Guest Contributor Carol Battista is the single parent of a son who has a passion for science and loves nature. Carol, her son, and their chihuahua hunker down indoors during the winter months but become more active during the warm weather. Carol is involved in two Bible studies and volunteers within her church, while her son participates in their church youth group. Carol is currently working on one book, with plans for a second book. It is her hope that her writing will bring glory to God and that it will help others who have struggled to grow closer to God as well.

As any single parent knows, it is often a struggle to make ends meet. I am one such single parent, and often sacrifice my needs in favor of my son’s needs. My son is twelve years old, and I can say for certain that I have many clothes that are older than he is because I choose to meet his needs before my own.

I will never forget the first Single Moms Retreat that Bridging the Gap held at Lake Geneva Christian Center. I probably never would have spent the money to go at the time because I could not afford such luxuries. However, my church chose to pay for me to go and they set things up so that my son and my dog would be taken care of for the two days I was gone.

I was very nervous about attending the event because I was going alone. I was at a women’s retreat the previous fall and they had mentioned a clothing drive for the Single Moms Retreat — other than that, I really didn’t know what to expect. I also get lost very easily and had adventures on the way there. When I finally arrived, I drove around until I found an office and went inside to get more information. They directed me to bring my car to a specific area because there were mechanics who had volunteered their time to inspect the vehicles.

I guess I had gotten entirely too used to sacrificing because I didn’t feel like I deserved any of it. I remember when I sat down to dinner that first night, I was so amazed at all the effort that had been put into pampering us. I was uncomfortable, but I think it had more to do with finding myself in an alien role. I have always been the caretaker and having someone take care of me just felt odd.

I enjoyed the speakers and the stories and all the blessings that were poured out on me over those two days, but the thing that really resonated with me was the clothing that was given to the women at no cost. I didn’t have any jeans at the time. I nearly always wore sweatpants because you could get them for five bucks a pair and t-shirts because, if you caught the clearance rack in the fall, you could buy them for three dollars or less.

I think I had one pair of dress pants to my name at the time and I reserved those for special occasions. I basically made sure that my son had good clothes and didn’t care what I wore as long as it covered me.

I very nearly bawled when I went to exchange my “coupons” for clothes and they had jeans in my size — jeans that I liked! Thinking about that still brings tears to my eyes; I had such simple needs that I wasn’t able to meet on my own and there I was, surrounded by people who validated and recognized that very basic need. I ended up getting one pair of jeans and two tops. My size changed and I donated the jeans, but I still have and wear the two tops that I picked out. I think of those two days every time I wear them.

There were stations set up where people could sign up to get facials, massages, and their nails painted. I didn’t take part in any of these things because I was so overwhelmed with the prospect of clothing, car care, and all the rest. I also didn’t feel like I deserved to be spoiled like that. Besides, It made me happy just to see other people’s faces light up. It reminded me of watching other people open presents — I always feel happiest when I am seeing someone else’s face brighten. I don’t think I have ever seen so many smiling faces before or since that retreat.

I talked and laughed with many people there, but what made the experience great was that they all came from a place of understanding. It is very different to talk to single moms about being a single parent than it is to talk about it with people who haven’t had the experience.

I would recommend this retreat to every single mom! It does something to the core of a person’s heart to have people they don’t even know show such compassion for a group of people that are typically brushed off and overlooked in society. And to have those same strangers empathize with being a single mom and provide for so many needs that single moms typically forego in favor of their children goes above and beyond.

I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to go to the aforementioned retreat, and I feel incredibly blessed to be able to attend the upcoming Single Moms Retreat this week. I am really excited to be going for the second time and I am also excited because there are other women I know who are going, too. I also want to say thanks to all the people who make this event possible: Thank you for lifting up single moms and recognizing the difficulties that they face.

For more information on the retreat, June 2-3, go here.