Loneliness, friendship and faith

Loneliness, friendship, and faith

In case you didn’t know, we recently uprooted our lives and moved to a new town. (Again.) (For the 7th time in 5 years.) (You can read more about that here.) Since we’ve moved so many times, we often find ourselves displaced from our network of friends and having to start over in a new place. With these many transitions, I’ve observed that, in my adult life, it’s much harder to start over in a new place and establish quality friendships.

Now don’t get me wrong, acquaintances are easy to come by. But, real friendships, the kind that span the years and traverse the miles between you, are difficult to grow and maintain as adults. I’ve been trying to figure out why that is. What is about adulthood that makes nurturing relationships with others so challenging?

I find this struggle all the more troubling because I’m a Christian. The church is supposed to be synonymous with community. Especially in the Southern Baptist world, we hold fellowship meals and talk about the importance of “not forsaking the fellowship of believers,” and yet church can be the loneliest place for many, myself included.

For example, since moving here last August, we’ve visited most of the churches within our denomination in town. We found ourselves gravitating to one in particular – it’s doctrine matches ours, the pastor preaches through the Bible expositionally (which is our preferred preaching method), and our daughter enjoys the children’s ministry activities on Wednesday nights. We have grown increasingly involved in the life of the church – we’ve joined the choir, and I’m playing bass for the worship team.

Yet, we can go through several Sunday and Wednesday services and nobody talks to us. This isn’t a large church, either – there are maybe 100 people there on a Sunday morning. You may think, perhaps the problem is that we haven’t connected to a small group. That isn’t the case. We’ve been regularly attending the small group class for our age/season of life since we started attending in September. People do talk to us in small group – but, if we are absent for several weeks in a row, nobody reaches out to us – not even the small group leader. 

You may also think this is an isolated incident – that this particular church might need to grow in their biblical understanding of community. However, in our many moves, we have found this situation occurring more often than not. I have often wondered if maybe there is something wrong with me/us because it happens so often. Yet,  the more I talk to other believers inside and outside of my denominational affiliation, I keep hearing this same story of loneliness and isolation among the people of God.

The weight of this problem struck me last week. I was at the gym with an old friend – someone I’ve known for over 15 years. We’ve known each other since high school, and though our lives have gone different ways at different times in adulthood, we have reconnected recently since I moved back to our hometown.

During our time at the gym (we call it “treadmill therapy”), she confided to me that she and her husband are starting marriage counseling. As she shared this deeply intimate struggle in her life, she said to me, “I’ve felt like I can’t talk to anyone about this. I can’t tell my parents, and I can’t talk to anyone at church about it.” She’s felt isolated and alone – navigating the murky waters of the sea of marital conflict on her own.

Her experience is just one of many similar to it. Bible-believing, faithful, church-going men and women who sit in pews every single week are battling unseen conflicts on their own, without a community to circle up around them and go to war with them.

Why? That’s the question I’ve not been able to answer, yet. I don’t understand why it’s been so hard for us to find a community of gospel friendships. I don’t understand why it’s easier to find camaraderie among coworkers than among co-laborers in the church. I think familiarity has something to do with it – the more you’re around someone, the more the relationship grows. Yet, if the gospel is anything, it should be the ultimate source of familiarity – our mutual need for grace in light of our shared weakness.

As you can see, I have more questions than answers. Have you had this struggle in your adult life? Have you ever had to start over and build new friendships? What was your experience like?

To the working mom at church

to the working mom at church

Dear Working Mom,

I see you waking in the early fringe hours of the morning for self care – claiming a few precious moments of solitude for bible study and prayer, or for exercising and meditation. I know how tired you feel throughout the day because of the lack of sleep, but those wee hours of the morning are the only time you feel you can spend on just you.

I see you swallow back tears when your toddler looks in your eyes over breakfast and says, “But mama, I don’t want to go to school. I want to stay home with you.” I know how hard it is to hear those words, to try to make your little one understand how you wish you could stay home with her too and why you have to work.

I see you running errands on your lunch break, so as not to consume precious evening time. I see you grabbing a quick bite to eat in your car in the midst of grocery shopping or paying bills, or munching on a snack at your desk because you used your lunch hour to get a haircut or go to the doctor.

I see you missing group bible studies and/or moms groups, because they’re all in the mornings and you have to work. Or, when there is an evening option, the guilt you feel from sacrificing more time with your kids prohibits you from feeling the freedom to join. I know you wish there was another way, because you miss the fellowship with other women, and you know you need it.

I see you talking with other moms before and after service on Sunday, feeling out of place as they talk about homeschool curriculum or play dates. I know you feel like it’s hard for you to have friends. Most of the other church women are SAHMs, which is fine but you live in an opposite world. I know it’s lonely there.

I see you downcast during Mother’s Day sermons, when your well-meaning pastor extols the virtuous wife and mother who keeps the tidy home, raises the well-mannered children and serves her family joyfully. I know you feel less than. I know you feel like your brothers and sisters around you turn their nose up at you because you choose to work, as if your decision was made without regard for your children’s well-being or the good of your marriage.

I see all of these things because I’m a working mom, too. I know how hard it is to find a kindred spirit, to feel out of place among the family of God, to wish there were more bible studies or blogs written from the working mom’s perspective or to us.

I pray you can find friendships with fellow Christian sisters who encourage you, edify you, and empower you.

I pray you can find church family who support you and love you.

I pray your husband appreciates you and strengthens you.

I pray you know that your sacrifice is not in vain. I pray that you can have confidence that, though you work outside the home, you are motivated by what’s best for your children and family at this time.

I pray you can find rest for your weariness in Jesus. I pray you can believe him when he says, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

I pray you know that, no matter who cares for your child during the day, there is no replacement or substitute for you. There is no one like you in your child’s life.

I know you’re lonely, but you’re not alone. I know you’re weary, and though you can’t see it, I know you’re strong, because Jesus has you. Jesus is with you. He is with your children when you can’t be with them.

With you in Him,

Rachel

Motherhood is more than I can handle

Motherhood is more than I can handle Coffee Stains Blog

God will not give you more than you can handle

There is a common phrase Christians repeat to one another in times of trial or difficulty. It is shared as a word of comfort or encouragement to press on. I’m sure you’ve heard it: “God will never give you more than you can handle.”

The concept stems from Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church when he tells them, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). It sounds nice, doesn’t it? Whenever faced with a hard circumstance or an overwhelming situation, we can keep going knowing that we can handle it, because God won’t give us more than we handle. Well friends, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news: it’s not true. Let me explain.

While this Scripture from 1 Corinthians does teach a wonderful principle that provides divine encouragement in our Christian walk, it does not promise that we will be able to handle all of life’s troubles. Take a look at something else Paul told the Corinthians, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced…we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8).

I want you to read those words again: so utterly burdened beyond our strength. Clearly, Paul had more than he could handle. This fact leads us to an important truth: our strength to endure, whether it be trials or temptations, does not come from ourselves – it comes from God. That’s exactly what Paul says next: “This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (2 Corinthians 1:9). Paul then praises God for his deliverance.

Motherhood is more than we can handle

Today started like most days do around our house – the alarm rings at 5:30 a.m., followed soon after by the cries of a hungry toddler. Toast was made and milk was poured, and I sipped fresh coffee while trying to gain full consciousness before the busyness of the morning set in. After breakfast, my babies climbed into my lap for some morning snuggles and Magic School Bus, and I thought to myself (as I do most mornings), I wish I could stay here. I wish I didn’t have to work.

Soon, the flurry of getting dressed, brushing teeth, and rushing out the door had everyone on edge, and I began to lose my cool. As we were about to walk out the door, my daughter decided to antagonize her brother (as siblings do), and I lost it with her. There was yelling and crying, and I was left with the guilt of shame that comes from these moments.

This moment and others like it cause me to think, I can’t do this. I am a terrible mother. Why do I always end up yelling? I’m damaging them for life. There will be years of therapy tied to this single moment from her childhood. Maybe it’s just me, but I would guess that many of you have these moments, too (though maybe not as dramatic. I’m sure only one year of therapy will result from this episode.).

That is because we can’t do it, not in our own strength. Motherhood is more than you or I can handle. When we rely on ourselves for motherhood, we will remain doubtful, overwhelmed, frustrated, impatient, irritable, insecure and maybe even hopeless. But when we recognize that God is the source of our strength (Psalm 28:7), we are “more than conquerors” in Jesus (Romans 8:34), and that “everyone born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4), we know we can have victory in this thing called motherhood.

God’s gracious promises give us the confidence that though motherhood is hard, anything that comes our way – sibling squabbles, potty accidents, strong-willed defiance, sleepless nights , seemingly endless whining – anything, we are capable, in God’s power, of overcoming. God has given you more than you can handle in motherhood, but he also gives you the victory in it. Are you trusting him for it today?

 

God will not give you more than you can handle. Except when he does.

 

Hope Unfolding – A Good Read + a Giveaway!

Hope Unfolding Giveaway

One of my goals for the month of May is to finish reading 5 books, and since that’s a rather ambitious goal, I decided to let the books I started reading in April count towards my goal. One of those books was Hope Unfolding: Grace-Filled Truth for the Momma’s Heart by Becky Thompson. I was drawn to this book initially because Becky is an Oklahoma girl and a blogger. Also, the book is about faith and motherhood, so of course I had to read it.

Becky has an easy-to-read writing style that is relatable and endearing. She unashamedly shares about the messiness of motherhood and she invites you in to share the mess with her. Mamas deep in the trenches of caring for little ones will find this book a refreshing and encouraging read, because Becky’s stories and insights are drawn primarily from this stage of motherhood.

This book will not only provide encouragement for weary mamas, but Becky weaves scripture and biblical insight into her writing to give Hope Unfolding spiritual value, as well. She incorporates a time of application into each chapter through which readers are able to connect that chapter’s themes to their personal experience. She also includes thematic prayers for each chapter, which makes this book a beneficial resource for a small group, especially for moms groups.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Hope Unfolding:

God is with us in the most ordinary parts of our day. That thread of His presence that ties all of our moments together weaves through each one, leaving none untouched by His grace.Hope Unfolding Scripture reminds us that He is the beginning and the end. And friend, I think He must also be everything in between. (p.80)

God doesn’t see things as they are but as He calls them to be. And that means just like He reached into the mud and pulled out [Adam], Jesus reaches into our messes and pulls out miracles over and over again. (p.120)

Sometimes we pray for a miracle.We pray to be delivered from a season or a situation. And while God is able to do all things, often our rescue doesn’t look like getting off the boat. It looks like being pulled from the fear and finding peace despite the storm. Because even if the boat gives way, even if everything that keeps us feeling safe suddenly breaks beneath us, we don’t have to fear…it was never the boat that kept us from drowning. It was never the security of where we placed our feet that kept us from being swallowed by the deep waters. (p.161)

When we look to our kids to find security in our parenting, we will only be left feeling disappointed. Not because they are a disappointment, but because their need for a perfect Savior does not indicate our failure as mothers. (p.193)

 

Hope Unfolding reads like having a cup of coffee with a friend and sharing about the joys and challenges of mom life. So, I want to give you that experience by offering this giveaway: one copy of Hope Unfolding by Becky Thompson + $10 Starbucks gift card! To enter the giveaway, just follow the link below. This giveaway is only open to U.S. residents, and you must be 18 to enter. The giveaway starts May 9th and will end on May 13th.

Note: This giveaway is not sponsored by Becky Thompson or Starbucks. It is just my special treat for you. 

Hope Unfolding Giveaway

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

The Ugly Side of Parenting Nobody Warned Me About

The Ugly Side of Parenting

When I was pregnant, it seemed like I was inundated with people offering opinions and advice about being a new mom. From breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding to epidurals vs. natural birth, everybody had words of wisdom to share. However, there was something my friends and family failed to mention: mompetition.

You might think I’m off my rocker, that I’m just making up nonsense. But trust me, it’s a thing. In fact, mompetition is so notorious, it has it’s own listing on Urban Dictionary, which defines it as “the one-up rivalry that moms play, making their child seem better, smarter and/or more advanced than yours.”

For example, you might be talking with one of your mom friends and celebrating a new milestone in your child’s life, like the first time she rolls over or says her first word, to which your friend replies, “Well, my little Susie was walking at 5 months and now she’s going to college at age 2.”Boom. You just got mompetitioned.

Now, that example is a little extreme and unrealistic, but it is illustrative of our nature as moms to one-up one another when it comes to our children. As a new mom, I was totally unprepared when it first happened to me.

There I was, playing with my 3 month old, when I got on Facebook to see a new video from my sister-in-law of her 1 month old rolling overSince my daughter hadn’t rolled over, yet, I felt this  jealousy well up within me, as if I needed to defend my daughter’s lack of rolling ability. I found myself on the floor next to her, barking, “roll over! Come on, Ray, roll over for mommy!” Our  schnauzer just sat there judging me in amused confusion.

My friends, that was my first day as a mompetitor, and it was ugly. I’d like to say it’s only happened once. I’d like to believe I’m above that. But, I’d be lying. You see, mompetition is rooted in the wickedness of our hearts known as sin. From pride to covetousness, the underlying motives for mompetition are many, but they all come back to the same basic human condition: depravity.

So, as mothers under grace, how do we avoid mompetition? And what do we do when we find ourselves engaged in it?

1. Remember our identity in Christ. We are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10). We are ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). We are the salt and light of the earth (Matthew 5:17). We are personal witnesses of Christ’s (Acts 1:8). We misrepresent Christ and His work in our lives by playing the mompetition game.

2. Repent from the underlying sin fueling our mompetitive desires. For me, personally, I struggle with covetousness. As a result, I’m constantly preaching Philippians 4:11-13 to my wretched selfNot that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all these things through him who strengthens me.

3. Refuse to participate. 2 Timothy 2:23, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” If you have a mom friend who tells you about an achievement her child has accomplished, celebrate with her. Acknowledge and affirm her. Don’t interject with how your child has been there, done that, and already grown out of the t-shirt.

Being a mom is hard enough without the added struggle of competing with one another. Have you ever experienced this ugly side of parenting? How did you handle it?

This post first appeared on WordSlingers. You can find the original post here.