This question recently came in:
I was thinking about what you spoke about [in this podcast episode, called “Lean In & Learn from Other Women”] and the thing that stuck out most to me was how you learn most by living life with others. While I completely agree, I am stuck wondering HOW to make this possible.?!!! We are a military family, so moving every couple years is normal for us. Trying to set up camp and make new friends is hard. Some places we’ve had more success than others. One of the biggest issues I feel like we struggle with is life is busy. For us, and for other Christian homeschool and non-homeschool families. Everyone seems to have their own group, set of schedules, activities, etc, etc, etc. In our most recent move, there were two women who stuck out to me as people that I would like to get to know more and learn from, but schedule conflicts seemed to be a problem. I guess my questions would boil down to….What practical ways can you suggest to help make this type of living together a priority? In what ways can I make myself available to opening my home/family to this type of living? Thank you for all you do! Laura
A: First, I used to talk about this more, but since our life has settled down, and I don’t know when you started reading, I want to give a little background. In our 16 years of marriage, we’ve lived in 14 different homes, and about a half dozen or ten different temporary living situations.
All that to say, we’ve moved a lot… so I definitely get where you’re coming from. I know those challenges. So I’ll speak from those experiences & insights gained over the years of being frequent movers. Here are my thoughts:
#1- MAKE TIME TOGETHER A PRIORITY.
This is something (at least in my experience) that most Americans don’t know how to do very well. Plan to spend at least 3-4 hours with the woman.
- Don’t do a 45-minute coffee date.
- Don’t do a lunch where you eat, clean up, and rush off.
- Plan for a long afternoon spent together, asking questions and/or trading stories.
- Invite older women to come to YOU during your kids’ afternoon nap time.
- Or, attend an event together where you have time in the car to talk on the drive there and back.
- Or, hang out on a Saturday morning where the main event is not going and DOING something, but where you both know that the main event is talking about an issue in your life.
Time together is where we really get to know each other.
Not time spent filled with “doing”– time where you are really visiting, eyeball to eyeball. Recently, during my early weeks postpartum, I invited a woman in our church to come to our house for several hours. She sat on my bed with me and talked through an issue I was facing. She sat here in my messy, postpartum bedroom while I nursed and snuggled the baby. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t an event. But we know each other WAY better now than we did before those couple hours spent together.
Include a meal whenever possible, as that seems to deepen relationships faster than time spent without meals. Lunch and an afternoon spent together, taking a walk, playing a game, or just eating dessert and trading stories, is a great way to get to know someone in a deeper way.
#2- GO DEEP, FAST.
Find someone you want to get to know and learn from, and don’t beat around the bush. Make it your norm to skip past the chit-chat and move to the real and genuine very quickly in your relationships, and quickly in your conversations.
In our years overseas, this became the norm for us. The friends we met and lived life alongside overseas are still some of the people I consider our closest friends. They are people I could call up today, and after a brief “catchup”, we could immediately “go deep.” Really, that’s because even though our time together may have been brief (on average, anywhere from 6-18 months alongside most of these friends), we went deep fast.
- We talked about real issues.
- We didn’t hide who we really were.
- We shared the big stories of our lives– the hilarious things, the factual things, the hardest things.
- We laughed and cried together.
- We exposed our real struggles and asked for their real input.
- They all (for the most part) did the same.
- We (and others) shared the things that worked well for us, without concerning ourselves about pride, just sharing freely (even from strengths!), with the goal of helping one another.
And honestly, that’s still how we build deep relationships. I struggle with making chit-chat but LOVE the opportunity to go deep with a godly, trustworthy woman.
GOING DEEP & TELLING THE TRUTH TO ONE ANOTHER
One more thought– what does “going deep” look like in a Titus 2 relationship?
Well, it can look any which way in different contexts, but in this one, where you need to go deep fast, or else risk losing the opportunity, I would do the following:
Ask her –outright –for her time & for her wisdom.
Give her permission– verbally, and with your open, eager-to-learn facial expressions and posture– to be honest and not have to couch or soften her real advice. This, too, is a difficult thing for modern Americans.
Even though an older woman may be thinking,
- “your child just called me by my first name; that’s really disrespectful, rude, and off-putting to me. I don’t like it.”
- or, “you and your husband are far too sarcastic to one another. Are you able to be vulnerable with one another? Do you ever stop teasing him? Does he feel respected and appreciated, or bullied and belittled, by you?”
she probably won’t say anything like this unless you make it very very very very very obvious that you want her to speak plainly and openly to you about what she really thinks. And, because you need to build this kind of relationship in a timely fashion, you will need to ask explicitly for (and steady your heart to receive without pride, anger, or blameshifting) the plain, unvarnished truth.
Overseas, I received a lot of very blunt and very honest advice and input from older women, like:
- Most moms nowadays do not spank NEAR soon enough, nor do they spank near hard enough, and that’s why their spankings are ineffective.
- “You need to forgive and work through bitterness… and then have that hard conversation with [name].”
- Unless there’s an allergy, kids should gratefully eat what’s put in front of them.
- “Your son threw one of the ugliest fits I’ve ever seen in all my life.”
- Be firm and unbending in your discipline, and you won’t have to spank often.
- “We did what we’re asking you to do. This is not too hard.”
Very straightforward advice and input that many older women now don’t feel free to offer was very commonly spoken, and I’m a better mother because of hearing, receiving, and (mostly) implementing their advice.
So that’s my advice–
- Make time together a priority.
- And go deep fast.
IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE: Have you been in this position? How have YOU developed deep relationships with other women in a constantly-changing setting of life and community?