A Candid View of the Holidays (Through the Heart of a Single Mother)

A Candid View of the Holidays (Through the Heart of a Single Mother) | Collaboration by Sally Smith & Sonya Finley

Sonya Finley: My memories of being a single mother at Christmastime takes me back to when my own mother was doing it, single with five children. Back then, I am not sure if I understood how she struggled just to survive daily life. But, add to that the pressure of trying to provide us with joy at Christmas, well, now you know who Wonder Woman was modeled after.  There was never “a lot”, yet somehow she managed to make Christmas special and memorable.

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I remember the little 3 foot artificial tree that was the center piece for most of our Christmases. It sat atop a small round end table and was decorated with all the handmade ornaments each of us created at school. At some point it was so covered with our creations you could barely see the tree. Oftentimes presents did not appear under that little tree until Christmas Eve. It turns out a lot of the time that was just when she was able to pull something together, whether from her pocket or various last minute charitable donations.

My mother was the master of innovation. Her creativity during times of struggle created some of our favorite holiday traditions we follow today. For instance, because she could not afford to give us all money to buy presents for all five of us, she instituted the “draw names” tradition. Each child would pull a name and that would be the person they Fotolia_125617063_Subscription_Monthly_M.jpgwould buy a gift for. Our budget, $5. It wasn’t much, but boy would we make it stretch! More often than not, we would have change left over and so would combine it to buy a
special gift for our mother.  Believe it or not, we still do this today! And we have passed it down to our own children. Finding stocking stuffers for five kids was another budget buster, but my mom, true to form, came up with a creative solution for that. Bubble gum machine toys!! Yup! My mom and sometimes my older sister would stand out by the gum machines of whatever store we were shopping at, putting in nickels, quarters, and dimes and pulling out fantastic treats we would later open with childish glee on Christmas Eve. And yes, stockings are still a must have in every household! My oldest sister even sent hers from Georgia one year to be “stuffed”.

I grew up and I too found myself single with children at Christmas. And while loneliness can be an issue—especially when everyone else in your family is married—oddly enough it was not my most pressing concern.  My struggle arose from simply not having enough
to do what I wanted to do for my children. I was barely getting the bills paid and then had to find “extra” to bring a little joy to my sons. Of course, having watched my mom navigate through those rough times with love, laughter, and creativity I was found the strength to do the same. I did what I had to do, I accepted charity (in many different forms)—no matter how humiliated I felt in the process—and believe me, sometimes the processes for receiving charity were humiliating indeed. I vividly remember one year I signed up to be adopted. I sat and went through the long process, hoping to be selected; then only to be given a small bag of four, dollar-tree toys—one for each son. When I questioned it, I was told that since I had nothing, I should be grateful for whatever was given to me. I was so broken. I was so disappointed. I so wanted to do more for my sons. Believe me, it is a most horrible feeling to want to do for your children but then not being able. I do not remember how things worked out that year. I think family pitched in, but I am certain that somehow my sons had gifts they were pleased with. If you ask them, they never had complaints about their Christmases.

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These days I am still single with children but they are all grown and able to do for themselves. Having gained an understanding and appreciation of past struggles, they have grown into young men who are loving and generous in spirit. Our Christmases are not just about the gifts that mom can give (they buy me gifts now!), but about family and keeping alive the traditions passed on to us by a woman who, in spite of circumstances, created the best Christmases EVER!!

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Sally Smith: Ah, the life of the ‘Single Parent’. Many of us ‘Single Parents’ did not start out single and going it alone. We may have had similar beginnings as lots of the intact families that you know and love… I did anyhow. I had the wedding, the baby showers, the family get-togethers and birthday parties. Year after married year, I had that unit, and fell into the rhythm that comes with two parents and… however many kids.

7cfad5efd14a6cf0e567173a5b5f01c4--christmas-card-photos-ideas-for-christmasRegardless of the state of my family, there was a predictable quality that encompassed the preparations and observances during the holidays. I did not know it prior to my leap to singularity, but holidays were designed around the model of that type of unit. During the first few years of being alone and raising kids, the holiday motions were like learning to walk after losing a leg. This dramatic visual is to say that it was painful, confusing, and imbalanced, but necessary in order for me, and for my kids, to move forward.
I am in no way throwing a pity party; I was the one that set the separation into motion, that needed to create the change that split our family apart. Like I mentioned, I did not realize how different our holidays would be, and I would not have done things differently, but I will fully admit that I had to get on board with the big changes that came my way.

You+Will+Survive+This+Christmas+As+A+Single+MomWithout going into sad and embarrassing detail, I will say that several things are drastically different: finances, traditions, and people that you celebrate with are among the biggies. We Single Parents (maybe not all, but some) have to find ways to maximize financial resources during the holidays in order to create as small of a wake as possible. For me, it is not so much to be an extravagant gift giver, but more so that my kids would not have to experience a jarring difference or lack that might elicit concern over my financial state. I have attempted to stretch and make it feel like holidays of old, but always worry that I might not be doing enough.

Obviously, traditions have to change, too. The schedule of the holidays and the family members that are present change. Knowing that my kids would have to adjust to new scenarios, minus me, was worrisome. I felt sad that they might have to incur awkward times, and have difficult conversations. The new normal takes a while to settle in. I am on year-4, and the holidays are finally starting to take on a new, hopeful shape.

Yes, there is hope! Prayers have been answered, hard work has been rewarded, new relationships have been formed, and children are resilient. Love conquers all! I have held fast to my convictions and stayed committed to my Single Parenthood, and through it all, I have been richly blessed. I am constantly reminded that “It is well, it is well with my Soul”.


Sally Smith is a 40-something Mother of two daughters, both whom are loving, talented, and independent. Lila, 19, just started her 2nd year at GCU, and Rubi, 13, just began attending the Orange County School of the Arts. When Sally is not busy driving to the train station, to dance, or selling two way radios (no, really, that is her job!), she can be found shakin’ it at Zumba, or cooking/surfing/chilling with her main squeeze. Life is Beautiful…

20170113_074913-1-1Sonya A. Finley has been living the single life for 24 years. In that time she has raised four awesome young men (James – 26, Kevin – 23, Joshua and Johnathan – 18), graduated from college with a BFA, and began a huge step in her professional career. She is on the verge of a new season in her single life that now focuses on a journey not centered around child-rearing. She has made many mis-steps, learned quite a few bits of wisdom along the way and is happy to share with women who find themselves in the same place.

First things First

Run To Jesus | By Andrea Pinner

First things first:

  1. Everything I’m about to write I’m saying to myself too.
  2. Girl, I know you’re busy, so I’ll be short and sweet, just like my mama. (Love you, Mama!)

I wish I could sit real close, look deep into your eyes and tell you that you have ALL that you need to be the parent that you want to be. How do I know this? Because you have Jesus. He is our source for everything that we need.

image2Just to be clear, I’m not talking about cute bento lunch boxes, or perfectly decorated or
labeled anything. I’m talking about you and me as mothers. How we behave when we are around our kids. Now listen, your kids don’t need the perfect version of yourself. I hate to break it to you, but they already know you’re not perfect. They need to see you pursuing the One who is though, with all that you have.

Now get this, let it really sink in deep, the enemy is going to want to twist this all up so let’s get something straight. You are enough because Jesus is enough. This is not another failed to do list. This is an invitation to spend more time with the One who loves you and knows you better than anyone else.

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Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten how busy you are. I know you just want to go to the bathroom by yourself and your body is begging for more sleep. I’m not saying you must carve out a beautiful serene quiet time into your day. Maybe that’s impossible in this season we’re in, so just remember this; HE is always with you!

 

Your kids are cranky and you’re about to lose your mind? Run to Jesus. It’s bedtime and they want one more story or drink of water. Run to Jesus. You’re running late and that one child of yours, you know the one, has misplaced their shoes again! Run to Jesus.

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Our kids need to see us running to Jesus in the everyday moments. Let them see you read your bible for a couple minutes with breakfast, worship Him in song or dance, listen to podcasts while driving or doing your make up, pray when you’re anxious, or angry, or sad. They don’t need perfection. They need real. Real Pursuit of Jesus.

The world will show them a million false things to turn to for peace, strength, joy, and love. Let it be us (their mamas) that show them by example to always, always run to Jesus.

 

 

 


Andrea Pinner is a daughter of the King, wife of 18 years to her love, Joseph, and mother to her five dearly treasured daughters. She loves to sing, dance, cook, and write. Flowers, butterflies and cool crisp mornings are her favorite. She’s passionate about encouraging young women and other mamas in their daily walk by being transparent with her own struggles and victories.

A Day for Thanks

A Day for Thanks | By Victoria Gomillion

I would like to start off by saying I absolutely love this time of year! The cool weather, plaid, food, and family is my happy place! I am a high extrovert, so the more people the better. The only idea better than having all of my friends and family living on my street would be if they lived in my house. I love decorating (though I am not the best at it), and I love cooking, and eating. I could write a whole blog on my high, unrealistic, over excited optimism about the holidays, but I would like to share something a little deeper. I want to share why this day is so precious and should be looked at with eyes of excitement instead of dread.

My favorite moment in the day of beautiful chaos, called Thanksgiving, is when everyone shares what they are most thankful for. I love watching people’s “thinking” face as they IMG_3675mentally go through their life trying to categorize the best part. It’s quite humorous. A lifetime of blessings comes down to a five second platform to share something that has made or changed your life forever. How can I name just one thing that is a blessing in my life? Why is it only Thanksgiving Day that we share these deep truths with each other? Why are we not proclaiming all year long, “I am so thankful for my family, friends, food, shelter, freedom”? I’ll tell you why, because sharing what you are thankful for does not mean you have a thankful heart. Believe it or not, there is a huge difference, and that’s what I want to remind us of. When we have a thankful heart it overflows into every aspect of our lives, even the way we think and feel.

Having a thankful heart means we smile with joy and appreciation when we can only afford the lesser quality version of something we really wanted, or when a husband helps out around the house even if it isn’t the way we wanted. A thankful heart means we are truly content with what we have and where we are at, period.

IMG_3840In the Bible, Paul told the Philippians that he had learned the key to happiness and that was contentment in all things. He mentions he knew what it was like to be rich and poor, full and hungry, warm and cold, and at the end it all comes down to contentment. I feel convicted even writing this because of how many times my attitude is anything but thankful. The Bible is full of verses on thanksgiving and the importance of having a thankful heart. Probably because life has a way of throwing a huge pile of poop (aka trials or hardships) on the most perfect of days. Are we going to try and focus on the day we wanted so badly to be perfect, or the stinky poop covering it? Though loving Jesus is easy, following Him is not. We want things our way: perfect, happy, blessed, and stress free. So how do we still enjoy ourselves when things don’t go our way? How do we hold onto contentment with a thankful heart?

I know this holiday season is difficult for many people. Maybe someone you loved passed away around this time of year, and when you look at happy people or laughter all you can remember is how you used to share in that kind of joy with them, and now you will IMG_3956never get that chance again this side of heaven. Maybe you are in such financial hardship that even thinking about buying a turkey or decorations seems like a burden, reminding you of just how poor you are. Or maybe your family is toxic and abusive and this time of year means constant fighting and hurt feelings, covered by fake sentiment and crying in a closet alone. I have experienced all of this so I know how hurtful this time of year can be. What should be “the most wonderful time of the year” can quickly become the most dreaded. It’s one thing to go through the holidays, but it’s a whole different story to try and rejoice about it.

I really, really want to rejoice in hard times and make God look good! He deserves that. After all, He made me, pursued me, saved me, redeemed me, and then empowered me! At the end of the day, no matter how good or bad, if we can remember this I think it’s the first step to a thankful and grateful heart. So, when you feel the frustration rising, the chaos beginning, and the expectation of a perfect day dying; try to take five minutes for yourself and say out loud, “Thank you God for not only my crazy family, some food and shelter, but THANK YOU Jesus for never giving up on me, but instead pursuing me relentlessly because You love me so much.” Reminding yourself of who you are and where you would be without Jesus is a sure way to get back a thankful heart! Let’s do our best to be the bright shining lights God created us to be in a dark world! Let’s be the people that rejoice even when it’s hard, laugh when things go wrong, and have love for those that sometimes make it difficult. Happy Thanksgiving everyone, bring on the fat pants!


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Victoria Gomillion has followed Jesus Christ whole-heartedly since the age of 19. All of her success, fruit, blessings, and life she owes to Him. She fostered a child for two years, was married to her Prince Charming last year, and pregnant a month later. The same month she found out she was pregnant, her first daughter’s adoption was finalized. Victoria has had the blessing of finishing nursing school, leading worship, speaking prophetically, and teaching mentor classes. Her full-time joy is now as a wife and mother.

 

Intimacy

Intimacy | By Bethany Luchetta

Where are you God? I am waiting for You to show up.

Fact: God is here. So now what?

Here is what I found. I hope you can pick-up on my analogy. You can walk around on a getty_rf_twofingerspecial date with your lover. You can be with them and connect. But you aren’t making love 100% of the time, or even 90% or 10% or of the time. The truly intimate, physically
resonating connecting moments are rarer than the time we spend together connecting in non-physical ways. There may be seasons when we are jumping-in-bed-all-the-time; making-love like bunnies! This is the same with our intimacy with God. There are seasons we are running to Him, fully feeling Him, and experiencing wholeness in our soul. You may say, ‘addicted’ to the emotional high we get from ‘the touch’!

With that in mind… What if your lover only wanted you in bed? What kind of Online-Dating-Data-Featured-382x255relationship would that be? I am ashamed to admit, there was a time I thought sex was the only flash-in-the-pan that I needed. But the truth is, it leaves you empty if there is no other connection. What about truly caring for someone outside of how they make you feel? What if there was no ‘foreplay’ or time spent getting to know your heart and mind. The relationship would be shallow and immature. So, just like your lover, God wants to hear your heart. God wants you to hear His heart too!

The dictionary defines ‘coming together’ or ‘communion’ (which is a form of prayer) as: The sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, the Apostle Paul says to ‘pray without ceasing’. How is this even possible if prayer only looks like a traditional prayer picture we see on wall art. It is not possible to live like that. We couldn’t perform any other of our worldly tasks required if we are down on knees petitioning all day – albeit, this type of prayer is important in times. It’s not a wonder this definition of ‘pray’ in verse 17 is outlined as: “Fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, expressed in adoration, thanksgiving and intercession, through which believers draw near to God and learn more of his will for their lives.” This, we can do without ceasing. And what is November without Thanksgiving!?

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I struggle with this idea of prayer (or any idea of prayer, to be completely honest). I still long for ‘the touch’. You may have heard of ‘programming; yes, like a computer. People are programmed a certain way (nature / nurture). Sometimes your computer needs new programing. The brain responds to new code. So, here is my specific struggle, I have a hard time asking for help. And it’s my responsibility to upload the new script so I can grow. So, prayer to God for petition or intercession creates a mind-block for me. But I have to train myself that the Bible is true and this area of prayer is good, and desired by God. I also struggle with being vulnerable and allowing myself to be known. Prayer for ‘communion’ sake – just being together and becoming familiar with one another is good. So, I have to re-program myself for that Truth. And even when I crave the deeper touch, I have to trust that the other moments are vital and bring deeper faith. The feeling will come with time. Truth will set you free, and rehearsing it will reprogram your mind.

The intimacy you crave (and I crave) is good. God desires intimacy with us too. It fills us up so we can give back.

I am laughing out loud right now because an example just came to my mind: when you get intimate time with your lover, it takes the edge off. If you don’t get ‘the need’ met, the 5340957245d848fe96680acc6b5bd71fsaying goes, you end-up with “pent-up sexual energy”. When those needs are met, you have greater ability to cope at work, less likely to be distracted, more attentive to your children, and the like. But you also have other needs, and so does your lover. What if you never asked for help? Or your lover never asked you for help? What if you never sat down and talked? It would feel less like a partnership and more like a booty-call. Same with God. He wants to partner with you. He wants you to petition Him. He wants you to intercede. He also wants to ask you to come alongside Him and be a vehicle for action on this planet for His purposes like a power couple. It’s a symbiotic relationship (symbiotic: interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both).

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Both deep intimacy and communion are vital to keep the other in balance and growing in deeper relationship.

Even when I don’t feel it, I have to reprogram myself to the fact: God hasn’t left me until our next session. God is omnipresent. He is with me even when I don’t ‘feel’ like that’s the truth. Romans 8 is encouraging me right now. I hope it can encourage you as well. I will end with this beautiful expanded version: “When we have trouble, when we are hunted-down, when we are destroyed, when we are hungry, when we are penniless, when we are in danger, when we are threatened to death, when we fear today, when we worry about tomorrow. In the depths of the ocean, or on the highest height, has God deserted us!? NO! Nothing will separate us from the love of God.” I think I can add in there, even in the mundane, even in the daily tasks, in the routine, in the moments I don’t ‘feel’ it. I will choose to program my mind to KNOW that God is with me; I have not been left. An intimate exchange will come and it will be beautifully refreshing. I am growing closer to God.


IMG_2727Bethany Luchetta is a writer of life and reality. In hopes to connect with the humanity around her, she writes from her heart. Bethany just celebrated 7 years of marriage with her love, Vince Luchetta. They are both on their second marriage. Life has not been without challenge in their personal lives and career lives, yet they strive for growth in love and tragedy. They share three beautiful daughters, Makayla (17), Paige (13), and Livvy Lou (3). If you see them, reach out and say hi!

 

An Unlikely Companion

An Unlikely Companion; The truth about the ever present shadow of depression, clinging to me when I am at my weakest. | By Dezirae Hesse

Depression: meet my dark and twisted companion I’ve known since the seventh grade. I call it my companion because it’s always there, like a shadow, lurking and waiting for me when I’m weakest. A product of the enemy no doubt. Stirred up when you least expect it. I was young and experiencing the woes of being a teenage girl in middle school. My parents were ironically becoming “the enemy” and I felt like I was alone in the world and didn’t know how to deal with all of my new and overwhelming feelings. That’s when I first felt the pangs of the unmeasurable darkness. Although I had never experienced it before that point, I had seen it growing up. My sister had tried to take her life twice when I was younger and even had to stay in a mental institution on ‘Suicide Watch’. As someone who was closest to her I knew how low and how sad she was – I had just never felt that for myself. I saw the strain it put on our family and how after my parents were quick to diagnose and medicate anything they didn’t know how to handle. I wanted nothing to do with it – it was all so hush-hush and I thought it was something to be ashamed of. So, I remember telling myself I wasn’t going to let it overtake me because I didn’t want any part of that lifestyle, and somehow was able to suppress it most of my life.

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My most recent and arguably one of the deepest depressions I’ve experienced happened about a week after I got married. Odd to see isn’t it? Depression and marriage in the same sentence. As beautiful and joyous as that day was for me it was as if it was a catalyst back into the arms of my dark and twisted companion. Before I knew what was even happening I was in the dark, gray and dull world that is depression. It envelops you overnight while you sleep and you’re most vulnerable. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t eat, I felt numb to anything and everything happening around me, and could feel no other emotion besides the overwhelming sensation of hopeless despair. What was the point of even getting out of bed when I had absolutely nothing to live for (or so it felt)? It was like my mattress had grown arms while I was sleeping and I was trapped in its relentless grip, sinking deeper and deeper into my bed. I remember feeling guilty because as a new wife I was already failing my new husband, Eric. I wasn’t the ‘Susie Homemaker’ I had idealized in my head: the house was not clean, the dishes were piling up, and I was anything but attentive. And nothing he did was making me feel better. It’s like knowing there’s a battle going on in your body (while to others you look seemingly fine) and not being able to do anything about it. I started to feel his anger and resentment towards me. Why couldn’t I just get out of bed? Why didn’t I just take a shower? Why wouldn’t I just eat? What was the point? I was a failure. The days I was able to get out of bed I didn’t feel like myself. It was like I was a hollow shell of who I was walking around with a dull sense of self. I started to withdraw from friends and family. I wouldn’t answer my phone calls and would deny any social occasion. I just couldn’t bring myself to slap on the ‘I’m okay and everything’s great’ mask this time. The enemy relies heavily on the fact that depression isolates you and goes to work beating you while you’re already down. You don’t want to let people know what you’re going through because you don’t want to burden others with the heaviness you’re carrying. I felt suicidal without the tendencies – what a terrifying realization that was.

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Fortunately, we had a life group to turn to (thank you Skinny Chins – you know who you are). I admit there were a couple of meetings that I had missed because I couldn’t pretend to be okay when I definitely was not, but Eric reassured me that this is what Life Group was about: going through the ups and downs of life together; getting together to support and uplift each other when life gets you down. And let me tell you: life group is just that – a group of people that breathe life into you with love, support, and words of encouragement. Especially when you’re feeling low. That’s where my most recent visit from my “companion” was put into perspective: I was grieving the life I had. Everything I had to look forward to was now done and I was feeling like I had no purpose to go back to. It was like the person I was – even my name – was gone. As a highly empathetic and compassionate person, I had just gone through some pretty serious milestones in my life and I was overwhelmed by the change. Not knowing how to navigate it all, I unwilling sank into the infinite abyss that is depression yet again. It was so bad I seriously considered seeing a therapist and using medication to get me out (something I have never been willing to do my entire life so that was a HUGE and scary thing to me). There I was asked a simple question that changed everything: How had I overcome it in the past? The answer: I was strong enough not to let it overtake me. I either needed to give in and get help or pray for the strength to overcome. It was my choice and both were commendable. There was nothing to be ashamed of and as I was reminded I didn’t have to stay on the medication forever. So, I was at a fork in the road: turn to medication or find the will and the strength to break out of this again. I went home that night with a renewed sense of hope and the most simple answer: with God I can do anything. I prayed all night to walk in my God given strength to overcome the enemy.
Twin-Oaks-Garden-Estate-Wedding-Dezirae-Eric-VP495You need people the most when you’re going through hard times – darkness cannot live in the light of the words which others speak into you. Every day I’m on the up-and-up and feel more positive and productive in my life and marriage. There are days when I feel like I’m slipping, but I tend to overcome. I am open about my feelings of depression now more than ever – especially surrounding my wedding. The more women I talk to about it the more I find out that it is not as uncommon as it may seem. Although I will probably battle with depression the rest of my life, I was definitely reminded about the importance of fellowship and having a foundation rooted in faith.

John 8:12 Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 


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Dezirae Hesse has been married for 7 months. She and her husband, Eric live in Escondido and are proud pet parents (say that five times fast) to their cat, Zara and fish, Charlie. They have been going to The Father’s House together for almost 2 years, and serve on the Worship Team and TFH Kids.