A year from now, our lives will reflect the decisions we’re making today. How can we navigate our family and move forward when facing decision overwhelm? It’s a joy to welcome prolific authors Pam Farrel and PeggySue Wells, who share how life is shaped by the next best decision.
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A guest post by Pam Farrel and PeggySue Wells
“What will you do while we’re gone?” The question came from one of my children as they and their siblings prepared to spend time with their dad. The court-ordered visitation was particularly hard when the weekend fell on Mother’s Day, and I would go to church and sit alone.
Torn between parents and without a voice in the divorce laws, the children felt a need to care for the parent left behind. When suffocating court orders dictated our calendar, limited our ability to choose what we did and with whom, the children wanted assurance that I would be fine when we were apart.
Uninvited, I disliked that strangers in the legal system who did not know my children or me, decided when my children were with me and when they were not. Excluded, I mourned our wedding vows to cherish, honor, and love that morphed into costly attorneys and complicated legal agreements that no one considered even remotely fair.
No matter how tempting, subsisting on Cheetos, M&Ms, and alcohol, sliding into depression, rushing into another relationship, or finding similarly destructive actions would only compound the wreckage. I understood and empathized with those who made such choices, but that was not the next right decision for my children or me.
“I can be miserable and live through these circumstances as I trust God, or more miserable if I binge and still have to face the same circumstances,” Gari Meacham describes in Be Free.
A life of integrity begins by just doing the next right thing.
Behavior has consequences—positive and negative. My choices reflect some good decisions and plenty of proof that I desperately need a Savior—his forgiveness to protect me from my abundant shortcomings, mercy to cover my self-centeredness, and grace to navigate my life.
When so much had not gone as I’d hoped, I wanted to give myself and my family the security of knowing that I would do my best to make the next right decision. You can too.
Life is easier and more peaceful when we decide what we will do, and what we won’t, even before the choice beckons.
I wish I had been quicker and more willing to grasp that none of the disappointing or rugged parts of my situation were a surprise to God. In everything, he is all-knowing and always in control. In everything, he is good and teaching me about himself. Christ put my needs before his own. Cover to cover, the Bible is the overarching true love story of our heavenly bridegroom, who loves and faithfully pursues us. The Creator of the universe entered our time and space as Jesus Christ to meet us where we are and invite us into eternal relationship. With Christ’s example, we find that difficult days become opportunities to make the next good decision. Challenges are chances to excel, press close to God, and explore what he is showing us about his consistent character.
“This is where you have me for this moment,” I learned to pray. “How can I best invest this timely gift of now?”
When I maintained a positive perspective and did the next right thing, the children and I survived and sometimes thrived despite the challenging and awkward state of our family.
But what about those times when I made poor choices? On a bright spring day, I played in the backyard with my two-year-old grandson. Surrounded by his favorite toys, he playfully batted a plastic ball with a toy golf club. Then a noise captured his attention, and he turned in a different direction.
Most neighborhoods in Indiana do not have fences, and my grandson toddled to the front of the house and toward the residential street.
“Where do you think you’re going, you naughty boy?” I called after him. “Come back here! You’re going immediately into time-out for the rest of your life. Now, you think about what you’ve done, how you will fix it, and never, ever go that direction again.”
Are you scandalized by my response to my beloved grandson? Yet how often do we think that God responds to our choices and messes with anger and judgment? We envision God standing, hands on his hips, and yelling, “Try harder! You can do better.”
In truth, God is head over heels, crazy in love with you and me.
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jer. 31:3, NIV)
God stands with his arms outstretched, encouraging us to run into his inviting and accepting embrace.
Of course, I did not say such soul-wounding words to this precious young boy. Nor does God speak to us with such harshness. Peacefully, I came alongside him as he toddled toward danger.
“Hey, buddy,” I said gently. “Let’s go back to where you are safe.” I bent to his level, and he turned into my arms. I scooped him up, and in that instant, my grandson was secure. Cuddling this sweet bundle of boy, I carried him back to his favorite collection of toys in a protected place in the yard where he connected and belonged and where we continued to laugh and play.
That’s when I felt God whisper to my spirit, “Do you get it?”
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No matter how you became a single mom, you share the same challenges and fears all single moms have. You may feel stretched to the limit. You may suspect your children need more than you’re able to give. How are you going to do this on your own? In their new book, The 10 Best Decisions a Single Mom Can Make, Pam Farrel (child of a single mother) and PeggySue Wells (single parent of seven children) show you how to parent with courage, confidence, and clarity.
Special thanks to Baker for partnering in today’s devotion.
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