Sometimes I get emails from those of you who aren’t only single, but you’re also a mom. I want to tell you that I have so much respect for you. You are women who carry the parenting load of two people and seek to do so by honoring God fully with your lives. Being a single mom is the hardest subset of “singleness” and the hardest subset of “motherhood” by far.
When I get your emails I want to speak truth-filled words of encouragement and hope to you. I want to tell you how much God loves you and how He has not forgotten you. However, even though my words are sincere, they still feel hollow because I have not experienced single motherhood.
Recently I connected with Jennifer Maggio, the founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, and I immediately thought of you – my readers who need a place to connect with other moms who are parenting alone. I asked Jennifer if she would do an interview with me so that I could share with you her story and her ministry. Let me just tell you – she is a fascinating woman, and her story shows God’s endless ability to heal and restore ALL circumstances no matter how broken.
Settle in and enjoy part 1 of my interview with Jennifer Maggio.
Brenda: First, tell us your story.
Jennifer: My mom was killed when I was very young, so I was raised by my dad, who used alcohol and women to deal with the pain of losing my mom. He married a total of 6 times. I spent many years being sexually & physically abused, forced to steal, forced to view pornography, and almost any other graphic trauma you can imagine. It led to me making some pretty poor decisions in my teens and early 20s. Although I graduated high school valedictorian and Class President, I felt that I had a hopeless future, because I was also pregnant. I struggled through the next several years. I had two kids by the time I was 19, lived in the projects on food stamps and welfare, and felt very abandoned and alone. It was then, when I cried out to God. I eventually became a successful executive in Corporate America, but I never forgot what it was like to be a hurting, lonely, single mom with little hope. It birthed my passion to do what I do today!
Brenda: Is divorce also a part of your story along with having been a single mom?
Jennifer: Actually, I was never divorced, but my dad was multiple times. He was also widowed. This gives me such a unique platform for single parents, having walked thru widowhood, divorce, and unplanned pregnancy in my own life.
Brenda: As you faced the reality of being a single mom at age 19, what was the catalyst that motivated you to change the direction of your life? Was there a specific event or person? Tell us what that transition looked like.
Jennifer: The transition was long and hard. I made a decision, after a really, really rough night of abuse and hurt, to go back to church. It took almost a year of me attending a local church to actually feel like I fit in, but I stuck with it. I believe that was the big turning point for me — the local body of believers.
Brenda: Would you say that you experienced immediate change where you woke up one day, decided to make different decisions, and never looked back, or was your growth and healing more of a process?
Jennifer: My entire life has been a gradual series of changes. I can’t remember much every having been instant. (Maybe that’s because I’m an “instant” kind of girl and God’s working on me!)
Brenda: At what point did you begin a relationship with Jesus and/or surrender to His plans for your life? What role did your relationship with Jesus have in your life as you chose a different path?
Jennifer: I was saved when I was nine years old and baptized not long thereafter. I know that to be true. And the next 3 years of my life were whole-heartedly dedicated to Jesus. But I abandoned that relationship with the Lord in my teens and early 20s and sought healing and hope in temporary things. I rededicated my life to the Lord in my early 20s and have been desperately seeking a closer relationship ever since.
Brenda: What did your community and support system look like as you began to rebuild your life? Did you do this alone or did you have a team of people to help you – mentors, counselors, church family, and personal family?
Jennifer: My strongest message today for single moms (and anyone else for that matter) is get plugged into a local church – no matter if you’ve been hurt there before. Find somewhere to belong. When we are hurt by a wrong comment or judgement by the cashier at the grocery store, we don’t ban all grocery stores from our lives. The same should be true for church. Find somewhere to belong and get planted. There’s security, solace, growth, networking, friendship, wisdom, and accountability there, just to name a few.
Brenda: How important, would you say, is community and support for single moms? How do single moms go about finding community?
Jennifer: Single parents is one of the fastest-growing sectors of our population. If you aren’t a single mom, you certainly no one. 2 out of 3 single moms don’t attend church anywhere. And yet, less than 1% of evangelical Christian churches in the U.S. have a formal ministry and outreach plan for single moms. This is a huge problem. We have to actively serve single moms, so that they are encouraged, equipped, guided, and most of all, know that they are loved and welcomed.