I'll be 42 this spring and have 5 children ages 14-2. We homeschool and I have begged God to send me a mentor in how to do this mom-thing. I have felt alone in accomplishing much of what I think is important. Our culture didn't have an image of how to find a loving Christian man to be the father to my yet-to-be children. There's no pictures of how to raise a family dedicated to Christ. It's been me and Jesus through most of my life and I ached and cried out to God for a mentor. Often, I'd find a book and now a blog to answer my questions. Sometimes an encouraging phone call, but never a woman to come alongside me and show me how it's done. Instead of answering my pleas directly, God has put a passion for assisting other women so they don't have to 'go it alone.'
I was the first in our group of friends to get married, and planned our wedding alone. Now I always offer to help anyone I know plan their wedding.
We lost most of our social life when we got married as everything had been geared to singles and dating. Our interests changed and we weren't interested in the same activities. During my first pregnancy, we still hadn't made many inroads to finding a new social circle and I was very sick, and had to quit my job. We didn't have much support and as lay in the dark day after day, hour after hour trying not to throw up, I was very alone. When I find a young couple with a child or two, I invite them over for dinner with their children. It can be so hard to make that connection for a young mom who's exhausted and possibly overwhelmed with the changes in her life and lifestyle.
I was lonely during our first year of homeschooling and had a really hard time 'breaking in' to find friends for my daughter and myself. I didn't want others in my area to struggle with that kind of loneliness if I could help it. I thought a photo directory of all the members of our Catholic homeschool group would help, a website, and a weekly e-mail update of prayer requests, events, changes to schedules, items for sale, etc. I also help greet new homeschoolers and give them my home number to contact me for any questions. I give out my blog address so people can find resources without having to contact me if they'd rather not.
One of the most productive things I do to help young families is invite them into my messy home to see how we really live and answer questions about homeschooling. It can take hours out of our day to reassure someone on the phone or have someone over and it is a sacrifice to my children as well as myself at times. I feel that it's a gift God is calling us to make. The busy-ness of our lives is a gift - in particular when compared with the loneliness my daughter and I experienced when we started homeschooling. Homeschoolers have their own way of thinking and doing and coordinating efforts. The attitudes and resources vary by family and yet most are in complete contrast to our culture at large. It can take time to acclimate yourself and your child to this beautiful, unexplored world -- but it is so worth the journey.
God has given us a vision of what a family is -- not because I've seen it, but because I've dreamed it. I've longed for the sight of it and instead, God has lead us to live it. With all our faults and weaknesses, I'd like to show someone who longs to see it - the vision of what our families are meant to be can really exist, even in today's world which denies that family is important. From knowing how to quiet a fussy baby to feeding a family cheaply to working with a child's natural strengths in school to shore up their weaknesses; from ADHD to finding quiet in our lives and learning how to love and live with our spouses... the women of this generation have not been taught. I see the need to show them.
Then the LORD answered me and said: Write down the vision Clearly upon the
tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its
time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; If it delays, wait for
it, it will surely come, it will not be late. Habakkuk 2:2-3
The loneliness I've felt has not gone unnoticed by God. He has allowed me to become something I wasn't before. The pain of becoming is like a birth. Through the pain and struggle, God allows you and me to become a new creation. I was squeezed and stretched until I felt like I'd break. I would cry out to God in the brokenness of many long wakeful nights with a sick baby. I would scream 'uncle' when faced with a perpetually defiant child. I'd choke on my tears as I sobbed when faced with my own weaknesses and failings. Where was this God who was supposed to bring comfort and joy? He wouldn't take my pain away. I couldn't understand a loving God leaving me in pain. I was sure that being pregnant while caring for a toddler was on the same range of torture as prison camp. Let alone the depression accompanying a difficult pregnancy.
Although I was lonely, He didn't leave me alone in my pain. Instead of putting me back together the way I was before, He'd mold me into someone more compassionate and sensitive to other people's pain. He took my pain and one by one is replacing my vices with virtue as I become.
There's also the Visitation. I know what I feel like in early pregnancy and Mary had just conceived when she made the difficult journey to Elizabeth. And Elizabeth was an elderly woman with her first pregnancy -- I'd think serious pain was involved. But they were there to comfort each other. Then they each went off and made their journey with God, strengthened from their visit with each other. There is something healing in sharing my pain -- and watching another mother's burden lighten over coffee, if even for an hour.
In addition to the work He's done (and is doing) in me, I had eyes that saw the world differently. I would go to the store and see it on a young mother's face - her frustration, her fear, her pain, her potential to become...become His. Pain in myself and others isn't something to be avoided. I don't seek an aspirin to mask the pain. I seek the Great Physician to heal me -- and make me healthier and stronger than I was before. He will help me, and you, become.