whether or not Your lips move

You speak to me

what to do when you’re 30, married, and not a mom February 19, 2011

First of all, let me start off by saying I LOVE my friends who are moms. They are amazing. Nearly all of my closest friends are moms. I admire them and I am glad there are special groups, Bible studies, events, and blogs for them. Most of them probably feel lonely and stressed at times, and I totally understand that. They have a LOT on their plates. So, none of what this post is about is meant to be hurtful to any mommies out there. Some may struggle enough as it is with feeling inadequate (even though they are totally amazing parents).

Like I just said, there is a lot out there for moms. Especially for Christian moms. But at a certain point, especially in Christian circles, you start to get weird looks if you don’t have kids. You’re the odd one out, kind of like it was when you were single and all your girlfriends were getting married. If you’re lucky you might know of some books about infertility that someone told you about. But other than that, being an “older” young married woman in the church (and in the south no less) can be downright depressing.

The Mommy Clubbers. I know the women who do this probably don’t mean to, but some have a major Mommy Club mentality. These are those girls who ask you if you’re pregnant and tease you every time you have a stomach ache (or sneeze). They are the ones who totally ignore you unless they need a baby sitter. They are the ones who never talk to you anymore because they spend their time only with other mommies. They are the ones you thought were good friends, until they got pregnant and began to talk, blog, and tweet about nothing else but their pregnancies and children. These are the Mommy Clubbers.

The Condescenders. Then you have the older women who ask if there is something wrong with you since you don’t have kids yet. They seem to think you exist for little else and that your life must be dreadfully empty without the pitter patter of little feet running through your house. They tell you that if you would just “stop trying” you’d get pregnant, just like so-and-so that they know. Again, I’m fairly certain these ladies mean well. But they are the Condescenders.

The Concerned. Then there are the people you work with and for. They range in their feelings. Some hope you never get pregnant or adopt because you do such great work and they’re afraid you will quit. Some think you are working on your career because you are just killing time before the kids start coming. They can also be Condescenders, but for the most part they are just the Concerned.

The Torturers. And my, oh my. We haven’t even talked about the family. One individual family member can fit into all three categories, as well as the special category really only a family member or in-law can occupy: the Torturers. They meddle. They press. They pester. They hint. They offer advice on what worked for them or so-and-so to get pregnant. They are desperate for grandchildren/nieces/nephews. And of course they too mean well. But they are the Torturers.

The True Friends. And of course there are those amazing diamonds in the rough who invite you into their lives as parents. They answer your sometimes way too personal questions about pregnancy, labor, the adoption process, or all the special challenges and rewards that come with being a parent. They see parenting as a lifelong learning process and admit it when they don’t know all the answers. They continue to invest in your friendship regardless of your mom-status. They allow you to speak into their lives and enjoy having you around them and their kids. These are the True Friends.

What I find is that for many of us in this older age bracket, we live very fulfilled, happy lives. We have loving relationships. We have careers. We have LIFE, even if we haven’t technically brought life into the world. We may yearn for children, and others of us may not. The point is, while we may spend much of the time feeling put down and left out, we’ve got to learn to live with the Mommy Clubbers, the Condescenders, the Concerned, and the Torturers. We can choose to cut ourselves completely off from them, but I don’t think that is the answer.

So instead I just have a bunch of questions. 🙂

What if you don’t want to have kids?

What if you just want to wait to have kids?

How do you interact in a loving, Christlike manner with the above groups of people?

What are some loving responses to the questions and annoying put-down remarks?

What do you do when you’re the “last one” without kids?

What about dealing with fertility issues?

What if you CAN have your own kids but you’d rather adopt?

Does your husband feel any pressure? How does he deal with it, and how do you deal with it together as a couple?

Do you have True Friend moms in your life? How can we be an encouragement to them?

I guess more than anything I’m just hoping I’m not the only one who feels all this. Some days are better than others. Some days I don’t think twice about any of it. Other days it is all I can think about. So, is it just me?

 

our intergenerational mentoring prayer group January 11, 2011

For the past several months at work, I’ve been helping to coordinate a group of exquisitely awesome women in group settings in hopes that we each would find a prayer partner mentor/mentee. (Not manatee. Mentee is the best word I have found, but would love a better one if there is one!) The women involved are aged anywhere from their early 20’s through their 60’s. It has been really incredible to see how God has worked.

MAKING THE CONNECTION
I’ve been asked how to pair people up in mentoring relationships. And truly I don’t think a relationship of this sort can be “made.” It can be helped along and facilitated. But it has to happen naturally or it won’t be effective. (I’m talking about mentoring relationships that are personal in nature; for a career type mentoring relationship, assigned pairs might work if the manager really knows his/her people well.) My feeling is, people who follow Jesus know how to listen for His voice. They know when He’s tugging at their heart to talk to this person… to go to this place… to do this thing. Even if it has been a relatively short time that they’ve been in relationship with God, they heard Him calling to them to begin with. So I really feel that given the freedom and opportunity, most women know when God is drawing them into a friendship with another woman.

To be fair, I have seen assigned personal mentoring work, but it was because the “assigner” had such an intimate knowledge of all the people involved and could really discern who would fit best with whom. But as a general observation, those who naturally  feel connected with their mentor or mentee are much more likely to stay engaged and vulnerable over the course of the relationship. And it is also important that this feeling is mutual.

CREATING THE ENVIRONMENT
I like keeping things simple. For our large group times, we haven’t done any decorating or catered any food. Everyone knows to bring their lunch and join us. (We did do a Thanksgiving/Christmas potluck-style lunch, and it was a huge hit.) We start at 11:30 and end at 12:30 (unless individuals want to stay on longer to keep praying or move to another part of the building to talk). We might have some music playing in the background. The environment doesn’t need to be flashy; it just needs to be comfortable.

With our group at work, we have some really spectacular girls involved who are gifted at creating activities that help break the ice. They’ve put together some amazing group activities for us to do that we call– wait for it– ice breakers. Anything from a bingo game to a spin on the speed dating concept. Everything centers around getting women face to face with something to talk about that helps them get to know each other. The questions have ranged from “What department do you work in” to “What is your favorite childhood memory.” The questions are balanced in that they are disarming and comfortable, yet also open the door for much deeper conversation.

One thing that has been great to hear in our feedback is that even those who are more introverted have felt very comfortable with the ice breaker conversation times.

PRAYING TOGETHER
So, we’ve taken these ice breaker activities and done them with our group of ladies. At the end of the ice breaker activity (usually about 20 minutes or so), I then have asked them all to follow the Spirit’s lead and get into a small group to pray. The first gathering we broke into small groups of 3 or 4. The gathering after that, groups of 2 or 3. It brings such joy to my heart to see the “older” women taking such an intentional interest in the “younger” women. It brings tears to my eyes to see how earnestly the “younger” women are seeking out the “older” women. Many times at our gatherings I’ve had the privilege of standing back and watching the pairs praying together, praying over all of them… seeing some lifting their faces to the Father in joy… seeing some wiping away tears… all communing with God together in His presence.

MENTORING PRAYER PARTNERS
So far, of our 30-40 women who have been to a large group time, we’ve had about 8 pairs commit to each other. The logistics of each pair’s mentoring relationship outside our big group gatherings is unique. How each pair prays together, how often they get together, what they do together– all of that is up to that pair of women. Chances are by now they know they’ve got some things in common, and since they’re convinced the Holy Spirit brought them together for this purpose they feel the freedom to let Him continue guiding their friendship. If they want to get together every morning for breakfast and prayer, they will. If coffee once a month and lots of emails and texts in between is what works for their schedules, they go for it. I don’t know of any doing Bible studies together yet, but obviously that would be a possibility if they wanted. And we all continue getting together in our prayer partner lunches for more ice breakers and prayer time together as a group. Those who have already paired up are welcome to continue on their own if they want to, but so far the majority have really enjoyed still getting together in the large group.

I’m excited to see where God takes us all next. I’m excited to hear the stories of answered prayers and of burdens shared (and I really didn’t mean for that to rhyme). We’ll weep together and we’ll rejoice together. We’ll be the church. And eventually, the women who are ‘mentees’ will be in the role of mentor for other women, as they continue to learn from those who have gone ahead of them. And it will continue to multiply. And isn’t that discipleship?

How about you? What have you seen work when it comes to helping people form mentoring relationships? What have you experienced that hasn’t worked?

Related:
The Biblical Model of Mentoring

The Need for Mentoring in Today’s Church: An Appeal to the Older Generations

 

 

Dealing with Loneliness May 28, 2010

This is a repost from my other blog, Keep Him or Dump Him?

On this blog we talk a lot about being the kind of women we know we can be, and not settling for anything less than the best in our relationships.

If you’ve been on that journey for even a short amount of time, you’ve probably come to realize something. It’s a lonely way of life.

It can get lonely when you feel like surely you must be crazy for holding out for the “right” guy. You might have even been called “too picky” and told you need to lower your standards. Nobody’s perfect they tell you. And you know this, but you also know that you are worthy of the deepest love and respect possible in a relationship with a guy. And so you continue to hold on to hope as best you can.

It can get lonely when you see another girl partying and hooking up with few consequences, while you continue to wait. She seems to have so much fun. But you know that even if her body isn’t showing the effects of it, her mind and emotions are taking a beating that she may not be aware of—or that she just isn’t equipped to acknowledge. Somewhere along the way she was tricked into thinking that this is the way it is done, this is who she is, and this is how it is supposed to be. It can be very tempting to want to try her way of doing things. It can also be very tempting to set yourself up on a high horse above her. Instead of judging her or joining her, you decide to love her and be her friend.

It can get lonely when you’re the last one of all your friends to be in a serious relationship. You find yourself surrounded by couples and feel like the third wheel. You may even begin to scrutinize yourself and think there is something wrong with you. You feel like you have to choose between bitterness of soul and just accepting reality. You fight the temptation to just go out and find any guy willing to fill the void in your life. But you realize that when you draw your strength from God, you can think a little more clearly and try to keep your eyes on what’s really important.

It can get lonely when you are being pursued by men that you know are totally wrong for you. You get tired of always saying no. You might begin thinking that you should just go ahead and take what you can get. You might start thinking that God is holding out on you and this is what you have to choose from, so why not just go for it. But you are reminded that God has good, exciting plans for your life and choose to focus on that instead—even if it is a daily battle to do so.

I speak from experience on all of this. “But Ashley, you’re a happily married woman now, and therefore I am going to stop listening to you.” (I remember totally tuning out married women’s opinions at one time in my life, too.) Yes, but I have a very good “emotional memory” and remember very, very well the way it felt to be alone.

I didn’t always handle my loneliness very well. Often I was very immature about it. I’d avoid friends who were in happy, healthy relationships because it just put a spotlight on what I didn’t have. I would totally ignore the advice of happily married women because my jealousy painted them as being totally out of touch with the real world and what it was like to be single. I manipulated guys for their attention and affection to fill the void in my heart, but didn’t understand that this was what I was doing.

Finally I found a decent way to deal with loneliness. I guess that after a while I just got tired of being miserable. I started taking a good look at myself to evaluate who I really was. It was painful and not fun. And—you guessed it—it was still lonely! But I was at least learning to be a little more content with it. I had a lot of alone time with God because I didn’t really have much of anyone else. I ended up reading the Bible a lot, journaling a lot, praying a lot. And after a few months of it, I realized that I was becoming a different person. And I kind of liked her.

I need to point out that just because a woman is married, it doesn’t mean she is never lonely. Loneliness has more to do with your soul than your relationship status. It comes and goes, often staying longer than we’d like. But sometimes a little loneliness is OK. When we are dealing with it in appropriate, healthy ways, it can be a tool that helps chisel us more into reflecting the image of God.

What are some ways you have dealt with loneliness?

 

ministry multipliers meeting May 25, 2010

Filed under: calling,mentoring,sex,women's ministry — Ash @ 2:55 pm
Tags: , , ,

I just came from a really awesome 2 hours spent with fabulous women from all across the country. They invest their lives in other women on a constant basis and it is just awesome to see their heart and passion for God and women of all ages.

In just those 2 hours, God further pressed into me the need for me to 1) be myself and the person He created me to be, and 2) speak out on the things that I am passionate about. Because there are dozens of others who are passionate about the same things, and we all need to be encouraged to continue in the paths God has carved out for us. For me, this passion comes out in the area of mentoring and what many might call “biblical womanhood.” Some of you who know me and spend a lot of time with me have heard me use the term “warrior princess” for this idea. (And yes, I’m still working on that paper– one of these days I’ll finish it and post it here!!!)

For those women who were there today, I want you to know I am going to work hard to create a blog post that will help empower parents to talk to their children about sex beginning from birth. There are several resources out there that have been useful to me as I’ve studied sexual development, and I’ll point you to those. For those who were interested in the Keep Him or Dump Him blog, you can click here.

I also want you to know that I want to hear from you. I have a very diverse audience on this blog, from teenagers to grandparents. I love each and every one of you and want to know what you need in your lives right now so I can pray with you and interact with you on this journey!