By Julia Duin
With Mother’s Day looming this weekend, I’ve found an unlikely advocate for single moms, a neglected population in the world of religion.
She is Ann Kiemel Anderson, whose popular titles like “I’m Out to Change My World” (1974) and “I Love the Word Impossible” (1976) were meditations about Jesus in freestyle verse.
Her 1982 book, “I Gave God Time,” was a bible to a generation of evangelical women who breathlessly followed the author’s decision to wait on God for a mate. That ended in her romantic 1981 marriage — at the age of 35 — to Will Anderson, an Idaho potato farmer and entrepreneur.
“Here I had written this raging best-seller,” she told me last week, “and flight attendants would come up to my seat and whisper, ‘I have this in my purse,’ and it was my book. Several million men and women were holding on to hope because of this book.”
It was years before she would write about her seven miscarriages, a hysterectomy, then addiction to pain pills.
She and her husband adopted four boys, but their marriage went sour. She fled, leaving her sons with her sister while she entered a detox unit. The couple eventually reconciled, but Mr. Anderson died of cancer in 2000, leaving his wife with thousands of dollars in unpaid bills.
Her children were ages 10 to 14. As her savings disappeared, they lived off Social Security and contributions from friends and relatives.
“I lost everything,” said the author, now preparing a book on her new platform: single motherhood. “There were days I didn’t have enough money to buy a gallon of milk for four boys.
“People with money would pat me on the back and say, ‘How are you doing?’ and ‘God bless you,’ and walk off. But people without those kind of resources would put a $50 bill in front of me and say, ‘It must be hard.’ ”
As she and her boys made do with an old car for transport and free clinics for their medical care, the once-wealthy author saw how many one-parent families live.
“Single mothers today are harried and desperate,” she said. “They come home and they are exhausted. People are willing to pat you on the shoulder but they’re not willing to help you. That is major.
“And most single mothers don’t have a minute to themselves. I see these weary, weary single mothers everywhere. Churches today need to open up their eyes and include single-parent families. Everyone is on overload, but who can’t scoop up the single parent and family and bring them into the circle? I think most churches are blind to us.”
Instead of holding them at arm’s length, “The church world should be waking up to how single parents need encouragement,” she added. “People in church don’t spend enough time in the world getting to know the broken people around them.”
I remarked that widows like her are accorded much higher status in the typical church than are the divorced, the never-married or single adoptive moms.
“I had some advantages in that people know who I was,” she said. “My message for single parents is that God will not forsake them, God will not betray them. I raised four children through adolescence on my own and God was faithful.”
Maybe hearing Ann Kiemel Anderson’s voice raised in defense of single moms will encourage churches to be faithful as well.