Going at it alone is, without a doubt, one of the most common and effective strategies that Satan uses to discourage moms. A woman alone in her home with her ideals eventually wears down and becomes a perfect target for Satan to discourage. Some women have journeyed alone for so long they are not even aware of their urgent need for mentors, friends, peers, and fellowship.
My own story involves many such moments. Early in my walk as a mother, I often felt quite despondent and in need of the gift of friendship. Moving seventeen times, six times internationally, created for me a legacy of many years of loneliness, feelings of being invisible, and a lack of support systems or encouragement from other young moms. We are living in an isolationist culture today and have become accustomed to lonely living that God never intended us to experience. I often felt the keen sting of modern culture's unfamiliar and hostile isolation.
God made us for community and accountability and close friendship. He also created family, so that no one would ever have to be alone or bear the burden of life by themselves. Families were designed by God to include moms and dads, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, and a whole host of people who would walk alongside you, committed to you through the passages of life. Young moms were never meant to be without the advice and care of multiple women assisting them and advising them in their lives.
Yet we have become so used to living without support that we often lose perspective on how much we need intimate friendships with other women. This deep need sometimes puts pressure on husbands to fulfill needs that they were never designed to fill. No matter how wonderful a man may be, he is not crafted by God to meet all of a woman's needs. Through the centuries, women in the home usually had a mom, aunt, sister, or grandmother living close by. They would walk out their back door and talk to each other as they hung clothing on the clothes line or shared a cup of tea while their children played together outdoors. Families living in community generally had the same values and faith and could pass on a legacy of confidence and security to the children and young moms.
Once I was visiting a new town where we were thinking of moving. A friend of mine had asked one of her friends if I could stay with her while I was looking for a home for our family. I had three of my young children with me, having left Clay and my oldest back home. On the first morning of our arrival, I awoke before my children, which was rare, and slipped down the stairs to the kitchen to have a cup of tea. As I walked into the kitchen, there was a tray with a candle lit, a pot of tea, two pumpkin muffins, a tiny little vase with a pink rosebud in it, and a card that said, "Sally, I have prayed for you today, that you would know God's love, His provision, and His blessing as you move to a new home. We are looking so forward to having you as our friend in Colorado." Below this note were written the words, "May the peace of the Lord be with you, for He is near."
Unexpectedly, the tears began flowing down my face. I was so used to toughing it out and taking care of all of our family's needs and losing sleep and caring for the kids alone that I didn't even know how much I needed a real live friend who could communicate to me that I was not invisible, and show me thoughtfulness that comes from a heart moved by the Spirit of God. Even just the thought that someone else had been considerate of me and prepared my breakfast touched a very deep and vulnerable place in my heart that I had not even recognized as a need. The three days I stayed with this wonderful, life-giving woman filled my emotional cup and gave me a new outlook on life. We eventually became the best of friends, simply because she took the time to initiate toward me, perceive my needs, and serve me.
None of us are made to deal with life alone. All of us, even introverts, are made for relationship, to experience God's grace through our dearest friends around us. Realizing how important this need was, I made a long list of groups that I would start or join wherever I moved. The first step when I was in a new town would be to find a group of moms and attend activities at a church. As I would get to know some women and families, I would initiate a coffee time together to get to know these moms. Then I would extend an invitation to my home for a "mom's night out." It would usually involve something as simple as lighting a candle, putting out something hot to drink and a small snack on the table, and inviting a friend to join me in fellowship in an environment in which the Lord could show up.
Sometimes these groups grew and became large, and sometimes my meetings would fizzle and I would need to search elsewhere to find a kindred spirit. But I learned that I had to become an initiator if I wanted to have friends and fellowship for myself, as well as for Clay and the kids. Having a friend who shared my ideals was essential to my own well-being and the emotional health of my family.
At times, I started a small support system with a couple of other families. Even now, as my children have grown up and moved out, we have two families that we have consistently met with for dinner once a month for about five years. Over time they have become some of my dearest friends. We started out as a play group with our children, meeting at the park or going on fun outings together. Eventually these families started serving at our ministry conferences and all of us began to knit our hearts together in ministry, life, and holidays.
Now our children consider them as part of our family, and we gather on holidays to share progressive meals, where we go for a different course at each home. Our children have built a legacy of memories through serving, traveling, celebrating, and enjoying life together as they have grown up. We have had ups and downs in our relationships, but our hearts and souls have bonded through the sharing of life.
I have had to start almost every group to which I have ever belonged. One of the first lessons I learned was to not be discouraged if others did not invite me. In this individualistic culture where everyone is too busy and overwhelmed with life, the groups in which we find community will inevitably be the groups we start ourselves.
Cultivating friendships is a real talent and skill developed by mature and wise women of God. With practice, it becomes an art of love. By involving myself and my children in the lives of others, my children have benefitted so very much in their own development. They needed more than just Clay and me to speak into their lives, to love them, pray with them, and have fun with them. By building these groups of connectivity over the years, we learned to provide a "positive peer pressure." My children were no longer required to bear Clay's and my ideals and biblical standards alone anymore, but instead they were provided with a host of friends and families who believe what we believe. That has been a strength to every single member of my family; it causes the strands of our life accountability to be stronger and more effective.
Over the years I have established a strategy of developing different groups.
First, I always look for a few women my age or who have children the ages of my children. This will give you friends who will know about events in your area that are suited to your stage in life, give your children friends to play with at the park, and connect you with people who might want to trade kids for that much-needed date night or time out alone.
Next, I look for an older woman in church or in a ministry whom I think might stimulate me spiritually. I was in a small group Bible study the first year I moved to Colorado and fell in love with one of the older women. I asked her to breakfast at my home and we began to develop a friendship. Now I try to meet with her at least once a month when we are both in town. I know that when I am with her, I will be more encouraged to love God, to be a better mom, and to be a better spouse, because I know that this woman walks with God.
Finally, I find a mom or woman who is younger than I to befriend, who is looking for encouragement. I vowed to the Lord that I would seek out younger women in whom to invest my life and time because I had so longed for such fellowship and friendship when I was starting out. I have found that when I feel responsible to encourage other younger moms in their walk with God and in biblical ideals, I am more encouraged myself to live up to the standards that I am teaching.
As I look at my present life, I am amazed at what a plethora of friends I now have, when for so many years I felt isolated, bored, and empty. It has certainly taken a good deal of work and many years of investment, but, as a result, I have my cup filled with the joy of strong fellowship. This year when Clay had surgery, I was surprised to find that every night for three weeks we had a hot meal waiting at our door. I didn't ask for anyone to cook for us, but from years of investing in lives, God has given me a support system that I never had with my own family.
Excerpted from Desperate. Copyright © 2013 by Sarah Mae Hoover and Sally Clarkson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc.