Solo parent

Week 2 – Stability in the Midst of Uncertainty

We want the home we offer to our children to feel safe, ordinary, and loving. But our first day as solo parents, that home was suddenly perched on the edge of a cliff. There was no room for carefree movement. One step this way or that—a slight breeze or wobble—and you’d all come crashing down.

Here’s the funny thing about life. Every single person you see is also living on the edge of a cliff. Nobody has control. But not everyone knows it. Good fortune—an intact marriage, a healthy bank account, a calm mind, or a strong body—doesn’t situate us any more safely. Good fortune only gives us the illusion we’re in control. It lets us bumble along, oblivious to gravity.

In her Parable of the Sower, author Octavia Butler contemplates this illusion and our reaction to losing it:

When apparent stability disintegrates,
As it must—
God is Change—
People tend to give in
To fear and depression,
To need and greed.
They remember old hates and generate new ones,
They create chaos and nurture it
Until they are exhausted and destroyed,
Until they are conquered.

We’re here because we know that chaos. Something happened that blew us out of obliviousness. Finally, we could see the cliff. We had to acknowledge and accept what we can’t control. We’re raising our kids alone.

That’s not to say we can’t control anything. We can control ourselves. Our own hearts, and our own minds. Our own reactions. No kid wants to be raised in an environment where their parent spends most days shrieking, WE’RE ON THE EDGE OF A CLIFF! They need predictability, and they need peace. They need life to be ordinary and regular, no matter how extraordinary a turn it may have taken for you. To give them that, we’ve got to focus not on what we can’t control, but on what we can.

In his book on time management, Richie Norton wrote, “Instability is the repetition of tactics without a strategy.”

Let that sink in. Instability is the repetition of tactics without a strategy.

Tactics are making it to your ten-year-old’s dance recital after an overtime shift. Tactics are carpools, birthday cakes, and baseball semi-finals. You can tread water with tactics. You can keep from sinking. But eventually, you’ll run out of breath.

Strategy is the shore we swim to. It’s how—and why—we direct our strength. It’s staying focused on what matters most: what you want your kids to remember. Strategy is making the conscious choice to model grace and dignity through conflict. Strategy is getting past your own frustration and disappointment to treat your ex with the respect and good faith that helps your shared children feel safe. Strategy is leading with forgiveness, and letting your children witness its effects on your state of mind.

For believers, God is our buoyancy and the air in our lungs. The shore is our future selves, restored and renewed. The shore is our cheerful and confident children.. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (NIV)

And so choose your direction, and swim.

The Buoyancy of Prayer

Matthew 6:31-34 contrasts tactics with strategy: “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (NLT)

Live righteously. What does that mean? What is “doing your best” when life seems stacked against you? How can we “live righteously” in the face of an unexpected dental bill that shatters the whole month? Here’s how the seed of a righteous path germinates: make a little time every day to open yourself up to conversation with God, even if you don’t know what to say. Especially then.

Mahatma Gandhi was born a Hindu, but his interpretation was his own. Gandhi integrated universal principles from other religions, especially Christian doctrines—as he inspired movements for civil rights and freedom in India and around the world, he wanted to assimilate good wherever he found it.

“Prayer is not asking,” he wrote. “It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

Hindus believe each person is intrinsically divine and the purpose of life is to seek and realize the divinity within all of us, much as Christians seek conversation with God in the quiet space of our inner core. And as Gandhi believed, we need not wait to seek divinity only if we’re perfectly reconciled, serene, or devout.

God is perfectly familiar with the mess of change. The pain, the anguish. Bring it all with you. He will not flinch. He will not hold it against you for lacking grace, because prayer is the act of seeking grace when
we need it most.

Prayer is rest. Take it.

Share Time:

Share a time when you were afraid, uncertain, or heading into the unknown — especially when you were pushed against your will into the unknown. Some of us pull back from our faith in shame, fear, and overwhelm. Others lean in. How did your relationship to faith shift through your darkest times? Has it shifted again with time?

Remembering What Is Certain Inside Uncertainty

Some things never fail to lift spirits. Small accomplishments like freshly mowed grass or a clean kitchen. The sprinkler on a hot day. Arriving home to the unconditional love of a dog. Though we may be wracked with uncertainty, certainties are around us all the time.

What are your certainties? What never fails? Take a moment now to call them forward in your mind, no matter how small or insignificant they may be. One of your certainties might be that for a steady and calm mind, you need to swim. Introverts may need quiet time to recharge, while extroverts need to be social.

You might do best rising early in the morning, and worst with junk food that inflames your body and depletes your energy. You might know that fifteen minutes every day to read the Bible, meditate, or stretch helps you stay centered. You might know that if you go to bed after midnight, you’ll be wrecked for a week. We know our certainties. I know mine. You know yours. Your certainties are the routine by which you care for yourself.

Some certainties are quirks that are unique to you. Others are nearly universal for all of us. We’re always better off getting outside for some fresh air. We’re always better off after a hot shower; a nourishing supper; a good sleep. We’re always better off hearing the laughter
of our kids.

Imagine swimming across a large lake. You’re not treading water anymore. You’ve got the shore in view. Your certainties are rafts, lined up as rest stops. They let you catch your breath. They make your big, visionary strategy more doable—you’re headed for that distant shore, yes, but one raft at a time. Every time you dive into the water again, your goal is simply to reach the next one, and then the one after that. You’re being methodical, allowing your body and heart the chance to recharge along the way.

Ephesians 3:20 reads, “God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” (NIV) The same is true of each of us. We are capable of more than we think if only we can balance our fears with what never fails. Lean on your certainties as much as you lean on God’s fatherly care for you.

Share Time:

Share with us one of your rafts.
What ritual, act of self-care, or little accomplishment has helped you swim across the lake during times of change?
What raft might you be missing?

Can We Grow Beyond Grief and Anger?

When life has been turned upside-down, there can be pressure to put on a brave face and pretend we’re coping when we’re not. Change is exasperating, unfair, and full of setbacks. Being upset is the normal response. In times of extraordinary loss, separation, or betrayal, your grief and anger is normal.

But grief and anger is not where we want to stay forever. Being angry drains us of the energy we need to raise our children well—especially if they’re going to grow up with reserves of their own peace. Share your feelings with trusted friends who love you enough to work through them with you. Friends who don’t require you to pretend. You know who they are. Be with us here, and share among those who’ve been where you are. Remember that you are not alone.

For a while, every prayer may start out Lord, I am furious. I am enraged. I have been wronged. My children have been wronged. Every certainty has been obliterated. I don’t know what to do or who I am.
In our first prayers, we’re so bewildered we don’t even know what to say, or what to ask for. But a question will form, in time:

Will I feel this way forever? Will the rest of my life be chaos?

The answer is not the point. The question is the point—asking it is your first assertion of healing. You ask it because you don’t want to feel this way forever. You don’t want you or your children to live in chaos. This is the moment we envision our direction and our shore. We install rafts along the way. We will not drown because we insist on more than drowning.

Deuteronomy 31:8 says: “The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Further Action Step:

Choose a Bible verse or quote that speaks to you this week. Contemplate what it teaches you about uncertainty and certainties; about buoyancy and the air in your lungs right now. Write it down and post it where you’ll see it often.