Get Involved!Today, I have a great interview with Dana S. Chisholm, author of Single Moms Raising Sons.
You're gonna enjoy this!
Tricia: Dana, thanks for being here with me. I'm just going to jump into my questions. As parents we both know that moms are pulled in every direction. What things do you make sure you make time for? How did you do it? What advice do you have for single moms especially?
Dana: The most important thing a single parent can do for themselves and for their kids is to find balance - above all! Single parenting isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. Some think they need to find a man to fix singleness, so they set about dating and finding a husband. Some bury themselves in self improvement and changing themselves. Some focus solely on the kids (trying to be super parent because they feel guilty their kids are in a single parent home) and neglect themselves. Any one of those things might be fine in moderation. The key is keeping your balance in making time for any activity. Without balance, "making time" for the important thing just becomes one more list of things that is overwhelming and not achievable.
At my church we started a Mother's Day event that honored single moms. The church provided breakfast for all the moms while volunteers took their kids to Wal-Mart with $20 gift cards and bought them "real" presents from the kids and then set up a place for them to wrap them to give to their moms. So often the kids feel second best because they cannot honor their moms and moms are busy trying to keep everything together, let alone helping the kids get them Mother's Day gifts. This event is a huge hit with the mothers, the kids, and the church members who are looking for ways to "care for orphans and widows" but don't know how. One year I donated devotion books from one of my favorite author friends that was a reading a day starting January 1st. One of the moms remarked, "Oh great, I'm already behind!"
"Finding time" is our greatest curse. We need to remember that we cannot EVER find time for everything, and instead need to be looking for balance. I tell overwhelmed moms to make a Personal Mission Statement and then measure every activity you consider adding to your already busy schedule against that Personal Mission Statement. My Personal Mission Statement is to live a Christ like life and raise men after God's own heart. So, when I am asked to add one more volunteer project to my schedule, I measure the task against that statement. Is it contributing in some way to raising men after God's own heart? Is it doing something in response to living more Christ like? If it is not, I need to fill that precious time slot with something that supports my mission statement.
You can't know the answer to that unless you are spending time listening to God's leading. When I was doing my coursework at Biola University for my Master, we spent one weekend on a Leadership Retreat - you backpack in, team building, etc. On one afternoon they isolated each of us in the wilderness, sat us down with no watch, no paper, no pen, no books, no one to visit with, no Bible, just the wilderness for four hours. When they told us to do that I thought I would go crazy alone for four hours! Were they crazy? We were to spend our time just talking to God and being still...to listen. What seemed like about 10 minutes passed and they came to get me..it had been the entire four hours! I learned that afternoon what it meant to "be still and know" God. To listen. I knew that day that I needed to find the time to be still in my life - the time for balance.
Sometimes we are so concerned with getting kids to where they need to go for activities, or even finding time to take a shower because we can't get away from toddlers and babies and there is no one to tag team and give us a break, that we often forget to find that silent quiet time and be still. That can be in many forms; a hot bath, a bike ride, a walk in the park, or four hours in the wilderness. The important thing is to find that balance and time to be still and listen to God.
Tricia: That sounds inspiring, but why was making time for this important to you? How did it help you as a person and a parent?
Dana:God wants the best for us. Our problem is, we want the best for our kids and often forget ourselves. The reality is, God knows that if we are at our best, we'll have our best to give to our kids. I have to remind myself that as much as I love my kids, the Lord loves them more...and he loves me that much too! If I don't make time to spend with Him, just talking to Him (prayer) and listening to Him (reading the Bible and being still) then I lose myself, my focus, and my ability to be the very best mom I can be...and none of that helps me achieve my Personal Mission Statement.
Tricia: Great advice! Do you have a favorite Scripture verse that deals with this?
Dana: My two favorite verses are:
Phil 4:13 "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
That means everything!
Psalm 68:5 "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling."
My boys have a Father who will never let them down, never forsake them, who is real in their lives. He is not just a billowy figure. He is their Provider, Protector, and will teach them to be wonderful fathers themselves someday.
Tricia: I find that when I do have quiet time God turns my attention to caring for and serving others. How have you made this doable on a regular basis? What if we don't have four hours in a wilderness?
Dana: Life brings many seasons. When the boys were babies, I got involved in my community differently than the years I spent during their PopWarner Football years as Team Mom. No matter what season and what activities, I always remembered my Mission Statement and the Lord brings people across your path on the football team to witness to and invite to church just as easily as volunteering to go door to door. I was able to invest my energy in different ways to live Christ like and raise men after God's own heart. Part of being able to recognize the opportunities Christ has for us is maintaining my connection to Him through quiet time and leaning on Him as my Husband to the widow and Father to the fatherless. Since I don't live in the wilderness, that quiet time for me looks more like a hot bath and pouring my heart out to Him - praises and sorrows.
Tricia: I love the idea of "looking for opportunities." Can you share more about this?
Dana: I think people have a notion that they have to go do a work project on houses in Tijuana or volunteer at a soup kitchen - which are both great and we do those sorts of volunteer projects. But, there are volunteer projects that you can do with your kids almost everywhere, if you just leave yourself open to what the Lord brings into your life...and then do it.
For example, I was hosting a single mom Bible study in my home once a week with our church. My boys volunteered to babysit the smaller kids in the other room while we had Bible study in the living room. Through one Bible study group we learned of a single mom with one son who had to go to work at 5am each day but the day program at the school didn't open until 7am. So, we volunteered to take care of her son, she dropped him off every morning, and then my boys walked him to school when it was time (we lived near by). I made sure to point out to the boys that they were serving the Lord in the ways He was bringing into our lives and what they were doing was important to show God's love to those moms - just like the Bible says to care for the orphans and widows. Those were tangible ways we could volunteer.
Tricia: That is awesome. What was the result of teaching this to your boys?
Dana: Of course it meets the needs of God's people (the single moms and their kids), but it also meets my objective to raise men after God's own heart. It builds my boys' character, teaches them compassion for others, and it also teaches them to focus on others and not get caught in focusing on themselves and what they don't have, but instead see what they do have to offer to others. Sometimes the kids can get caught thinking others have more money than us, or they have more toys than us, etc. When they are given the chance to volunteer and give, they see there are others sometimes in greater need. And we may not have money to give, but they have time, skills, and the resources God has entrusted us with.
One time a friend helping a homeless family came to pick up some bunk beds we were donating to them for an apartment she had rented for them. My boys immediately went to their rooms and picked out some gently used toys to give to the kids getting the bunk beds because they thought they wouldn't have any toys if they didn't have beds! My boys were about 5 & 9 at the time ... they gave away a Gameboy - one of their most prized possessions! They understood the need to give to others.
Tricia: What advice do you have for other parents looking for volunteering opportunities?
Dana: Its great if you find organized ways to volunteer with your kids. But, also pray that the Lord would bring people into your life that you can help and then be sensitive to those opportunities when they actually come...and respond! Then be sure to point out the process to your kids so they learn to pray that the Lord would use them in people's lives. I think often the Lord provides opportunities each and every day to volunteer, get involved, lend a hand, and we are too wrapped up in our own needs or concerns that we miss the opportunity. When we do that, we miss out on the blessing of giving that was intended for us.
Tricia: There are many single moms out there that need encouragement. If you had to share the importance of right priorities with another single parent, what would you say?
Dana: At the end of every year when I do my taxes, it is a miracle that we survived and even thrived on the funds that show on paper. At the end of every day when when I review my "To Do" list, it is a miracle that we accomplished as much as we did. God is constantly working miracles in the life of a single mom, and frankly, I don't know how a single mom does it WITHOUT God working miracles each and every day. If you don't have Him in your life giving you hope on the days things are going wrong, you have nothing.
Sometimes the Lord provides manna, like He did for the Israelites - just enough to get you through the day and no more. Trusting that the manna will be there again tomorrow is sometimes the hardest part of all. But, its always there!
Tricia: So true. Do you have any closing thoughts for us?
Dana: I have two quotes on my refrigerator:
"Funds are low again, Hallelujah! That means God trusts us and is willing to leave His reputation in our hands."
C.T. Studd, Missionary to China, India & Africa
"Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end" - unknown
Tricia: I love that. Thank you so much for sharing!
Dana is a single mother of two boys (16 & 12) since they were four and a newborn. She has a BA in Communications, MA in Organizational Leadership, and been named Woman of the Year by the State of California twice (2000 & 2006) for her work on behalf of women, teens and families. She founded several non-profit organizations that serve crisis pregnancy centers, teen abstinence programs, single moms, and women's issues. Her book, "Single Moms Raising Sons; preparing boys to be men when there is no man around" was released in 2007 by Beacon Hill Press. She is currently working on a Single Mom Devotional.
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