To complement my post at Revive Our Hearts True Woman Blog today, I thought I’d write about a way in which God has used biblical mentoring in my life. Many, many women have enriched my life over the years – my own mother being at the very top of the list – but I thought that today, I’d share one specific story of how God has blessed me with an enduring friendship. This is the story of how one “older woman” in the Church has encouraged and equipped me to live for God’s glory.
EVERY MENTORING RELATIONSHIP BEGINS SOMEWHERE…
I met Lois 11 years ago when Ryan and I moved into our first home. I was eager to meet people in the neighborhood, so when I discovered that our next-door neighbor sold Pampered Chef, I threw a Pampered Chef party and invited all of the ladies in the neighborhood. Lois attended with her two teenage daughters. I was immediately drawn to her friendliness and approachability. I was also quite impacted by the sweet interactions between Lois and her two daughters. I was pregnant with our first child and I was already thinking about the type of relationship I wanted to have with my children: I saw something beautiful in how Lois included her daughters in conversation and respected them, not to mention how they seemed to love and respect her in return. A week or two later, when the Pampered Chef items arrived at my door, I organized them into delivery bags and wrote a little note to each person as a means of continuing our budding relationships. On Lois’ note, I wrote something about how I appreciated her friendliness and was looking forward to spending more time with her.
Our friendship developed quite naturally after that. We’d take walks around the block, meet up at the park, or enjoy meals together. Because she lived right around the corner, I often stopped by for “neighborly visits” mid-day… I was clueless that I was interrupting a homeschool day. When Lois opened her door with a smile on her face and invited me in, I assumed that she had just been waiting for me to arrive! (Little did I know at the time, homeschooling 4 children is an all-consuming task…) However, Lois consistently demonstrated that people are more important than tasks. She prioritized me over her to-do list. Now that I am homeschooling 4 children of my own, I deeply appreciate her compassionate and Christlike worldview.
Very early in our relationship, Lois would ask me for my prayer requests. She wrote them all down in her annual spiral notebook and faithfully prayed for me. Then, she’d follow-up on those requests over the days and weeks to come.
I experienced pre-term labor at 32 weeks of my pregnancy, putting me on bed-rest for several weeks. Lois and her children cleaned and cooked for us, and visited me often. Toward the end of my bed-rest, they organized a neighborhood baby shower for us. When Vivienne was born in May, they visited us in the hospital and took wonderful care of us at home. Lois led all of her children in loving Vivienne. When I returned to teaching a few days a week, they watched Vivienne for me and loved her like family. Even Lois’ 12 year-old son took a special interest in Vivienne and actually became dear friends with her. (He’s a very funny person and he’d undergo the wildest antics just to make her laugh. To this day, I attribute Jonny with Vivienne’s adorable sense of humor.)
WHY MENTORING RELATIONSHIPS ARE IMPORTANT…
I didn’t realize that God was putting Lois in place to be a comfort and help during a very hard season of our lives.
When Vivienne was a few months old, Ryan and I experienced a major blow to our marriage. Deep, complicated issues surfaced that caused us to separate. I thought we were heading toward a divorce, but God surrounded us with a team of 4 people who would not let us go until they saw God’s powerful redemption in our lives.
Lois and her husband Mark were two of those people. As if they had nothing else to do, they spent hours counseling us and praying for us. It was during this time that Lois and I truly became dear, dear friends. In the beginning of the separation, she was a prayerful support and listener. Once I was strong enough to consider my own responsibilities in our weak marriage, Lois spoke directly to me, “You need to stop acting like you are Ryan’s mother.” Because Lois so rarely corrected or advised me in this manner, her words went straight to my heart. I learned a great deal from her correction and God began to change me – and our marriage – from the inside, out.
After a 40-day separation, Ryan and I came back together. We were new people. And our marriage was new. The transformation that God had begun in each of our hearts was miraculous. To this day, Ryan and I often talk about how thankful and amazed we are by the great work God has done.
For the next 5 years, Lois faithfully mentored me, teaching me how to love my husband and children. My learning curve was gradual, but I was an eager student and Lois was a faithful, consistent teacher. (There was no reason I shouldn’t have known these things; my life had been saturated with wonderful examples and encouragement! But once I was actually married, I didn’t have a clue about how to actually be a wife or a mother. My sinfulness, immaturity, and the surrounding feminist culture had really taken a toll on my worldview.)
During every casual encounter, Lois shared the scripture and insights that she was learning in her marriage. She’d pass along favorite books and magazine articles and give me recordings of helpful sermons. She invited me to a homeschool conference and helped me to navigate the homeschooling world. My bookshelf is full of resources that Lois has given me… this doesn’t compare to how my heart, mind, and attitudes are full of instruction and encouragement that she has given to me over the years.
HOW MENTORING RELATIONSHIPS CHANGE OVER TIME…
Six years ago, we moved out of our beloved first home to Ryan’s family farm in the country. Though the move changed the frequency of my visits with Lois, it didn’t change the depth of our friendship. Shortly after we moved, Lois’ daughter was married at our farm. It was a beautiful and blessed day… precisely what Ryan and I dreamed would happen on our property. We were so thankful to have something to offer our dear friends in return for their faithful love over the years. I treasure this memory.
Lois’ family has loved and cherished each one of our children – and we love them in return. Lois sends a personalized birthday card to each child. When she visits, our children think she has come to visit them personally. Without fail, she gives each one time and attention… and they love it! Art projects and musical instruments come out of hiding, games are suggested, bedrooms are shown, new “tricks” are demonstrated… I usually have to provide an interesting distraction for the kids just so I can have some time with her to myself.
Despite the distance between us, Lois and I have maintained our relationship over recent years. She always seems undaunted by my tendency toward independence and introversion. She consistently overlooks my fear of rejection. (Like many women, I am very sensitive to resistance and I back down quickly if I think I’m a burden or obligation to someone.) Though we both have full lives, we try to connect with one another monthly. To tell you the truth, usually, our get-togethers are initiated or scheduled by Lois. Just when my little family is in the doldrums of “getting through life,” Lois will call and schedule a game night, saying, “I’ll bring the games AND the food!” She and her family come in the door with smiles and light hearts; we have a wonderful evening together, always ending in prayer for one another. Every Christmas, we try to get our families together for a Christmas party, complete with a feast, games, and the annual “Find the Christmas Pickle” game.
A few years ago, when we were still living at the farm, Lois invited me to a 12-week Bible study on being a godly wife. I said, “yes!” and made the weekly trip into town to meet with a handful of other young wives in Lois’ living room. We encouraged one another in our marriages and prayed for one another. I think that each and every one of us saw our marriages blossom because of that study. It had been 7 years since Ryan and I experienced our marital trauma… Seven years of God’s restoration and transformation in our lives! How wonderful it was to return to the same basic biblical principles and to continue to grow in my calling to love and honor Ryan.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GODLY MENTORSHIP…
I can’t begin to describe the impact that Lois has made on our lives, but I do know a few things:
- God uses her to teach me His character, His ways, and His love for me.
- God uses her to teach me how to love Ryan.
- God uses her to teach me how to love my children.
- God uses her to teach me how to love and celebrate people.
- God uses her to teach me how to pray. (Instead of giving specific advice, Lois’ typical heartfelt response to my questions, problems, and trials is “God will show you what to do.” Though a pat answer with a prescribed formula would be easier, Lois consistently ushers me into God’s presence, reminding me that I do not live and work “unto man”, but “unto God”. I am deeply grateful for her confidence that God will personally care for and guide me.)
Years ago, Lois and I were sitting on her front step when she encouraged me to smile at my family members throughout the day. I thought about how my own mother’s cheerful disposition deeply blessed my childhood and decided to give it a try. To this day, I believe that besides prayer, smiling is the single-most important thing I do to build a happy home.
Lois has helped me to consider home life as a stimulating area of study and lifestyle. Over the past 10 years, she has encouraged me to read and study extensively about nutrition, exercise, childhood development, education, gender roles, communication, conflict-resolution, prayer, marriage, and theology.
The wealth of study, apprenticeship, experience, and trial-and-error that I have gained in the context of mentorship are far greater than any college degree I could have received in any of those subjects.
I’m convinced that the time and energy we invest in our homes will not result in “empty nests”. God intends for a woman’s heart and home to be full and always becoming fuller… with the help of many mentors.
I love this about God’s design.
I am continually blessed by women of all ages who love me and offer their attention and wisdom to me… I don’t know who I’d be or how I’d be living if it weren’t for other women teaching me how to live for God’s glory.
The Titus 2 model is one of God’s greatest blessings to His daughters.
What would I do without older women?
And now, my prayer is to become one myself.
(Take a Summer’s Challenge! Invite another woman to work through these 100 Questions to Fuel a Mentoring Relationship. This could be one of the best things you add to your Summer 2016 Bucket List! Click over to the True Woman Blog to get started.)