I spent lunchtime this last Sunday with a group of 20 single mothers. Our church has an amazing ministry to these (plus 20 more moms who weren't there yesterday) and their children. After lunch, volunteers took the kids swimming and to play in classrooms so moms could talk and explore a topic.
I was their topic-deliverer. And we explored "be still and know that I am God." We started out, though, by doing the Stroop experience. First, I had them read the words in their correct colors--outloud. Then do the same with the words in different colors--outloud. Then I had them discuss how the second reading was like or unlike being a single parent. We made some great discoveries: frustrating, requires focus, tough, makes me feel stupid, hard work, exhausting, and more.
Then we talked about finding space in life to 'be still." There were tears and laughter. And I learned more about the challenges single moms face when they've experienced a divorce. It's not just about trying to parent their kids; it's about accepting that their family is ok...not waiting for the day when they'll be a "real family." They are a real family now.
There are also struggles beyond just trying to have enough energy for the day. There are real challenges when they get caught up in the court system and they pray to God that their attorney is better than their exes'...or at least that somehow their kids won't lose even more in the court system. There are financial struggles while money goes to legal battles; one woman is seeking to create a ministry where these families can live in others' homes while they fight these battles. There's loneliness, exhaustion, despair...and yet hope, joy, and love. It's an extremely complex venture.
I'm grateful to have gotten to spend time with them. It'll certainly change how we equip children's ministers with ideas to minister to these wonderful families.
To learn more about single parenting, check out Anne Doud's blog: http://annedoud.wordpress.com/
Check out the Stroop effect at http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/words.html)