Single Mom by Choice

single mom by choice

[Guest Post by Krista Pettiford – We met each other through the San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild. She is a gifted and talented writer, and I am absolutely thrilled to have Krista share her story about her family. If you know of any broken families who might need encouragement, please pass this one along!]

I was married and had four children when I became a Christian.

Before that, I was very worldly. Though I had been raised by religious parents and even went to Catholic school for my early education I never had a real example of godly living.

When I met my husband I was an unwed mother of two young children. Though he wasn’t a born-again Christian, we both believed in Jesus–and he loved and accepted me and my children. We began living together, and had two more children before we got married. We had what seemed like a wonderful life.

He is very well off and gave me everything a worldly woman could wish for, nice houses, fancy cars, vacations and shopping trips, plus a nanny and a house keeper. We did lots of things as a family, and just the two of us. But then his aunt invited me to church and everything changed.

I became a born-again Christian and went eagerly after the things of God, but we began to walk down two very different paths.

Instead of things getting better and being able to experience my new life in Christ with my family–we began falling apart. My husband was not ready to accept the changes in me, nor was he ready to change. I was young in the Lord with zeal and passion, but lacked wisdom.

I tried to win him to the Lord with much talking but that just pushed him further away. We became unequally yoked. Our marriage did not survive the change. We separated three years after I became a born-again Christian and eventually divorced.

Once again I was a single mother, only this time I was a Christian.

However, I didn’t blame God, He was my refuge; instead I blamed myself. Because of the life I lived before I became a Christian guilt and regret weighed on me heavily. The thought of not having the opportunity to be a Christian family with my husband was overwhelmingly difficult to face.

During the time of our separation I prayed for my husband to come back. We dated, spent holidays together and still did things as a family, but he didn’t move back in. Instead we had an open door policy which meant we had keys to each other’s places but he still wouldn’t commit. When we finally divorced, he continued to pursue me–but wouldn’t commit.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was in an unhealthy relationship of compromise without boundaries.

I lived this way for several years.

The hope of things coming back together fogged my judgment.

As for dating other men, I chose not to for my children’s sake. I decided to become a single mom by choice. I figured they had been through enough being first a blended, then a broken family. Looking back, I believe not dating other men was the right thing to do but I don’t believe dating my ex-husband without any boundaries was right. It left me and my children hanging on for years until he finally moved on.

He eventually stopped seeing my children that weren’t his, and their hearts we broken.

Through it, all somehow the joy of Lord was my strength.

When he moved on–it pushed me to move forward. Our lives had been held hostage by putting my hope in him. When I finally let go, instead of falling into the pit of nothingness and hopelessness that I imagined was waiting for me I found a freedom that is truly indescribable.

Moving on allowed me to start dreaming again and was also healthy for my children.

All four of my children, now ages 23, 19, 17 and 15 were affected by our unhealthy choices in some way or another. Though children are resilient, some things only God can heal–and He has, in many areas. We’ve moved on as a new kind of family and have learned to accept who we are and cherish each other.

Though I understand that no story is the same, many people are going through similar situations. The fruit of what my children and I went through is being able to sharing our story truthfully with others so they can make better choices.

Krista PettifordWorshiper and follower of Christ, Krista Pettiford is the mother of four children in a beautifully blended family, the women’s ministry leader and a prayer leader in her local church. She is an author, and an IT manager by day with degrees in Information Technology and Biblical Studies. She once lived like Martha, Mary’s busy sister. She longed to live a balanced life but it seemed to escape me for many years until she finally found the key–living like Mary, at Jesus’ feet first. Now she enjoys sharing the steps to create a life of surrendered balance and how to have Mary Moments™ at Jesus’ feet first, with other busy women at kristapettiford.com.

[Photo: Krista and her four children]

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Forgive a Murderer

forgive a murderer

[Guest Post by Laurie Coombs – I met my new sweet friend through our mutual friend Sarah Francis Martin. Her story on forgiveness rocked my world. Could I forgive a murderer and not only that but–without ruining her story–please keep reading!]

What do you do when your world comes crashing down upon you?

What do you do when tragedy strikes? When relationships fail? When trust has been broken? When your cheated on,
lied to, abandoned, and just downright sinned against?

I can tell you this much.

Everything inside you will want to hold onto the anger you feel. You’ll be drawn toward bitterness. Yet, even though you may be just in your feelings of anger, there comes a time that you need to let it go.

There comes a point that we all need to heed the words of our Savior and forgive.

But what does this look like?

How can we forgive amid all the pain, all the anger?

For almost ten years, this question cast its enormous shadow upon me, yet the answer continued to evade.

How do I forgive a murderer–especially the man who murdered my dad? I thought.

Is forgiveness even possible in a situation like this?

Many would say I had justifiable cause to hold on to my anger. I, certainly, wanted to. After all, this man took my dad away from me. I was only twenty when my dad died, and my dad was forty-six. I felt robbed, like every memory I should have been able to make was ripped out from under me.

My dad wasn’t there to walk me down the isle when I got married one year after his death.

He wasn’t there to see me graduate from college.

He wasn’t there to hold my babies when they were born, and my children will never know the most important man in my life, aside from their daddy.

I, certainly, had grounds to remain bitter.

But here’s the thing. Jesus commands forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a suggestion. It’s a command.

But it is the love of God that compels Him to command forgiveness. Truly, we cannot experience all Jesus died for us to have in this life while holding onto our wounds.

As a new Christian, I read the account of Jesus––dying on the cross––hands and feet pierced only moments before, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and I was amazed by His mercy to forgive those who were in the process of murdering Him.

This is why we forgive, I thought. This is the example we all must follow.

So, I did.

I followed, knowing God would bring healing and wholeness to my soul.

I began writing to Anthony, who was in prison serving his sentence. Together, we worked toward forgiveness as we hashed out some of the most heart wrenching circumstances surrounding my dad’s death.

I can’t say it was easy.

In fact, it was one of the most difficult seasons in my life, but in the end, I stood in awe of our amazing God, having witnessed the impossible happen.

After I was brought to a place of forgiveness, Anthony was transformed before my eyes. God brought him to repentance and set him on a new path bringing glory to Himself in prison.

And I was set free.

I was freed from the pain and the bitterness rooted deep within my soul.

It was nothing less than a work of God. Jesus brought good out of evil, love out of hate, and peace out of despair.

And it all began with prayer.

I’d like to encourage you today to seek God. Pray. Ask Him to reveal any unforgiveness within your heart.

And then follow Jesus as He leads you toward freedom through forgiving those who hurt you.

{Forgiveness always begins with prayer.}

To read more about Laurie’s journey toward forgiveness, read Freedom Through Grace or {Redemption} “Your Testimony May Have Saved a Life!

Laurie CoombsLaurie Coombs is a writer who encourages others to forgive others and to follow Jesus wherever He leads. She lives in Reno, Nevada with her husband, Travis. They have two little girls and are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. Be sure to visit LaurieCoombs.org and connect her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

[Photo credit: susanne anette via photopin cc]

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Forgiveness: The F Word

the f word

[Guest Post by Nicole Reyes – I can’t wait for you to hear her later this month as one of the speakers for Quarter Life Conference. She is an advocate for the local church, and I can’t wait for you to hear why. In the mean time, read her powerful story about forgiveness.]

Forgiveness, also known as the F word, can be a hard pill to swallow.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu knows what he’s talking about. He said, “Without forgiveness, there’s no future.”

Many of you are thinking…

“Well, you don’t know the pain I’ve been through.”

I don’t know your past pain, but I do know what’s even worse than the pain of our past is what happens to us when we allow that pain to plague our present and sabotage our futures.

Unforgiveness is a trap.

It keeps us chained to bitterness and disappointment.

It keeps us unable to freely embrace the abundant life that Jesus offers.

I will never forget hearing a woman speak at church years ago. I was 19 years old, and fiercely loyal to the idea of never forgiving my father for what I had experienced growing up in an alcoholic home. I was completely bitter and determined to keep as much distance between my father and me.

But that all changed as I sat listening to this courageous woman share the story of abuse she had been exposed to in her home as a child. She shared about how a relationship with Jesus had brought healing and hope to her life. She described this healing journey as a process, and said an important step in that process was FORGIVENESS.

I thought, “I am never going to forgive my dad!  He should be asking me for forgiveness!”

But no matter how hard I tried to fight it, by the time church had ended, I knew God was asking me to forgive.

I kicked and screamed in my heart.

I cried and prayed all the way home that night. I prayed, “This is too hard, God. How am I supposed to forgive him?  Why would You ask me to do something this hard? Don’t You love me?”

I truly believe this was our Heavenly Father’s response: “I do love you. It’s because I love you that I want you to forgive. I want you free, and you won’t be free without forgiveness.”

That night I called my father.

I clenched the phone in my hand so tightly that my knuckles turned white. I struggled to control my voice as it cracked under the weight of confined tears.

And to my dismay, and by God’s grace, I said, “Papi, I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry. I want to ask for your forgiveness, because for so long I have been angry and bitter towards you. I want you to know that I love you, and I am deeply sorry my love has been in question.”

Then came a silence that seemed to last forever.

My father finally spoke.   could hear the tears in his shaking voice as he told me that he loved me, and that he was sorry for all that had taken place.

It wasn’t a long conversation that night. 

But some things don’t have to be everlasting to be eternal.

My relationship with my father wasn’t repaired in one conversation.

It took years for the brokenness to be formed, and it would take years for it to fully mend. But a bridge of reconciliation was built that day over the act of FORGIVENESS.

Perhaps even more miraculous was the shift that had taken place in my heart. 

It was as if a chain wrapped around me had burst open.

Forgiveness unlocks purpose and destiny.

It allows us to run freely toward our future.  It replaces skepticism with hope, and bitterness with love.

Forgiveness is not an emotion.

No, forgiveness is a choice. 

It’s a choice we have to make over and over again.

Jesus addressed this very point with His disciples:

“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”  “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21-22 NLT)

(It is worth noting that forgiveness is not an invitation to allow someone to harm us. You may need to seek the advice and support of your pastor or another Christian leader to help you navigate a particular situation. Remember, forgiveness is something we freely give, but trust is something that is earned.)

Whether or not relationships are made new, our perspective on life certainly is.

Forgiveness unleashes the God-given potential for greatness that lies within each of us. My prayer is that you have the courage to embrace the type of freedom only accessible through FORGIVENESS.

You were made for far more than a life confined by past hurts.
 

Nicole ReyesNicole Reyes is intent on people everywhere discovering and living out a deeper, more dynamic relationship with Christ. A gifted speaker and leader, one of Nicole’s passions is for people around the globe to learn from the generations that have gone before and to extend a loving hand to the generations that follow. By doing so, Nicole believes everyone can live a vibrant, God-filled life. She also has a strong desire to see the local church make global impact by helping bring solution to social injustice around the world.  Nicole serves as Director of Ministries at Oasis Church in Los Angeles, California under Lead Pastors Philip and Holly Wagner and is part of the Teaching, Pastoral, and Executive Teams, as well as the Oasis women’s ministry team, GodChicks.

[Photo credit: bayat via photopin cc]

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Becoming a Stay At Home Dad

stay at home dad

[Guest Post by Sonny Lemmons. One of the most humble and equally funny writers I’ve (never) met. Can’t wait to meet Sonny, an amazing stay at home dad/writer at Story Chicago Conference this Fall. I hope more people stop judging SAHD’s after reading this article.]

I wish I could say that when Ashley and I got married there was a period of adjustment that was difficult.

Because drama and tension always make great stories, right?

I’d heard tales of horror from male friends who talked about the unbalanced selection of decorations in their now joint living situation (saying goodbye to exposed stereo wiring and unframed posters on the wall), the days and nights when everything was done together with no “me time” built into the schedule, or how Saturdays were spent…shopping…filling in the gaps of essentials not purchased from those registries you spent so much time constructing.

But other than an ongoing debate over the proper technique one should use when squeezing toothpaste out of a tube (back to front; is it really that hard to understand?), my inability to be dexterous enough to fold a fitted sheet, or a clear phobia one of us possess over replacing an empty toilet paper roll, it was relatively easy.

We were just two friends who got along great.

Once we became an “us,” it was merely an extension of the dynamic that was already there. For the period of time when we were without a kid, life was more or less simple: everything from cooking to laundry (minus folding the aforementioned fitted sheets) to spending afternoons drinking coffee and hanging out at a bookstore was done in tandem as equals.

And it wasn’t the birth of our son that threw everything out of joint and made living together difficult. It was me becoming a stay at home dad.

And I have to be honest–the bulk of it was my fault.

When Kai was a baby, I fell into a routine of taking care of everything around the house. Part of it was motivated out of boredom (infants sleep a lot, and there’s really nothing daytime TV has to offer), but the bulk of it was motivated by a sense of obligation to Ashley.

She was the one at work, providing for us to have a place to sleep and be able to afford food, so the least I could do was make sure when she got home the apartment was clean, laundry was put away, and dinner was ready. Every day.

Just call me John Cleaver.

She continually told me to not worry about making sure everything was perfect in the house. My priority was to make sure the several-month-old infant I was taking care of was fed, played with, got to see sunshine instead of just fluorescent lighting, and was loved on like crazy.

I never slacked off in those duties, but I always felt like I had to do more, be more, give more.

It was my responsibility to take care of everything. I was obliged to take care of it all. Otherwise, I believed it wouldn’t get done. Or, she might think I wasn’t pulling my equal weight. In hindsight, it might have been beneficial had we sat down and actually talked about these things and my feelings, but I just let it fester and grow. And the loss of love as my driving force to take care of her caused me to start resenting Ashley.

My misplaced sense of obligation to Ashley caused an unhealthy balance in our relationship.

I was swearing under my breath at a bedsheet with rounded corners because I felt I had to be the one to be responsible for it all. The foundation for everything we had experienced as a couple up to that point was in danger of eroding because I was too busy focusing on the “how” of us and not the “being”of us.

To be honest, four years after I became a stay at home dad–we’ve still not completely resolved this dynamic.

Ashley has even stated she sometimes feels an expectation for me to take care of everything around the house because I have done it for so long. And once Kid Number Two arrives in June, things will become even more complicated.

We’ll just all need to grab a corner and learn to fold together.

sonny lemmonsSonny Lemmons (yes, that is his real name) fancies himself a writer of stuff, a receiver of grace, and a drinker of coffee. At least one of these can be quantifiably proven true. He and his wife Ashley have one manic ball of energy (Malakai) and are expecting their second diaper creator in June 2013. A stay at home dad for almost four years now, Sonny can usually be found Tweeting (@sonnylemmons), blogging (www.lookthrough.net) or doing laundry while his son is sleeping.

[Photo: Gilzpics, Creative Commons]

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