If I have a friend with whom to share life, I will hold fast to my ideals

Pimen Nikitich Orlov 1845

In the past couple of weeks, I have met on a couple of different occasions with sweet women who have opened their hearts. Both, mature, loving, committed to ideals and holding fast to investing their lives in their children and marriage, but both experiencing such isolation and loneliness.

In our culture at this time in history, it is very easy to feel alone, especially when one feels called to focus her time and life on raising godly children, making a home that is the center of life and cultivating spirituality intentionally.

The pressures that come with 24 hour a day children in the home, the housework, the messes, the education of each child and the load of work associated with these ideals can deplete a woman constantly.

It is why Clay and I are seeking to develop small groups of women based around common ideals and why we are hoping to build a network of these women. We need time to laugh and love and have fun and share our deepest struggles and challenge each other to ideals--and to feel that someone in the world "gets" you, loves you and will pray for you.

My sweet friend, Andrea Birch, agreed to share a wonderful article about the need for friends, in light of these personal issues in our lives. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. You can find her at flourishingmother.blogspot.com

Today I was feeling lonely. So I emailed one of my good friends and asked her for some words of encouragement. She was quick to respond and let me know I was loved.

Yesterday I talked with a good friend who has a 6 week old. Earlier, she had texted me and said she felt like she was “underwater”. I knew she needed encouragement so I called her and we talked about trusting the Lord with our children and learning the “art of letting go”.

This past weekend I got to spend 3 nights and 3 days with two lovely bloggers turned real life friends Aimee and Laurel. We rented a cabin in the mountains of North Carolina and just talked and ate and slept and talked and talked some more. We stayed up until 1:30 am every night talking and laughing and even crying. I came back from the weekend refreshed with a renewed purpose in my mothering role.

Mothers need friendships in their lives to encourage, uplift, refresh, and battle the loneliness that can come with our role. Because our culture is one that can devalue the high calling of motherhood, it is hard to find that everyday encouragement in our role. Often times getting together with women incites a complaining fest about husbands or children. We are hard-pressed to find women who praise us and exhort our “job”. Often times when I am out with my five children, instead of words of encouragement, I get an exasperated “God bless you!” with a hint of “why would you ever have so many children?”

For these reasons, I have to be intentional and purposeful about building a support system and really “cultivating” relationships.

Webster’s dictionary describes the word “cultivate” as this:

“to promote or improve the growth of by labor and attention”, “to devote oneself to”, “to seek to promote or foster” and “to seek the acquaintance or friendship of”. All of these definitions are very clear. “Cultivate” is not a passive activity. It is one that takes work and attention and care.

God made me, personally, as someone who longs for deep connection. Not all of us feel that need so deeply. However, God did create us for intimate relationship. First and foremost with Him, and then with each other. To say, “I don’t need those kind of friendships in my life” is essentially saying, “I don’t want to be intimate in that way.” But God created us that way! Whether you “feel” it or not, God created humans to desire and have intimacy with Him and with each other.

The mothering role is so demanding. It is quite honestly, non-stop. That is why I am using the word “cultivate” when it comes to friendships. It is a gentler way of saying “ slow down, be intentional” about the relationships and people God has put in your life. Mothers sometimes forget that they themselves need to be filled up in order so their husbands and children can receive the overflow.

Mothers need a support system in their life to really help them live the abundant life. Sally has spoken many times about the support system she has intentionally put in place because she needed it help her be a better mother. Female friendships in our life honor Him because they help us encourage each other to be the mother and person the Lord would have us be.

It is so easy to get caught up in our daily lives that we forget other people that God has intentionally placed in our lives. In order for those relationships to thrive, we must spend time and energy on them. This means consciously thinking about how we can minister to them, pray for them, help them, and just be a friend to them.

There are different kinds of friendships in our lives. A good friend of mine told me “all mothers need a mentoring friendship in their life.” Someone who has the luxury and gift of encouraging and exhorting us, who has had the experience of being a mother longer than us, and whose children are a few years older than ours. If you are that mother, whom can you mentor? If you need that mentoring relationship, then whom in your community could you ask to mentor you? This could be as simple as just meeting with this mother on a regular basis to talk about issues you may have within your home, or just get encouragement as a mother and as a Christian. Look for that person who has the luxury of solely encouraging you.

There are also ministering friendships. Friends who you know God has placed in your life for you to devote much time and energy to ministering to. These friends probably wont “give” you much, but God has placed them in your life to help and encourage. All friendships are not give and take. There are some friendships where you must be the one to “give” the most. Don’t close yourself off to people who God may be calling you to minister to.

Then there are the friends in your life who also give and take. Friends who minister to you, and who you also minister to. I love these kinds of friendships! But they are few and far between. So when you find one of those friendships, do not take it for granted! They are God’s gift to you. I have three friends like this. I know that I can call on them no matter what and they will be there for me because they love me and care about me. If I need ministering to, they know this and will do whatever they can for me. And I will do the same for them. These relationships are so beautiful and need much cultivating.

Friendships with woman can be very complicated. They can enrich your lives, but they can also hurt you deeply. It is also important to carefully consider the impact emotionally draining and hurtful relationships have in your life. You may need to “weed” out these relationships instead of cultivating them. But, God may be calling you to minister to that kind of person. But then again, He may not. Seek Him on this.

How can you cultivate friendships?

1.Reaching out. Remember; cultivate means “to devote oneself to”. Ask the Lord to show you ways to cultivate a friendship with someone.

2. Listen. Be someone who listens, not just talks. Make sure you know you are available to listen. People are not mind readers. You must tell them.

3. Help. Ask the Lord ways in which you can show love in action to friends.

4. Pray. Pray for your friends. Tell them you are praying for them. Ask them how you can pray for them. Ask them to pray for you.

5. Encourage. Support and encourage them. Tell them they are doing a great job as a mother. Praise their efforts. A little bit goes a long way!