Posts Tagged ‘single moms’

By Bev Wells

Have you ever stopped to assess what led you to some of the major milestones in your life? Would you consider the times following those milestones to be peaceful and filled with a close relationship with God, or tumultuous and consumed by the stress of the situation? When I look back on marriage, the birth of my son, my divorce, the loss of my father, my deacon ordination, losing my job and other significant events in the last 20 years, I see a common pattern. Each event led me to a closer walk with God—a dependence on Him—a sense of peace—a feeling of gratitude.

Going through a divorce is painful but facing a divorce with children to provide for is downright scary. The fear of not being able to provide financially for your child; the desire to keep them in the same home and school; finding a way to logistically handle all of their activities while working; the concern of how the divorce will emotionally impact your child; handling home repairs, yard work and car maintenance on your own—these are all intimidating challenges. Added to these challenges are feelings of pain, anger, rejection and isolation. My married friends could not relate. My family was supportive but could not understand. My coworkers and church friends wanted to help but struggled for the right words.

There was nowhere to turn but to God, and he answered so many prayers. He lifted me up and brought me peace. He put the pieces of my life back together in a way I could not have imagined. I was able to let go of how I thought my life should be and embrace what my life had become. I felt God with me on a daily basis, as I often reached out to him at times of frustration or physical weakness, whether because of exhaustion or not having enough strength to start the lawnmower. Every night when I checked on my son, it brought tears to my eyes as I felt grateful for this beautiful boy given to me, and I was grateful for the events that led me to this place in my life. I was, and still am, happier than I have ever been. God has blessed me in so many ways and has protected my son and me and provided for us financially. He has helped me make difficult decisions. I reached a peaceful place in my life, where I felt completely confident and happy with being a single mom. I wanted to help others get to this place.

As I gradually met other single mothers, I realized that most were not doing quite so well. Many were struggling financially, did not have a stable job, were stressed beyond belief and were not confident in their abilities to make decisions and handle things around the house on their own. Some were emotionally full of anger and pain, and were terrified to be alone. Some were making reckless decisions that were negatively impacting their self-esteem and their children. I realized that single moms needed an opportunity to help each other, to bond with other women, to share their joys and struggles and to take some time to focus on their needs.

Single Moms in the Lord's Embrace

It was out of my desire to help other single moms that the Single Moms in the Lord’s Embrace (SMILE) program started at Richmond’s First Baptist Church in 2013. Every month for the last five years, FBC has provided a place for SMILE to meet, a meal for the moms and kids and safe childcare for the children. We provide not only a program but a network of friends. We partner with other churches, other Bible studies, the Divorce Recovery Workshop held each year at FBC, the Sophie House and other organizations geared toward meeting the needs of single moms. The Compassion Ministry at FBC also provides baby items, clothing, and supplies to women who participate in SMILE.

Each month we have a speaker present on a relevant topic specifically focused on single moms. The speakers range from co-parenting specialists, therapists, financial advisors, lawyers, physicians, fitness experts, spiritual leaders and many others. We close with a devotional and prayer and then there are hugs, smiles, tears of joy and tears of relief as they share their struggles. We all share the bond of wanting to do our best for our children amidst the struggle. SMILE gives the children an opportunity to socialize with other kids raised by single moms without judgement, but instead, acceptance and understanding. It allows the moms to feel the love, support and acceptance that God wants all of us to receive.

Thank you, FBC, for making this program possible! As one of our regular participants said, “Through SMILE, I feel wrapped in God’s love and hope during this time of transition in my life. Richmond’s First Baptist Church demonstrates the true meaning of compassion; Gods love in action. Thank you for positively impacting lives and giving hope to many families here in the Richmond region.”

Editor’s Note:
The monthly SMILE meetings moved to Wednesday evenings in January 2019, which allows the children to participate in additional opportunities provided by our church and simplifies meal planning as we join the rest of the church family for Wednesday night suppers.

For more information or to help provide a program for the children, speak on a topic, serve a meal or provide a devotional for our program, contact Bev Wells.

Follow SMILE on Facebook.

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Story by Clint Smith. Photos by Susan Brown, Win Grant, Ralph Starling and Jess Ward.

As members of Richmond’s First Baptist Church, we regard our building as far more than brick and mortar. It’s a place where we go to seek God and where God lives to be sought. It’s a holy, safe place where we wholly present ourselves to the Lord and trust our deepest concerns with one another. For most of us, we cannot remember a time when our beautiful church didn’t reside gracefully at Monument and Boulevard, its permanence only eclipsed by its warmth and beauty. But the building is not ours, it is God’s—and every week, hundreds of people travel through our doors seeking not a worship service but support, advice, exercise, or simple camaraderie.

SMILE Christmas celebration

SMILE Christmas celebration

Two-thirds of the members of Single Moms in the Lord’s Embrace, better known as SMILE, are not members of First Baptist Church. “Single moms have a unique set of needs,” says Beverly Wells, who leads the monthly group. “We help single moms find acceptance, support, and confidence in themselves, while learning how to become better parents to their children with God’s presence in their lives.” When these women arrive at the church on the second Tuesday of each month, they are greeted with a prepared meal, free child care, and a guest speaker sharing advice on anything from home repairs and vehicle maintenance to real estate and budgeting. “One of our members came to me after the [budgeting] program with tears streaming down her face,” recalls Beverly. “She told me that the presentation was exactly what she needed to get control of her financial situation. On my drive home that night, I truly felt God’s presence and knew that He was blessing others through SMILE.”

The Divorce Recovery Ministry, celebrating its 25th year in September 2015, regularly reaches individuals struggling with marital separation and divorce. They come from as far as Farmville, Fredericksburg and Williamsburg, and from any religious background imaginable. “One of the biggest ways the Christian church can make a difference in the lives of people going through divorce is by creating a safe place for them to experience grace, healing and hope,” says Rev. Ralph Starling, Associate Pastor, Ministry of Invitation, and the facilitator of the annual Divorce Recovery Workshop. “By creating a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere, participants are able to learn to trust again and remember their value.” The workshop, which runs for eight consecutive Sunday evenings each fall, teaches participants to process their hurt, anger and grief, leveraging the trust in the room to form lasting new friendships. “Almost weekly I encounter someone at the grocery store or shopping mall that will approach me and say, ‘You may not remember me, but I was in your workshop at First Baptist years ago, and I just want you to know it … saved my life.’ This ministry is about transformation!”

Tai Chi class

Tai chi class

“I was weak, overweight, and generally miserable,” Jenny Barone said of her life after retiring from a career in law. “I found a tai chi class and signed up, and then I signed up for another, and another. Within a few years, I knew I wanted to teach this great form of exercise that anyone can do, whether standing or seated, and realize real physical and psychological benefits from it.” If regularly practiced, this ancient Chinese martial art improves balance, strength, breathing, circulation, and fall prevention. “Over half of our class comes from outside the church, and it’s been very rewarding for me and my students.” One particular student, Jenny tells, had not exercised in many years and had given up her beloved walks on the beach due to difficulty balancing in the deep, dry sand. Using the techniques Jenny taught her, she was again able to stroll down the beach. “Small victories over limitations, whether from aging or injury, are very rewarding!”

Upward basketball

Upward basketball

Other groups meet specific but deep needs, such as the Survivors of Suicide Loss. “I have lived through four suicides,” tells Shirley Ramsey, who leads this newly-formed ministry. “My mother, my mother’s brother, my sister’s son, and then [my son] all lost their battle with major depression. I learned the importance of opening our hearts and allowing ourselves to grieve our losses.” The tenth-leading cause of death among Americans age 10 and older, over 35,000 annual suicides leave a much larger number of grieving loved ones in their wake. “I decided this would be a good way to honor my dear [son] Jackson by helping others. When I tell my story, it opens doors for others to share. By opening conversation about suicide, we help to reduce the stigma that seems to surround mental illness.” She continues, “My First Baptist family has walked me through this tragedy with faith, love and compassion and I want to pay it forward to others.”

RVA United worship

RVA United worship

Through these and many other diverse groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous, the Boy Scouts of America, HOPE (Hanging on with Purpose Every Day, a depression support group), karate, RVA United (worship for 20- and 30-somethings), and Upward sports, First Baptist Church offers counsel, fun, friendship, and solace to hundreds of people. The multiplied impact of our gifts, both of time and money, is even greater when considered against this larger community. As usual, Jesus says it best: “Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me’” (Matthew 25:34-36, NRSV).

More information on ministries described in this article at:
•    Divorce Recovery Ministry, FBCRichmond.org/recovery
•    Single Moms in the Lord’s Embrace, FBCRrichmond.org/compassion/smile;
•    Survivors of Suicide Loss, Shirley Ramsey (804-868-0082) or Ren Bell (804-548-6670)
•    Tai chi, Jenny Barone (804-382-8103)

Read related stories: Scouting at First Baptist Church, Moving Upward, RVA United is a big dream

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