By Rhonda Stoppe, Crosswalk.com
“You can’t come with mommy to grandma and grandpa’s house this year,” Ella held back tears while she attempted to explain to her littles that mommy had no control over the situation because she had to obey the court’s orders.
This was Tom’s first year to have the kids on Thanksgiving. It just killed Ella to leave the children with Tom and his new live-in girlfriend - but what other choice did she have?
During the long, lonely drive to her parent’s house, Ella had lots of time to worry about how she would hold up at the family gathering. She knew all of the young cousins would be playing together. Not seeing her own children join in the fun would be hard. But, concern over what the kids would be exposed to while visiting Tom was even harder.
“God help me,” she whispered. Ella turned the nob, forced a smile, and walked in to join the family festivities.
Can You Relate?
Unfortunately, Ella’s story is a familiar tale. Maybe you also find yourself in her shoes. You’re not alone, my friend. The Life of a Single Mom reveals that there are 15 million single moms in the United States. Single moms are currently raising more than 22 million of America’s youth. And if you’re one of those moms, I want you to know my heart is with you.
Even though statistics reveal that you’re not alone in this single mom gig, loneliness is a real experience for mothers going it alone. For many, the holidays seem to compound the feelings of pain and isolation.
So, what’s a mom to do? Let’s take a moment to consider one practical way you can encourage yourself this Thanksgiving season.
Plan a Friendsgiving Celebration
1. Invite Single Moms to Your Party
If you’re not alone in this single mom thing, and statistics reveal that you are not, what if you invite a few other single mothers to a Friendsgiving celebration? If you’re a Christian, consider other single mothers in your church who might be blessed by a special celebration just for them and their kids. Your friend-feast doesn’t have to land on Thanksgiving Day. Rather, choose a time that works well for everyone’s schedule.
2. Make it an Outreach
As a single mom who has a relationship with Jesus, you know how lonely you can feel at times, but consider the compounded isolation for a mother who doesn’t know The Lord. Imagine the multiplied loneliness of a mom who doesn’t have Jesus’ love and support of a church family. With that in mind, prayerfully consider inviting a single parent who does not know Christ. Your kindness to invite her to your gathering might be the experience God uses to draw her to salvation.
3. Ask for Help
Since most single-parent families are on a tight budget, don’t take it upon yourself to provide all of the food. Ask guests to bring their favorite side dish and dessert to share. If finances are tight, research local churches, food banks, and other charitable distributors that help provide groceries during the holidays.
And if hosting the event at your house causes you angst, ask a friend to consider hosting in her home. But, if you do hold the dinner at your house, don’t get stuck trying to create a Pinterest-perfect celebration.
I have found that the less I stress over making my house perfect, the more I enjoy celebrating with friends. So, like me, if you’re not the best at presenting creative centerpieces and holiday decor, at least be willing to simply clean a toilet, wipe down the kitchen, and sweep the floor.
Let’s be honest, your guests and their kids will trash your house anyway, so cleaning enough to make them feel welcome is usually all that is necessary. As a plus, having people over to your lived-in home can give them the courage to invite you and your friends to their home on another occasion.
4. Count Your Blessings
Don’t allow your single mom friend gathering to turn into an X-bashing party. Misery loves company, so it might be tempting for your event to turn ugly. Gossip is always ugly. So, keep in mind the Christ-honoring purpose of your Friendsgiving celebration and ask God to help you follow this advice found in these scriptures:
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
“But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:16).
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6).
With these biblical insights in mind, when you create invites, it’s a good idea to clarify that the goal of your party is to gather for uplifting fellowship and to celebrate God’s faithfulness over the past year.
Here’s a fun idea to help your guests talk about what is good, right, and honorable––as suggested in Philippians 4:8. Upon arrival, provide cards for each guest to write anonymously at least one blessing this year for which they are thankful. Put all of their cards into a basket. Then, ask the guests to take turns drawing someone’s card and reading it aloud - while everyone else tries to guess whose card it is.
You can even ask the younger children to join in by coloring a picture of what they’re thankful for. Pull out their cards and ask everyone to guess whose drawing it is. Then, ask the child to tell the group about his thankful artwork. This practice will influence your children to count their blessings, too. Remember, grateful people raise grateful people - so let it begin with you!
5. Pray Together
Ask each person to offer a prayer of thanksgiving over the card they have in their hands. Or, if you prefer, you can simply pray after all the cards are drawn. And if the thought of leading the group in prayer intimidates you, ask a more confident friend if she would pray for the group.
Cultivate a Thankful Heart
Whether, like Ella, it’s your year to send the kids off to be with Dad or you’re planning a quiet dinner at home with you and your children, it is my prayer for you this Thanksgiving that the Lord reminds you of His faithfulness, surrounds you with an uplifting single mom community and that His Spirit cultivates in you a thankful heart this season and the whole year through.
Rhonda Stoppe is the NO REGRETS WOMAN. With more than 30 years experience of helping women build no-regrets lives. I could have listened to Rhonda talk all night, is what women say about Rhonda’s enthusiastic, humorous, transparent teaching and zeal as an evangelist. She’s committed to fulfilling the Titus 2:4 commission by mentoring, teaching, and writing books that are inspiring, grounded in Scripture, and easy to read––like you're visiting with a friend over coffee.
Rhonda is the author of 6 books and appears on numerous radio programs, including Focus on the Family, Family Life Today and Dr. James Dobson’s FamilyTalk, & hosts The No Regrets Hour. Her new podcast, Old Ladies Know Stuff, just launched. She’s an evangelist and speaker at women’s events, College Women’s Chapel, Pastor’s Wives Conferences, MOPs and Homeschool Conventions. Sharing the gospel at her NoRegretsWoman Conference is her sweet spot. Rhonda is a regular contributor for Crosswalk and many other magazines. Rhonda ministers alongside her husband Steve, who for 20 years has pastored First Baptist Church of Patterson, California. They live out their own Real Life Romance writing books and speaking at their No Regrets Marriage Conferences, but their favorite ministry is their family. They have four grown children and ten grandchildren. To learn more about Rhonda’s speaking topics, watch her teaching, and book Rhonda for your next event, visit: NoRegretsWoman.com.