nights provided a dose of fellowship and an escape from the reality of my uncertain future.
"Kelly offered to pick you up. Her son goes to school with our kids. She's a single mom, extremely sweet ..."
A single mom. Why do I feel like that's supposed to be significant?
Then it hit me.
Oh yeah, I'm a single mom too.
I still had to remind myself that I'd entered a new demographic. A few days earlier, I'd read a blog post that slammed single parents. The anger it stirred shocked me. Hey, she's talking about me! In a rare moment of boldness, I stood up for those of us who were doing our best under difficult circumstances.
There in Anne's car, I had to remind myself again. I'm a single mom.
I was now a woman whom some would pity or make assumptions about. Others would call me courageous. I would start saying things like, "He's visiting his dad this weekend" and "My attorney says ..." I had joined the world of child support payments and custody agreements.
I had no idea how Kelly became a single mom, but I knew how I got there, and it stunk.
But there I sat with Anne, who represented a growing circle of support. Knowing my sweet friend, she had been strategic when arranging for Kelly to pick me up for Craft Night.
Kelly arrived on Friday evening. While our boys talked in the backseat, I got to know a wonderful woman who was devoted to her son. Though Kelly and I never became close friends, I caught myself observing her from afar, learning from her example of strength and perseverance.
A few of my older friends had once been single moms. Their stories and words of wisdom became lifelines as I learned to navigate this new life. I also encountered bitter mothers who huddled in the bleachers during Little League games, bashing their exes and comparing complaints. I don't ever want to sound that sour and ugly.
All of these examples, good and not-so-pretty, showed me that I would be a lot more successful if I asked God to help me accept my new status. Whether I wanted it or not, this was my life, so what kind of single mom did I want to be?
I wanted to be the one clinging to God and making the best of a sad situation, a woman who defied the statistics and might even cause an opinionated blogger to rethink her snap judgments.
I could not do any of that alone. I needed sensitive friends like Anne and good examples like Kelly. Most of all, I needed God, and the assurance of my heavenly Father, who loved me regardless of my label long before I realized, Oh yeah, I'm a single mom.
* * *
Becoming a single parent means realizing that certain statistics, phrases, and check boxes now apply to us.
While we try to be the best mothers that we know how to be under trying circumstances, we can draw comfort from the knowledge that we aren't in this alone. God has beautiful ways of sending women into our lives who show us the truth in Philippians 4:13: "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
As you adjust to I'm a single mom, and learn to say that dreaded phrase out loud, look to the Father, who saw this stage of your life coming, loves you regardless of what anyone else says or assumes, and is waiting for you to call on Him for help. He alone can mold you into the kind of mom you want to be from this day on.
Lord, I'm a single mom. I never expected to be. Help me accept my new life even if I don't like it. Melt my resentment so I don't become bitter. Help me today to do the best job I can, and to draw on Your strength every moment. Amen.
TO TAKE INTO YOUR DAY
Read: Isaiah 30:19–21
Consider: What kind of mom do you want to be? What kind of mom do you not want to become?
Survival Tip: Ask God to send someone you can look to for a good example, support, and prayer as you adjust to your new life.CHAPTER 3
Protecting His Heart
* * *
Give me a sign of your goodness ...
I DON'T REMEMBER exactly how or when I broke the news to Christian and Nathan that "Dad needs to leave for a while" had changed to "Dad isn't coming home." But I do remember in vivid detail the afternoon when Nathan asked one of those questions that stops a newly solo parent's heart.
We were sitting at the kitchen table, Nathan doing homework and me making a grocery list. He still had his school uniform on. Nathan looked up. "Mom, am I going to start doing that thing where I'm with you half the week and Dad half the week?"
God, no, I'm not ready for this discussion.
But it was probably long overdue. His friend Jake split time between his mom's house and dad's.
How do I explain? He is going to be crushed.
The truth was I had no idea how often Nathan would see his dad. How did couples do it when one parent moved four hours away and the other couldn't drive?
I prayed for an explanation that wouldn't leave Nathan feeling abandoned. "No, your dad lives too far away for that. You'll see him when he's in town."
I expected Nathan to start crying, and prepared to wrap my arms around him.
Instead, he let out a sigh. "Phew! I was just thinking that if I spent half the week with Dad, when I'm with him, I'd have to get up at three in the morning to get to school on time."
I kept my phew to myself. Leave it to my nine-going-on-thirty-five-year-old to do the math and decide that a four-hour commute wouldn't work for him.
Nathan went back to his homework. I turned my focus to my list. Spaghetti noodles, tomato sauce, ground beef ...
Wait! Going-on-thirty-five-since-birth or not, Nathan is still a child. He should be upset.
Was he trying to shield my feelings? His world had unraveled. Just like I'd never expected to parent alone, Nathan surely never dreamed he'd end up like Jake and some of the boys on his baseball team.
"Hey, Nate, are you okay with not seeing your dad as often as other kids see theirs?"
"Yeah. I mean, I want to see him more. But I can't go to two different schools. Can I?"
"No." I sure hoped not!
The reality of what lay ahead for Nathan and Christian tore at my soul. No matter how often they saw their father, and regardless of how okay they seemed, my boys were getting hurt.
But as I watched Nathan take out his next worksheet, I recognized something: He really did seem fine at the moment. I sensed God's gentle protection over his heart. If working out the logistics of dividing his life between two homes gave Nathan peace, what a gift from God. We'd had plenty of teary moments since his dad left and we would have more. It would be hard enough when an official visitation plan ruled our schedule. For now, he was accepting a tough reality with maturity.
Divorce had hurled my sons into a world I had never experienced while growing up. No matter how hard I tried, I could not protect them from the pain, but God, being ever kind and faithful, knew exactly how to care for them.
* * *
The only thing more excruciating than seeing our world fall apart is watching our kids suffer in the wake of adult choices. Each day brings new questions, disappointments, and difficult conversations.
"Give me a sign of your goodness," David cried. How often do we need the same? Sometimes God answers by being kind to us. Other times His goodness comes through His care for those we love.
As you try to shield your children from what you wish could be different and find it impossible, know that God holds their hearts in ways you can't see. May you see a sign of His goodness to them today, even in the tears and tough answers.
Heavenly Father, it breaks my heart to see my children suffer. Be near me as I answer hard questions and deliver disappointing news. Help me remember that You love my kids more than I ever can and see the needs of their hearts. Amen.
TO TAKE INTO YOUR DAY
Read: Psalm 86
Consider: How has God cared for your children in ways that you couldn't?
Survival Tip: Ask a friend to join you in praying especially for your kids.
Is This a Joke?
* * *
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
"MAKE SURE YOUR ATTORNEY stresses that you're legally blind," friends reminded me.
"She will," I assured them. "If I milk that too much, though, it could backfire." I'd read an article about blind parents who'd lost custody of their kids because their ex-spouses presented them as unfit. This was not the time for a helpless act. Privately, as I counted the number of items on my to-do list that required finding transportation and wondered how long I could continue with work-from-home freelancing, I felt pretty unfit for the roles of breadwinner and Mom/Dad.
God, is this a joke? How can I manage a household if I can't even drive? I'd already decided that Nathan would have to take the next season of Little League off.
I remembered my infamous kindergarten teacher, who couldn't grasp that I had a vision problem and not a learning problem. I'd been born with a rare genetic eye problem called achromatopsia, which causes complete color blindness, hypersensitivity to light, and vision that classified me legally blind. I'd heard numerous stories about that teacher telling Mom I must be dumb, eye doctors who insisted, "Stop treating your daughter like she's normal," and special education teachers who predicted sending me to a school for the blind. Had I shown them or what? I'd made it through public school and college; participated in drama, music, and public speaking; gotten married; maintained steady employment; and become a writer. I'd also become a mother. Now I was parenting alone. What would my kindergarten teacher have to say about that?
Those memories motivated the overcomer in me. What an opportunity to continue proving those naysayers wrong! Since when had low vision held me back from being a good mother? I'd become such a champion at adapting that my sons sometimes forgot I was visually impaired.
A new thought came to me: If God allowed this, He must think I can do it.
God brought to mind one of my favorite stories from Scripture, when Jesus healed the man who'd been born blind: "... this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him" (John 9:3), He told the disciples.
The work of God had been displayed through that man when Jesus healed him. Was it possible that He wanted to shine through my life in a different way?
As I reflected on my experience so far, I recognized that He was already in the process of doing that. He had sent me plenty of help through my church, friends, and family. He had created me to be a creative, resourceful woman who was not quick to give up. This season was not a joke at all, but a time for His work to be put on display, both for others and for me.
With His guidance I was capable of providing a secure home for my sons. Limited vision would simply force me to adapt in new ways, know when to ask for help, and rely more heavily on God.
* * *
Each of us has an area of weakness that forces us to rely on divine power. For me it's poor eyesight; for you it might be a health problem or something else. Our limitations can become convenient excuses for declaring, "I can't do this." They can cause others to see us as incapable of parenting alone. This is exactly when we need confidence that, in God's power, we can do what is ahead of us. The challenge of single parenting will push our limits, but we also have a chance to let it nudge us out of our comfort zone and experience God doing the impossible.
Excerpted from Suddenly Single Mom by Jeanette Hanscome. Copyright © 2016 Jeanette Hanscome. Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Note to Readers xiii
Section 1 Suddenly Single
1 Moving 5
2 So This Is My Life 9
3 Protecting His Heart 13
4 Is This a Joke? 17
5 Juggling Act 21
6 Charity Case 25
7 Single Again 29
8 Not an Option 33
Section 2 Surviving Survival Mode
9 So Tired 39
10 "Why Were You Crying?" 43
11 Not a Burden 47
12 Wallow Days 51
13 More Than We Need 55
14 A Big Dog with a Big Bark 59
15 Girls' Night Out at Costco 63
16 Buses and White Canes 67
Section 3 Preventing an Emotional Wreck
17 "What about Us?" 73
18 Just Enough Truth 77
19 The Scarlet Letter 81
20 A Weekend with Dad 85
21 Letting Him Have It 89
22 On the Fifth Day of Christmas 93
23 Creepy Train Guy 97
24 Before the Judge 101
25 Under a Microscope 105
26 God, I Don't Belong Here 109
27 Father Figures 113
28 Messed Up 117
29 "Do Something!" 121
Section 4 Finding My Way
30 Standing Firm 127
31 A Real Job 131
32 "You Should Start Dating" 135
33 On the Altar 139
34 Depleted 143
35 One Year Later 147
Section 5 Time to Start Over
36 What Should I Do? 153
37 Crossing the Border 157
38 "I Want to Go Home!" 161
39 A Little Privacy, Please 165
40 Not Coming 169
41 Where My Friends Are 173
42 It's Over 177
43 Waiting for Boaz 181
44 Just a Quick Look 185
45 A Bittersweet Call 189
Section 6 A Beautiful Tiling
46 A Place to Be Sad 195
47 Ring of Truth 199
48 Family Photos 203
49 Silliness, Sanity, and Other Gifts 207
50 "I'm a Single Mom Too" 211
51 Because I Get It 215
52 My Not-So-Pathetic Life 219