Comfort and Advice for Single Parents
by Skeet Savage
Those of us who have experienced the grief and anguish of divorce probably understand like no one else can just why our God says He hates divorce.
There is nothing you can do about yesterday—but, because His mercies are new every morning, the possibilities for today are endless! You can choose to live your life in the shadows as “So-and-So’s Ex,” or you may step into the light of His grace and stand, as His precious bride, firmly planted in the place to which He has brought you—as a joyful mother of the children which He has entrusted to your care.
If the children’s father or mother refuses to listen to reason or be governed by Biblical principles and has decided to leave, the Bible says, let them depart. LET GO! Stop begging and pleading and chasing them. Stop threatening them and trying to manipulate and control them. Obey the Word—release them! Give every tiny piece of your shattered heart wholly to God and get on with the business of living for Him.
Absolutely refuse to take on victim status. No matter what the details of the past, the future is in your hands. From here on out, if you continue to make a mess of your life you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. It’s time to take full responsibility for your own actions. Admit the fact that, while you may not have played the starring role in your personal little soap opera, at the very least, you played a supporting role. Repent for your part in the sins of the past and turn every bit of it over to the One Who has the power to wipe your slate clean! Relinquish control and leave it in His capable hands. With God in control, I promise you, things will be different! You’ll find that His plans for you are nothing but good! Remind yourself often that His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-25). Determine to rise each day with thanksgiving in your heart for the opportunity He has given you to experience a wonderful new life—better than anything that you could ever have ever imagined according to your best laid plans.
Put bitterness behind you and don’t look back. Forget those things that are behind and press forward (Philippians 3:13,14). Allow God to fulfill His good promise to restore the years that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). Get a life!
That doesn’t mean you should start scouting for another marriage partner, by the way. You’ll never find the joy and peace you are longing for until you stop looking around the planet for another human being who can meet your needs, fulfill your longings, and fix what is wrong in your life. Such behavior is an insult to our God Who stands ready, willing, and able to provide, and to be, all that you will ever need in this life. So many single or divorced people leave Him waiting in the wings while they spend countless wasted hours fantasizing about some Romeo or Juliet out there in LaLa Land. The abundant life He longs to give remains an unopened package while precious days, weeks, hours and years are spent in mourning over the spiritual graves we tenaciously insist on digging. Meanwhile, who’s minding the children?
No matter what your former spouse does or does not do, you have a responsibility to the children. Stay focused. If your marriage and divorce was traumatic, then the children will need your undivided attention all the more. Thank God that you now have the opportunity to invest yourself fully, and without distraction, in the lives of your children. By the grace of God you can build a firm foundation under their feet and provide a nurturing habitat in which you all can grow close to each other and your God.
Don’t allow guilt, or the feeling that the children have “suffered enough” throughout the painful process of the divorce (and, possibly even during the marriage) to cause you to be lenient with them in areas where you need to be tough. Many parents indulge themselves in permissiveness toward the children in a misguided attempt to somehow “win” the children over to their side by being a “buddy” rather than a parent. The absence of one parent does not necessitate the absence of Godly order in the home.
If your former spouse remarries, and the children are forced to divide their time between households, don’t give in to the temptation to relax the standards of your own home in order to “compete” with all the cool stuff, exciting entertainments, and various tempting enticements strategically employed to lure their allegiance away from you (and God) and over to the other parent.
Faithfulness and consistency based on Biblical principles will go a long way toward establishing a solid relationship with your children that will not easily be shaken.
Much healing takes place when the peace of God reigns unhindered in your midst. When just a little girl, my youngest came to me one day asking, “A lady at church said that us girls come from a broken home. We’re divorced, but our home’s not broken. We used to be broken, but not anymore!” Out of the mouths of babes! There’s no sense of lack when Jesus is held in honor as the head of a household.
Learn to look to Jesus, and Him only. People can only do so much, but Jesus can do anything! People will fail you, but Jesus will never fail. Stop worrying. God has made very specific promises to widows and orphans. Trust Him and stand on His Word. You are in Good Hands!
When it comes to the practical aspects of providing the physical necessities for the family, always think in terms of pulling together rather than drawing apart. The “work from home” possibilities are endless as long as you are willing to be flexible and creative.
Home business options can provide apprenticeship opportunities for middle and older children, which are both provisional and educational. The children can have the satisfaction of knowing that they are a contributing part of the family rather than a burden. This type of responsibility develops strong character. There is no better preparation for the “real world” than hands-on participation in real world situations with the careful guidance of a loving parent!
You may need to rethink your priorities and adjust your concept of what it means to make “a living.” People can get by with so much less than what they—especially in this country—think they need! If it is truly your desire to homeschool your children, then you must be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal. If it becomes necessary to downscale, do it! If being able to homeschool the children under your roof means yard sale clothes, dented cans and stale bread, no entertainment budget or luxuries such as eating out at restaurants (or maybe even a smaller roof) so be it! What a small price to pay for the privilege of being together as a family and the blessing of walking in obedience to the Scriptures!
When approached properly, homeschooling is such a simple, natural process! Generally speaking, the classroom model does not fit in the homeschool setting over the long haul—especially in the single parent household. It is not your job to personally try to impart every morsel of knowledge to each individual child. Rather you must seek to set up a well-balanced educational buffet and then call them to dinner! Your children will need to be equipped and taught how to learn, and then properly motivated to pursue learning on their own initiative.
To eliminate the daunting task of the traditional annual ritual of selecting new textbooks each year (for each child!), begin to track down real world resources (encyclopedias, dictionaries, grammar guides, reference books, etc.) which will prove to be a one-time investment that will serve them throughout their lifetime.
So, how can one person simultaneously accomplish all that is required of a single, homeschooling parent?
The art of multi-tasking (learning to do two or more jobs at the same time) will enable you to accomplish all that is set before you in a day’s time. In the event that you are unable to get it all done today—there’s always tomorrow!
Even more important is the need to be realistic about how much you can accomplish in a day. Don’t spread yourself too thin trying to do all things for all people. Understand what it is that our Lord has specifically ordained for you to do and then do it to the best of your ability and with all your heart in the reasonable time He has allowed.
In our case, in the beginning, I didn’t have a clue as to how we were going to survive financially. As I began to take stock of the situation, some of the only things I knew for sure were, 1) I believed with all my heart that God had given me six children to raise for His glory, and homeschooling, in my estimation, was not an option—it was a mandate! 2) Since there was no one to go out and “bring home the bacon,” I needed to find some kind of work that I was physically capable of performing, that would enable me to stay at home and take care of my first priority—my children. 3) After all the Lord had done for me, I wanted the remaining years of my life to count for some eternal good.
All I knew to do was go to the Lord and pour out my heart to Him. When I read in the Word that He promised to give us the desires of our hearts, I told Him that my desire was to homeschool the children for His glory and not have to leave them with a sitter while I went out and worked eight hours a day for someone else. I read a prayer in the Bible where someone prayed that God would not make him so poor that he would steal nor so rich that he would forget Him, and I made that my prayer as well. When I read that He intends for us to work six days and rest on the seventh, and that He wanted the first-fruits of His provision to be returned to Him, I promised to be faithful to do both.
I prayed fervently and unceasingly. Oh, how I prayed! My faith and commitment to everything I believed in was tested to the very limit! However, the very things that seemed like impossibilities to me at the time, became strong points and, in the long run, proved to be an integral part of God’s provision for our every need. Against all odds, I made a decision to hold fast to that which I knew the Lord had called me to do, committed my ways to Him, and waited for Him to direct my path as He had promised. (Proverbs 3: 5,6.) I was not disappointed.
Over time, an idea began to form in my mind that turned out to be (I realize now, with hindsight) the call of God on my life to a very specific kind of work.
As a mother of six, and one of the unwitting “pioneers” of the homeschool movement, parents would often seek me out for counsel and advice on education and parenting matters. Over and over, I would force myself to turn away from my own personal problems and reach out to these struggling young parents who were searching for answers and practical help on raising Godly children. Although everyone’s situation is different, the questions were usually the same. Eventually, I decided that I needed to get some basic homeschooling/parenting information into a printed format that I could simply distribute as a means of helping these families.
I spent some time at the local newspaper and quick print shop, and drove those good folks bananas by watching closely over their shoulder and asking a million questions as they tried to go about their daily tasks in each department. With some searching and persistence, I acquired a typewriter (a computer was way out of my budget range!) and typed out, pasted up, and distributed our first 24-page homeschooling newsletter.
In those early days, it was a lot of hard work making important contacts on the phone and typing manuscripts and address labels on my old manual typewriter—always with two or more toddlers or nursing babies on my lap! I would begin each day by getting up long before the children in order to read my Bible, pray, start laundry, fix breakfast, and line up their scholastic assignments and chores for the day.
In my line of work (printing and publishing), most of my duties could be interrupted at any point so I was usually available to the children and was always listening or watching for those moments when they required my hands-on ministry or input. Throughout the day I maintained an “open door” policy in the little area I had designated as my “office” with the understanding that, if the children wanted to read or talk with me, or show me something they had made or done, they could come in and see if I was free at the moment—or at least at a good stopping point.
If I was busy on the phone temporarily, the children knew that they were to go back to their activities and try again a little while later. Or, they were to stand quietly by and wait patiently until we made eye contact. Then, as soon as I was able to get off the phone, I would go looking for that child so that we could spend a few moments together over whatever they wanted to share with me. If it was important or an emergency, they were to come to my side and whisper quietly to alert me to any pressing needs, in which case, I could merely excuse myself from the conversation and attend to the family issues at hand. Every hour on the hour, I made the rounds to check in on each child and spend a few minutes talking about anything they wanted to discuss or instructing them.
In the evenings, unless we were facing a press deadline, I tried to pull away from the office work and spend some concentrated time with the children. Once they were all settled in bed for the night, I would go back to work and tackle those things requiring the greatest concentration and undivided attention, such as writing or editing.
In order for this type of set-up to work, balance is the key. The biggest challenge for me has always been to fully focus on whatever I was doing at the moment without feeling guilty and thinking I should be doing something else—whether it was working and feeling like I should be with the children, or being with the children and feeling like I should be working!!
I’ll confess that I asked my God on a daily basis to order my steps and guide me through every decision I made every hour of every day. I knew that if I stayed right smack in the center of the road He had mapped out for me that I’d be headed in the right direction and wouldn’t end up in the ditch with mud on my face (or His) either—and He has been faithful to bless us for our efforts in His Name!
How well I remember the day when we reached two hundred subscribers—I could hardly believe there were that many people in the whole world who were interested in what we had to say!! I was sure they had all actually meant to subscribe to the competition and had just accidentally addressed the envelope to Home School Digest instead!!
But, you all know the rest of the story. Ultimately, the Lord used our desire to serve others to open doors for us to minister to homeschooling families around the world through our publications and Seminars. Today, that little 24-page newsletter has grown to nearly 100 pages and is read by thousands of folks! The Lord has absolutely rained down blessings on our little family and ministry. Truly, He has poured out a blessing on us that there has been hardly room to receive!
Life is not all roses—but at least there are roses! I could hardly have believed, in light of our dire circumstances just a few short years ago, that we would ever see the deepest desires of our hearts come to pass. We are still involved with homeschooling, our bills are paid on time and, since most of the children participate full time in our family ministry, we have the blessed privilege of working together as a family to help others to fulfill their God-given responsibility as faithful, committed parents, to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord through homeschooling. What a wonderful God we serve! Who would have ever believed that He would bring us out of the muck and mire of the past, and establish us in such a large and fruitful place?
Here’s the best news of all—that same God is ready, willing, and able to do the same for you!
Don’t ever think that just because there is no father (or mother) in the home, the whole thing has to crumble into the dust. The husband is not the foundation upon which we build—Jesus is the only sure foundation upon which to base our hopes for the future. He has a tender spot in His heart for widows and orphans (the husbandless and the fatherless) and He will be your strongest support.
“Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:10,11).
Skeet Savage is the Editor of HOME SCHOOL DIGEST and An Encouraging Word (a magazine for Christian women), and author of the book, Homeschooling For Eternity. www.AnEncouragingWord.net or www.HomeSchoolDigest.com