Is Stability Even Possible?

March 31, 2024

When unexpected or even expected things change in our lives, it often has a domino effect impacting so many areas of our lives. The impacts of chaos are even bigger for solo parents. So how do we know when to keep things stable or when do we take a chance and actually walk into some instability?

Stability often requires us to make some hard decisions. What do we mean by that? And how do we know whether we should shake things up or keep things the same?

It’s honestly scenario by scenario, case by case, because there are big things and there are small things. I’ll start off by saying that growing up, we moved every year. Every year we moved to a different house because my parents rented until I was in the middle of my ninth grade year. We rented houses and there were times that we lived with my grandmother. We lived with an aunt and uncle. We had our own house, but every year we moved. And I don’t want to put my son Jax through that. I want to be stable. And of course I’ve already uprooted him with the divorce. And so how can I create stability? This is top of mind for me quite a bit and has been throughout my adulthood. There are several things that you can do when you are staring at a decision and you’re like, “Okay, what do we do? How’s this going to affect my family?”

Most stability does require a decision, right? You don’t just “happen” into stability. To move towards stability, you have to make a decision. It’s intentional. When I was married before, things were good for me. I was in the music business and we had a bigger house. And so when we divorced, I didn’t really need that size of house, but I made the decision to stay in that house for the sake of stability. On one hand, it was a little more unstable: The mortgage payment was higher than I wanted, but the upside was I could keep the girls in the same neighborhood and they could stay in the same school. It turns out I got married and she had three boys, and we needed every single square inch of that house. But I hadn’t thought about the fact that almost all stability requires us to make a decision.

Does the outcome of the decision line up with your values?

You have to look at some of those things bigger, long-term. I’m still in the same neighborhood Jax and I have been in since the divorce. I moved into a townhouse in a little community right next to school. And I recently bought a house. And when I was thinking about buying a house, I was like, “I could move outside of this neighborhood and have a cheaper mortgage” but I’m not willing to do that. I’d rather stay renting and keep Jax in the same neighborhood. He has his friends, he has his school, he has everything that’s comfortable for him when his world outside of the community is already so shaken.

And that lines up with my priorities for my child and our values and the people we want to surround ourselves with. Being really prayerful about big decisions and small decisions—just bringing it to God in prayer. There are times—call it the Holy Spirit, call it your intuition—where you have to really pay attention to what’s going on inside of you and what God’s telling you. Have a gut check. I think we can get down to individual circumstances, but at the end of the day we’re faced with [small] daily decisions that can create stability or instability, whether it’s our after-school routine or extracurricular activities, a stable church home, etc. and we are faced with big decisions: Are we going to move? Jax is about to move to middle school so that’s going to be a big disruption for him, even though he is going with friends. Whenever I’m faced with something that is a big decision, I find it a really good exercise to sit down with the pen and paper and write pros and cons on either side. Because when it stays in your mind, it just jumbles up with everything else and I’ve got a ton in there. I never really resolve anything unless I can put pen to paper. And in laying out the pros and cons, you’re having to lay out the short-term pros and cons as well as the long-term pros and cons. There’s always a balance in that.

From a widow’s perspective, they tell you not to make any big decisions within the first year of loss. I would echo that for divorce if you can help it. But about three months after my husband died, I was like, “Oh, I’m doing so much better. I’m better, right?” The desire to move past that was so strong, the desire to not be defined by this loss and to be able to move forward and create a new life. So I did end up waiting, but a year and a half after Bill died, we had no family in Nashville where we lived, so I thought, “Okay, it’s going to be amazing. I’m going to live next to my sister, I’m going to move up to Richmond and this will be the only time we move.” Well, that was a lie. My intentions were right, but we can’t know everything. So, I ended up moving in the house with my sister, then into my own house with the kids. And then within nine months of moving into our own house, we were back in Nashville—and not in Brentwood, we were in Franklin, and everything had changed for my kids. There’s a big tendency for me to feel shame or regret over how much movement I did with my kids. I really saw God’s hand come back in all of that chaos and all of those decisions. God planted us in a neighborhood we would not have otherwise moved into, with a community that has blessed my children and, quite frankly, helped me raise them, helped me feed them. You can put everything on pen and paper, you can make the best decision with what you know now, but you need to give yourself grace too because that decision is the best decision with the information now, and you don’t know what’s coming down the pipeline. And there is also an element of trusting that God is going to guide you and that instability is not the worst thing that can ever happen to a kid. There’s also the part of who you are—are you stable? Are you a good anchor for your kids?

Keep in perspective that very few things are life and death and that God uses all things for the good. And ultimately if we’re submitting and trusting him, he’ll work things out. Even things that may not have been the optimal decision. Don’t react in fear. Moving towards stability, taking some risks sometimes.

I can be an optimist, and you look at decisions like that and have the choice to say, “Oh my gosh, worst decision of my life. I can’t believe I did that nine month in Richmond.” But you can also look at it as, “Look at all the amazing things we learned” even if it was “Oh, I learned that I need to not follow my fear. I need to follow my intuition, Holy Spirit, where God’s leading me.” Every situation, even if it takes us off course a little bit, has a lesson in it somewhere.

Movement is really important, and we can get so trapped in fear that we don’t make moves. Especially as single parents, when you’re like, “Okay, I need to keep some status quo” and realize that instability is not the worst thing to happen. Don’t be afraid to make hard decisions and give yourself permission to make a mistake knowing that God works things out. And in doing that, I would recommend bringing people into the process, wise counsel to help you weigh things out.

So let’s talk about some of the costs of stability related to being a single parent.

When I first became a single parent, there was a lot to assess and say, “Well, what does matter to me and to my family?” There’s no way I could have my kids in all the sports and all of the things they did when I didn’t have extra help at home. I had to take an inventory and assess that. For the first six months, I had one measure for myself of success, and that measure was “Did my kids eat today?” And if my kids ate that day, I was a successful mom. And I would pat myself on the back and say, “Hooray, we can live to fight another day.” Because I knew that there were some battles that I could not fight at that moment. Not every dragon can be slayed in the first week or six months or even six years when you’re dealing with something as traumatic as grief, loss, death, divorce.

What are we willing to give up? What does matter? My kids didn’t become the best baseball or football players because we gave up some of the sports. I was offered a position as a drug rep, which would’ve required quite a lot of traveling. The salary was amazing. It came with a car. I’m like, “Wow, the things I could do for my family with this.” Then I realized, “Who’s going to take care of my kids when I’m gone?” And yes, I had family who could help, but my kids didn’t need a mom who was in and out of home and not know whether it was grandma who was going to be there or not. They needed somebody who was regularly there. And so I made the hard decision to say, “No, I’m going to stay where I am because I want to keep my relationship with my children stable right now.” There will be a time and a place when I can travel all I want. But right now my kids’ needs for having a parent present was more important. I can’t necessarily make the world an easy place for them, but I can give them my presence and help them know that when they need me, I am an anchor that they can rely on.

Those hard decisions come in big ways and small ways. I’ve been dating the same person for several years now, and we recently had a big conversation about our future especially when I was making the decision to buy the house. That in itself is a big decision. I stayed in the same neighborhood, but obviously I’m paying a lot more than I was paying for rent. It’s a bigger house. There’s more expenses, you’re putting roots down. I got a lot of wise counsel on “What am I going to do?” “Is this the right move?” But it required us to have a conversation about our future. We discussed the fact that his daughter is in school about an hour away from where Jax and I live in Franklin. And he already lives in Nashville about 30 minutes away from where she goes to school. So he can’t move any further south; 50% of the time, it would be too much. She’s already having to drive that far to school a couple of days a week. And then, Jax has his community and I told Josh, “I am unwilling to move him out of the community. He doesn’t have siblings that go back and forth with him to mom and dad, somebody who’s there wherever he goes. What he has are his friends and the community he’s built since kindergarten. And I can’t take him out of that. It’s just not an option.” And so we made the decision to continue dating for the next couple of years, however long it takes for the sake of our kids. I’m not willing [to move] and he can’t move further south. It’s hard. We are doing what we can to see each other when we can. We have the same parenting schedule and that’s been great and we make it work, but it’s a sacrifice for our kids’ stability to be able to do that.

There’s a cost to instability and stability. And so the first point of weighing out the pros and cons is a really important part. And I think you have to be realistic with the cost of stability because in your case, you love someone, you want to be with them all the time; it would be great to start building a life together. But you make a decision that is not just one-faceted, you have to realize the bigger picture and make a decision that is a sacrifice. And fortunately, you’re with someone understanding who gets it and sees it the same way. A really important component is there’s a cost on both sides because if you did just get married, there is a cost to that. You would have to pull Jax out, or Josh would have to pull his daughter out. I think it is really a matter of juggling a lot of balls, whether it’s household responsibilities, our kids’ wellbeing, our relationships, and interests. We have to know which balls are just going to shatter on the ground. You can keep dating for a while and it’s not optimal, but if you’re both understanding, so be it. Marissa, in your case, there are going to be other jobs, even though this is not the optimal job. Life’s not going to stop. There is a cost to pursue stability and sometimes it means forfeiting a company car.

We can tend to paint a rosy picture of what we think we’re sacrificing, but a few months later, that drug actually didn’t get FDA approval, so if I had taken that job, I would’ve had to find another job. But it’s easy to just look at that and say, “Oh, well I lost all of that.” Well, did I? No, I gained or was protected by making that decision.

When I started Solo Parent, I was really scared because I left a cushy job in the music industry, went through divorce, started another ministry (a TV touring thing for kids that I did with my daughters), and that was great, and we had a good run. Solo Parent was just this side hustle idea. And I had to make a decision whether I was going to go all in: Was this a real calling? I was still a single dad and not married. And I was like, “Okay, do I want another transition, another disruption?” I remember being in church one day and the pastor was talking about how he faced making a big decision about coming to Nashville and starting a church.

And one of his friends said to him, “So what are you most afraid of?” And the reason this resonated with me is I was in the same position: Do I start Solo Parent or do I stay in a job that is providing what I need? He said, “Well, I’m worried about providing for my family.” And this guy said, “Wait a second, you think you provide for your family?” And that hit me like a ton of bricks because at the end of the day, you don’t have control. We just don’t know. So when you’re calculating, pursuing, making difficult decisions to find stability, you don’t have control. Provision does not come from my ability to stay at one company or go to the other. I need to make good decisions, but at the end of the day, it relies on God. Because we have assurance as people of faith, there is a level [of belief] that God has all things under control, and it allows us to weigh the pros and cons. Whatever it is, we know that we can make those decisions. Why? Because we are not the provider. We are all taken care of by our Father. And I think that should bring not only a sense of comfort, but a sense of grace for ourselves. It’s not all on us. We are not our providers. We are not kingpins of stability that we’re bringing to our kids. And yes, we should work towards stability. But at the end of the day, do your best to weigh things and make a decision while knowing that God’s ultimately got it.

When we do make the decisions and know where God wants us, that doesn’t guarantee comfort. It doesn’t guarantee that everything’s going to be easy or simple, or now that you’ve decided to start Solo, it’s a walk in the park. And so it’s tempting to say, “Oh, God is saying that I made the right decision because I’m comfortable and if I have to hurt or if I have to go through hard, maybe that was the wrong decision. Maybe I’m not where God wants me to be.” But diamonds are made in the stress, and pressure and challenges are a gift.

What steps can we take to tackle an overwhelming issue, make a decision to start moving towards stability?

Take inventory of where you’re already stable, what already feels like it’s in a good place to you. Your career, your finances. Do you have a steady paycheck, steady job? Do you have a steady school for your kids? Or do you have a roof over your head? Do you have a car that works? It could be simple: water that turns on correctly. Toilet that flushes. Set that baseline at least and say, “Okay, well if nothing else, I got these things underneath me and we’re good. God’s got me.”

I think it is really important to compartmentalize. How can we do this thing that is in front of us right now? Very shortly after that loss, I lost a friend and then I lost an employee a couple months later. And it kept being loss after loss after loss, and I kept having just issue after issue. And I got to the point where I said, “Did anybody die?” No. Okay, then it’s not a real problem. There are times when we just have to have perspective and start saying, “Okay, what are my real problems? I’m going to start dealing with those. Where is the most risk of instability?” If my child is not handling the transition well emotionally, that’s almost always going to be issue number one. If I’m financially stable, my kid is eating, then is my child also emotionally in a place where they can process through this? Shortly after [Bill] died, I wanted to go to a support group. But my son told me, “If you leave, I will not be here when you get back.” He was hurting. He was 10 years old and he needed me at home. The next day I called the pediatrician and said, “I need help.” And I got him and his brother into counseling. Our pediatrician fortunately pulled some strings. But there are places where you cannot wait to take a step in stability, and you need to step up now because your child needs you. And when they are getting upset with you, when they say things like that, that is a cry for help. Prioritize what is there and what you can do.

And the old saying is, “How do you eat an elephant? You eat an elephant one bite at a time.” It’s been around for a while, but there’s so much foundational truth to this. You’ve just got to start. If there’s an elephant in the room, you’ve got to decide whether it’s kid related or it’s job related. You just have to know the direction you’re headed and start making the right decision one bite at a time. For me, with starting Solo, I certainly didn’t make the decision for the sake of stability. It just felt like that’s what I needed to do.

Where we’ve grown to today is so different from where I started, and if we make a decision to move in a direction to pursue stability, to pursue the right thing, and then you quickly measure the next day, “Am I there yet?” That will be crippling as opposed to going, “Okay, what is the right decision today to move me in that direction?” It’s also okay to go, “This is the wrong direction” at some point. But if you believe that you need to move in a certain direction, whatever that direction is, you need to give it a little time and just start taking one bite at a time. Start just trying and get to the place where those small steps actually amount to complete change. But be careful of making a decision to measure in the short term. It usually doesn’t look like you’ve accomplished much in the short term.

We’ve moved and it’s a huge disruption to move not only from just your house but also the schedule’s different because Jax has to leave for school a little earlier because we live a little bit further from the school. He is riding his bike to school now instead of us walking over—little stuff. And then after school looks a little different, but also because of the move, we’ve gotten a little out of our rhythm. And so we actually missed studying for a test the other day because I was so busy with getting the move done. I just completely forgot about homework and I didn’t check in. We were up early the next morning studying. When you’re juggling so many balls, it’s easy for some of those to drop. When you do have a disruption, give yourself grace, and also realize that things are going to fall through the cracks. And that’s okay. He didn’t do great on the test, but it’s fine.

Don’t equate being comfortable with stability. There are elements of it that are comfortable, but taking a risk is never comfortable. We can only control the controllable; there are things that you are not going to be able to control. Give yourself some grace to know that there are things that are beyond your control. Just try to control the things that are within your control and be really honest with yourself.

Incorporate your kids into it. Don’t overwhelm them by saying, “Oh my gosh, we’re so unstable” but realize that everyone has a part to play and this is a great adventure. We as parents feel like we have to be the answer to everything for our kids and provide all the stability in the world when the truth is sometimes our kids learn the most when they’re pulled into the story. And being part of a solution or part of a progress or success does a lot to help reinforce the idea that it’s okay to be uncomfortable. And that does not mean you’re unstable, but it’s something worth moving towards.

People want to live extraordinary lives and they’re creating these ideas [on social media] that aren’t attainable, and it makes you feel like your ordinary life isn’t good enough. How can you actually make that extraordinary, an adventure, help your kids see the good in it, become grateful in it, and have fun on the journey? That builds resilience in our kids. And for a healthy kid, that’s one of the critical components that you want. They’re going to be a much better adult because they learned how to be resilient and resourceful and solve problems with you and help you.

And from a resilience standpoint, maybe because I moved every year, it’s given me the ability to be a little bit more resilient when things change. That has actually been scientifically proven—literally, kids who move more handle change better.


1. Ensuring stability sometimes requires us to make hard decisions.
2. There are costs in order to maintain or create stability in our family’s lives. Footnote to that, there’s also a cost for not making hard decisions and staying with the status quo.
3. Stability doesn’t happen in one fell swoop. It takes practice, work, and it comes bit by bit. So be patient with it and know that God has you.

Listener Question

There was an older kid at the playground who was angry and saying things that were not okay to some younger ones. I don’t know what started it, but I didn’t really know how to handle this. How do we teach our kids to handle injustice the way Jesus wants us to?

So I think this question has two parts to it. One is, am I witnessing injustice or am I teaching my child how to deal with injustice that he is seeing? That is something I have very much tried with my kids to say, “Hey, there’s a lot of turning a blind eye that goes on in our culture, in our society today. But people need help. And if you see something, say something. If you are able to stand up for somebody, stand up for them. When you see that child at school, who is the outcast and who is not accepted? Be the person who walks up to them that day and says something about it. And when you see that child being bullied, step in and say, ‘Hey, no, he’s fine.’ Stop it because you have no idea how much just a little bit goes.” But I do think there’s the other side of it when more they’re experiencing some of that injustice themselves and experiencing some of the discomfort personally.

There’s a kid in our neighborhood that Jax is friends with, and his parents were recently divorced. I’ve noticed he and Jax bicker quite a bit when they’re hanging out or if they’re playing online video games together. They’ll hop on after school sometimes and they’ve gotten into some little arguments here and there, which is really funny to me. One afternoon Jax came home and I was like, “Oh, you’re back quick.” He’s like, “Well, so-and-so rage quit and he left the playground.” He went home and he had left all his stuff at our house and whatever. And so at first I was like, ‘Okay, well, I didn’t really know how to handle it” but I gave it some thought and I found out his parents had recently divorced. Then I noticed it was a pattern that something would happen between this kid and Jax or this kid and some other boys, and he would just leave.

And so I had a talk with Jax. I was like, “Hey, this is what’s happening. His parents got divorced. I’m sure he’s going through a hard time. I’m sure he is really hurt. He’s also probably learned that leaving is what you do when you’re fighting, that you don’t stick it out. So we’re going to show him a different way.” A week later, the kid’s back over, he and Jax come downstairs, they’re fighting with each other, and the kid is like, “I’m leaving. I’m out.” And I said, “Hang on, let’s stop right now. Let’s talk this out. We don’t do this in our house. We don’t leave. We don’t just take off just because we’re fighting. This isn’t how relationships are done. This isn’t how friendships are built, so let’s talk about it.”

So I had them talk it out for a second and helped diffuse the situation. Then they went out on their bikes and had a great afternoon and it was fine. A lot of times I try to let them handle their own disputes and handle their own things. But sometimes we as parents have a responsibility—where it’s like it’s a bigger opportunity for me to teach [Jax] a lesson and show him how to love. I know it’s a little different than a bully situation, but how can we teach them to love well in those situations and see a bigger picture than what’s on the playground or right there in front of us? There’s something going on behind the scenes. These kids typically aren’t just angry, rageful kids that are walking around. So how can we be empathetic to that and how can we teach our kids to be sensitive to that as well?

So what I’m hearing both of you say is reason it out when there’s injustice, talk about both sides and realize that what the scripture says is “Don’t be surprised when you find trials and tribulations in this world, but I have overcome the world.” So in other words, let’s help our kids understand that things are going to be unfair. And not just run or flee but stick with it. Reason through it. Realize that we’re all just trying to figure it all out.