Digging Deeper With Hagar – Growing Forward 

Hagar was Sarah and Abraham’s Egyptian servant in the Bible. Hagar was also a single mom. And she’s my second favorite woman in my book Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back. I grew up with a single mom, and I didn’t meet my dad until went to Jerusalem, Israel when I was 29 years old.

Growing up without a dad was hard. I share a little about surviving a childhood with a single schizophrenic mom (including what it was like to move in and out of foster homes) in Growing Forward. If you’re growing up with a single mother – or maybe you are a single mom – feel free to share your story below. I’d love to hear from you! If you’re struggling with a smothering mother, read 7 Tips for Dealing With Controlling Parents.

This article—Digging Deeper With Hagar—goes hand-in-hand with the third chapter of my book Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back. Every chapter has five different Blossom Tips to help women move through loss. Each activity highlights a different aspect of who we are: spirit, heart, soul, body, and brain. Hagar’s Blossom Tips show us different ways to move through hard seasons of life.

A Peek Into Hagar’s Life

Hagar was a female slave in a foreign land, facing circumstances beyond her control. Some were life-threatening. Jewish tradition says Hagar was the daughter of the Egyptian pharaoh, given to Abraham and Sarah (then Abram and Sarai) to serve as a maidservant.

Hagar Growing Forward She Blossoms

Hagar and Ishmael

Abraham and Sarah were incredibly wealthy and had more livestock, silver, and gold than space to store it. Hagar would have been one of many servants taking care of the chores, flocks, tents, and possessions.

When Abraham and Sarah moved back to Canaan, Hagar had to leave Egypt. Israel wasn’t far away geographically but it wasn’t her home,  family or culture. Hagar’s people bowed to the stone and wooden gods they made themselves, while the Israelites worshipped the Lord God. Hagar wasn’t raised believing in God, much less trusting Him to speak or guide her life.

When Sarah couldn’t conceive the son God promised, she chose Hagar as the surrogate mother. This type of fertility treatment between servants and wealthy families was common back then, but it wasn’t Hagar’s decision. None of it was! She didn’t choose to leave Egypt, work in Sarah’s household, or serve in Abraham’s bedroom. Hagar didn’t choose to get pregnant with her master’s child. Nor did she choose to have an untamable, uncontrollable, hostile son called Ishmael who fought with everyone.

Hagar’s life was controlled by people who didn’t care how their decisions affected her. She was helpless and afraid, yet she kept moving forward through the storms and valleys.

Growing Up With a Single Mom – Laurie’s Story

I ran away from home when I was thirteen years old in a most unusual way: by calling Social Services and talking to a social worker. I’d grown up with a single mom my whole life. She struggled with episodes of paranoid schizophrenia and nervous breakdowns, which means she was in and out of the hospital a lot. I’d lived in three foster homes by the time I was thirteen.

My foster care experiences were good. My foster parents didn’t just offer shelter, food and clothes, they also taught me how to recognize when a home was unhealthy and abusive. The foster homes I was in had compassionate parents, warm beds, well-stocked fridges, and school supplies. I’d already experienced—and wasn’t eager to relive—the adventure of sleeping in hard cardboard boxes in cold back alleys of big cities.

So when my mom started disintegrating physically, emotionally, and mentally, I called Social Services. I had nobody else to turn to, and I knew my situation had progressed beyond simply “growing up with a single mom.” My mother was seriously mentally ill, and I needed help.

Growing Up With a Single Mom Growing Forward My heart goes out to my mother. Schizophrenia is a terrible disease – I share a little about it in my article about coping with difficult parents. My mom kept going on and off her antipsychotic medications because she didn’t like the uncomfortable and often harsh side effects. She was also trying to hold down a teaching job and raise two preteen girls.

Growing up with a single mom wasn’t easy for me, but it was probably harder for her to actually be a single mom with schizophrenia.

What about you – are you coping with single parenthood as either a child or an adult? Maybe you’re struggling with the pain of losing your father, or not having a dad to begin with. It hurts. I know. I’m sorry. Feel free to share your thoughts below, no matter how big or little.

Writing is healthy, especially if you feel confused, sad, scared or lost. It can help you make sense of your experiences and untangle your emotions.

Questions From Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back

At the end of every chapter are Questions for Journaling and Discussion that are directly related to that chapter’s Blossom Tips. Readers are invited to come here and share their thoughts.

The questions in Hagar’s chapter:

  • A Time for Everything: What was your most treasured time of life? How do you balance letting go and moving forward in a new season?
  • The Letter: How, when, and where do you experience God most deeply? Does seeing yourself through His eyes affect your identity?
  • Risk: What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
  • Turn-Around: How do your eating habits affect your day and mood? On a scale of one to ten—with one as “destructive” and ten as “healthy”—how would you rate your relationship with food?
  • Mind Map: What are some surprising sources of support and comfort in your life? How do you feel about asking for help?

Feel free to answer these questions in the comments section below. Or, share anything that’s on your mind, about anything you’d like! It’s your space.


About Growing Forward

Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back offers a fresh, practical perspective on moving through loss. I share stories of contemporary and biblical women who transcended extraordinary pain and grief. I weave in my own experiences of growing up with a single schizophrenic mother, living in foster care, and then coping with infertility.

Growing Forward She Blossoms Laurie PawlikEvery chapter includes five Blossom Tips, to help you:

  • Accept—and even embrace—a new season of life.
  • Take small steps forward in practical, creative, delightful ways.
  • Weave faith, trust, and hope into your heart, thoughts, and daily lives.

At the end you’ll have 50 Blossom Tips for moving forward after a loss. Each activity highlights a different aspect of who we are: spirit, heart, soul, body, and brain. This holistic approach ensures the whole self is addressed by incorporating spiritual, emotional, creative, physical, and intellectual growth.

Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back is a comforting, encouraging book for women walking into a new season of life…which also makes it a great gift for women coping with death, divorce, or a difficult diagnosis.

In peace and passion,


P.S. Here’s the full list of Growing Forward articles here on “She Blossoms.” These aren’t the actual chapters of the book, they’re just our meeting places.

  1. Recreating and Replanting With Eve
  2. Sprouting With Sarah
  3. Digging Deeper With Hagar
  4. Uprooting With Naomi
  5. Starting Fresh With Ruth
  6. Growing Roots With Martha and Mary
  7. Reviving Your Heart With Hannah
  8. Renewing Your Purpose With Esther
  9. Growing Forward With Mary Magdalene
  10. Blossoming Into Life With Mary


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