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Advice From One Who’s Been There

with Jill Rigby | March 18, 2009

Single parents can find wise counsel from Jill Rigby, mother of adult twin sons, on such topics as fear and bitterness, what things to be mindful of, and how to deal with a former spouse who is a bad influence on the kids.

Single parents can find wise counsel from Jill Rigby, mother of adult twin sons, on such topics as fear and bitterness, what things to be mindful of, and how to deal with a former spouse who is a bad influence on the kids.

Advice From One Who’s Been There

With Jill Rigby
|
March 18, 2009
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: The Bible says that God hates divorce, but in the midst of an unwanted divorce, God is still at work doing great things.  Here's Jill Rigby.

Jill: Several years later, I woke up one morning and there was before me the question from the Lord – "Jill, would you go through it again if I asked you?"  And before I knew it, I said, "Well, yeah, Lord, if you asked me to."  And then I burst into tears and just wept at the thought that this is what it took in my life, in my heart, in my soul, to clean me out and to bring me into an intimate relationship with my Heavenly Father that I know I would not have had apart from the brokenheartedness.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 18th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  How you respond in the midst of a divorce, as with any other trial you may go through, will determine whether you draw closer to the Lord or find yourself farther away from Him.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  You know, because we see the e-mails and the letters from moms and dads who are doing it alone, and that we have a lot of single parents who are tuned into FamilyLife Today, and they are listening as we talk about parenting issues, as we talk about family-related issues, they are looking for all of the hope and the help they can get, and I think we can provide some for them on today's program.

Dennis: I think we can.  Jill Rigby joins us on FamilyLife Today.  Jill, welcome back.

Jill: Thank you, Dennis.

Dennis: You were a single parent for – well, what?  Six, eight years?  Your husband left your home when your children were about 12 years of age, so you went through the adolescent years, which undoubtedly can't be a more difficult time for a mom to have to deal with a couple of boys.  And you had twin guys at the same time.

Jill: Count 'em, not one but two.

Dennis: Jill is the founder of Manners of the Heart.  She is an author, a speaker, and does training conferences all around the country around manners and teaching respect and businesses and schools to parents and has really taken some of the things she's learned as a single-parent mom and used them in ministry and, Jill, we just want to seat a single parent across the table from you here, and Bob and I will kind of move down to the edge of the table, and we're going to toss you the questions on behalf of the single parents and just see how you would coach them.

And let's just start in those beginning days, weeks, and maybe first month of being a single parent.  Is there one thing you would want to make sure every single parent pays attention to as they take on this assignment?

Jill: I would.  I guess the first thing is don't listen to what the world has to say would be the first place to start, actually.  Don't listen to that conventional wisdom of you have to take care of yourself and be careful not to put yourself on top of your list.

Now, I've got to clarify that a little bit, because I don't want anyone to think that I mean, you know, just keep going when you're exhausted and don't get enough rest and don't get a break.  That is certainly not what I mean.  What I mean is that don't become so fearful of tomorrow that you allow that fear to define what you're going to do today and the way you're going to make your decisions, because if you do you are really going to damage your children.

Dennis: What did you do with your fear?  I mean, you had to experience it.

Jill: Oh, I was terrified.  I was absolutely terrified.  I can remember thinking one day, "Oh, do I need to go to Wal-Mart and, like stock up?  You know, do I need to go to Wal-Mart right now where I think the credit card will still work," you know, and go and fill up everything and buy, you know, a year's worth of all the supplies, because what's going to happen in six months.  I was so terrified of the financial aspects of it, apart from the emotional and everything else.

Constantly, every day, morning, noon and night and every hour in between, I guess, practically, I kept reminding myself of many of the Scriptures, particularly all over Romans 4, Romans 5, Philippians 2, a lot in 1 John.  When I really would get fearful, I would dig in the Psalms, and I would start reading and say, "Lord, get me to the one I need to have today in this moment," because you're going to find every emotion you need, you're going to find in the Psalms, and you're going to find a way David expressed it that meets where you are.

I would love to suggest that you immediately begin to pray for more love for the one who has wounded you because, God, I assure you, I can promise you, I've been there and done that, and I can tell you it's the truth.  If you will only do that even though you don't want to, and the only thing you can do that would be wrong is to refuse to do it.  God really doesn't care how you do it, He doesn't really care if you want to or not, He just cares if you're willing to do it out of obedience.

Bob: But you know that a husband or a wife who finds themselves in a divorce situation to pray for more love for the one who may have just wounded them profoundly makes them feel like they're putting themselves in deeper risk …

Dennis: Yeah, vulnerable, vulnerable.

Bob: How can I love this person more?  She just trampled on my heart, or he just walked out.  If I love him more, he's going to hurt me more.

Jill: Well, it is going to hurt more for the short term.  But we're not looking for a short-term solution here.  We are looking for a long-term redemption of the situation.  You know, the world tells us that "Give it enough time, and time will go by, time will heal."  No, time doesn't heal, God does, and when we began to pray for more love for that one who has healed us what happens is the divine steps in because that's not humanly possible to do that, and it becomes a very divine love that you're praying for, and it's the very love that nearly destroyed you that you've just given back to the Lord by praying for more of it, and then He uses it to fully and completely heal you.  And He transforms that love where it's a correct love, where you're praying for a wounded brother.  You're praying for a lost soul.  You're praying for someone who desperately needs to find the Father's love.

Bob: For a while, there may be some increased longing, lonely nights, "Oh, I wish he was here," and if God is giving you more love for him or her at that moment, it may be more painful.  But you're saying you've got to press through and embrace that pain because the healing is on the other side of it.

Jill: Yes. I often hear people say, "I just don't hear even a twinge – I don't hear it."  And you know how you can hear bitterness?  You know how you can hear pain?  You can hear it someone's voice, and I often hear – people will say, "Jill, how can it not be there.  How can it not be?"  And that's why it's just not there, because it was a full and complete healing because I was willing to do the tough thing.

But, please know that I still didn't even do that.  It was God who enabled me to be able to be willing.  I mean, we can't take credit for anything we do, anything, except the messes we make.

Dennis: Just to summarize a very simple yet profound thought, you are saying "Don't let bitterness fill your soul, let God fill your soul with His love for that other imperfect person." 

Now, I want to ask you this question because this has to hit soon within the first 12 months of being a single parent.  Who did you go to for counsel?  Who did you go to for advice?  You had to begin facing issues with your boys as they moved toward adolescence.  You had to feel, "I'm a woman."  You know, these are guys.

Jill: Oh, yeah.

Dennis: I don't know how to talk their talk.  Who did you talk to?

Jill: On a personal level, I went to a Christian counselor for a season, and please, please, please don't ever cross the threshold of a counselor unless it is a Christian, biblically based counselor.  I feel so strongly about that.

The counselor that I went to, her goal in her counseling is to take you to the Ultimate Healer.  That's her goal.  It's to help you work through the trouble spot where you find yourself, but it's to help you work through it so that you ultimately have the Ultimate Counselor, and that has to be the end goal in any counseling, because ultimately that's the only place you're going to find full healing.  So that needs to be really clear – not just any old counselor will do, sorry.

And, beyond that, there are a couple of dear friends' husbands, and I have to just bless and thank my dear friends for allowing their husbands to help me understand what do I do about this, and I remember an opportunity not long ago before the boys started driving – I had an old beat-up station wagon, and I had an opportunity to trade it in to a guy who had a cool, old Land Cruiser that needed work and that kind of thing and, of course, the boys were just all over it, and I just couldn't make the decision.  Would this be wise or would this be utter foolishness?

And I went to the husband of one of my dear friends and said, you know, "Tell me what you think?"  And he helped me to make that decision.  Apart from that kind of counsel, again, I wish you could see my tattered Bible – cover to cover to cover to cover and back again and then back again until I could find the answer that I needed.  Because, believe it or not, it's in there, it really is.

Dennis: Really making the Bible your playbook for how you live.

Bob: And I just want to make sure that our listeners understand – when you would go to a friend's husband for counsel, your friend was there in the process, as well.  I mean, I just – I want to make sure we've got this picture.

Jill: Oh, thank you so much, Bob.  You will never meet a woman who is more standoffish and careful and guarded than the one you're looking at right now.

Bob: Well, I'm just thinking – if we got a call – if Mary Ann got a call …

Jill: No, it's so true.

Bob: … if a woman – a friend of ours who had gone through a divorce and she said, "Could Bob come over and help with this?"  I think both Mary Ann and I would say, "Yeah, we'd love to come over and help with that," and we'd both go together.

Dennis: That's a great caution.

Jill: I really appreciate you bringing that up.  I should have brought that to light.  That's absolutely true, and I would caution – I went to a female counselor, which was a great blessing to me.  I, frankly, wouldn't have been comfortable with a male counselor at that stage of my life, and I've always been very, very guarded in that area.  I never allow a man to come in the house if I was there by myself, and all those kinds of issues – just because Scripture tells us that we're not to ever even give the appearance of a wrong.

Bob: Right.

Dennis: Yes, one of the things that we hear most from single parents, and I don't know that it's 30 percent of the letters, but it's a common theme, and that's that the former spouse who is still the parent of the children either spoils the children when they get to see them, or, it seems to me, this is the more prevalent of the two – is a terrible influence or a poor model and really is representing a lifestyle in terms of bringing that child into where he's living and the circumstances of how he's living that – well, it's just a terrible thing to subject a child to.  Any advice for the single parent who is having to endure that?

Jill: Oh, boy, I'm a real strong believer that children need to have a home.  One of the great travesties, I think, in our judicial system today when it comes to divorce issues and custody is trying to make everything equal and divided because you know what happens?  It doesn't take long before you hear children say, "I'm at Dad's" or "I'm at Mom's."  You know the word that's lost – is home.

The kids – you never hear the kids say, "I'm at home," or "I'm going home," because now it's become, "Well, I'm at Dad's or I'm at Mom's," and you make your children homeless.  I was so blessed that the boys were at home, and they were with me, and pretty much 24/7, and there were visits here and there, but it was – they were at home.

Now, for me, as a single parent, yes, it meant 24/7, but just call me crazy – I loved it.  I mean, I loved my boys, and you see, this is back to that priority list – if you're not putting yourself on the top of your priority list, your joy and your fulfillment and your contentment comes through serving your children.

Bob: You know, a lot of single-parent dads or moms who have custody find themselves in a situation where every other weekend the kids are going to be heading off somewhere.  That's what the courts mandated.  Maybe it's not a 50-50, but every other weekend is someplace else, and when you go to Dad's or Mom's, it's either all the pizza you want and all the fun you want, or else it's Mom's got her boyfriend who is spending the weekend with us.

Dennis: Or it's movies that have no boundaries.

Bob: How would you counsel a single parent who is sending their kids off to that every other weekend?

Jill: Unfortunately, I have many friends and have, over the years, in that exact situation.  You know, my thought for that is that one of the things we underestimate in children is their ability to see the right from the wrong.  You know, as my boys have said, "Mom, somebody has just got to get it right."  And if they are experiencing in that home, that parent kind of – the left-behind parent, perhaps – if they are experiencing the right and the good choices, and I don't know how listeners will feel about this – I also have strong feelings about the idea of dating when the children are young.

Bob: You're talking about you dating?

Jill: Yes.  I made the decision not to go there at all, and I'm very thankful that I didn't.  Again, life is complicated enough – why do we just want to make it more complicated?

Bob: Well, here is why, and you know this …

Jill: I know.

Bob: The loneliness …

Dennis: Yeah, she knows.

Bob: Is unbelievable.  So if you're not going to go out on a date and have some man say, "You look very pretty tonight," how are you going to survive?

Jill: But, you know, Bob, I didn't experience those depths of loneliness.  Once I got past that initial deep, dark time, because I turned myself over to the Lord, and I said, "You're going to have to take care of me.  You're going to have to do it because I've got boys to take care of, and You're going to have to help me raise them, and You're just going to have to worry about me because I'm not going to worry about me.  You're going to have to do it."  And He can do that for us.

Bob: There had to be times when you just wanted someone who would hug you, and I know you say, "And God will do that."  But it feels different to have a human hug you.

Jill: Oh, sure, it does.  What's better than your two sons giving you a hug, you know?  It's a matter of allowing the Lord – well, let me – I'll back up a minute here.  A dear friend of mine gave me this wonderful – it's kind of a compilation of different verses throughout Scripture, and it was called "Be Satisfied With Me," and I read that at least – oh, I bet there were days I probably read it 10 times in an hour just trying to soak it in when I was feeling lonely, feeling vulnerable.  And I would just read through it – "Be Satisfied With Me" – be satisfied with me.

And if we would only go there – not look for a man on earth but look for a man in heaven to be satisfied fully in, that's where the healing comes, that's where He grants you wisdom, He opens your eyes to see things you couldn't see otherwise.  And He takes care, He brings what you need when you need it as you need it, and then, you know, as the years pass, He continues to fill you until – it's like – my mother has fussed at me many times over the years, I confess.  "Darling, get out there and find you somebody" – you know, my good Mississippi mama – "Dahlin', dahlin', there's plenty of nice men out there, get out there, dahlin', you know?  And I would say, "Mother, don't you understand, that's not my decision to make?  That's the Lord's decision to make for me.  I belong to Him.  It's my Father's decision for someone.  It's not my decision to make, it's His."

Bob: You know, when you were talking about the fears that hit you early on and going to Wal-Mart and stocking up – I was reminded, Dennis, of talking to Elizabeth Elliott many years ago who, as you know …

Jill: My dear friend, actually.  I am so honored.

Bob: Really?  Found herself as a single parent and was paralyzed with what to do next until she got the counsel from a friend that I've never forgotten, which is you do the next thing.  And if you try and worry about what am I going to do next week?  What am I going to do in a month?  What am I going to do six months from now?  You'll be paralyzed.  But doing the next thing is kind of today's advice, and I'm not a single parent, but I don't know how many times I have thought, "Okay, there are so many things bearing down on me, what do I do?"  And the answer always comes "Do the next thing."  That's just been good counsel for my soul.

Dennis: And, Jill, I just want you to know, I appreciate you doing the next thing and doing the right thing and instructing your sons.  I think you've been a great model here for single parents to know where to go to find life.  And as you were talking, Bob, about the next thing – Romans 12:1, 2 is a passage that doesn't get preached enough today, and I thought about this more than once, Jill, as you've been talking here, because this is the next thing for all of us. 

Paul writes, "I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind."  In other words, do what Jill did.  Regardless of your circumstances, wear your Bible out from front to back and back to front like she talked about – being transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God – that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

And, you know, that is the next thing, Bob.  There is nowhere to go except to that in terms of living a life that is obedient to Christ and, Jill, thanks again for being on the broadcast and thanks again for being transparent and sharing your story and pray God's favor upon you and continue being God's woman.  It's cool.

Jill: Thank you, Dennis.

Bob: We ought to say thank you as well for the time that you spend in the books that you've written because, as I've already said this week, I have passed these books along to parents I know.  I think they are spot on on the subject that you're addressing and how you're addressing it.  The books are called "Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World," and "Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World," and we have both of them in our FamilyLife Resource Center. 

You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and there is information available there about how you can get copies of Jill's books.  There is also information on how you can get a copy of Gary Richmond's book, "Successful Single Parenting," and I would imagine this week we've had a number of single parents who have been paying special attention to what you've been talking about because they've walked down the same path you've been on – moms or dads.  And Gary's book is a helpful tool for anyone who finds himself or herself in that challenging role of being a single parent.

So if you're interested in the book, "Successful Single Parenting," you can order that from us online as well.  FamilyLifeToday.com is the website, or if it's easier to call 1-800-FLTODAY just do that – 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  When you get in touch with us, someone on the team can let you know how you can have the resources you're looking for sent to you.

You know, this is the season of the year when a lot of us are beginning to turn our hearts and our minds to focus on the passion of Christ, His death, burial, and Resurrection, and one of the ways families can do that is by spending time together viewing a movie like "The Jesus Film," which tells the story of the life of Christ and reminds us of His ministry and of the reality of His death and His burial and Resurrection.

"The Jesus Film" is the most viewed motion picture of all time, and this month we're making a DVD of "The Jesus Film" available to those of you who support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.  The DVD comes with a number of different audio tracks so that those who speak Spanish as a first language, or German or Arabic or Vietnamese or Tagalog – they can watch "The Jesus Film" in their native language.

There is also a special feature called "The Story of Jesus for Children" designed to introduce elementary-age and younger children to the life of Jesus.  Again, the DVD is our way of saying thank you when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this month with a donation of any amount.  So if you're making a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com, and you'd like to receive "The Jesus Film" on DVD, just type "JesusDVD" in the keycode box on the donation form or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make your donation by phone and ask for a copy of "The Jesus Film" on DVD when you make your donation.  We do appreciate your partnership with us and your financial support of this ministry and want to say thanks so much for standing with us.

Now, tomorrow we want to talk about the issue of sibling rivalry.  What can a mom or a dad do to help break the pattern in the lives of our children where they just seem to be at each other?  We're going to talk about that tomorrow.  I hope you can be back with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  

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Fun, engaging conversations about what it takes to build stronger, healthier marriage and family relationships. Join hosts Dave and Ann Wilson with FamilyLife Today® veteran cohost Bob Lepine for new episodes every weekday.

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